Have you noticed how sometimes time passes laboriously slowly and you continue to look at your watch every two minutes hoping to make it go faster? And there are also times when you have so much to do that you think “How am I possibly going to get it all done in a day?”
Why is it that sometimes we waste time and other times we find ourselves caught up in a frenzy of activity? How do we find the right balance and boost our productivity without having to sacrifice our family time?
After analyzing my own work patterns, reading tons of scientific research on time management, motivation and efficiency, I found that there are 10 primary productivity mistakes that cause 80% of our work stress and make us fall behind even on seemingly simple tasks. And I am not just talking about chronic procrastinators here.
Many productive people I run into, waste on average 2-4 hours a day, doing things that actually decrease their productivity, concentration and cognitive performance!
If lately you have been feeling tired, overwhelmed and underproductive here are 10 Things you should Not be doing:
1. Don’t start without a plan.
While most of us realize the importance of having a to-do list, when we are busy, it is easy to forget about planning and to just deal with things as they come in. Whatever is most urgent gets dealt with first. The least urgent tasks get postponed and often forgotten. But the problem is that getting urgent tasks out of the way rarely means being productive. If you want to ensure that you are focusing on the right things and using your time most effectively, get into the habit of planning regularly! Start each day by highlighting the three most important things you have to do and complete them first. This step alone will save you hours of wasted time and energy.
2. Don’t wish you were somewhere else.
We can spend hours wishing we were somewhere else, doing something better. But the problem is that while we are daydreaming – we are neither getting the work done, nor are we spending this time enjoying ourselves. In fact, the only thing we are doing is actively demotivating ourselves from taking any kind of action, prolonging what we already perceive as drudgery even more. The secret to boosting your productivity is giving such mundane tasks your full attention and priority, seeing them as a challenge and even as an opportunity to practice active meditation, rather than a waste of your time.
3. Don’t break the chain.
Our life is the reflection of our habits. Our self-confidence and self-perception is shaped by what we continuously think. Our achievements are created by what we continuously accomplish. Continuity is the key to any positive life change. If you want to improve your productivity, you have to identify concrete successful habits that help you to accomplish your goals faster, like exercising when you feel stuck, waking up early or writing 1,000 words a day. Then it is taking small action on your goals daily, without skipping a day, creating a long uninterrupted chain of productive days.
4. Don’t go to bed late.
There is a direct connection between the time you go to bed, the amount of sleep that you get and your level of productivity the next day. Do you know the feeling of waking up groggy, light-headed and exhausted, because you stayed up late watching movies or chatting with a friend on Skype? If so, you know what I am talking about. And it is not just a question of being a “night owl” or a “morning lark”. Many times even when our body signals to us that we are tired, we intentionally fight this urge to sleep, because it feels strange and not grown-up to go to bed when the rest of the world is hitting the clubs, chatting on Facebook or playing computer games. But the fact is that it takes days for your body to recover from even a couple of hours of lost sleep. Therefore, if you want to sky-rocket your productivity and concentration, go to bed early!
5. Don’t eat food that makes you unproductive.
There are substances you consume every day in your diet (like caffeine and sugar) that will have a direct impact on energy levels and consequently your productivity. For example, you have probably noticed that after a heavy meal you are tired, sleepy and inefficient. Therefore, if you have a busy day ahead of you, make sure to eat light, healthy, and easy to digest meals loaded with fresh fruits and vegetables, instead of gulping down a huge cup of coffee and munching on doughnuts and fries.
6. Don’t over schedule.
Learning to say “no” to new commitments and delegating some of your work, is probably one of the most valuable skills you can develop to keep you focused on your most important projects and give you time to work on them.
7. Don’t tune off in front of the computer.
When we need to take a break from work, most of us “relax” in front of the computer, browsing the internet, playing games or checking sweet ol’ email. Not only is it not relaxing, but it puts stress on your eyes and spine, it is counter-productive. Let’s be honest, it is never about ‘just watching one video on youtube’, ‘checking your Facebook real quick’ or ‘playing one game at of Solitaire’. Before you know it, you are hooked and an hour of your life is wasted!
8. Don’t give in to distractions.
The numerous distractions that we face are the number one reason for our poor productivity and very short attention span. The most sure-fire way to cut your distractions by half (besides turning off instant messages and email pop-ups) is to wear headphones. And the best part is that you do not even have to listen to music to block the noise. Recent psychological studies show that people feel reluctant to distract someone, who has headphones on. So use this knowledge to boost your productivity!
9. Don’t give in to stress.
When you are stressed out and frustrated, you just can not make reasonable decisions or be productive, because your mind is overruled by negative emotions and chaotic thoughts. Whenever you feel stress and tension building inside you, instead of increasing the pace, slow down and give yourself a few minutes to calm down and regain your peace of mind. Eat slowly. Do a couple of breathing exercises. Make time for yourself to keep a balance between the rush-rush world of work and the rest of your life!
10. Don’t strive for perfection.
Many time management programs teach us to do our best. When it comes to productivity, I found that it is often better to do your worst. You see, most of us already have a perfectionist mindset. We do not have to remind ourselves to do our best. Quite the opposite. We need to be reminded that good is better than perfect.
Whenever you find yourself obsessing over details or stressing yourself out about not being able to stay productive – let go! Give yourself permission to suck! We all have those “bad” days than we are tired, suffer from a terrible headache or cannot make ourselves get any work done. It absolutely normal! What is not normal is to punish ourselves for not doing something perfectly!
What are your thoughts?
Do you have any tips for boosting productivity and concentration?