Maybe I shouldn’t admit this to you guys, but I’m going to anyway. I’m going through a little bit of a “productivity burnout” phase.

Sometimes I get tired of being productive.

I suspect that it’s not very popular for productivity enthusiasts to admit this. Right? It’s not productive to be burned out! That’s probably why you won’t find many people writing about it, but as it’s something I’ve experienced before (and am experiencing now), I’d like to set a few things straight.

Here’s the thing – I’m not really worried about it, because just like every thing in life, it’s just a season. You just have to understand where you’re at and how to get out of it.

So if you’re in this slump, have no fear. And if you’re not in this slump, keep reading to learn how you can avoid getting to a state of productivity burnout.

productivity burnout meme

What is productivity burnout?

Productivity burnout is a feeling of tiredness and lack of energy to be productive. It includes a loss of willpower, mental and physical energy, and even excitement about the things you’re doing.

You might be suffering from productivity burnout if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • not excited about the things you’re working on
  • struggling to wake up every morning
  • no desire to do your morning routine or other systems in your life
  • not sure what you should be focusing on
  • easily distracted
  • tired of reading about how to be more productive

What causes productivity burnout?

If you’d like to avoid feeling any of those things (or if you do feel them and you’re curious why), here are some things that can lead to productivity burnout.

WORKING TOO HARD

A common misconception about productivity is that it means that you must always be working. It’s just not true. Productivity means doing the right things, and doing them well. It doesn’t mean working more, and it most definitely doesn’t mean “doing everything”.

You might think you’re being productive because you’re working really hard. You’re getting a lot accomplished and you’re thrilled. But you’re tired. You won’t be able to sustain working 18 hour days and doing a million things forever!

OVERCOMPLICATING THINGS

Sometimes we get a little excited about being productive and getting things done. We learn about one system, or we read one book, and then we suddenly want to read even more books and learn even more systems! We go from having nothing in place to suddenly having a morning routine, a nighttime routine, a midday workout, a 20 minute daily meditation practice, and social media ban all at once!

how to deal with productivity burnout

If your productivity processes look like this, you might need to drop it down a notch.

It’s possible to have too much of a good thing. Even with productivity! If you are feeling a little burned out, it might be because you’ve overcomplicated some things. Maybe you introduced too many systems in your life at once. Rome wasn’t conquered in a day, and your most productive self won’t be developed in a day either.

TOO MUCH ON YOUR MIND

When you’ve got a lot of stuff on your mind, you’re going to be more tired and drained. You’re going to have less energy to focus and think about what you can do to be productive. Heck, you might even stop caring about trying to focus.

This can result from any sort of changes in our life, from changing jobs to new challenges at work to moving to a new place or new relationships. When you’re distracted, you drain your energy to focus. And when you lose energy to focus, it’s hard to care about productivity.

LOSS OF EXCITEMENT ABOUT YOUR WORK

If you’re not excited about what you’re working on, you’re definitely going to get tired of working on it. Your work won’t give you energy all of the time, but if it feels like it’s taking more energy than usual, maybe you’ve lost your excitement about it.

This is boring

If you can’t remember why you’re working on something, you won’t be as excited to get more of it done. You won’t be as excited to work on it faster or more efficiently. You’ll feel more like you’re just trying to survive the day.

YOU THINK YOU KNOW IT ALL

If you’re a fellow productivity enthusiast, then this could be your biggest problem. Sometimes people get tired of productivity because they think there’s nothing left to learn. They think they’ve tried everything there is, and maybe it’s not enough.

If you still have productivity challenges and think you know it all, then chances are you’re going to get burned out because you think you’ve reached the end of the road. If you’re climbing a mountain but think you’ve made it to the top, you’re not going to keep climbing are you?

Any of those symptoms seem familiar? Don’t worry – It’s just a phase, and here’s how to get out of it.

How To Cure Productivity Burnout (Or Prevent It)

1. Plan for break time

Would you rather work 18 hours a day for two months? Or 14 hours a day for two years? (Hint – 18 x 60 < 14 x 720.) You can hustle and work hard now, but that won’t sustain for ever. By building rest and breaks into your routine, you’ll have a much better chance of maintaining that routine over the long term. Incorporate time each day for rest. Take a break at lunch – even if it’s just for a few minutes. Spend an hour each day doing something relaxing and something that gives you energy. Take a day off each week.

2. Assess your systems

Never implement a new productivity process or system in your life just because it sounds like a good idea. Only add it if you can see the value it’s bringing. You don’t need to have a thousand elements in your morning routine just because Steve Jobs did. Find what works for you, and use only what you need. If you think some of those systems might be overbearing, think through ways to simplify them, or try removing them altogether. You might not even miss them.

3. Experiment

Don’t be afraid to try new things. If you have a specific problem, try out multiple solutions. Get creative about the issue and how it could be solved. Don’t really on a Medium article or some guru’s book to tell you how to solve it. Keep trying new things and see what works best for you.

4. Capture your thoughts

If you struggle with distracting thoughts (for whatever reason), keep a notebook where you log thoughts that go through your mind at any given time. Instead of letting them fester, just write them down. Whether it’s digitally or on a piece of paper, logging these ideas can get them out of your mind and help you focus better on the task at hand. Write anything that comes to mind – thoughts, questions, concerns, and ideas. Don’t pressure yourself to evaluate them in the moment.

productivity burnout

5. Remember your why

Remember why you want to be productive. If you’re feeling burned out, then you might be just trying to be productive for the sake of “being productive”. That won’t get you really far, and it won’t keep you going for very long. Why do you want to be productive? Do you want to have more time to do the things you love? Do you want to spend more time with family and friends? Do you want to give all you can to the world and the people around you? Do you want to make every minute count because life is short? Remember your why and let that fuel you.

6. Work on things that excite you

There are things in life we have to do that aren’t always the most exciting. You don’t always get to have your dream job, and you can’t always do things that excite you. Some people will tell you to quit your job and follow your passion and do something you love. Don’t do that. At least not as a solution to productivity burnout! Instead, just try to find something in your life that you can work on that excites you. You’d be surprised how much energy you can get from just spending a couple hours a week working on something you like. It can give you energy for a full time job that you aren’t as excited about! Rather than quit your job and follow your passion, keep your job and just follow your passion. 🙂 Find something that excites you and spend some time there.

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You can get tired of trying to be productive. That’s normal, and that’s fine. You’re not a bad human, and it doesn’t mean you’re not productive. You won’t always wake up each morning ready to jump out of bed. You won’t always have the energy to focus. And that’s okay. Give yourself a break. Literally.

Your Turn

What do you think? Have you ever experienced productivity burnout? How do you prevent it? Comment below and let’s discuss!

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