In my past corporate life, constant anxiety and fatigue were my norm.
For 18 hours a day, I rushed from obligation to obligation while frantically trying to manage all the other things I still needed to get done. I was enduring an overbooked and overwhelmed lifestyle fueled by caffeine and adrenaline, and it was slowly tearing me down.
But it had become so normal to me that, most days, I hardly even noticed.
I am not alone. In fact, this has become the Millennial Struggle.
We’ve been called the burnout generation, living in an era with never-ending to-do lists and nonstop notifications. We work, hustle, and push all hours of the day and still beat ourselves up for not getting enough done.
And frankly, it’s exhausting.
I used to believe that this was the only way to achieve success. I thought I had to push myself beyond my limits in every area of my life in order to accomplish all my goals. It wasn’t until I burned out and developed a chronic illness that I was forced to change my ways, which ended up being the biggest blessing in disguise.
My health issues required me to slow down and work in a way that was aligned with my physical, mental, and emotional needs. I was in a place where I had to put myself first. When I did, I was surprised to learn that I was accomplishing just as much as before…and I felt so much better doing it.
Now, as a burnout coach, I’m dedicated to helping as many people as possible work in a way that works for them—without the constant stress and exhaustion.
Here are three ways we can work more intentionally and efficiently, minus burnout:
1. Follow our natural rhythm.
When we have so many things to accomplish, it’s tempting to want to spend every second in doing mode. While we are racing against the clock, it can feel like we’re getting a lot done but often we’re not working as efficiently as we think. Forcing ourselves to work when we’re sleep-deprived, emotionally drained, or just in need of some downtime actually does more harm than good.
But, when we follow our natural rhythms, we’re actually able to accomplish more (and feel amazing doing it). Our bodies have so much wisdom. They know exactly how much sleep we need, how much food to eat, and the best time for us to work. If we choose to slow down, listen to what our bodies are asking of us, and honor that request, we can increase our productivity while maintaining our health and sanity.
And yes, that means taking a nap when we’re tired, rather than doom-scrolling through social media because we’re too tired to focus on work—but won’t let ourselves snooze.
A great way to practice this is to be mindful of our patterns and when our bodies work best.
Mindful Productivity Tip: Check in with ourselves throughout the day to see what we really need.
>> If we’re tired and everything is taking longer than it should, we should aim to take a break instead of pushing through. When we come back, we’ll be able to complete the task in much less time with much more focus.
>> In the moments where we have excess energy and can’t be present, we can go for a walk, meditate, or do some breathing exercises to get focused and centered.
>> If we’re craving connection time, we can honor that by having a quick phone chat with a friend or grabbing coffee with a coworker instead of forcing ourselves to stay in our seats and work.
The great thing about this is, not only are we fulfilling our needs, we’re recharging ourselves so we show up at 100 percent the next day for our important tasks.
2. Practice discernment.
In today’s world, we are constantly inundated with information overload and endless options. When we try to do it all, we end up drained and exhausted. Rightly so, because:
It’s just not possible to consume, experience, or accomplish everything that is available to us.
That’s where discernment becomes key. It’s important to be intentional about what we focus our time and energy on. We should try to prioritize the important and urgent tasks in our lives and practice letting go of all the rest.
Mindful Productivity Tip: Prioritize what fuels you and brings you joy.
If we think about it, spending three hours on something we love is often the same energy output as spending one hour on something we’re not really into. So to get more done and feel energized doing it, we should aim to prioritize what lights us up and feels in alignment.
3. Set boundaries.
Most of us want to support and care for other people. Maybe it brings us joy to serve others or maybe we just have a difficult time saying no. It’s beautiful to want to help other people in our lives but it can become detrimental when we neglect ourselves so much that we’re giving from an empty cup.
In order to show up as our best selves for others, we ironically have to put ourselves first.
We are our biggest assets. If we’re not taking care of ourselves, it has a ripple effect on all the important people and things in our lives.
An important part of putting ourselves first is setting boundaries. In order to follow our natural rhythm and prioritize the things that give us joy, we have to feel empowered to say no to things that do not serve us. Not only is setting boundaries an act of self-love, but it’s also one of the most effective ways to work in a way that honors ourselves and therefore allows us to get more done.
Mindful Productivity Tip: Set boundaries by saying “no.”
If we don’t feel enthusiastic about saying yes to the next request we get, whether it’s from family, friends, or coworkers, it’s time to practice saying “no.” “No” is the guardian of time, and it is so important that I wrote an entire script to help people say “no.”
Following our natural rhythm, practicing discernment, and setting boundaries create space in our lives and our minds. These practices won’t cure burnout, but they can help to prevent it.