Holding her laptop, journal and pen, and paper calendar, Janice (not her real name) stopped long enough to field a question from one of her teammates. With an eye on the clock and her body positioned to get away to her next meeting quickly, Janice looked frazzled. Her endless meetings and a list of ideas and to-dos swirling in her head not only distracted her but were overwhelming her.

To be productive at work takes as much effort as doing the work. Janice, like so many other employees, struggles to find moments of time to make meaningful progress in her assignments. In one study, 57 percent of employees and managers struggled to manage information, schedules, and expectations. This does not optimize companies and its people for high levels of success or progress. What's worse, overwhelmed employees are more likely to burnout.

While an organizational culture shift is a key to solving the growing problem of overwhelmed and underperforming employees, you can take action today. To be more productive in 2018, you can leverage the following tips. The tips are categorized by productivity hacks and activities that help you develop a disciplined approach to getting work done.

Always Maintain a Wellness Focus

Getting things done does not rely only on productivity habits like list making and planning. If you are not taking care of your mind and body, overcoming feeling overwhelmed will help you underperform.

Instead, develop a few habits that help you recharge throughout the day. Here are a few high-value suggestions:

  • Get Plenty of Sleep: Arianna Huffington advocates that "the myth of burning out is the necessary price for accomplishment and success" is dangerous. In Huffington's press kit for her recent book, The Sleep Revolution, she cites research from the Great British Sleep Survey that shows "sleep-deprived people are seven times more likely to experience helplessness and five times more likely to feel lonely."
  • Meditate During the Day: Apps like Headspace or 10% Happier can be used for quick meditation sessions that can last two minutes, five minutes, or longer. Meditation helps you recharge and come back to work with higher levels of energy.

Constantly Create and Seek Clarity

Reduce confusion or indecision over what to work on by ruthlessly creating clarity. I define clarity as knowing what the company's top priorities are, what that means for your team, and for you. It also includes understanding and setting the goals, clarifying expectations, and building short feedback-loops on performance throughout the month.

Minimize the cognitive distractions from not knowing what is most important. Additionally, manage frustrations that come from different understandings about priorities, goals, and expectations by continually revisiting them. You can do this for yourself and your team.

Develop and Follow Daily Rituals

Productivity masters like Tim Ferris and Michael Hyatt believe daily rituals are crucial to progress and success. Rituals are made up of daily activities that keep you focused on what matters most. They help you maintain a laser-sharp focus on the activities that will help you accomplish your goals. Without daily rituals, you can be more susceptible to distractions. Here are four ritual categories I build into each day. I included some sample tasks, too.

  • Morning Ritual: This is my "me time." I meditate for 20 minutes. I journal for 10 minutes, reflecting on ideas and listing people and things for which I'm grateful.
  • Work Start Ritual: This ritual positions me to make smart choices for the day. It includes writing down my top three priorities for the day, reviewing my calendar, reading (again) my master goal and the reason it is important to me. I also spend time updating my progress on personal and professional goals.
  • Work End Ritual: End the day the same way every time. Work end rituals are intended to prepare you for the next day and to reduce surprises. My ritual for the end of the day includes re-reading my master goal and reasons for achieving it. I also plan the next day.
  • Nightly Ritual: I start the day focusing on me, and I end the day the same way. I write down, again, three things for which I'm grateful. I take my nightly medicine. I read a fiction book to help me unwind before going to bed.

Plan for All Roles in Your Life

Plan for and integrate into your week and month activities and tasks in the various roles in your life. Wharton professor Stewart Friedman identifies three skill categories in his book, Leading the Life You Want, that help you integrate work and the rest of life into a fulfilling one.

  • Skills for Being Real: Friedman defines being real as "to act with authenticity by clarifying what's important to you."
  • Skills for Being Whole: These are skills that support acting with integrity.
  • Skills for Being Innovative: These are skills to help you "act with creativity and courage in continually experimenting with how things get done."

Friedman's book is based on his massively popular course that the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. I strongly encourage you to pick up Leading the Life You Want to see the full set of skills for each of the three categories listed above.

Feeling productive is essential to maintaining progress and a positive perception of the value you bring to the company and your team. It is always timely to simplify the way you work, get more done, and experience greater fulfillment in your life.

Published on: Dec 30, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.