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Pandemic stress is everywhere, and it’s showing itself in increasing burnout in the publishing industry. The World Health Organization and the 11th edition of the International Classification of Diseases, aka the ICD-11, both recognize burnout as an occupational disorder stemming from our inability to manage stress in the workplace. Burnout dampens our ability to be productive and stymies creativity and innovation.

And now for the real problem: today, one in five highly engaged employees are at risk for burnout. What can you do to sustainably manage your priorities, avoid burnout, and increase productivity?

Review priorities daily

It’s probably not big news at this point: Setting goals is critical to success. Everyone knows it, but the day in/day out grind of constantly staying fresh and hitting publishing deadlines can, over time, crush the spirit of even the most dedicated publishing professional — and goals aren’t a primary focus when burnout hits. Attainability is the key to a good goal, and accomplishing more means incorporating time blocks and breaking goals down into daily bite-size segments to fit within their designated blocks. Try these steps:

  • Reverse engineer big goals. Envision the result, and work backwards to determine the smaller, sequential steps necessary to its achievement.
  • Pick a focus. Choose which big goal to focus on for the week.
  • Narrow it down. What steps will you take today? What about tomorrow? Map out your week to make measurable, daily progress.

If you build an achievement framework, you can accomplish your goals — in work and in life. And breaking goals down into manageable steps will help you limit your risk of burnout.

Learn the value of “No.”

Say, “No.”

Try it now.

Say, “No,” and stop there.

“No.” is a complete sentence.

“No.”

It’s that easy.

Say, “No.” to distractions from your daily priorities, and “No.” to overcommitting your time.

Set aside a block of time every day to review upcoming activities and requests that infringe on your productive time. Ask yourself whether an activity is goal-centric for the day, week, or month. Instead of reacting, and accepting, as if everything deserves your time and attention, be deliberate and priority-focused in your approach to time and task management. For the necessary tasks you cannot personally attend to, learn — and practice — the fine art of delegation.

As Matt Ehrlichman says, “When time is thin and the stakes are high, one of the most important skills to have as an entrepreneur is the ability to say no to things that don’t align with your true priorities.”

Devote extra time to yourself for a change

Healthline calls it “hurry sickness,” and it’s an apt descriptor for lives lived out of balance. Hurry sickness is the chronic need to rush to the next task. Sound familiar? This condition ultimately leads to anxiety, depression, and you guessed it — burnout. To sustainably boost your productivity, you must start by slowing down and spending some time on yourself. It will feel counterproductive — and maybe even wrong — at first. How can you possibly slow down when there’s always more — and more — and even more to do?

But proactively taking control of your own productivity means scheduling your time deliberately — and that includes your downtime. By changing your approach from perpetual crisis sprint to measured marathon, you’ll learn to make goals more manageable, make real progress, and avoid the specter of burnout.

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