16 Productivity Experts on Avoiding Burnout

Even if you’ve got a great plan to follow, it’s easy to experience a series of ups and downs over the course of a year. It’s important to maintain your productivity over the long haul, and take the necessary steps to avoid getting worn out along the way.

Last week, I wanted to hear from the amazing organizational and productivity experts, who know what it takes to keep your head in the game and asked –

What is your single best tip for maintaining productivity throughout the year, and eliminating the highs and lows that can lead to business burnout?

It was exciting to hear from such a great cross-section of this important business niche of experts, who shared tips from compartmentalizing your work, creating different work zones in your office, and delegating, to my favorite and current focus in my own business, creating systems. If you are a productivity expert, please share your best tip in the comments below — we’d love to have your input too. Enjoy!


1. Take A Week Off!

As entrepreneurs we do it all! And it is quite easy to get caught up on working IN your business while neglecting working ON your business. To keep my business working at maximum efficiency, I take a week off! A week off from working with clients that is! I spend the week going over my business’ systems and practices to make sure they are in optimum health and more importantly, going in the direction I feel is right. Everything from accounting, insurance and legal practices to website, social media and marketing plans are dissected and planned for the upcoming year. This allows me to stay productive throughout the remainder of the year and react to whatever is thrown my way knowing I am fully prepared.

Thanks to Leslie Josel of Order Out Of Chaos

2. Understand Your Strengths & Systematize Or Delegate Everything Else!

The truth is every performance gap, every little inefficiency, every lack of system or productivity, not only reduces the effectiveness of your business, it also steals time from your personal life!

Take it one step at a time. Pick one process and put a system around it–write it down. If appropriate, get someone else to perform that system. Then, do it again with another area of your business. By documenting the steps, you save time by not reinventing the wheel over and over.

There are many facets to running your business and no one can be an expert in them all. By selecting skilled service providers or staff to deliver strategy and tasks that are not your strength, you will have the capacity to really focus on your brilliance.

Thanks to Stephanie LH Calahan (@StephCalahan) of Calahan Solutions, Inc.

3. Don’t “Cross The Streams”

We all have three modes of work that we use throughout the day. Service mode is when we’re on call to customers, and when they call, we have to respond. Collaboration mode is interactive; we’re in meetings or sales conversations, and we must be present. Production mode is heads-down, get-it-done time. Each of these modes requires an entirely different style of “time management.” Mixing them up, or “crossing the streams” as we call it in our office, causes chaos. We block time for one mode or another, and stick to our plan.

Thanks to Veronica Brown of True Fruit

4. Chew On Chunks To Get Things Done

Want to increase your productivity? Put similar tasks into the same chunk of time. For example, from 9 to 10 am, make all your phone calls to prospects and suppliers, from 10 to 11 am, do all your marketing tasks that involve writing (writing articles, ads, press releases, etc.) and then from 11 am to noon, check your email and social media sites. Going back and forth between tasks will slow you down. Human beings don’t multi-task well–our brains aren’t wired for that–so by putting similar tasks together you will build momentum and get results with more speed and less stress. Chunks of time and tasks “chunked” together will increase your productivity exponentially and help you avoid business burnout!

Thanks to Dr. Barnsley Brown of Spirited Solutions Speaking & Coaching

5. When Do I Want To See This Again?

Much of what comes our way does not have to be handled, nor should it be handled, right now. Ask the simple question, “When do I want to see this again?” If it’s paper, answer the question and place it in the tickler file. If it’s anything else, put it in your digital to-do list and assign an appropriate due date. Every commitment winds up in one of those two places, meaning we only have to look two places to find our work.

Thanks to Frank Buck of Frank Buck Consulting, Inc,

6. Follow Up And Follow Through

Business owners are so busy wearing different hats in their businesses, that sometimes the big things get missed. Following up and following through with clients, projects and information is a key part of productivity. Setting time aside each week to follow-up and follow through, will keep business owners on top of things all year.

Thanks to Heather Burke of Smart Space Organizing Inc.

7. Post It To Your Calendar

Productivity is maintained through self-management. The best way to manage yourself is through good time management. Use 1 calendar and put everything on it. This allows you to schedule appointments but also time for working on e-mail, family commitments, traveling time to and from appointments, uninterrupted desk work, phone calls, exercise, lunch, task lists etc. When it is all on one calendar you can see how to block time to have as few as possible small slots of time that are not used productively. It will also help you to see when to say yes and no to more opportunities. Try booking an emergency day into your schedule once a month. This is a day that is completely unscheduled so when emergencies arise you have space in your month to rearrange appointments and work.

Thanks to Julie Stobbe of Mind over Clutter

8. Adding Fuel To Your Fire

Without out the proper nutrients, we won’t thrive. To remain productive and eliminate business burnout, nourishment is essential. For me, replenishment comes in many forms including learning new things, to initiating new projects, to taking fun breaks and connecting with family, friends or self, to appreciating the moments of joy and beauty that are present each day, and to making time to pause, reflect and plan.

With energy recharged regularly in a variety of ways, productivity is sustainable, burnout is diminished, and growth is possible.

Thanks to Linda Samuels of Oh, So Organized!

