5 Keys to Productivity Without Burnout

December 11, 2017

About nine months into my tenure at a top strategy and management consulting firm, I found myself on the slippery slope to burnout. Unfortunately, I was far from alone in that experience. As recently as 2012, a Gallup poll revealed that 40% of U.S. workers “were so stressed out they felt burnt out.” Stress and anxiety are cited in 70% of the calls placed to phone-counseling lines at Workplace Options, a provider of employee-assistance programs.

Employers have tried three approaches to stem the rising tide of burnout, largely without effect:

  1. Make up for it (with more lucrative compensation packages)
  2. Make it more fun (with ping pong tables, cafes, and lavish dining halls)
  3. Make it better (with mental health and mindfulness interventions that help people cope with stress rather than changing the root causes of the stress)

Dissatisfied with the options ahead of us, a coworker and I began meeting together every other week to figure out another route. We soon discovered that if we could become more productive, then we do great work while avoiding burnout. Pursuing increased productivity, we managed to reduce the hours we worked by 15-20% by practicing 5 simple behaviors:

  1. Be strategic (set goals, craft a plan)
  2. Define a metric (you manage what you measure)
  3. Change your behaviors (rather than looking solely to technology)
  4. Focus on 1-2 changes at a time
  5. Find someone to hold you accountable

These steps are a great starting point and they provide the foundation for much of the more advanced approach we use at Zarvana.

Still, some of the steps are difficult to do on your own. For example, how do you know which behavior to try to change? And, how do you track your progress toward mastering a behavior?

We have since made many of these steps easier with our online professional development platform. You can sign up for free to begin saving time.

This is an excerpt of the article “How to Be More Productive Without Burning Out” we published in Harvard Business Review.