Productive Leaders

Ph.D., CSP, CDR, US Navy Ret.,
CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame

Mary’s Weekly Articles and Valuable Tools

Subscribe below and get Dr. Mary Kelly’s
weekly newsletter in your inbox.


Avoid Burnout in 2018!

Stress. Deadlines. Meetings. Client issues.


Busy professionals may experience increased levels of stress-induced cortisol, poor sleeping habits, mood swings, and other health manifestations from today’s workplace demands. One study on CEO health and wellness stated that 59 percent of CEOs are at risk for cardiac episodes, and 70 percent admitted that they suffered from stress.

While leadership, business growth, and profits are rewarding, quality of life is important. As a leader, we have to make sure we are taking care of our people to make sure they maximize efficiency, increase productivity, and prevent burnout.

Schedule Effectively

Workdays can be non-stop meetings, which means we rush from one group to another, trying to shift mental gears based on the meeting topic. We are often not as prepared as we’d like to be, and we don’t have time to process the next task.

One way to schedule busy days, especially those with multiple meetings, is to link calendars. Individuals can mark private entries “private” and staff can see blocked meetings times, minimizing emails and texts about availability.

App Tip: A fun way to share calendars with family is with Cozi.

Delegate and Outsource

We all want to say ‘yes’ to others. We want to be needed by other people, and we want to feel appreciated when we contribute. But effective professionals know they have to triage their time, and this means saying “no” if:

1. Someone else can do it at a lower opportunity cost. For example, you should not do data entry if you make $50 per hour, and you can pay someone $10 per hour to do it. They have a comparative advantage in doing that work because they have a lower opportunity cost to get it done.

2. Someone else can do it better than you can. Find people who are great at doing what you need done, hire them, and pay them well. 

3. It is a volunteer opportunity, and your time can be better spent in another role. As all of my friends know, I love animals. Dogs, cats, parrots, ferrets, turtles, gerbils, horses, bunnies, and fish. I love animals. I know my local no-kill shelter often needs volunteers to walk dogs, feed cats, and clean cages, and I am happy to do that work. But should I? Well, no, as it turns out. The reason I am not a veterinarian is that I am horribly allergic to animal dander, fur, and saliva. A charging buffalo may look scary, but cuddling with a super cute  kitten can kill me. So volunteering for those jobs is is not the best use of my time. However, I can organize their online auction to raise money that pays for pet food, rent, and other costs. If it is not something that best serves your strengths, find something that does.

When delegating:

  • Hire resourceful talent
  • Give others responsibility that plays to their strengths
  • Harness the abilities of others
  • Provide clarity about desired outcomes

App tip: FancyHands gets small jobs off my plate. For $30/month you can get 6 short tasks done very quickly.

Move Your Body

Unlike 100 years ago, today’s work requires a lot of sitting, all day.

Research shows that sitting longer than 30 minutes increases the risk of strokes, diabetes, and heart attacks, and this is avoidable.

We need to make sure that we:

  • Eat healthy food
  • Drink water
  • Walk or stretch every 30 to 60 minutes
  • Take the stairs

Action: I thought those health monitors that you wear on your wrist was kind of silly until I tried one. If I complete my fitness goals for standing and walking, these multi-colored circles are completed. If I don’t, there are colorful half moons condemning me from my wrist. It makes me go run around until the cirlces are complete.

Get Organized

Peter Drucker once said, “Until we manage time, we can manage nothing else.” Many professionals struggle with staying organized.

To help:

  • Reconfirm all meetings and add contact details and directions with landmarks into calendars
  • Share documents with Google Docs, Dropbox, or other cloud-based systems
  • Add client notes directly into a CRM
  • Schedule all meetings and calls with colleagues or friends
  • At the end of the day, check emails and the next day’s schedule
  • Work set hours. Turn the phone off during family time and time with friends

Be patient with new routines. Start small and build momentum.

App Tips: Try Evernote for projects and a scheduling calendar like ScheduleOnce or Calendly (check out

Stay Focused

Multi-tasking makes us feel productive, but it divides our attention. If we really need to focus, then we really need to focus. Research proves multi-tasking can lead to frustration and overwhelm.

To avoid mistakes like going to the wrong meeting, calling a client by the wrong name, or being late on a deadline, stay fresh.

Action: Focus on one project at a time and put time to work on that project on the calendar.

Incentivize Goals

Businesses focus on growth, clients, and ROI. It can be hard to see recognize our own accomplishments.

Gather the team together and ask what they are proud of doing.

Note achievements and milestones in a public place.

Action: Find a way to celebrate achievements in a way that is meaningful for the team.

Take Time Off. Yes, really!

Leadership expert, Peter Stark recently told a group of CEO’s to buy tickets. What he means is that we need to not just plan to go to Greece, or go fishing, or attend a concert. We need to buy the tickets so we actually go. Otherwise, it is too easy to go too long without a real break. Studies show that to give our brains a real break we need 4 days of a change. A vacation is doing something we don’t normally do. Taking a day off to get caught up on errands may decrease the items on our To–Do List, but it is not a brain break.

Ultimately, increasing work efficiency and building productivity starts with making small and consistent daily changes.

Avoid burnout and make sure your team avoids it as well.


  1. Kizzy Smith

    Great article, I printed it and highlighted some things I definitely need to do. I absolutely agree with the brain break. I just recently took 5 days off and I did not do one thing related to work and I feel so refreshed.

    • Mary

      Thank you so much for your kind note! We are trying to practice this as well!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *