Productivity for How You’re Wired
Productivity Coaching, Time Management Consulting and Leadership Coaching for business and nonprofits - get your most important work done. Collaborating with leaders and their teams to become more strategic, focused and productive. Leadership and Board Coaching, Strategic Planning Facilitation, Productivity Coaching and Time Management Consulting, Professional Speaker.
Productivity Coach, Productivity Consultant, Leadership Coach, Time Management Coach, Business Consulting, personal productivity, time management, nonprofit, board coach, collaboration, strategic planning, facilitation, change management, leading productive teams, project planning, board development, volunteer engagement, association management, workplace productivity, executive director.
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Productivity for How You’re Wired

Counteract Burnout

Excessive busyness is no longer looked upon as a badge of honor. More and more companies are moving towards eliminating the frenzied activity and psychologically unsafe conditions that cause burnout. What can be done?

From an Organizational Perspective:

  • Shift from the quarterly results mentality to sustained positive performance
  • Support work cultures that value members of the team
  • Dismiss managers who create and promote dysfunction.

From an Individual Perspective:

Knowing that your work culture may be contributing to your burnout is validating; however, it’s probably not enough to effect change. We, as individuals, need to learn how to protect ourselves from chronic stress and burnout.

The emotional component must also be considered. Finding balance between your passion for contributing to a project’s success and caring for yourself is much easier said than done. 

In monitoring your relationship with burnout, consider the following:

  • Selfvalue — Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Just because you can do it better than anyone else still doesn’t mean you should. 
  • Connectedness Do you feel connected to your work colleagues? Do you fit in?
  • Contribution Are you part of something bigger than yourself? Are you empowered to do the work you were hired to do? Does your work matter?
  • Work Fit Are you working to your strengths? If not, this in itself is exhausting.
  • Support If you have a problem, is there someone you can go to for direction or to help you sort things out?
  • Balance Can you slow down enough to relax or are you always seeking your next big rush?
  • Interests Do you have interests outside of work? What else matters?
  • Fun and Joy Do you know how to have fun? Do you know what gives you joy? 
  • Happiness Have you lost yourself? Are there things that make you happy that come from inside you and not from external validation? 

What does relax mean to you? Another exercise class? Reading more? Cooking more? If these activities help you decompress, then great. But for many, they are simply personal to-dos, done for outcome and not pleasure. What makes you happy? What helps you enjoy life? We are human BE-ings, not human DO-ings. Can you identify one act of “be-ing” that helps you relax? 

Take a few moments this week and self-coach yourself around some of these questions.  You could journal, take a contemplative walk, or simply sit and “be” with a question or two.  Setting intentions about how you wish to live and creating structures that support your personal self are positive actions you can take.


This is an excerpt from Chapter 5 of my new book Productivity for How You’re Wired available on Amazon. Worksheets and online templates are included via the time tools link discussed in the book.

Causes of Burnout

Burnout is trending. For many years, it didn’t seem to be a topic of much interest. It was almost like it was okay. IT IS NOT OKAY! 

Burnout can use up our physical and mental resources over time. Yes, USE UP, as in never be able to regain full capacity, full processing ability, full memory access. GONE! That is scary. 

Unfortunately, many employers see their employees as commodities. Commodities to use up and replace with other hard-working suckers who want to fast-track or prove themselves. The employees end up working endless hours, often suffering chronic stress and sometimes burnout.

If you are worried about chronic stress, I hope you find a place to work that values you and a way to live that fulfills you. In the event you can’t, it’s important to educate yourself about stress and burnout and how to take care of yourself. Don’t hold your breath waiting for someone to tell you to work less. This one is up to you.

What is Burnout?

Burnout doesn’t just happen. It is a process that occurs over time. The World Health Organization  defines burnout as chronic work–induced stress that has not been successfully managed. New science has also recognized burnout in non–work conditions such as parenting, caring for elderly parents, and unemployment. Whatever the source, all agree burnout results from long periods of ongoing stress.

When stress persists, it’s called chronic stress. When chronic stress impacts emotional health, physical health, and work efficacy it becomes burnout.

Causes of Burnout

Work Culture – Burnout is often driven by working conditions. In her seminal article, “Burnout from an Organizational Perspective”, Stanford Business School Professor Dr. Leah Weiss shares research showing that much burnout comes from toxic work cultures. 

Conditions that cause chronic stress include feelings of not belonging, being unappreciated, having little or no support, being micromanaged, and not knowing what is expected. These ongoing conditions move the brain into an always–on stress response.

Toxic Team Members – An organization’s tolerance for toxic team members contributes to burnout. It isn’t unusual for leadership to overlook abusive treatment of others when the harasser is a rainmaker or makes great promises about impacting profitability. 

Abusers are clever and they know who they can con. They also know who is smart enough to see through them. Their reaction is to smear and lie about those that can disclose their charade. Being a victim of that type of abuse is especially stressful. Continued work in this kind of situation is rarely sustainable without support.

