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In an effort to be more productive, we can actually do a lot of things that we may not realize are detrimental to our productivity. These things can end up costing us more time and reducing our energy.
Below are 15 things that can kill productivity. Find out if you are making any of these mistakes and what you can do to avoid them.
1. Disorganization and Clutter
Clutter can make you feel overwhelmed and stressed. It can be incredibly distracting and make working and focusing difficult, whether you’re conscious about it or not.
Physical disorganization can make you feel mentally disorganized. It also takes extra time out of your day to find what you’re looking for.
When you’re organized and know where everything is, you don’t have to rely on your working memory to recall important things – whether you noted them or not or where you put them. This mental energy goes toward focusing on your work and tasks at hand instead.
After a certain point of working, you stop seeing increased return for your time and energy. This is because The Law of Diminishing Returns applies to human productivity. Not only do we see diminishing returns, but we eventually see negative returns meaning that you decrease your overall output from overworking.
Overworking may seem to be productive, but in the long run, it diminishes your productivity and energy which can eventually lead to burnout or worse. It’s not worth the health risks.
Distractions are probably the biggest killer for productivity. Especially when it comes to procrastination. Distractions make procrastination very easy. Dealing with distractions is especially difficult for those who work online or work from home. (Sidenote: I unfortunately ended up getting distracted shortly after writing this.)
Limit your distractions ahead of time so that you’re not relying on willpower which is a finite source that uses up your mental energy.
Know what causes you the most distraction and implement strategies to avoid distractions. Mine tend to be YouTube and random google searches. Yours might be social media or video games.
For more information on how you can limit technological distractions, check out the article Take Control of Your Technology: How to Reduce Phone and Social Media Addiction.
It’s impossible for your brain to multitask. Your brain can only focus on one thing at a time. What may look like multitasking is actually your brain switching focus between tasks which takes time that adds up. This time and energy is called context switching cost.
Multitasking is essentially costing you more time and energy than if you were to focus on one thing at a time for longer periods of time.
5. Lack of Sleep
Not sleeping enough is one of the worst things you can do for your productivity. Your brain needs sleep to function properly. When you’re tired, it’s harder to concentrate. It also slows you down leading to more work time being put in than necessary.
Sleeping more and better can save you time and increase your productivity.
6. Lack of a Routine
Routines take out the guesswork and eliminate decision fatigue. It also helps you implement habits. Having a routine can even become a ritual that either gets you into a state of flow or focus and creativity for your work activity or can wind you down after work.
Implement a routine into your life and make sure to find a routine that works for you.
Perfectionism can keep us starting on tasks because we think we have to be “perfect” or “ready” to start. It can also keep us from being efficient and getting things done quickly as well.
To avoid perfectionism, start before you’re ready. You learn better and faster when you’re taking action. Set stricter deadlines for yourself to make sure you’re not dragging out your task to “perfection.”
8. Not Saying No
Saying no is essential to prioritizing and focusing on your important tasks and goals. With anything you say yes to, you say no to other things. And vice versa. Everything has an opportunity cost.
To get things done better and faster, it’s important to learn when to say no and the skill of actually saying no when you should.
Too many confuse productivity with busyness. Busyness can feel overwhelming, stressful, and can lead to burnout. Busyness can also be caused by wasting time though multitasking, getting distracted, or having a lack of structure whether that be a lack of routine or lack of organization.
Busyness can be avoided through prioritization and organization.
10. Lack of Prioritization
Productivity is about getting the right things done. Not getting everything done.
This can be sneaky because it makes us feel like we’re being productive when we get a bunch of little less important things done, but hold off on the bigger and more important tasks.
Prioritization is key for getting the most important stuff done.
When making a to-do list, focus on the top one to three things to get done for the day. No more than three!
An endless to-do list is no longer a to-do list. It’s a wishlist. Your to-do list should give you feelings of success and satisfaction at the end of the day.
11. Not Taking Breaks
Humans are not made to concentrate for many hours on end. People tend to be able to focus continuously for no more than 3-4 hours. Not taking breaks can lead to fatigue and a reduction in productivity.
Taking breaks can help reduce mental fatigue and increase focus and decision making. Just make sure you’re not taking too many breaks and not taking the wrong kind of breaks.
Bad ideas for breaks:
- Checking social media
- Checking email
- Playing games
- Watching videos
- Pretty much anything distracting and entertaining online
Good ideas for breaks:
- Going for a walk
- Getting up and stretching
- Eating lunch or a snack
- A short 10 to 20 min nap
- Giving your pet some attention
12. Constant Task Switching
Would you rather work on 5 different things for one hour for 10 minutes each or one thing for one hour?
When you task switch, you slow down your progress. Focus on one thing at a time. Use the block schedule method to schedule specific tasks for specific time slots in your calendar.
Also try batching similar tasks together at a time. For example, instead of recording podcast episodes every week or every few days, record a month’s worth of content in a single day or weekend every month.
13. Not Planning Ahead of Time
Not planning ahead of time leaves you vulnerable to acting on what feels good in the moment. When you plan ahead of time, you’re being intentional about your choices and actions. You’re deciding from your prefrontal cortex — the part of your brain that has goals and can make plans for them.
Planning ahead of time also enables you to anticipate potential obstacles that may arise.
Procrastination is estimated to happen to 95% of us to some degree. We are not born procrastinators however. Procrastination is a habit and an emotional regulation issue.
Fortunately, that means we can do things and make changes to combat procrastination. To help reduce procrastination, check out the article How to Finally Overcome Procrastination.
15. Too Many Choices
Having too many choices can make it harder for us to make decisions. We’re also less likely to be satisfied with our decisions when we make them.
Limit and restrict yourself from too many choices. Not only will it be easier to make decisions, but you’re more likely to be happy with whatever decision you made.
You can also reduce decision fatigue by planning small choices ahead of time such as what to wear and what to eat. We may not realize, but these seemingly small daily choices can affect our mental energy throughout the day and our ability to make more important decisions.