Be Productive Without Burning Out

June 24, 2020


To be productive you need to work smarter, not harder. Managing your 168 (the number of hours you have in one week) can be difficult. Managing multiple 168s can be maddening. For the people who manage multiple people and responsibilities, it can all become overwhelming. If you’re busy in all facets of your life, the tendency is to take it all on…at one time. Here’s how you can still be productive without burning yourself out.

Stop Overextending Yourself
We overextend ourselves by saying, “Yes, I can do that.” Did you know you are doing yourself a disservice when you spread yourself thin? When you want to be great at something, you must be selective in what you choose to do. As a professional, there may be a time when you will have to pass on joining a committee or taking on a new project because your current workload requires your full attention.

Focus on the Happiness Before the Doing
What if you could focus on the happiness of the outcome of what you’re doing rather than the monotony and the anguish of the doing? The book The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor talked about happiness and fulfillment as the best predictors for success, not productivity. Not the other way around. Happiness and fulfillment come first and then success and productivity. So, you can’t be successful and productive if you’re not happy and fulfilled in what you’re doing. You must be happy and fulfilled in order to be productive and successful.

Treat Your Body Well
Do you struggle with exercising, eating well and getting eight hours of sleep a day? Do you exercise or plan your meals? Treating your body well sets your mind up for success and clarity. We tend to push ourselves to almost the brink of exhaustion. A fatigued body and mind cannot produce innovative concepts and creative problem-solving solutions.

Don’t Get Sucked Down the Rabbit Hole
Learn to do the right things with available downtime so that you don’t get sucked down a rabbit hole. Social media is the biggest culprit. Before you know it, you’ve been pinning to boards, tweeting and double tapping for an hour. Make the most of your downtime by doing something beneficial, such as taking a walk outside during lunch, returning a phone call or allowing your mind to process the previous hour or two.

Practice Gratitude
If you’ve made progress, be excited and happy about the progress you’ve made and don’t beat yourself up about the progress you haven’t made. For example, I had a goal of completing a report before a self-imposed deadline. When I didn’t hit my goal, I became frustrated until I reviewed how much of the report was done. I was nearly complete, but I was focused on what wasn’t done. The antidote is gratitude. Writing a list of gratitude or accomplishments is a great way to use your downtime.

You can still be productive and not burn the candle at both ends. Being busy is not productive. Being productive does not require you to say “yes” to every request or attend every meeting. Being productive requires you to work smart, not hard.

It requires you to take a minute to reassess what’s important. You can have tons of things in front of you, but what’s important? What will get you closer to your goals? What will contribute to your success? To the success of your department or company? If it’s not contributing, then it’s subtracting and then it should probably go. Don’t worry, it’s not just you. You are not the only person looking at your 168 hours trying to figure out how the hell you are going to get everything done. But you do have to prioritize and realize you can’t do it all. To be truly productive, sometimes you must let some things go.


  • Stop overextending yourself and do less. Say “no” to whatever the “ask” is.
  • Focus on your happiness before you focus on productivity.
  • Take care of your body.
  • Do the right things with your downtime.
  • Practice gratitude.
  • Review your calendar daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly and prepare for the unknown.
  • Accept that you cannot do everything and do what you can do well.

Be mindful of how much of your 168 is being used by tasks that are not aligned with important tasks.

Download these tips for maximizing your productivity! 

About the Author

Ayanna Castro, PMP, CGMP, CAP, OM is the Founder and Chief Maven of Work Your Package™ and the author of Work Your Package™ – A Guide to Being the Total Package, and Lessons from Wednesday. Ayanna has over 25 years of professional experience in various industries such city government, law, public relations, private equity, utilities and media. She holds both AA and BA degrees in Business Administration and Sociology. 

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