Zoe’s Productivity and Mood Management Tips

As our April 21 professional development program approaches, I wanted to share a few tools and resources I have personally found helpful in combatting burnout and imposter syndrome.

I have always struggled with anxiety and depression, which have at times led to feelings of imposter syndrome and burnout. Some of these feelings have been managed with professional or personal changes, while others have required medication and counseling. What I’ve found most helpful is noticing that when I feel productive and prepared, I am better able to handle daily stressors, anxiety, and self-doubt.

It’s important to know that there is no one solution for feelings of burnout and imposter syndrome — what works for one may not work for the next. While I have found methods to help with daily productivity, self-confidence, and mood, there are still plenty of areas I would like to improve.

If you’re struggling, maybe you find one of these tools or resources helpful. However, please consider seeking professional support from a doctor or counselor.

Please email me ([email protected]) if you’d like to talk about ideas or share what’s working for you. Thanks for reading!

-Zoe Linafelt, APR


I use a Panda Planner for monthly, weekly, and daily planning. It helps me track long-term goals, daily tasks, affirmations, habits I’m working on, fun things coming soon, and my successes (both large and small). The sections of the Daily page are Date, Daily Habit, Focus, I’m Grateful for (3 things), I’m Excited About (3 things), Exercise, Affirmation, Today’s Priorities, Today’s Tasks, Schedule, Today’s Wins (3 things), How I’ll Improve (1 thing), and My Friends’ Wins (any good news I hear from friends).

This planner was introduced to me by FPRA Ocala Chapter Board Secretary & Newsletter Chair Lindsay Tozer (thank you, Lindsay!!). It’s one of the main reasons I was able to earn my APR by my deadline, and it’s how I stick to running for 30 minutes every other day. Instead of dreading and feeling sad about the tough things, this planner helps me remember the good things happening in my life and my friends’ lives. It encourages me to look back to the week or month before and remember the things that went well.

I also use a Done List, a concept I learned from a remote working tips webinar last year. I have a designated spiral notebook or composition book. On one side of the page, I write “To Do” and the date, and then list everything I need to or would like to do that day. Then, on the back of that same sheet of paper, I write “Done” and the date, and I fill in everything I do as it’s finished. (Some examples: emailed about brochure question, sent press release edits, talked to print company about poster, texted Kim happy birthday, ate lunch, took brief walk, ordered new printer cartridges, thanked FPRA speaker, wrote article, helped receptionist with shipping questions, bought baby shower gift.) Most days, the two lists do not match.

At the end of a busy day, I used to look at my To Do list and see that I only finished a fraction of my tasks. Now, when I flip that page over, I can see that I was productive, just not in the ways I had anticipated for the day. While this may not help if you have an unreasonably immense high-priority task list that never lessens, I do believe it helps if you have feelings of stalling out from not crossing every task off your list because you got pulled into other projects or had an unexpected meeting. It also reminds me that I am being productive, and it supports my self-esteem. By the end of the day, my Done list is always longer than my To Do list.

One of the best ways I have found to manage my imposter syndrome is putting my own ideas in action and getting good feedback. My roles on the Capital Chapter board over the last 10 years have given me countless chances to try new things, be creative, and see my ideas come to life. Feedback from members that my idea (the member benefits orientation, for example) was a good one chips away at self-doubt and gives me a confidence boost. If you’d like to get involved on a committee or serve on the Board, complete this form or email me at [email protected].


I have found that using sounds of motion (a moving train, for example) trick me into feeling that I’m on something moving forward. This mentally creates the momentum I need to start working on a project. Here are my favorite YouTube tracks for focused writing or detail-driven projects. (It’s fun to have the visual up, if you have a separate monitor or TV near your workstation.)

If a project is under a tight deadline, I have a special “Intense Focus” Spotify playlist; I put in my AirPods and crank it up! If it’s a long editing project, I turn on my space heater/fan for white noise and play one song on repeat. I’ve used the same editing song for almost 10 years (“About Her” by Malcolm McLaren); I only listen to it when I edit, so it cues my brain that it’s time for AP Style!

I also struggle with the temptation to put off large projects that feel intimidating. A method I use to combat this struggle is to think of the first tiny thing I would do to start the project. This is usually as simple as finding last year’s press release in my files or googling an unfamiliar term related to the project. I write that one task and schedule time to do that one thing. After I complete the task, I might choose to stop and schedule the next tiny thing, breaking the intimidating task into small, manageable ones — OR what often happens is that one action gets me on a roll.

Lastly, here are some cozy YouTube tracks for answering emails or doing clips:

Mood Management

  • I keep a mood chart on graph paper for every day (a.m. and p.m.) to notice trends.
  • If I’m feeling low, I listen to light, fun podcasts or simple train sounds/white noise instead of music. (Project Popsicle is a great one for this!)
  • I read news in short bursts twice a day. I don’t check the news/Twitter constantly.
  • A friend gave me a monthly tea subscription box service, so that every month I get to try fun, new teas. It feels special, and it gives me a steady supply of soothing herbal teas to drink.
  • I bought a tactile/gaming keyboard that lights up. It’s extra fun to type on, and it’s pretty.
  • To reduce unwanted habits/behaviors (biting nails, etc.), I use fidget toys, sugar-free hard candies/peppermints, and a fidget ring.

Minimizing Distractions

  • I set my iPhone’s “Focus” function to automatically turn on when I arrive at the office. This is a customizable way to only see notifications pop up on your screen from certain apps or sources. This helps keep my eyes focused on my task instead of being drawn to my phone every time it lights up because someone wants to connect on LinkedIn. I also have all Instagram notifications turned off. If Do Not Disturb isn’t an option, it helps to lay the phone face-down.
  • I use my desk phone’s Do Not Disturb button or close Outlook if I really need to focus for a specific period of time. I put a note on my closed door stating the time when I will be available again.

I hope these tools and tips help. As you’re working through your own challenges, remember that you always deserve to be treated with respect and to have a safe, professional working environment. Don’t forget — your FPRA family is always here for you.