As an executive leadership and career success coach, I’ve been at the forefront of the pandemic “overwhelmed” and “burnout” wave, and I can attest that the struggle is real. Many of my clients, before working together, felt constantly like they were always hustling and forcing their way through a never-ending cycle of to-dos. Worse, no matter how early they got up, how late they stay up to catch up, the result was the same: feeling anxious and overwhelmed.
My most successful clients, those who are able to get out of the overwhelm and lead a more balanced, successful life have one thing in common — they learned fully embrace what I called the holy trinity of productivity. Here are those three keys to productivity (and no, you don't have to get up a 5 am in order to implement any of these.
There was a fellow athletic performance coach who once told me that performance equals potential minus interference. I like to think that this principle can be applied to productivity as well. When it comes to being able to be more productive, the issue is not that we aren’t productive — it’s that we allow so much interference (aka text messages, interruptions, or requests that are not exactly worth our time) that we lose sight of what is truly important or completely procrastinate and then try to catch up last minute.
Instead, set some boundaries and learn to say no politely to activities and other people’s needs that will distract you. Off course, it sounds very tempting to answer that text, volunteer in the next PTA bake sale, or offer to organize that event at work. However again don't bite more than can chew, and better say no, than deliver half haphazardly — and get burnout in the process.
The best productive people are able to compartmentalize their tasks and group them into two main categories:
What absolutely needs to happen today?
What can be placed in the parking lot?
Whatever falls into the “parking lot,” leave it for a later time. I do not care what strategy you use — hide it, lock it up in your messy drawer, give it to your dog to keep — do not look at it at all. Then take the “needs to happen” list and focus on the one or two tasks that will make the biggest impact. Review it around three hours before your workday ends, rinse and repeat.
Either at work or at home, delegation is the key to success. Take a look at your to-do list and ask yourself, what of this list I can delegate? Often, seek those tasks that are repetitive and trivial, and give those to someone else. The point is, to seek or hire people to delegate aka family, mom-helper, get an intern or hire a VA. There is no shame in finding and seeking help. Delegation is the secret to productivity, but for that you need to fight the need to control everything and let it go — which brings me to my last point.
You can embrace these three practices, but nothing will work if you keep pursuing perfectionism, controlling, and other destructive self-sabotaging thought patterns such as “I’m the only one that can do everything well around here.”
Know this: good today is better than perfect someday. Perfection is a completely false narrative, and a charade masking our fear of failure. It’s another expression of the inner critic showing up.
Instead, I like to invite you to drop the ball, leave the superwoman cape hanging on the door and embrace your imperfect self with all the kindness and love that you deserve. Regardless, the list will always be there, but you do have the power to make a choice of how you like to approach it.
This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.
Beatriz Albini-Ruiz is an ICF-certified executive leadership and career success coach. She works with high achieving, driven, Sr. Manager to VP-level professionals who want to elevate their leadership presence within their organizations and beyond. She works with you to uncover what’s holding you back in your career and life, so you can design the life you desire, create a path forward, and achieve success. As a Latinx, mother, and former HR Startup Leader, Beatriz also is an advocate for BIPOC and Latinx talent in leadership.