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Businesswoman relaxing at her desk with her eyes closed and fingers in a meditation pose

With such a focus these days on productivity, and pressure to get as much done as possible, trying to cram everything in can sometimes lead to feelings of overwhelm and anxiety. True productivity should actually do the opposite and create more pockets of time to do the fun stuff and relax, but how do you strike a balance?

We thought we’d explore this subject more deeply to help you be more zen and less fraught!


When does a need for productivity become stressful?

When done correctly, productivity is great because you’re getting more done in less time and should therefore have time for the things which you enjoy. However, if a need for productivity is coupled with a drive to maximise activity, whether it’s self-inflicted or your boss is laying on the pressure, then it can lead to overwhelm.

We often overcommit, and some people develop an inner urgency, a need to always be busy. This can lead to stress which manifests itself as anxiety, depression or lifestyle factors such as insomnia.


How can you prevent burnout?

We asked Karin Stephan of Earkick, a specialist in measuring mental wellbeing at work, why workers can feel burned out and overwhelmed, leading to mental health issues.

Karin said “We talk about stress as if it’s bad, but according to research by Gallup it isn’t necessarily the number of hours worked that lead to burnout and other mental health issues. What matters is to be ‘on’ when we truly need to be ‘on’ and to really be ‘off’ when we need to be ‘off’.

“We find ourselves distracted when we should be focused on being productive and we start putting pressure on ourselves and developing unrealistic expectations. On the other hand, when it’s time to go ‘off’, we find ourselves checking our mobile phone, checking Slack, email – and we’re not really present for the things we wanted to do while off work and recovering.

“On top of that, we feel guilty when doing self-care, self-maintenance, or doing nothing of importance. As long as we’re not very intentional about our work and about our recovery, we will face mental health challenges in the long term and our productivity will suffer substantially. Top athletes are only able to maintain their level of productivity because they know how to be 100% present during performance time and 100% recovering when it’s time to build strength.”


How can you reduce overwhelm caused by your to-do list?

Much as we love a to-do list, sometimes they can be too full and lead to anxiety. Jenni Brown of Lyrical Host recommends taking the emotion out of your it. “So many people beat themselves up about not completing their list, or being chained to it, or associating it with failure and stress. Keeping it neutral and not having any emotions tied to it just means you’re freeing yourself to roll it over to another day without any attachment.”

This is great advice, and having time to step back and review what you actually NEED to get done today versus what you WANT to get done can really help. Often we set ourselves unrealistic deadlines for tasks and it doesn’t actually matter if they don’t get done when originally planned.


Why is downtime so important?

What’s interesting is that the most productive people build plenty of breaks in their day. This really is working smarter, not harder, something which we hold dear at Solvaa. In fact, the key to top performance is rest, according to this article, so as well as getting enough sleep at night we must also include some kick-back time during the day.

And according to Forbes, ‘boredom’ (or downtime) can stimulate creativity and increase productivity. Have you ever had your best ideas while out for a run? Your overloaded brain needs to relax, and how many times have you been told to have a break from social media? That too will reduce a sense of overwhelm from the never-ending scrolling of Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.


How can you practise self-care?

It’s vital that you aren’t productive and busy for every moment of the day, or even every day. As Karin says, you must build in ‘off’ moments during the day.

What you do in your ‘off’ time is up to you, but exercise can play a significant role in improving mental health. Journalling is great too, as a safe space to write down your negative thoughts and feelings, which helps release them. Meditating is great for reducing stress and anxiety and the Calm app has plenty of free guided options. If you’ve always thought meditation is a bit too ‘woo’ for you then think again, as it can be as simple as laying down (or sitting) in a quiet place to focus on breathing and your body.

Businessman sitting in an office foyer with crossed legs and leaning on a tree with his eyes closed.

Self-care also includes drinking plenty of water, reading, treating yourself to a manicure and unfollowing negative people on social media. Never underestimate the power of a hug either, which releases oxytocin, the love hormone. There are many benefits of hugging, including better sleep, improved immunity and better cardiovascular health. It’s extraordinary how that human contact can positively affect you, and it’s often the simplest things which are most effective.

Zapier recently wrote about how to set mental health boundaries, with some great tips which include only taking on new clients that are the right fit and setting boundaries around your work/life balance.


How to maximise productivity without overwhelm

When working, it’s vital that you have good practices in place in order to be productive. Being organised reduces stress as well as streamlines your day. Much as we love automation at Solvaa, we always emphasise the need to review and simplify processes before even thinking about automating them.

We recommend avoiding over-complicating things as doing so will make tasks easier to manage. Having defined and documented processes make the work quicker and less stressful to do. Not only that, everything will be more consistent and you’ll be less likely to make a mistake.

If you’d like to use some of your downtime for self-help reading then we can recommend 6 excellent productivity books which are perfect for overwhelmed business owners.

We would also highly recommend downloading our free e-book The Essential Guide To Business Productivity to find out more about how to work smarter, not harder!

Reduce your overwhelm with our automation training programme

And finally, if you’re really keen to reduce your overwhelmand  transform your business using automation, then visit the Solvaa Automation Academy. Our signature training programme, ‘Simple Automation Blueprint: Zero to Hero’ is aimed at anyone who wants to learn the fundamentals of business process automation from the experts – a sure-fire way to recession-proof your business.

It’s an 8-week blended learning course with on-demand videos, templates, resources and weekly group coaching sessions. And it’s more than just a Zapier course (although we do show you how to use Zapier like a pro) as you’ll learn about Process Mapping, Business Process Improvement and Business Process Management too – principles that can be applied to other areas of business too! 

Whether you are a complete novice or have been using Zapier for a while, our programme is for you. It’s perfect for individuals and teams in micro, small and medium-sized businesses, including solopreneurs, consultants and freelancers. You’ll have access to our experts and can participate in live calls where you can ask all your burning questions, as well as hands-on workshops to keep you on track with implementing your new skills. We run regular cohorts so there will be an opportunity for everyone to participate.

Our head trainer, Kelly Goss, is a specialist in business systems, process improvement and automation, and one of less than 100 Zapier Certified Experts in the world. Kelly has many years’ experience in optimising systems and processes, and implementing automations for clients and is now passing on her knowledge to students through our trademarked ‘4-Step Solvaa Automation Methodology®‘. 

Find out more via our dedicated Solvaa Automation Academy website.

Read more about how our certified experts use Zapier workflow automations to simplify processes and increase efficiency.

Solvaa is a process and automation consultancy specialising in improving sales, operations and financial administration workflows. We help you to simplify and streamline existing processes, integrate your business tools to make data transfer more efficient and automate manual tasks to increase productivity. We are Zapier Certified Experts, Pipedrive Certified Experts and Xero Certified Advisors. 

Contact us today to discuss how Solvaa can help you simplify, improve and automate all aspects of your business with Zapier to save you time, reduce costs and keep you agile as you grow.


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