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Last Updated on December 18, 2020

How to Work Under Pressure so You Won’t Burn Yourself Out

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How to Work Under Pressure so You Won’t Burn Yourself Out

The stress to perform above and beyond at work can have unwanted effects if not managed efficiently—especially when working in a high-pressure environment.

One of these effects is called burnout. Burnout can make you feel overwhelmed, exhausted, frustrated, unmotivated, and just plain done with your position. (Here’re more early signs of a burnout!)

Feeling burnt out at the office is the exact opposite of feeling happy and fulfilled in your work, and can lead to a huge dip in overall life satisfaction.

As such, we want to ensure you have the tools to work well under pressure, so you can avoid burnout and stay motivated from nine to five. Here’s how to work under pressure so you won’t burn yourself out:

1. Learn how to recharge

In many industries, it’s not uncommon for workers to experience long hours or to find themselves working during their time off. Focusing on work for more than 50 hours a week is a fast-track to burnout, but the good news is, it can be prevented.

To stop burnout in its tracks, the key is to learn how to recharge.

Often, when we devote so much of our time to maximizing our productive output, we try and find ways to squeeze in extra productivity wherever we can. This could be (you guessed it) more work, chores around the house, working on side businesses, you name it.

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In order to prevent ourselves from becoming burnt out, it’s important to relax during your downtime in order to fully recharge whenever possible. If you’re like me and have a tough time letting yourself “do nothing” but relax, it may be time to try meditation or proven relaxation techniques to get your mind and body into the zone of total relaxation.

2. Utilize workplace perks

Does your employer offer unique benefits such as a gym membership, yoga classes, or company-sponsored outings? How about common offerings like a health club or book club?

Partaking in your workplace’s special benefits and events can help you de-stress from work and provide an opportunity to get to know co-workers outside of a work setting.

Participating in workplace events while focusing on your health can have a fantastic effect when preventing burnout. This route will help you take care of yourself and find some time to unwind and enjoy your time—two things that should take high priority when preventing burnout.

3. Be a team player

A major contributor to burnout is a sneaky one: the pressure to do everything on your own.

If you prefer to do all of your tasks alone without an ounce of help, you definitely aren’t alone. However, you’re probably at an increased risk for burnout if you let the pattern continue.

There’s no shame in asking for help from your coworkers or management team. In fact, colleagues who often work together are more likely to reduce stress at work and lower their chances at burnout.[1] Asking your management and support staff for assistance can also reduce stress, as you gain the opportunity to get on the same page as your boss regarding expectations and workload, as well as the chance to get to know them better.

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When you have a strong team and support system, you’ll open yourself up to more resources when it comes to reducing stress while meeting goals at work.

3. Get your priorities straight

When it comes to performing under pressure, my favorite tip is prioritization.

Prioritizing all the tasks and goals you need to accomplish at work can set you on a clear path to achieving them while cutting out overwhelming clutter and less important items from your schedule.

Check out this Ultimate Guide to Prioritizing Your Work And Life.

When you narrow your focus point, you allow yourself to see exactly what needs to get done and the bulk of your time becomes devoted to accomplishing those set goals. So, not only will you be effectively managing your tasks and time, but you’ll be preventing burnout head-on by reducing the stress from becoming overwhelmed by unnecessary or secondary tasks on the job.

Bonus: the feeling of accomplishment you get from tackling your most important tasks can help keep you motivated and even raise your overall job satisfaction![2]

4. Ban procrastination

While prioritizing can be a surefire way to perform well under pressure while simultaneously preventing burnout, this plan of attack only works if you actually do it.

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As we’ve mentioned earlier, a cause (and subsequent symptom) of burnout is the feeling of being overwhelmed and exhausted at work.

The best way to feel overwhelmed in the office is to let tasks, especially the big ones, pile up until you’re faced with a mountain of work with an impossible deadline. So, the solution is easy: you have to ban procrastination from your workplace habits.

By forgoing procrastination and focusing on prioritization instead, you’ll already have the tools and plan of attack to perform well under pressure while preventing burnout from interrupting your life. The best part of banning procrastination is that this habit can also follow you into your life outside of work, allowing you to be more productive and get important things done quickly.

Learn how to stop procrastination here.

This is a huge bonus since you’ll have more time to relax, guilt-free, knowing you’ve taken care of your priorities.

