Whatever your professional field, one goal seems universal: to increase productivity and efficiency. With all of the advice on productivity out there, it can be difficult to sift through and figure out what works best for you. If you’re on a quest to improve your productivity, it’s also a good idea to become aware of the mistakes that can sabotage your efforts. Here are a few of the most common ones:
Tackling your most daunting task first
This tip is often referred to as “eating the frog”. This Mark Twain reference refers to cracking into the most difficult task on your list first, before doing anything else. While it can be useful for some, it can leave many of us feeling frustrated and unproductive.
Instead of forcing this tip on yourself, look at what’s behind it. Most people who recommend this strategy are morning people. They explain that they like to tackle their most challenging task first, when their energy and focus levels are high. If you’re a morning person, this might be great for you. If there’s another time of day you feel your energy and focus are strongest, schedule that task during that time. For strategies to really work, we need to be able to customize them to our unique working styles. Strategically plan your challenging tasks into your day at the time that makes the most sense for you.
Many of us slip into multitasking when our plates are full and we feel we need to go into overdrive to get it all done. Unfortunately, most research shows that multitasking hinders productivity. So, instead of working through your list faster, you might find every task taking a bit longer than if you had given it your complete attention.
I recommend practicing intentional single-tasking. Work on one task that needs your full attention and strive to remove distractions and temptations that threaten to divide your attention and direct it elsewhere. A great way to support this is by scheduling blocks of time in your schedule with a specific purpose attached to them. When you have a time parameter around an activity, it can often make it a bit easier to maintain focus. If you do multitask, do it strategically. Only double up with activities that require different things, like driving and listening to an audiobook or paying bills while you wait on hold.
Allowing distractions in
While smartphones can be powerful tools, they can be equally powerful distractions. It’s not just our phones. Computers, notifications, and even friendly coworkers can pose distractions that limit productivity. While none of us are intentionally asking for distractions, we may not be doing enough to prevent them.
Like I said, while you’re probably not trying to let distractions disturb your productivity. If you haven’t put a strategy in place to stop them though, you may be allowing in more than you think. The first step is identifying the things that are most distracting to you specifically. The more we acknowledge them and are aware of them, the better we can catch them before they pull us off track. It can also help to designate specific times throughout the day for checking texts and emails. While you probably won’t want to go hours without checking in, even giving yourself 45 minutes to focus without disturbance can dramatically boost your productivity.
Improving productivity is a process — it doesn’t happen overnight. So, as you work towards maximizing your time without sacrificing quality in your work, keep these common mistakes in mind. The more you can avoid them, the better your productivity will be.