Prevent Burnout By Focusing on Planning and Progress

posted by Andrea | 07/31/2019

planning and progress

Over the past few years, I have gotten SOOOOOO many emails and questions asking me to share more about how I stay on top of my daily home, garden, business, family, and life responsibilities without feeling burnt out or overwhelmed all the time.

These questions have been percolating in the back of my brain for months now, and I keep circling back to the ideas of “planning ahead” and “gradual progress”.

I’m certain there are many MANY little pieces that all come together to help me prevent burnout and reduce the number of times I feel totally overwhelmed with life (I know my “go-go-go” personality plays a part in it too).

Of course, there are still days and weeks when I feel burnt out, and sometimes entire seasons of life that tend to feel more overwhelming for me than others — but in my opinion, my own life has been SIGNIFICANTLY simplified by planning ahead and striving to make gradual forward progress in every area of my life.

Let me explain a bit more…

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PLANNING AHEAD:

Sometimes I think half my blog posts allude to planning ahead in some way or another — but that’s because I am confident (based on many years of planning ahead in my own life) that planning ahead is one of the absolute best ways to simplify, streamline, organize, and de-stress my life.

Just think about how many stressful and frazzled moments could be eliminated (or at least drastically reduced) if we spent a little more time planning ahead.

Here are a few examples from my own life:

I simplify the morning rush by having lunches packed, clothing picked out, and breakfast foods ready to go the night before.

I plan our meals a week at a time — which not only simplifies the dinner hour, but also allows me to add everything I need for the week to my grocery list, and only get out to the store once a week (saving both time and money).

We almost always have a variety of baked goods and a few meal options in the freezer for busy days or last-minute dinner guests.

Dave and I talk through our daily and weekly schedules ahead of time so we can plan what meals would work best on what days, when we might need help watching the kids, and what things need to be done around the house each day and each week.

We buy gifts ahead of time (when they are on sale) and stock up on gift cards for ourselves (and for others) over the holiday season, when they are often discounted or sold with bonus offers.

I always make my to-do list for the next day before I go to bed so I know exactly what I should focus my attention on when I wake up.

I fully realize that even the most planned and organized person will still encounter stressful, chaotic, and unplanned periods of life (that’s normal and expected). However, for the rest of the time, I’m 100% positive that planning ahead saves time, energy, money, space, and stress.

And if you’re anything like me, once you realize how much you benefit from planning ahead, it will be so much easier to do it regularly, even when packing lunches, washing dishes, picking out your clothes, and making your to-do list the night before is the LAST thing you want to do.

GRADUAL PROGRESS:

As many of you know, I am a big fan of QUANTITY over QUALITY and would much rather finish a task quickly and move onto the next thing versus dawdle over doing it perfectly before finally moving on to the next thing on my list.

I’m a “productivity junkie” (wouldn’t that be a fun blog name!) and will forever strive for gradual forward progress over perfection every single time. This means that instead of stressing about doing EVERYTHING, I can simply focus on doing the NEXT thing.

I know not all people function best with this sort of approach to life… but I personally feel that my “gradual progress” mentality has played a huge roll in my ability to manage everything I do without feeling burnt out or overwhelmed.

Here are a few examples from my own life: 

I almost always try to leave a room better than when I entered the room — this might mean throwing away a piece of trash, wiping down a wet spot on the counter, stacking a couple books back on the shelf, or putting a few dishes in the dishwasher. The room might not be perfectly clean or clutter-free, but it’s BETTER than it was when I entered it.

I am far from a health-nut, but we have made so many small positive healthy-living changes over the past several years — it’s amazing (at least for me) to see how much our eating habits really have changed for the better with very little effort on our part.

I keep my yard relatively weed-free (we’re even keeping the weeds out of our vegetable garden this year!) by simply pulling a few weeds here and there, whenever I see them pop up. Since I’m outside with the kids at various times during the day, I keep a bucket handy for when I see a pesky weed. This way, I rarely need to do massive amounts of weeding at any given time, and our landscape is virtually weed-free!

I purge our home regularly and continually. It only takes me a few minutes to do this because I do it regularly throughout the year — instead of waiting 5-10 years and then feeling so completely overwhelmed I don’t know where to start.

Obviously, not everyone is wired the same way I am (oh, what a crazy world that would be) and there are definitely times when striving for gradual progress might not be the best way. However, I have a hunch that the majority of people would benefit from working towards gradual progress instead of seeking more immediate results or striving for perfection.

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My life isn’t completely spared from burnout or overwhelming moments, but by constantly planning ahead and continually focusing on gradual progress, I’m able to thwart much of the burnout and overwhelming feelings before they get too crazy and take over my life.

What are your best tips to prevent burnout?

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25 comments

  1. Erin

    07/31/2019

    Andrea, how do you think this applies to work? I have a full time job that is quite busy, but very monotonous, with activities repeating every day, every week and every month. I plan a LOT in order to accomplish the huge amount of work I do. But I get so so burnt out. Just tired of taking care of everything, helping everyone, getting everything done on time, etc. It usually ends with me taking a mental health day or weekend, where very little gets accomplished. Or being very resentful of my job. What are your thoughts?

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    Andrea Reply:

    Oh, this is a tough one Erin!
    I honestly sometimes feel this way at times too. I have SO many thing on my plate and spend a considerable amount of time planning just to assure I can accomplish everything each day. I sometimes tell Dave I get burnt out planning and just wish I had less to do. The main difference with me is that the vast majority of my “busyness” is things I choose for myself — like adding house projects and yard projects to our already full schedule or inviting lots of friends and family over for meals. So it’s “fun” busyness that I don’t resent — but I’m still weary of all the planning at times.
    I feel like it might be worth having a conversation with your boss about your huge workload. It’s not normal to need mental health days on a regular basis — and it sounds like you are very organized, so if YOU can’t even hardly finish your job, I’m guessing 98% of the rest of the population would have no chance.
    If course, I don’t know all the details, but that’s my 2 cents for now! Good luck!

