As the pace of life intensifies, we need helpful strategies to stay on top. In other words, we need to be more productive. But where can we start?

Here are three ways you can stay at your peak—without burning out.

1. Guard your time

Work is most satisfying when we focus on projects that we initiate and drive ourselves. This satisfaction, however, can be constantly under pressure from people who want your time and attention.

You can fight back by blocking out time to work away from email, programming your phone to only ring for select colleagues, and resisting emails first thing in the morning until you’ve achieved at least one important task.

Granted, it can be satisfying to help other people with their problems. But helping everyone with everything is a recipe for stress. It’s better to specialise in one or two forms of helping that we genuinely enjoy and excel at uniquely.

What if your manager asks you to take on more than is reasonable? Why not show them all the projects you’re currently working on, list your priorities, and invite their input. This will help them appreciate the constraints you are dealing without you having to tell them “no.”

Also, don’t forget to look for ways to automate or delegate repetitive or less important activities that squeeze your time.

2. Stay focussed

When we are rushed and under pressure, we can feel needed, challenged, and more productive. But this pleasure rush can be an illusion. Being constantly busy can actually rob us of the focus we need to attend to the work that matters more.

“Busyness is not a marker of intelligence, importance, or success,” says sociologist Christine Carter, an expert at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center. “Taken to an extreme, it is much more likely a marker of conformity or powerlessness or fear.”

So, instead of seeing busyness as a sign of efficiency, it could well indicate that you are wasting energy.

3. Be balanced

“All work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy,” states an old proverb. And dull people make poor workers.

Top performers recognize and honour their physical limitations by getting plenty of exercise and sleep, cycling between 90-minute bursts of focused work and short restorative breaks.

Solid research shows we are more likely to perform at our best when we temporarily remove ourselves from the daily grind. So, take a long shower, go for a run, or take a vacation. Top performers view time off not as stalled productivity but as an investment in their future performance.

No matter how much time and energy you have at your disposal, you can’t be productive without mastering the art of attention management.


Resisting the lure of busyness, having a plan for saying no, and maintaining your focus on your key goals will help you succeed, both at work and in life.