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Does Busyness Hinder Your Productivity? 5 Steps to Avoid Burnout

Carolina Avendano
Carolina is a Canada-based writer and journalist who enjoys learning and sharing information about how to lead a meaningful life. She is passionate about traditional culture, handmade crafts, the connection between humans and nature, and human rights.
Published: July 11, 2022
By taking things one step at a time, we can avoid burnout and reach our goals more efficiently. (Image: enneafive via Flickr CC BY 2.0)

It is a common perception that being busy is a sign of productivity; yet when we take on too much, we may feel overwhelmed and struggle to avoid burnout. 

With the countless possibilities offered by today’s technology, getting a master’s degree online is just as feasible as consolidating an exercise routine at home, and we feel there’s nothing we can’t accomplish.  

But having unlimited possibilities may have its drawbacks. If we don’t take these opportunities in moderation, we can end up with schedules so packed that, rather than benefiting from all the activities, we feel stressed, exhausted and weighed down  — classic burnout.

Burnout is very unpleasant, yet very common — so common, in fact, that the WHO has provided an official diagnosis for the condition since 2019. To avoid burnout, try this simple plan to put you back on track and refuel your motivation. 

1.Take inventory: 

To start, take note of the activities that make up your daily and weekly routine. How much time do you dedicate to work or studies? Are you taking extracurricular classes? What about additional activities related to your hobbies or passions? Observe closely what activities are taking up most of your time and evaluate whether they fit your priorities and goals. 

Additionally, take a look at your habits — especially those that have become second nature. How many hours are you sleeping every night? Are you making time to eat wholesome meals or is your nutrition compromised by your being busy? How do you normally spend your free time? Asking yourself these questions will give you a better picture of your current situation. 

Are your current habits and activities bringing you closer to your goals? If they are not aligned with your priorities, consider discarding some of them. (Image: Cottonbro via Pexels)

2. Evaluate your reasons 

Before discarding or adopting new habits, make a point of re-evaluating your priorities and goals. What motivates you to get things done? Why do you put so much effort into the things you do? Is it to fulfill your aspirations or to meet someone else’s expectations? 

If your motivation is not based on a desire for external validation and is instead driven by noble personal aspirations, proceed to ask yourself what type of person you want to become. Some people wish to become outstanding parents, others want to be successful in their field of work, and others pursue a simple, frugal life. 

Defining your priorities — be it family, career or spiritual fulfillment — will give you the guidelines to design your new game plan. Ultimately, we want to discern what is truly important and forgo the things that don’t align with our goals. 

3. Establish your five main goals

Now that you know how you want the journey to end, it’s time to plan the path to get there. The key elements that will make it become a reality should be your interim goals.

Although the list can be extensive, from buying a house to learning a language, narrow it down to a few essential goals. Having many goals doesn’t necessarily mean achieving more. In most cases, multitasking causes our attention to become increasingly divided, negatively affecting our productivity, and resulting in very few of our goals actually being accomplished.

Establish five goals that will allow you to make the most progress. Initially, focus your attention on the most important of these to maximize productivity and achieve your objectives more quickly. Gradually incorporate the rest of your important goals.

Burnout can lead to a lack of motivation that can weigh us down and impede our growth. Pick yourself up and tackle your goals step at a time to avoid burnout. (Image: Stan Swinnen via Pexels)

4. Lay the groundwork:

Consider the different areas of your life: spirit, mind and body. Make sure to include goals that take care of each of these areas so that the process leads to a balanced and harmonious life. 

Strengthening your spirit

Goals related to your spirit will give purpose to your efforts. Without spiritual foundations, any other objective may be worthless due to the fleeting nature of material things. Developing more empathy, becoming more resilient, or finding inner peace are some of the spiritual goals you could start working towards today. 

These will help you persevere during the toughest stages of your journey. A wealth of spirit and soul will always remain and give meaning to our lives, even if everything else is taken away from us. 

Refining your mind

When it comes to the mind, consider your thought patterns. Do you tend to have negative thoughts? Is your mind often filled with mental clutter? Would improving your focus, memory and clarity of mind be a goal worth pursuing for you? 

If your answers are affirmative, there are plenty of healthy habits you can adopt to achieve these goals. Meditation, mindful living, or brain-boosting activities are some popular ways to nurture your mind.  

The factors that influence your state of mind such as financial stability, career satisfaction and social connections should be considered an integral part of your greater goals.

Mindfulness practice can reduce stress, aid emotional regulation and improve cognitive abilities. Try maintaining a moment-to-moment awareness of your thoughts, emotions and bodily sensations. (Image: Ketut Subiyanto via Pexels)

Cherishing your body

Our body is the main tool by which we achieve our goals. Without a healthy body, how could you enjoy the rewards of your life-long efforts? To maintain physical well-being: get enough sleep, eat well and exercise frequently. 

To ensure that you get sufficient sleep, regulate your sleep schedule by opting for an earlier bedtime. You will naturally wake up when you have had enough rest. Turning off devices, dimming the lights and winding down for half an hour can all contribute to quicker, better sleep.

Nourishing our body with nutritious foods is just as important. Busy people often resort to convenience foods, or even forget to eat at all; but if this becomes a habit, it takes a toll on our health.

Meal planning can help improve the quality of the food you eat, while saving both time and money. Stocking up on wholesome snacks and drinking enough water daily can improve your energy, aid your concentration and reduce your fatigue. 

Integrating physical activity into your daily life is the third pillar of a healthy body. While vigorous exercise — about 25 minutes of cardio at least three times a week — certainly increases your overall well-being, modest physical activity can also make a difference. 

Gentle stretching in the morning or relaxing walks in the evening are a good place to start. As your body begins to benefit from a more active life, it will naturally start taking pleasure in the joy of movement.

5. Small steps for enduring success: 

Now, you are ready to take off. With your new strategy including habits you would like to build, we offer one last piece of advice: take small steps but be consistent along the way.

Once you’ve regained your motivation, it’s common to feel like taking on the world. After all, the sky’s the limit! But if we are not careful, this enthusiasm can lead us right back to burnout. 

Take baby steps and make time your ally. (Image: Susanne Jutzeler, suju-foto via Pexels) 

Instead, try to focus on small habits that, when practiced over time, can contribute to our goals. As Stephen Guise said in his book Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results,“…Every giant accomplishment is made of very small steps… and to take them one at a time like this is not weak, but precise.” 

Remember that, although falls are part of the process, learning to get up is the key. Be sure to be constant, stay patient and, above all, have the courage to start over as many times as you need to.