Level of Job Stress – Certain jobs carry with them greater stress. Helping professionals, health care workers, and civil servants in harm’s way have stress baked in. The slightest negative change in working conditions can tip the scales toward compassion fatigue and eventual burnout.

Family of origin scripts – Mental scripts around work often reflect upbringing and family dynamics. These messages can contribute to chronic stress and burnout.

  • Was working extremely long hours modeled for you growing up?
  • Were you taught that anything less than 100% was not okay?
  • Do you worry about disappointing others if you don’t produce?

How you’re wired – Your own needs and values can also affect your relationship with work.

  • Does being busy make you feel good about yourself?
  • Is your identity tied to your work?
  • Are you addicted to the adrenaline rush of collaboration and results?

What doesn’t cause burnout Oversensitivity or “taking things too personally” are excuses used to blame workers for something someone else is doing wrong. One’s reaction does affect how the stress is processed; it is a symptom and not the cause. 


This is an excerpt from Chapter 5 of my new book Productivity for How You’re Wired available on Amazon. Worksheets and online templates are included via the time tools link discussed in the book.

Why Am I Procrastinating

Why Do You Procrastinate? You aren’t the only one asking yourself that question! Without an understanding of why you are procrastinating, it’s hard to figure out what to do about it.

I realized this when I studied my own procrastination tendencies. I learned I usually procrastinated when I needed more information for the next step. Once I understood that behavior, it became easier to figure out how I could learn what I needed to know. Procrastination would also occur when I need more time to think before moving into action. Now that I understand my “why,” my procrastination is manageable.

Read through this list and consider which of these causes explain why you procrastinate. It is often more than one.

What Is Your Why?

Self-doubt — Lack of confidence is a real stopper. It makes sense that it is hard to move into action if you don’t believe in yourself, or you don’t believe what you’ll deliver is going to be good enough. You are probably really hard on yourself. It can be helpful to realize everyone has a degree of self-doubt. It’s what you do about it that drives outcomes.

Need more information — It’s hard to do something when you don’t know how to do it. On the other hand, doing too much research is procrastination in itself. The goal is to find the right balance of information to move you into action. Awareness and asking yourself “what else do I need to get started?” is helpful.

Need processing time — Sometimes you just need time for things to percolate. That good idea you had in the shower this morning? It probably wasn’t a new idea. You were creating the space for that idea to come to fullness. Do you do a better job solving the problem after you “sleep on it?” That is good procrastination!

Need stress — Many people use deadlines to create enough stress to move into action. In last month’s blog post on stress and productivity, we learned about the correlation between stress and performance and that without enough stress, we don’t move into action. Deadline stress can be your solution to getting work out the door. If this is your choice, stop beating yourself up and accept who you are. One warning here: Do you hear yourself saying, “I just didn’t have enough time to do the job I wanted to do?” Some people use procrastination to self-handicap. Delay becomes an excuse for not turning in their best work, or even a way to avoid feedback.

Lack of clarity  —When you’re not clear what is important, you end up spending time on low-value tasks and putting off or not doing important work.

Distaste for the task — It’s hard to be motivated to do a task that you hate doing. If this is the case, consider alternatives. Can you delegate this to someone on your team? Can you pay someone else to do it? Can you take it off your list?

Perfectionism — Does the need to be perfect keep you from doing what needs to be done? We’ll look at this in more detail in future blog posts, but remember – perfect is the enemy of done.


This is an exert from Chapter 4 of my new book Productivity for How You’re Wired available on Amazon.  Next post I’ll share strategies to help overcome procrastination.

The brain cannot do its best productive work when overstressed, anxious, or under threat. 

Productivity, Stress and Flow Brain Model

A lot is written today about stress and anxiety. We know exercise, meditation, and good sleep help reduce stress. However, little is discussed about the effects of stress and anxiety on our productivity. In a nutshell, the brain cannot do its best productive work when overstressed, anxious, or under threat. (Excerpts from Chapter 3 of Productivity for How You’re Wired.)

Here’s the neuroscience:

Neuroscientist Paul MacLean’s Triune Brain Model provides a straightforward model to understand the impact of fear and stress on the brain in conjunction with evolution and the hierarchy of brain functions. MacLean describes the brain in terms of three regions:

Brain Stem: From an evolutionary perspective, the brain stem is the oldest part of the brain. It controls bodily functions without thought or effort. This part of our brain operates on “autopilot.”

Limbic System: Next in evolutionary age is the limbic system. This is the emotional center of our brain. It is home to the amygdala, the part of the brain that houses the fight, flight, or freeze response. We have some control over our emotions, but under threat or too much stress, the amygdala automatically “hijacks” our thinking brain and takes over.

Prefrontal Cortex: Newest, and least on autopilot, is our Prefrontal Cortex (PFC), our thinking brain. It is here we plan, anticipate, think, and learn. The PFC is where innovation and creative thought occur. It houses our working memory and supports our ability to organize information and draw conclusions.

