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How to reach High Efficiency without Burning Out

Cover photo for How to reach High Efficiency without Burning Out

Whether you are a productive person or not, you may have read many articles on reaching high efficiency. But did you ever read about not burning out? How do you reach high efficiency without burning out?

You may already know how to achieve productivity, but what about avoiding losing all your motivation at once?

That is the problem with high efficiency – you use all your forces to get better and learn the best productivity techniques. Still, you don’t spend the same time studying how to take a break correctly so that you can recharge your batteries.

I love being productive as well. There’s nothing I like more than producing content. But in the last few years, I noticed a problem in my patterns – I always ended up burning out. So even if I created a lot of content in a short amount of time, I also spent an enormous amount of time recovering, which made my efforts futile.

The last time it happened, I decided to end this vicious circle. So I developed a routine that allows me to produce less in the short run but with constancy. In this article, I will explain to you what I changed.

The Problem with High Efficiency and Types of Burnout

There are many problems when dealing with too much efficiency in a short amount of time. And the harder you work without taking sufficient breaks, the longer your recovery time will be.

So why do we burn out? There are two many reasons for that.

1 – No External Inputs and Variance

The first reason is the absence of external inputs. If you fill your schedule with tasks regarding only one project, you steal time from any other activity. Shortly, you remove almost every external stimuli in your life. With time, you will run out of ideas, incentives, and motivation, which will lastly make you quit.

While renouncing all the extra activities, your brain will develop a physical need for them, especially those that are the most enjoyable. So the first time you make time for a hobby, for example, you will inevitably develop an addiction to it.

2 – No Free Time

Most people are critical about their performances and working time, trying always to reach high productivity standards. Still, nobody treats free time with the same seriousness, even if sometimes its importance is primary.

The absence of free time brings you to a mental and physical collapse sooner. And in the long run, this shortage can develop into depressive problems, emptiness, and anxiety. Psychologists Herbert Freudenberger and Gail North outlined it in a study, identifying at least 12 phases of stress resulting from the scarcity of free time.

5 Tips to reach High Efficiency without Burning Out

Any solution to a burning-out problem must come from an internal analysis.

First of all, you need to learn the signals of a possible burnout. Usually, you will feel resistance towards productiveness. Still, many times people misinterpret it as procrastination. The infographic below shows the main differences between the two.

Infographic on Burnout VS Procrastination for How to reach High Efficiency without Burning Out
Infographic on Burnout vs Procrastination

Notice that burning out is always the result of a stressful situation, and the solution is the opposite of procrastination. If you procrastinate, you need to force yourself into productivity. Otherwise, you have to avoid any additional pressure.

Once you understand you are burning out, you can apply some suggestions to your productivity routine.

1 – Know your Breaking Point

If you have never burned out before, it will be hard to avoid it the first time. But failure makes you learn, and it is essential to acknowledge your limits to improve in the future.

As for any problem, you need to understand it first and then act on it. So make sure to notice how you feel during a burnout, how much work brought you there, and how you escaped it.

Many people can overcome them by simply avoiding the task for some time until the mental barrier of their brain thins out. In some other cases, you may need the help of a specialist.

2 – Schedule Free Time

If you have a problem managing free time, why not schedule it?

Usually, a free time session should always follow every work session. If you do not schedule any free time, your brain will suffer from it, and you will perform worse and stress out, which is the basis of burning out.

To schedule my free time, I use a method called One-To-Quarter. For every working session, I take a quarter of the time as free time.

It is easy, but this basic rule, if followed carefully, can improve your productivity and also make you avoid stress.

Infographic on the one-to-quarter method for How to reach High Efficiency without Burning Out
Infographic on the One-to-Quarter Method

3 – Work Out or Spend Time Outside

Spending time in nature, or working out, is healthy both for your physical and mental shape. This is because leaving your work habitat forces you to take a real break.

Most of the time, when you schedule a pause, you remain near your working environment, risking starting work too soon. Maybe you remember one relevant thing. Or you think you need to finish something very fast. Whatever the reason, the only way of not thinking constantly about work is to remove yourself from the environment.

So why don’t you spend some breaks outside? You can take walks in nearby parks after lunch, for example. Or maybe schedule a workout session after work.

4 –Use Mindfulness as a Backup Plan

If you want to reach high efficiency without burning out, you have to keep out the stress.

For the short breaks in which you cannot take a walk outside, you could try meditation.  Mindfulness, for example, allows you to treat your thoughts with kindness, no urgency, and relaxation. So if you had a tough session, and it seems like you cannot enjoy your break without thinking about work, this may be a solution.

5 – Pursue Passion and Personal Projects Daily

One last suggestion when dealing with burnout is to increase the variability in your routine. So if you are burning out because of your work, try to introduce in your schedule some personal projects, passions, and hobbies. Did you always want to learn to draw? Did you always want to play the guitar? Are there any activities of these hobbies you can finish in a 15-30 minutes break? If so, do them.

How did I prevent the last Burnout?

I had the first writing burnout when I started publishing articles regularly. I was so enthusiastic that I worked even 6-7 extra hours per day for writing. But in less than a month, I burned out.

It took me more than three months to recover from it. The effort I made was so tremendous that I had to re-ignite the passion for writing slowly, without pushing my brain too much. And one month ago, I was about to remake the same error, but I stopped at the first signal. When I noticed I was writing all day, I stopped instantly. Then, I paused for one week and slowly restarted.

So I set a threshold. Every time I produce over two articles per week, I take a one-week pause. The same happens if I stop reading over one week, stop making infographics, or stop working out. If any of that happens, I take a long break. In all the other cases, I take regular breaks between sessions with the one-to-quarter method.

How about you? Do you schedule your free time to reach high efficiency without burning out?

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Article first published on Medium.

Cover photo by Anna Tarazevich from Pexels.