5. Reflect

If you start feeling the signs of early burnout, like feeling mildly cynical, irritated, exhausted, or overwhelmed at work, then you may need to set some time aside for reflection. During this time, it’s a great idea to take a look at your work situation from the big picture to the little details.

Do you have the ability to change the things that stress you out in the workplace? Do you like your role? Do you feel fulfilled? Would a department switch or less work make you feel less overwhelmed? What about working at a brand new company, or a brand new career? Perhaps your main stressor is a difficult coworker or a temporary task?

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Really analyzing your situation can show you if your early burnout is a sign of temporary unease or a sign of worse things to come. But don’t be alarmed—if your analysis makes you realize you’re on the road to full-blown burnout, there is hope yet. You have the ability to begin making changes for the things you can control, and working on accepting the things you can’t.

Even better, catching the signs of burnout early can help you make big decisions like going for a promotion or switching companies (or even careers!) with a clearer head. This is why it’s important to catch early, as once you’ve fully reached burnout, the stress, anxiety, and overwhelming nature of the situation can influence your decisions, and not always for the better.

Key takeaways

The important takeaways from this post are to allow yourself to perform well under pressure by prioritizing and taking care of yourself. This means making the most of your downtime, staying healthy, asking for help, and setting good work habits that can help you manage tasks, time, and stress.

And remember: it’s never too late or too early to do a little (or a lot of) self-reflection when it comes to your work—it could mean the difference between succumbing to early burnout or preventing it and thriving in your position.

Featured photo credit: Kevin Grieve via unsplash.com

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Kileen Robinson

Kileen helps people live their most productive lives possible, one article at a time.

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Last Updated on October 7, 2021

Are You Addicted to Productivity?

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Are You Addicted to Productivity?

“It’s great to be productive. It really is. But sometimes, we chase productivity so much that it makes us, well, unproductive. It’s easy to read a lot about how to be more productive, but don’t forget that you have to make that time up.”

Matt Cutts wrote that back in 2013,[1]

“Today, search for ‘productivity’ and Google will come back with about 663,000,000 results. If you decide to go down this rabbit hole, you’ll be bombarded by a seemingly endless amount of content. I’m talking about books, blogs, videos, apps, podcasts, scientific studies, and subreddits all dedicated to productivity.”

Like so many other people, I’ve also fallen into this trap. For years I’ve been on the lookout for trends and hacks that will help me work faster and more efficiently — and also trends that help me help others to be faster. I’ve experimented with various strategies and tools . And, while some of these strategies and solutions have been extremely useful — without parsing out what you need quickly — it’s counterproductive.

Sometimes you end up spending more time focusing on how to be productive instead of actually being productive.

“The most productive people I know don’t read these books, they don’t watch these videos, they don’t try a new app every month,” James Bedell wrote in a Medium post.[2] “They are far too busy getting things done to read about Getting Things Done.”

This is my mantra:

I proudly say, “I am addicted to productivity — I want to be addicted to productivity — productivity is my life and my mission — and I also want to find the best way to lead others through productivity to their best selves.

But most of the time productivity means putting your head down and working until the job’s done.” –John Rampton

Addiction to Productivity is Real

Dr. Sandra Chapman, director of the University of Texas at Dallas Center for BrainHealth points out that the brain can get addicted to productivity just as it can to more common sources of addiction, such as drugs, gambling, eating, and shopping.

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“A person might crave the recognition their work gives them or the salary increases they get,” Chapman told the BBC.[3] “The problem is that just like all addictions, over time, a person needs more and more to be satisfied, and then it starts to work against you. Withdrawal symptoms include increased anxiety, depression, and fear.”

Despite the harmful consequences, addiction is considered by some experts as a brain disease that affects the brain’s reward system and ends in compulsive behavior. Regardless, society tends to reward productivity — or at least to treat it positively. As a result, this makes the problem even worse.

“It’s seen like a good thing: the more you work, the better,” adds Chapman. “Many people don’t realize the harm it causes until a divorce occurs and a family is broken apart, or the toll it takes on mental health.”

Because of the occasional negative issues with productivity, it’s no surprise that it is considered a “mixed-blessing addiction.”