The PFC and the amygdala compete for control of the brain. When we are our most productive selves, we are functioning from the PFC. However, when there is too much stress, anxiety, or fear, the emotionally driven amygdala kicks in. We move from thinking and being productive to a fight, flight, or freeze state.

When under treat, anxious, or overstressed, our productivity tanks because we’ve moved from our thinking brain to our emotional brain.

Flow

Doing one’s most effective work occurs when a person is in flow. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the architect of positive psychology’s flow state, defines flow as “a powerful and rewarding psychological state that makes extra effort seem worthwhile.”

When in flow work feels like play, time flies (and stands still,) and productivity soars. To be our most productive selves, to be in flow, we need to function from our PFC, our thinking brain.Finding Productivity Flow

When under too much stress, anxiety can be paralyzing. You may relate to that feeling when you get a note from the boss saying “come see me,” or a long-time client calls and says “can we talk?” Just when we need to be at our best, we freeze up and our emotional brain takes charge.

Without enough stress, the brain struggles to move into action. Waiting until the 11th hour to begin a project causes enough stress to move the brain into productivity flow.

Strategies for Getting and Staying in Productivity Flow

The emotional limbic brain almost always wins unless we learn how to manage it. To be in productivity flow we need to employ strategies to help us manage the stress.From overstressed to productive

Knowledge is power! When you start to feel anxious or lose focus, it’s empowering to stop and think — I know what’s going on here. When you realize that what is happening in your brain is the normal physiologic stress response, you can take back control. Deep breathing, a walk, or other calming activity can help, but sometimes simply understanding what is happening is enough to pull you back into productivity flow.

Productivity for How You're Wired

I am so happy to share with you that my new book Productivity for How You’re Wired is out!

It truly has been a labor of love.  My most sincere hope is that it will help people work and live better.

Many have asked how they can buy the book. It is available on Amazon.  If you like it, I hope you’ll leave a review.

As a loyal subscriber, you’re invited  to my Virtual Book Launch Party and Book Signing.  It will be on Wednesday September 28th between 4pm and 7pm Eastern Time.  Please put it on your calendar and plan to drop in for as much or as little time as you like.  I have some fun activities planned.  We might even play a game…with prizes!  For those of you who want your books signed, I’ve figured that out too.  I think you’ll love it.  (Zoom link to follow).

In my last blog post I introduced you to the concept of Structure Preference – how much structure you personally need to do your best work.

In this week’s post we’ll use that information to guide you in finding the way you work best.  Knowing what’s unique about how you work can guide you as you craft productivity systems that fit how you’re wired.

David Keirsey, Professor of Psychology, and co-author of the seminal book Please Understand Me: Character and Temperament Types, streamlined the Myers-Briggs® by identifying personality types based on two specific personality characteristics. He theorized that the way one processes information influences behavior. He believed SENSORS are most affected by the way they function in society, while INTUITORS are most influenced by their decision-making processes.

Applying Keirsey’s concepts to productivity inspired my productivity styles: Catalyst, Coordinator, Diplomat, and Innovator. Use your structure preference to narrow your options. If you are Task Priority Focused chances are your either a Coordinator or Innovator.  If you are Relationship Priority Focused you’re most likely a Catalyst or Diplomat.   Review the chart below.

Can you recognize your Productivity Style?

Once you understand your more about yourself, you’ll understand more about how to set yourself up for success.

For example, let’s look at how people with different productivity styles approach doing a to-do list.

  • CATALYSTs thrive with simple systems. They keep it high level by using their list to capture ideas and identify most urgent tasks.
  • DIPLOMATs benefit from taking time to plan their work. Since their tendency is to verbally process rather than write, committing to the system is key. They make it fun by color coding and using creative labels.
  • COORDINATORs love seeing everything in one place. They plan their work and work their plan.
  • INNOVATORs like to plan but can get lost in trying to improve the system. They do best when they use their list to capture ideas and prioritize, and then quickly move into action.

Are you staring to think differently about how who you are affects your best way to do things? If you’ve ever felt like a square peg in a round hole, understanding how who you are impacts how you do things will shift your perspective so you can consider alternative approaches.

Book News:  The book WILL be out next week.  Available for purchase on Amazon next Wednesday, September 7th.  I’ll send a link to you next week when the book is available.

Save the Date: Virtual Book Launch Party – Wednesday September 28, 2022 from 4 p.m to 7 p.m.  Eastern Time.  This will be an open house so please drop in for a few minutes or longer, whatever is good for you. I’ve ordered these amazing custom bookplates so that I’ll be able to “sign your book.”  And we’ll have give-aways, readings, Q&A, and just celebrate.  Zoom link coming soon.

Welcome to The Better Work Better Life Blog – Here I share big ideas to help you think differently about your productivity, your work, and your life. My goal in this series of posts is to summarize the concepts I share in my new book (out next week) Productivity for How You’re Wired. My promise to you, as it’s been for the last 15 years that I’ve been blogging, is to write something short enough that you can read it in the moment.