How to stay focused and productive without getting burnt out

After growing my business to nearly 7 figures and managing over a dozen employees, I have realized that mastering the art and science of focus and productivity is far more counter-intuitive than one would expect.

Despite the advice that you hear on social media to “Hustle”, “Grind”, and “Work 16 Hours a Day”, the science, and my personal evidence show that this advice is horseshit (pardon my French).

When you boil it down to the basics, focus and productivity require two things… Time and energy.

If you have 16 hours of work to complete but only 12 hours in which to do it… You are screwed.

Likewise, if you have 16 hours to complete 6 hours of projects but you don’t have the energy to get out of bed… You are also screwed.

With this in mind, here are my 5 tips for staying focused and productive without burnout.

*Note: There have already been some great responses to this question so I will do my best to provide unique insights that extend beyond the Pomodoro technique, eating that frog, etc. However I STRONGLY recommend all of the tactics mentioned in the Answer Wiki*

1. Stop over extending yourself a.k.a. DO LESS WORK

One of the biggest ironies of productivity and success is that achieving more often requires that you do less.

But before you ignore this point and roll your eyes at the computer screen, I want you to hear me out.

Doing GREAT work requires that you are selective about WHAT work you do.

Productivity requires that you have sufficient amounts of time to do everything and like I said, you cannot cram 16 hours of work into 12 hours… No matter how hard you try.

Not too long ago, I noticed that one of my employees’ (who at the time was a subcontractor) performance was slipping.

When I confronted him about the issues with his work, he told me that he was exhausted and overextended.

And when he showed me how many projects he was juggling I wasn’t surprised…

He had become caught in the trap of doing too much to do anything effectively.

I told him to relax and suggested that he cut back on his obligations and remove any clients who weren’t paying him what he was worth.

He followed my recommendations and doubled his income by doing less work but doing that work at a greater level.

Most people, especially entrepreneurs and freelancers tend to bite off more than they can chew because they want to make quick cash.

Sure this might be a great tactic if you need to make up rent money or pay the IRS, but in the long term your work will always suffer, your clients will leave you, and you will be more stressed and less productive than ever.

The bottom line?

Do less work and do it better until you are paid more for your time.

2. Focus on your happiness before you focus on your productivity

New York Time’s best-selling author of The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor reveals some interesting data in his book.

The one that caught my eye the most is that happiness and fulfillment are the best predictors of success and productivity… NOT the other way around.

So what does this mean?

It means that if you want to be more productive and successful, you should focus on your happiness first!

I know that this probably sounds completely backwards to many of you, but the science is in and one of the quickest ways to boost your productivity is to boost your happiness.

So how do you actually go about doing this?

Personally, I recommend the following

  • Write down 5 things you are grateful for professionally and personally every single morning
  • Start meditating for at least 20 minutes a day
  • Watch standup comedy and other funny content during your free time
  • Spend more time with people you like and cut out toxic individuals
  • Get out in nature

3. Exercise, eat clean, and sleep hard


Sh!t happens and sometimes, you will need to work overtime and push hard in order to make ends meet and achieve your goals.

These times are just a part of the human experience and shouldn’t be seen as something negative.


When times like this do happen, your health and diet are normally the first things to suffer…

Which is a huge mistake.

Remember earlier how I said that all productivity and focus require more time and energy?

Well, almost ALL of your energy is derived from your activity, diet, and sleep.

Which means that they should be one of your biggest priorities.

Even though these activities take more time, they give you more energy allowing you to operate at a higher level throughout the rest of your day.

Here are a few tips to optimize each.

  • Just eat real food… Cut out the processed crap, gluten, sugar etc.
  • Sleep at least 8 hours a night in a blacked out room with the thermostat set to 67 F (if you have trouble falling asleep drink a glass of decaf tea with one TBSP of raw honey and 2 TBSP of apple cider vinegar)
  • Exercise for 60 minutes 3x a week, preferably lifting heavy weights and doing HIIT cardio. Every day you should walk for 30 minutes and get in a brief 7 minute workout
  • Drink 3 cups of coffee a day but do so before 2 p.m. and cycle off of it every 2 weeks so you don’t build a tolerance.

4. Do the RIGHT things with your down time

While I was looking at some of the other answers in this thread, I noticed a common theme… Almost everyone suggests that you take more breaks to maximize your down time.


I also noticed that very few responses tell you what to do when you take these breaks.

Here’s the thing…

If you are taking regular breaks (as you should be) but you are spending them surfing on social media, watching porn, playing video games, or pounding beers, your productivity and health will suffer.

You need to do the right things to make the most of these breaks.

What are the “right” things?

Glad you asked.

  • Exercise
  • Meditate
  • Read
  • Connect with someone else (not social media)
  • Walk outside in nature
  • Take up a hobby or instrument

Do things that will force you to grow and keep your mind and body active, the goal here isn’t total relaxation (that’s a necessary thing but different from a break)

5. Compare backwards not forwards

Most people I know who suffer from high levels of burnout, stress, and anxiety have one thing in common…

They compare themselves forwards instead of backwards.

What do I mean by this?

Well, when these people have a bad day at work, say they lost a deal, were forced to fire an employee, or struggled to meet a quota… They compare their performance to how they think it ought to be (their future ideal) instead of comparing themselves to how they used to be.

Now you might be thinking, “Andrew, what the hell does this have to do with productivity” but hear me out.

Your productivity and focus, as we have already talked about, is largely determined by your energy levels and the amount of time that you have for a task.

Now how much energy and time can you expect to have when you are constantly beating yourself up and comparing yourself to unrealistic ideals and expectations?

I’ll answer for you… Very Little.

And when you regularly entertain these thought patterns, you start to slowly chip away at your happiness and general contentment in life (which fucks up point 2) resulting in even less energy and motivation to get things done.

So if you are serious about your productivity, then you need to stop wasting time comparing yourself to who you think you should be.

Instead… Be grateful and look at how far you have come.

When you take a step back and look at your journey, you will be filled with gratitude and you will put your problems into perspective, eliminating burnout and increasing your ability to perform and focus.

Hope this helps.

Andrew Ferebee, the founder of Knowledge For Men, is a 3x Amazon best-selling author and host of a top ranked podcast with 4.5 million downloads. He’s interviewed 400+ top experts like T. Harv Eker, Robert Greene, Steve Harvey, Grant Cardone, Bob Proctor and Gary Vaynerchuck to help men reach higher levels of success, freedom and fulfillment.

This column first appeared at Quora.