“A workaholic might be earning a lot of money, just as an exercise addict is very fit,” explains Dr. Mark Griffiths, distinguished professor of behavioral addiction at Nottingham Trent University. “But the thing about any addiction is that in the long run, the detrimental effects outweigh any short-term benefits.”

“There may be an initial period where the individual who is developing a work addiction is more productive than someone who isn’t addicted to work, but it will get to a point when they are no longer productive, and their health and relationships are affected,” Griffiths writes in Psychology Today.[4] “It could be after one year or more, but if the individual doesn’t do anything about it, they could end up having serious health consequences.”

“For instance, I speculated that the consequences of work addiction may be reclassified as something else: If someone ends up dying of a work-related heart attack, it isn’t necessarily seen as having anything to do with an addiction per se – it might be attributed to something like burnout,” he adds.

There Are Three “Distinct Extreme Productivity Types

Cyril Peupion, a Sydney-based productivity expert, has observed extreme productivity among clients at both large and medium-sized companies. “Most people who come to me are high performers and very successful. But often, the word they use to describe their work style is ‘unsustainable,’ and they need help getting it back on track.”

By changing their work habits, Peupion assists teams and individuals improve their performance and ensure that their efforts are aligned with the overarching strategy of the business, rather than focusing on work as a means to an end. He has distinguished three types of extreme productivity in his classification: efficiency obsessive, selfishly productive, and quantity-obsessed.

Efficiency obsessive. “Their desks are super tidy and their pens are probably color-coded. They are the master of ‘inbox zero.’ But they have lost sight of the big picture, and don’t know the difference between efficiency and effectiveness.”

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Selfishly productive. “They are so focused on their own world that if they are asked to do something outside of it, they aren’t interested. They do have the big picture in mind, but the picture is too much about them.”

Quantity-obsessed. “They think; ‘The more emails I respond to, the more meetings I attend, the more tasks I do, the higher my performance.’ As a result, they face a real risk of burnout.”

Peupion believes that “quantity obsessed” individuals are the most common type “because there is a pervasive belief that ‘more’ means ‘better’ at work.”

The Warning Signs of Productivity Addiction

Here are a few questions you should ask yourself if you think you may be succumbing to productivity addiction. After all, most of us aren’t aware of this until it’s too late.

  • Can you tell when you’re “wasting” time? If so, have you ever felt guilty about it?
  • Does technology play a big part in optimizing your time management?
  • Do you talk about how busy you are most of the time? In your opinion, is hustling better than doing less?
  • What is your relationship with your email inbox? Are you constantly checking it or experience phantom notifications?
  • When you only check one item off your list, do you feel guilty?
  • Does stress from work interfere with your sleep?
  • Have you been putting things off, like a vacation or side project, because you’re “too swamped?

The first step toward turning around your productivity obsession is to recognize it. If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, then it’s time to make a plan to overcome your addiction to productivity.

Overcoming Your Productivity Addiction

Thankfully, there are ways to curb your productivity addiction. And, here are 9 such ways to achieve that goal.

1. Set Limits

Just because you’re hooked on productivity doesn’t mean you have to completely abstain from it. Instead, you need to establish boundaries.

For example, there are a lot of amazing productivity podcasts out there. But, that doesn’t mean you have to listen to them all in the course of a day. Instead, you could listen to one or two podcasts, like The Productivity Podcast or Before Breakfast, during your commute. And, that would be your only time of the day to get your productivity fix.

2. Create a Not-to-Do List

Essentially, the idea of a not-to-do list is to eliminate the need to practice self-discipline. Getting rid of low-value tasks and bad habits will allow you to focus on what you really want to do as opposed to weighing the pros and cons or declining time requests. More importantly, this prevents you from feeling guilty about not crossing everything off an unrealistic to-do list.

3. Be Vulnerable

By this, I mean admitting where you could improve. For example, if you’re new to remote work and are struggling with thi s, you would only focus on topics in this area. Suggestions would be how to create a workspace at home, not getting distracted when the kids aren’t in school, or improving remote communication and collaboration with others.

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4. Understand Why You Procrastinate

Often, we procrastinate to minimize negative emotions like boredom or stress. Other times it could be because it’s a learned trait, underestimating how long it takes you to complete something or having a bias towards a task.

