Most of us are constantly looking for ways to boost our productivity. We’re willing to try new apps, new strategies, and new “life hacks” that we read on the internet the other day, all in the hopes that we can squeeze a few more tasks into our already-busy days.
To be sure, these productivity tips are often effective. But what if I told you you’re actively sabotaging your own productivity, daily, without even knowing it?
How You’re Sabotaging Your Own Productivity
Before dumping your time and energy into new tactics to improve your productivity, try to look for (and correct) the ways you’re killing your productivity from the start.
These are some of the most common:
1. You’re Trying to Work More, Not Less
Some people falsely believe that the best way to increase productivity is to do more work—to get down to business, work as hard as you possible can, and cram more tasks into your day. But in most cases, the reverse is true; the most productive people are the ones who work less. They automate what they can, delegate what isn’t relevant to them, and outright refuse to do things that aren’t actively advancing their goals. Be lazier, and find ways to reduce your workload, not increase it.
2. You’re Giving Yourself Too Much Time
Parkinson’s Law is a simple adage that claims that the amount of time it takes to do something increases to fill whatever time you allocated for it. You’ve likely seen this in practice; a short meeting ended up lasting an hour simply because someone decided to schedule it for the full hour. You’re hurting yourself by giving yourself more lax deadlines. Keep your schedule taut, and force yourself to do things faster and more efficiently with tighter timeframes.
3. You’re Working through Breaks and Vacations
We all know the type of workaholic who always finds and excuse to work late into the night or through weekends. They skip breaks, skip vacations, and cut their personal time to do more at work. Ultimately, this hurts them; they get more stressed, they burn out more frequently, and their rate of task completion ends up lower due to the burden they carry. Stress has a massive impact on productivity ($600 per employee, per year).
4. You’re Booking Meetings throughout the Day
While some meetings are effective, most end up being productivity killers. Tangential conversations, unfocused discussions, and bloated attendance rosters take hours away from everyone in the room, and if your schedule is loaded with meetings, that damage gets multiplied.
5. You’re Ignoring your Physical Needs
Much of your productivity stems from your physical condition. If you’re tired, hungry, or thirsty, you’re not going to do your best work. Take a few minutes to get some water, grab a light snack, and/or take a nap if you need one—and spend your off time tending to your physical condition with adequate sleep, nutrition, and exercise.
6. You’re Letting Notifications Dominate your Life
Every notification you receive is a distraction, no matter how temporary or inconsequential it seems. And every notification that breaks your attention pulls you away from what you’re working on. Regardless, most of us have countless types of notifications buzzing in our ears throughout the day. End the madness, and increase your focus by either turning off notifications altogether, or keeping them active only during certain hours of the day.
7. You’re Multitasking
Despite study after study proving how ineffective multitasking is, there are still people out there working on their phones during meetings and juggling multiple open windows of tasks at once throughout the day. Splitting your attention between two tasks only makes you worse at both tasks. It’s much more effective to focus on one thing at a time, even if it feels slower.
8. You’re Doing Everything Yourself
Are you the type of go-getter who tries to do everything? If so, you’re sabotaging your true potential. If you’re constantly bogged down with tasks below your pay grade, you won’t be able to funnel your effort into tasks that matter most to your high-level goals. Delegate effectively!
9. You’re not Measuring your Performance
What does “productive” mean to you? What do you consider a productive day, versus an unproductive one? How would you know if a new productivity strategy was really working? If you’re not measuring your performance, with time tracking software or something similar, you’re entirely in the dark—and you have little chance of actually improving.
10. You’re Stuck in your Ways
Change is your friend. Everyone works a little differently, so the “best” strategies for you probably aren’t the same as the ones for other people you know. If you’ve been doing the same thing for years, it’s likely there are better strategies out there for you, just waiting to be discovered.
Working From a Blank Slate
Identifying and improving your bad habits is just the first step of the process. Once you’ve finally stopped sabotaging your productivity, you can begin work to improving it. Most people find, after a thorough review and overhaul of their daily habits and actions, they’re capable of much more than they originally imagined.