Hey, high achiever!
In my experience over the last 10 years of helping high achievers optimize their performance, I see two main groups in response to this question and I’m curious to see which group you end up in:
What would you do with a half hour of extra time each day?
If your answer has something to do with sleeping, resting or any kind of activity to take care of yourself – that tells me that you’re likely somewhere on the burnout spectrum that we talked about here.
If your answer has something to do with getting more things done, then that lets me know that you’re likely on the road to burnout as a high achiever.
That leads to the ultimate question, doesn’t it?
How do I get more done in less time? How can I be more efficient?
I have a secret for you…lean in close…
You’re asking the wrong question.
It’s not so much about getting more done in less time, it’s more about focusing on the right things you need to get done in the time that you have to dedicate to them. Yes, I know that statement is vague and more than a little macro. So let’s dig into how we can increase our productivity and satisfaction with our life – without burning ourselves out.
Step 1 – Become clear on your ultimate goal
if you have to-do lists on top of to-do lists, then just know that I see you and understand where you’re coming from. I’ve been there. But I’ve also been there pushing to-do list items further and further back, bumping them from the next day to the day after that because there’s just no way I can get everything done even if I didn’t sleep, was running on caffeine and stimulants and had an extra half hour each day.
This is where clarity on your ultimate goal – the most ideal outcome – can make all the difference.
When I officially started my online business back in 2015 I was great at doing #allthethings. I was creating content for Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, Podcasts, Facebook Live, writing blogs, doing podcast interviews, building courses, working with clients, and oh, did I mention I was also working full time as a registered nurse, and supporting my partner as he completed a very intensive master’s degree program?
My high achiever is showing…
But slowly, things started to pile up and I kept pushing to-do list items back to the next day and the day after that. I had too many things on the go – and not only was this adding to my stress, it was actually holding me back from achieving what I ultimately wanted to achieve. I was too caught up in all the things I thought I “should” be doing.
This is why the first step in improving your productivity is to become clear on your ultimate goal. From this point of clarity it is easier and much more effective to do the next step which is to triage your tasks in alignment with that ultimate goal.
Step 2 – Sort your to-do list in alignment with your ultimate goal
I go into much more detail in the Optimize program (link to services page) for how to do this, but at its core the idea is this: sort your to-do list items into three categories:
- need to do
- want to do
- if I have time, energy and mental white space to do
The clearest example of this is how I prioritize cleaning our house.
Dishes are a need to do otherwise we wouldn’t be able to cook at home and the food on the dirty dishes in the sink would attract flies and ants – gross. Plus our ginger cat would always be in the sink trying to lick the plates clean and that doesn’t do him any good.
Laundry? Need to do or else we’d either run out of things to wear or have to wear stinky clothes.
Vacuuming every week? That’s a “want to do” item. Yes, ideally the floors would be vacuumed every week but are those dust bunnies of cat and dog hair caught up in the corners really hurting anyone?
Scrubbing down the walls, reorganizing the pantry, and cleaning my desk drawers? Those are all tasks for if I have the extra time, energy or mental white space to do them.
Having messy desk drawers doesn’t affect my ability to achieve my ultimate goal of making the difference I want to make in my corner of the world. Although being able to find what I’m looking for faster may help, taking a few extra seconds won’t have too detrimental an impact on that ultimate goal.
Apply this same method to the different areas of your life and put the three tier planning system into action by taking the last step to increasing your productivity.
Step 3 – Protect time for your “need to do” tasks
How many times have you opened up your inbox to see a bunch of meetings booked, clients or coworkers needing things from you, and a gazillion emails that need responses. You get started working, then look up and notice the time realizing that an hour or two has gone by and you haven’t had a chance to do what you needed to get done and now you’re not so sure when you’re going to find time for these tasks.
This is the power of protected time.
Block time throughout the week where you choose to have uninterrupted focus time for your “need to do” tasks each day. There are multiple benefits in doing this:
- You’re leading by example and modeling what anti-burnout culture looks like in the workplace
- You’re lowering your overall stress because you know that the most important tasks are being completed regardless of how many “fires” you have to put out during the day.
- You’re boosting your productivity by increasing both internal and external motivation, proving to yourself that you can stay in integrity with your word and follow through on what you say you’ll accomplish
Will people push back? Probably.
Will it be easy? Maybe not initially.
Will it be worth it? Abso-freaking-lutley.
The key here is to block the time early, keep things consistent and predictable, and don’t compromise unless it is one thousand percent necessary. There are very few instances where a meeting cannot be scheduled around your existing blocked time, where a quick (or not so quick) conversation when someone pops into your office cannot be sent in an email, or a situation so dire that it’s a drop-everything-else-you’re-doing-and-focus-on-this-right-now kind of situation.
The more you model and stick to the expectations you have for these blocks of protected time the easier it will become to maintain these boundaries – especially when you’re demonstrating your ability to stay on top of your responsibilities by protecting this time.
Are you going to give this three step system a try? Let me know.
Can you think of someone else who might benefit from reading this? Send it to them and let’s help all of us avoid the cycle of burnout for good!