In a world where we're expected to perform at peak levels every single day, it's important to train ourselves to be able to handle the pressure. Productivity can be directly impacted by your level of exhaustion due to on the job stress, or time spent on your side hustle.

I have learned this first hand over the years, and can now recognize the warning signs in others. I worked up to 20 hours per day on building my business, thinking that I was "cool" because I was putting so many hours in. What I know to be true now, is that taking care of yourself and working smarter --not harder-- is way more impressive.

Here are some of the lessons i've learned the hard way:

1. Create virtual boundaries.

Are you readily available at all times? It can be exhausting constantly trying to be there for everyone, all of the time. Set aside time for virtual activities, such as checking your e-mail, taking a peek at social media profiles, and even for activities such as Don't allow yourself to spend too much time each day on any one thing, and you'll be able to make room for more productive tasks.

2. Schedule personal care.

Not everything can be pushed off until the very last moment, and your health is one of those things. If you're the type to procrastinate when it comes to your health and wellness, perhaps it's time to make a change.

You're only as good as the person you build yourself to be, so remember to eat, maintain personal hygiene, and even get a bit of exercise each day. The best of us get "too busy" to do simple things like folding our laundry, but it makes a difference when you're trying to get dressed and out of the house on time in the morning.

3. Make downtime a must.

Have you ever seen a cheetah run on National Geographic? They can only maintain their top speed for short bursts without risking total exhaustion, and you're no different. You can become overstimulated or overworked, thus causing you to not work at your full potential. Take a walk to get some fresh air, and come back refreshed and ready to take on the day.

4. Reconnect with friends.

We all grow older and get busy, and sometimes our friendships take the brunt of it. Make time to reconnect with these people who once held important roles in your life. Humans are social creatures, so try to do this one weekly or bi-weekly at the very least.

5. Start saying no.

Your schedule is filled to the brim, but the moment someone else needs help you're the first to volunteer. This crushes your productivity, and wears you down. Start saying no every once in a while. You'd be surprised how much free time you'll create.

Practice it with me, "No Samantha, I can't cover your shift tomorrow because I did that for you last week." Not only will this free up your own workload, but it will teach others to be less dependent on you.

6. Stop being a perfectionist.

Perfection doesn't actually exist, so stop chasing it. More times than not, nobody will notice the small things you're stressing over, especially if it's their first time seeing the material. Complete tasks to your best ability within a reasonable time frame, and move on to the next task to be more productive.

7. Break up your projects.

This one is major, chipping away at a massive unattainable task can be so draining. If you break this big kahuna up into smaller segments, you can celebrate small wins along the way. This will help you to remain motivated to complete the job as a whole. App's like Wunderlist reward you with a celebratory 'ding' when you cross things off your list.

8. Automate and delegate

Stick to what you excel at, and delegate everything else. Why? Because you're going to struggle to get something done, which would have taken another person who knows the material half the time. Find good team members or employees to work on areas you're not that best at. Also, if there's a way to get something done automatically, use it. You'll be amazed at how simple this can be, and you'll kick yourself for not doing it sooner.

These are all lessons i've learned over the past few years in building my own business. Oftentimes, it's my responsibility to ensure that I am up and running at top speed, and being a leader sometimes requires you to pause and reflect. If you've found that any one of these areas could use a tweak in your own life, make it happen. It's time to stop making excuses, and start making progress.