Boosting productivity is a great way to get things done — but what are the best ways to go about it?

Busy schedules may make you feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done. It’s natural then to look for more ways to be productive.

Essentially, productivity refers to the level of output compared to the amount of time and effort you put in. Yet, despite good intentions, most people spent little time each day being truly productive.

However, you don’t need eight limbs or a team of support staff to get those jobs done. Instead, it’s about making straightforward changes — so you’re working smarter, not harder.

Whether you’re looking to feel more productive in your home or work life (or a bit of both), small steps could make a big difference. Consider these tips:

  • communicate boundaries
  • be open to learning
  • ask for feedback
  • make a list
  • work in line with your energy
  • consider the bigger picture
  • do things for you

1. Communicate boundaries

It can feel annoying to be in the flow only to be interrupted to do something else. So if you’ve got a task that needs doing, consider telling your colleague, friend, or partner that you’ll be available after a certain time.

“I suggest blocking time in your diary and asking people not to call you unless it’s an emergency matter,” says Dannielle Haig, Principal Business Psychologist at DH Consulting in London, U.K.

Try not to forget to set boundaries for yourself, too.

“If you have open goals and achievements without time [limits], they can end up taking endless time and becoming a dead weight,” she explains.

You can read about ways to set work boundaries with yourself and others here.

2. Be open to learning

As the saying goes, ‘learning is a lifelong process’ — and welcoming new takes and opportunities has more benefits than just bumping up your CV.

“Think about what you will be able to learn today,” states Dr. Denise Lopez, Professor of Organizational Psychology at Alliant International University in California, U.S.

“Knowing that you are continuing to grow and develop, and ultimately enhancing your self-worth and capacity to contribute to your team and organization, will spur you to be more engaged and productive.”

3. Ask for feedback

You may think you’re doing a great job and being your most efficient, but the reality might not be quite as rosy.

Consider asking those around you for their opinions on how you’re doing. “Use feedback as an inspiration to do more, do better, or do differently,” suggests Lopez.

4. Make a list

It seems almost too simple, but writing down a list of tasks you need to complete can make a major difference.

Research shows that doing so enhances productivity and helps free up valuable brain space by preventing it from worrying about unfinished tasks.

Plus, checking off completed jobs provides a sense of achievement and motivation to keep going.

5. Work in line with your energy

If you’re a night owl, there’s no point setting an alarm for 6 a.m. in the hope of getting your to-do list checked off — chances are you’ll feel too groggy and unmotivated to even get started.

Instead, “start to work cleverly with your time and personal energy levels,” recommends Haig.

Whatever points of the day you feel most focused, “maximize that time with deep work,” says Lopez.

6. Consider the bigger picture

It can be easy to lose sight of the bigger picture when you’ve got a particular task to complete. Lopez suggests that, whether at work or home, try to ask yourself who your work is helping, why it matters, and how it aligns with your values.

“Appreciating how and why your work impacts others is beneficial in providing personal meaning and purpose, which in turn helps our motivation and productivity,” she explains.

7. Do things for yourself

Studies show that feeling unhappy leads to lower productivity levels — so it’s vital to incorporate activities you enjoy into your schedule.

Plus, me-time is important in helping “restore your brain for the next day, thereby being the most productive you can be,” states Haig.

Whether it’s reading a good book, walking the dog, listening to music, or going for a coffee with friends, “making time for these things should not be a luxury, but a necessity,” she notes.

Life is all about balance, and “despite what social media tells us, we can’t be productive all the time — it’s impossible,” Haig states. There’s a fine line between efficacy and putting too much pressure on yourself.

“Ironically, when we are pressured to be super-productive, we get to a point when we are no longer productive,” shares Lopez. “Too much stress interferes with our capacity to think clearly, innovate, and design solutions to sticky problems or new scenarios, or even have constructive conversations with others.”

Feeling too stressed and overwhelmed can lead to burnout — something adults in the United States are experiencing more than ever.

Burnout is “defined by exhaustion, cynicism, and inefficacy,” shares Haig, “and these three defining features all have a significant impact on our productivity.”

In addition, research indicates burnout may also enhance feelings of inadequacy, increase the frequency of mistakes, and even raise your chance of depression and substance use.

How to manage burnout

If you’re experiencing burnout (or think you’re on the path toward it), there are measures to help combat these feelings. Consider these:

  • Know when to say ‘no’. “Be clear about your boundaries or limits,” says Lopez. “This often includes being able to set realistic deadlines with colleagues or negotiating workloads.”
  • Prioritize self-care. “Take care of yourself,” Haig states. This includes “good sleep, nutrition, exercise, hobbies, social connection, and equanimity practice (for example, journaling or spending time in nature).”
  • Practice mediation. Research shows engaging in meditation techniques can relieve feelings of burnout and stress — and there are many types of meditation, so you might try a few and see what works for you.
  • Get moving. Studies reveal regular exercise can help relieve burnout and emotional exhaustion and improve feelings of well-being and accomplishment.
  • Ask for a helping hand. If a task is too much to manage solo, there’s no harm in requesting assistance. “Asking for help does not mean you cannot do the job,” states Lopez. “It just means you are negotiating the parameters under which a particular task or project can be successfully accomplished.”
  • Speak to a professional. Talking with a mental health professional can be very helpful, “especially if dealing with depression, anxiety, or other mental health concerns,” Lopez suggests. “You may also wish to speak with a leadership or career coach for support in managing issues around work or work-life balance.”

Enhancing productivity can be a way to ensure your to-do list gets checked off. Setting boundaries, working according to your energy levels, and making lists are some approaches to improving efficacy.

However, it’s important not to let productivity slip into overwhelm, as this can lead to feelings of burnout and cause you to be lessproductive. It’s all about striking the right balance and taking steps to maintain well-being in conjunction with your work.

No matter how important it might seem to be super-efficient, “nothing is worth your health,” says Haig.