Playbook

How to Create an Effective Productivity Plan and Prevent Burnout

Follow this flexible framework to create an action plan to help your team increase efficiency, reach goals, and stay nimble without maxing out their workloads.

Read time: 7 min

Who this is for and why it matters

Operational leaders across industries are expected to scale, grow, and produce results faster than ever. But with the demand to increase productivity comes the pressure to pile on more work to your team's workload.

Not only is this not sustainable, but it also leads to a domino effect of short- and long-term problems, including missed deadlines, unmet goals, and, most commonly, burnout.

A survey by Deloitte found 77% of professionals have experienced burnout in their current positions and more than half report it being a repeated issue. Burnout is the kiss of death to your biggest business goals.

It increases stress while decreasing productivity, leading to a culture of disengaged employees—an issue Gallup found that accounts for approximately $1.9 trillion in lost productivity.

Create 'burnout' guardrails

The solution is a streamlined, thorough, and flexible productivity plan rooted in the fundamentals of proven project management practices. Productivity plans are essential for any leader overseeing projects, processes, or teams.

They're the guardrails that ensure you stay on top of major deadlines while preserving your most valuable resource, your team. However, increasing productivity does not have to mean increasing your team's workload.

By following this framework, you can scale your output company-wide without pressuring your teams to produce.

As leaders, it's easy to get so wrapped up in delivering hard numbers that you lose sight of the people driving your action plan. Meeting your big-picture goals is only possible with the support of a well-balanced team and a well-crafted strategy.

This step-by-step strategy draws from real-world examples, research, and practices to help leaders do exactly that while putting the team first.

How to Create a Productivity Plan Without Burning Out Your Team TLDR

1. Surface productivity killers with a team capabilities assessment

Cut through the noise and straight to the root of the problem by identifying the productivity killers currently holding your team back.

Like running your own skills gap analysis, team capabilities assessments are one of the most effective ways to understand the problems plaguing your team, so you can implement the right solutions.

After all, your people are the ones executing your productivity plan. As a leader, it's crucial to give them the foundation they need to push forward (while continuously improving).

This isn't just for their individual benefit—understanding team skills can impact output and bottom line. A WTW Performance Reset Survey found that organizations effectively implementing team assessments were 1.25x as likely to report higher employee productivity than their competitors and 1.48x as likely to report higher financial performance.

Soft vs Technical Skills Graphic

Take a holistic approach to your team assessments by considering both technical and interpersonal "soft" skills required for a role. Data from a PMI report shows if you value a combination of interpersonal and technical skills, 72% of projects met business goals.

Knowing your team's skills, strengths, and weaknesses reveals where your team might be imbalanced. Once you've unlocked these skill gaps, you can be more realistic in resource allocation with your productivity plan.

ClickUp Skills Gap Analysis Template

If you need help getting started, use a skill gap analysis template to measure and visualize your team capabilities with a pre-built assessment framework that can be customized to your exact needs.

2. Link all efforts to core metrics to target high-impact projects

Once you've audited the team's productivity, connect every high-priority activity to a primary business goal. This process starts at the top by isolating the objectives and key results (OKRs) steering the business—those are your North Star metrics.

Visually map a path between every project task and your North Star metrics. Then your team can hone in on their most impactful work and prioritize key initiatives—no matter the roadblocks.

Use this map as your team's ultimate resource for getting high-quality work done faster, so you know which tasks are in the red, how you'll prioritize, and what can be backlogged or reworked.

This strategy helped the publishing and distribution platform Lulu Press manage growth and new initiatives across its teams.

They needed a way to streamline processes and accelerate innovation but were bogged down with systems that couldn't keep up with their rate of change.

By establishing a centralized source of truth, Lulu Press prioritized high-impact work by fostering greater transparency, accountability, and productivity across the organization, which resulted in a 12% increase in work efficiency.

Chelsea Bennett Lulu Press Quote

3. Pull alternative levers to stay productive—even through setbacks

Having a solid grasp of your team's capabilities and North Star metrics lets you prepare for the unexpected setbacks that inevitably happen. To keep your productivity plan from haulting, set up alternative levers—your contingency resources you can turn on in a pinch—to keep everything moving.

If you come across any missed tasks right before you approach the end of the project, let your alternative levers fill those minor gaps. The keyword here is minor. The levers are only there if you absolutely need them, but they're not a sustainable solution over time.

One way to determine when it's time to pull a lever is by comparing your team's upcoming workload and capacity against the time you have left.

Shopmonkey, an auto repair shop management platform, used this strategy with its marketing team, which resulted in a 50% reduction in review cycles and a 33% drop in design request times.

RACHEL GILSTRAP , MARKETING PROJECT MANAGER AT SHOPMONKEY Quote

The company hinges on identifying issues and asking questions early to reduce back-and-forth communication and streamline requests when needed, without passing the threshold on team capacity.

By staying proactive about when it's time to take action with your contingency levers, you can maintain a steady pace toward your end goals, even through minor challenges.

4. Develop a realistic timeline to stay flexible through change

The first three steps in this framework are essential to formulate a realistic productivity plan timeline with specific milestones designed to encourage the team, not demotivate them.

Knowing your team's abilities, your company OKRs, and fall-back levers provides a rock-solid foundation to build your timeline on top of. But milestones are what hold your timeline together.

Over-emphasizing your timeline creates an overly rigid work environment, and it's a huge demotivator.

Stay nimble and prioritize the team's ability to adapt to changes or pivot to meet your final deadline. This lets your team stay focused on the work in front of them, so the finish line feels less daunting.

Fluid timelines give your team the ability to reflect on what's working in your productivity plan and what's not. These fast feedback loops build confidence across your team and foster engagement from employees, which can be linked to higher levels of productivity and increase profitability by 21%.

While your timeline can be flexible, let your milestones be the unmoving bumpers to guide your team's work and gauge the hours it takes to get work done—not the minor tasks in between.

ClickUp Showcase Horizontal Dark Banner V1

Learn how your productivity plan can be put into practice faster by joining an upcoming ClickUp Showcase session. See how a centralized productivity tool can accelerate your productivity planning in this group AMA format.

Protect your team with a plan that puts them first

A dynamic productivity plan that puts your team's well-being first is every operational leader's secret to unlocking results, hitting deadlines, and staying agile.

By taking stock of your team's skills, properly prioritizing, identifying success levers, and staying flexible in your timeline, you'll be prepared to scale your team's productivity regardless of any changes that come your way.

Unique teams and projects might require small adjustments to your strategic framework, but you don't have to go about it alone.

Read more playbooks

Reach Marketing Goals in Half the Time With Fast Feedback Loops

Use this framework to build fast feedback loops for routine pulse checks to help your team stay nimble.

How to Cut Hours of Manual Work Across Marketing Teams With AI

Be intentional with how your team uses AI and learn how to go beyond content generation.

4-Step Project Plan Framework to Eliminate Scope Creep

Improve your project plan system by creating more adaptable, visible, and tested processes.