9. What Is Today’s Priority?

As a mom of 5 children (home school 2) & a small business owner who works from home, I find it challenging to maintain that work-life balance. I take a few minutes each morning to organize, prioritize & focus. First I assess what my priority is; I choose one so that I can feel a sense of accomplishment when completed. Second I determine what really needs to be done. Does the laundry have to be done today or can it wait one more day? That is not procrastinating, it is prioritizing. Third, focus! It is easy to be distracted by little things. My son comes to me & says “Mom I hate math”. He is really saying he can’t understand the math & needs my help. I have to focus on the real problem not the distraction of my son is bored. If I don’t organize, prioritize & focus then I quickly burn out.

Thanks to Lisa Olinda of Olinda Services

10. Good Enough Is Great!

You can get an A without getting 100%. Make “organized enough” your default setting; aim for perfect only when it is essential to prevent a catastrophic outcome (e.g. injury or loss of life, devastation of property, financial ruin). Tightening the lug nuts on your tires? Be perfect. Leaving passenger-seat clutter ’til the weekend? Good enough!

Thanks to Debbie Stanley of Thoughts In Order Counseling and Consulting

11. Focus, Focus, Focus

Our ability to focus determines how productive we are throughout the year. It plays a role on several levels. First we need to focus on the mission and vision of our business so that we can establish meaningful goals and select appropriate clients and projects to achieve them. Losing focus at this level means that we can find ourselves wasting time on activities that do not serve our bottom line. The disappointment that we feel when we discover this can be devastating! Next we need to focus on our daily tasks so as to complete our well-chosen projects as efficiently and effectively as possible. Finally we need to focus on our physical and emotional well-being so that we recognize from moment to moment when we need to rest and rejuvenate to come back to our work brighter and stronger.

Thanks to Monique Y. Wells of Understanding Time Management

12. Are You Getting CEO Pay When You’re Really A Bottleneck?

It took me a long time to learn: I can be more productive when fewer things pass across my desk. When I’m compelled to oversee the daily routine, it slows down everything. Worse, I’m distracted from big opportunities only I can nurture. You do this too? Here’s an easy way to determine what is actually worthy of the business owner’s attention: calculate your hourly rate of pay. Multiply that by the # of hours you devote to ‘administrivia’. Now, imagine having an employee or outsourced partner who can handle all of it for $0 (yes, zero) – $25/hr. Subtract. That’s how much you’re robbing your business before we add in the loss of the opportunity you neglected. Scary, no? That will get you to prioritize your time (& your profits) pretty quick! About that ‘zero $’ employee? Intern!

Thanks to Andrea Feinberg of Coaching Insight LLC

13. Increase Your Productivity With One Piece Of Paper

Each day you walk into your office with a mental picture of what you want to accomplish. Hundreds of ideas swirl through your mind with great anticipation. But somehow, when you arrive at your desk, life crushes in on you and your ideas and inspirations are pushed aside. Consider what would happen if you had a different TiME strategy? I believe now is the time to prioritize, organize and simplify your life and turn time management on its head. “Do Less.” Take out a single sheet of paper and focus your full attention on prioritizing the 5 most important actions you will commit to completing before 11 o’clock. This is called your 5 before 11 list. Work directly from this list and you will complete 450 actions in the next 90 days.

Thanks to Allyson Lewis of 7 Minutes

14. Define Your Space

Take a few minutes to simply define the various spots that you are going to keep the various batches of work that you work on. This will give you a place to put the pieces for the next step of each to-do. Some basic spots might be: bills, research, project 1, project 2, marketing, website, and writing. Now when you go to work on project 1, all the parts will be there. Also realize that the items in each spot will rotate in and out as you work on them, it’s the spot that will stay consistent. So, it doesn’t matter if the spot is a pile, a basket, a box, a file, or even a digital file, just that it is a place to hold the stuff related to that topic.

Thanks to Miriam Ortiz Y Pino of More than Organized

15. Top Three Time Sucks

1. Working without a To Do list. You spend more time figuring out what to do or completing nonessential tasks than doing real work. Keep a long-term “master” To Do list, a weekly To Do list, and each evening, quickly jot down the tasks you want to complete the next day. You’ll arrive at the office each morning focused and knowing what you need to get done.

2. Not scheduling your tasks. Once you have your daily To Do list, schedule those tasks into your calendar. If you haven’t planned time to get something done, it’s not going to happen.

3. Constantly monitoring email. Schedule time on your calendar – 10am, noon, 2pm, 4pm, and before you leave the office – to quickly review email and respond to urgent messages. For all other non-urgent messages, respond at the end of the day.

Thanks to Korinne Kubena Belock of Urban Simplicity

16. Write A Productivity Manual

It doesn’t matter how big or small your business is–every business needs a how-to manual–the book that shares the productivity of the past with those that make the decisions for the future. In other words, start today by assembling a monthly notebook of marketing materials–ads, flyers, brochures–anything that promotes your business to the customer. At the end of each month, include the final revenues, broken down into profits and expenses. Write a short paragraph on what worked and what didn’t. At the end of the year, you will have a monthly guide to help you create greater productivity for the next year. Yes, sometimes it is as simple as keeping good records the way companies like McDonald’s and WalMart do.

Thanks to Vicki Donlan of VickiDonlan




Thanks so much again to all our wonderful contributors for sharing your top productivity tip to help us avoid business burnout! We hope to hear from you again. And to all our readers, if you have an innovative idea to share, we hope you will leave it in the comments below.

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