3 tactics for avoiding burnout and being more productive

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Credit: BigStockPhoto Sergey Nivens

Old habits die hard. Sometimes they over-complicate our days because we don't take the time to look at them. Real professionals look at the little things and how they can leverage them for big results.

Do you start the day turning off the alarm on your smartphone and immediately looking at your email or texts? Do you have a hard time enjoying time-off because of the pile of work you will face when you return? Do you think you need to agree to everything anyone asks of you?

You can keep doing overdoing it. Over time you will burn out. True professionals know how to avoid that, in sometimes counter-intuitive ways.

Try one of these approaches and see how it improves your productivity and performance. You’ll have to decide how to make use of them to your benefit in your unique work culture.

Conquer your FOMO. I love the term FOMO, i.e. fear of missing out. It drives us to look at our email or texts as soon as we wake up. Stop it. It’s not good for you. Allow your body to wake up without such an adrenaline rush. You will be in a much better frame of mind to face the day.

I know. You are going to argue that this is not going to put you in a great frame of mind. Then look a level deeper at your need to “not miss out.”

This may not seem possible in all work cultures. I ask you to take a hard look at reality versus your assumptions. 

Constantly checking your email or texts is so tempting, and commonplace. Take note of the most successful and high-level people in your organization. Are they constantly checking, in meetings for instance? Those who aren’t always checking appear much more put together. You can actually engage without distraction. Find a way to manage your FOMO.

Manage work while not working. These suggestions may seem obvious. I thought so too until I ran into this colleague. He wouldn’t do what I’m about to suggest because he didn’t want his business partners to conclude that they didn't need him while he was on vacation. He actually said that. You are not that insecure.

Here's the key. Start prepping ahead of time -- maybe a week. Notify the people who count on you the most about when you are going to be unavailable. For work in progress, give them the status.

Get agreement from others to cover you while you are gone. Give your customers and partners their contact information, if they really need something while you are gone. Ask them if there is something that must be done before you leave. (See the next item before you agree to do anything.)

I have come back to relatively little backlog after a week off using this approach. Others have reported the same. Now you can return to where you left off with relative ease, working on what is important for you.

Learn to say no without saying no. A number of us work under the impression that we have to do everything that is asked of us. I’m not even talking about when the boss assigns a task.

Consider these questions when someone makes a request. Don't say anything out loud yet.

1. Does it need to be done? (Yes, that's the entire question.)

2. Does it need to be done by me?

3. If so, does it really need to be done when they say they need it?

4. Is the level of quality they are looking for necessary?

I started using these questions to guide me during my last few years in corporate America. I estimate 75 percent of the time the task requested wasn't needed. The requester just needed to talk it through.

Don't ask the questions in a scripted manner. Keep them in mind in the conversation. The order is important.

An easy way to start is, “Tell me more about what your are looking for.” Or … “What outcome are you going for?” The requester is particularly happy when they realize the task doesn’t need to be done at all. You’ve just created some goodwill and potentially have freed up an enormous amount of time to work on your projects to advance your goals.

It’s simple, but not easy.

I didn’t say it was going to be easy. Yet, you may find a nugget you can apply that will make today better, and then make the next day better. Before you know it, your performance is viewed at a different level. Pick an easy one, for you, and give it a try.

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