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    Rhonda Reply:

    I can second what you said, Andrea. At this point in my life, with my work and ages of my two kids, I feel like I plan ahead well, but at times it’s just so much to think about anyway (it’s like that cartoon you posted a while back, with a really long scrolling story about a mother thinking of all of the things she has done for the day). The minute I walk in the door from work, I feel like the kids and even my husband throw a lot of info at me (but certainly not with the intention of stressing me out). Some days I really look forward to going to work, because it’s a finite amount of things that I have to worry about!

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    Andrea Reply:

    oh yes, I remember that cartoon! My brain is ALWAYS going from the minute I wake up until I go to bed — sometimes I feel like I don’t know how to stop it!

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  2. JJ

    07/31/2019

    A friend shared this tip that really helped: If you’re burnt out, change something. That has helped me tremendously! It might be a temporary change to refresh or a complete change and rearrangement.

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    Andrea Reply:

    yes! Sounds simple, but not always easy to do!

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  3. Rhonda

    07/31/2019

    I do sometimes go-go-go from the time I get up until after supper, so I have to remember to take little tests. I have to sometimes go in a quiet room away from the kids and just either do a head stand for 5 minutes (I practice yoga so my muscle memory makes this easy), or I just lay next to the wall with my legs straight up for 15 minutes. I have vein issues so my legs get swollen easier than most people, but even for “healthy” folks, this is a really energizing exercise.

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    Rhonda Reply:

    Not “tests” – meant “rests”

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    Natalia Reply:

    Great tip, Rhonda! I’ll have to try the 2nd suggestion. I NEED more energy!!!

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    Andrea Reply:

    I think this is probably very healthy — also, SUPER impressed that you can do a head stand for 5 minutes! WOW!

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    Rhonda Reply:

    The head stand sounds like a lot, but I’ve been working toward it for a few years…and practicing yoga for about 17 years. PROGRESS! πŸ™‚

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  4. Meghan

    07/31/2019

    Thank you for such an inspirational post! After 3 less productive weeks (because of fun) I’m feeling a little overwhelmed, but we are staying home all day today and I have a plan!

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    Andrea Reply:

    well I’m glad you had 3 weeks of fun! But I’m also glad my post is motivating you to get back in the swing of things again! Hope you had a productive day!

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  5. Ann

    07/31/2019

    I agree that planning is the key!
    *Planning & doing* ahead of time takes off SO MUCH pressure later & avoids overwhelm!

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    Andrea Reply:

    yes!!! exactly!

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  6. Beatriz

    08/16/2016

    I agree, I need to focus more on the gradual but I have to admit I am not good at keeping focus.

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  7. Sheri

    08/16/2016

    Thanks, Andrea

    I very much enjoyed reading this article, you inspire me. Thanks again for sharing.

    Sheri

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  8. Luba @ Healthy with Luba

    08/15/2016

    Andrea, I love your viewpoint of planning ahead. It really makes life less stressful and hectic.

    I am learning more and more that instead of thinking “Oh, it takes too much time to plan,” I need to focus on “Life is much more peaceful when I plan ahead.”

    A tip that I’ve come to use is focus on less. You’ve written yourself how that you are limiting what you do outside the home and how Dave is not coaching in this season of life. I’ve even scaled down how many hours a week I work at my day job to be able to focus more on my business.

    Thanks for the amazing article!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Luba!
    Yes, we are limiting the stuff we do outside the house right now (no coaching, no organizing clients, no speaking, etc. etc.) and that helps a lot. I’m glad you can see that your life is also more peaceful and less stressful when you take a little extra time to plan ahead!

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  9. Christine @ The (mostly) Simple Life

    08/15/2016

    I am such a planner. It makes every day go so much smoother and be more productive. On days when I don’t have a to do list or schedule, I feel like I’m floundering and not really accomplishing anything. I just wrote about how we save money by planning ahead and being prepared. Lunches are packed early, meals are planned for the week, and we bring snacks almost everywhere so we don’t stop for fast food if we’re out longer than planned and get hungry πŸ™‚ Great post!

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    Andrea Reply:

    I know for a fact that I’m much MUCH more productive if I have a written list for the day. Even if it’s things like “go to the library with the kids, text the neighbor to come over and play, visit grandma” etc.

    If I don’t have a plan for the kids, for me, for our food, the day goes by way too quickly and nothing is accomplished or enjoyed.

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  10. Michelle

    08/15/2016

    Yes! I agree completely! It is much easier to make a plan and focus on quantity over quality. My house is cleaner when I don’t focus on perfection and have to pull time and energy to get it all done at once but just do what I can throughout the day. It’s easier to take time to plan and then work the plan rather than make a thousand decisions all day long, which gets exhausting and frustrating!!

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    Andrea Reply:

    I love what you said “It’s easier to take time to plan and then work the plan rather than make a thousand decisions all day long” I could not agree MORE! Those little decisions ALL DAY LONG drive me crazy!

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  11. Heidi

    08/15/2016

    I so agree with you about planning ahead! I am much more pleasant to be around if I’m prepared and not franticly trying to get things in order.

    A tip I have for preventing burnout is that sometimes I need a quick 5-10 minute break from a task or project. Then I can usually go back to the task or project with a renewed energy and perspective and finish stronger. I learned this from my grandmother, I always new that whatever project I was helping her with there would be a little break in the middle to look forward to- usually involving a nice cold Pepsi and a cookie or two!

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    Andrea Reply:

    yes, mini breaks are often a must for me too! Thanks for sharing that!

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