Regardless of the exact reason, we end up doing busy work, scrolling social media, or just watching one more episode of our favorite TV series. And, even though we know that it’s not for the best, we do things that make us feel better than the work we should do to restore our mood.[5]

There are a lot of ways to overcome procrastination. But, the first step is to be aware of it so that you can take action. For example, if you’re dreading a difficult task, don’t just watch Netflix. Instead, procrastinate more efficiently,y like returning a phone call or working on a client pitch.

5. Don’t Be a Copycat

Let’s keep this short and sweet. When you find a productivity app or technique that works for you, stick with it.

That’s not to say that you can’t make adjustments along the way or try new tools or hacks. However, the main takeaway should be that just because someone swears by the Pomodoro Technique doesn’t mean it’s a good fit for you.

6. Say Yes to Less

Across the board, your philosophy should be less is more.

That means only download the apps you actually use and want to keep (after you try them out) and uninstall the ones you don’t use. For example, are you currently reading a book on productivity? Don’t buy your next book until you’ve finished the one you’re currently reading (or permit yourself to toss a book that isn’t doing you any good). — and if you really want to finish a book more quickly, listen to the book on your way to work and back.

Already have plans this weekend? Don’t commit to a birthday party. And, if you’re day is booked, decline that last-minute meeting request.

7. Stop Focusing on What’s Next

“In the age when purchasing a thing from overseas is just one click and talking to another person is one swipe right, acquiring new objects or experiences can be addictive like anything else,” writes Patrick Banks for Lifehack .

“That doesn’t need to be you,” he adds. “You can stop your addition to ‘the next thing’ starting today.” After all, “there will always be this next thing if you don’t make a conscious decision to get your life back together and be the one in charge.”

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  • Think about your current lifestyle and the person you’re at this stage to help you identify what you aren’t satisfied with.
  • By setting clear goals for yourself in the future, you will be able to overcome your addiction.
  • Establish realistic goals.
  • To combat addiction, you must be aware of what is going on around you, as well as inside your head, at any given time.
  • Don’t spend time with people who have unhealthy behaviors.
  • Hold yourself accountable.
  • Keep a journal and write out what you want to overcome.
  • Appreciate no longer being addicted to what’s next.

8. Simplify

Each day, pick one priority task. That’s it. As long as you concentrate on one task at a time, you will be less likely to get distracted or overwhelmed by an endless list of tasks. A simple mantra to live by is: work smarter, not harder.

The same is also accurate with productivity hacks and tools. Bullet journaling is a great example. Unfortunately, for many, a bullet journal is way more time-consuming and overwhelming than a traditional planner.

9. Learn How to Relax

“Sure, we need to produce sometimes, especially if we have to pay the bills, but, banning obsession with productivity is unhealthy,” writes Leo Babauta. “When you can’t get yourself to be productive, relax.” Don’t worry about being hyper-efficient. And, don’t beat yourself up about having fun.

“But what if you can’t motivate yourself … ever?” he asks. “Sure, that can be a problem. But if you relax and enjoy yourself, you’ll be happier.”

“And if you work when you get excited, on things you’re excited about, and create amazing things, that’s motivation,” Leo states. “Not forcing yourself to work when you don’t want to, on things you don’t want to work on — motivation is doing things you love when you get excited.”

But, how exactly can you relax? Here are some tips from Leo;

  • Spend 5 minutes walking outside and breathe in the fresh air.
  • Give yourself more time to accomplish things. Less rushing means less stress.
  • If you can, get outside after work to enjoy nature.
  • Play like a child. Even better? Play with your kids. And, have fun at work — maybe give gamification a try .
  • Take the day off, rest, and do something non-work-related.
  • Allow yourself an hour of time off. Try not to be productive during that time. Just relax.
  • You should work with someone who is exciting. Make your project exciting.
  • Don’t work in the evenings. Seriously.
  • Visit a massage therapist.
  • Just breathe.

“Step by step, learn to relax,” he suggests. “Learn that productivity isn’t everything.” For that statement, sorry Leo, I say productivity isn’t everything — it’s the only thing.” However, if you can’t cut loose, relax, do fun things, and do the living part of your life — you’ll crack in a big way — you really will.

It’s great to create and push forward — just remember it doesn’t mean that every minute must be spent working or obsessing over productivity issues. Instead, invest your time in meaningful, high-impact work, get into it, focus, put in big time and then relax.

Are You Addicted to Productivity? was originally published on Calendar by John Rampton.

Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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