You sit down at the beginning of the day with a well-thought-out list of tasks and you’re all set to accomplish great things that day! Yet somehow, after hours of work, you’ve barely made any progress on your list.
For some of us, this is a regular occurrence, a place we find ourselves again and again. High performers know that hours-worked means nothing if those hours in the day aren’t actually productive.
So, then what prevents us from accomplishing what we want? What keeps us from the productivity we’re capable of? What’s the culprit?
You can identify productivity barriers and overcome the obstacles that hinder your potential to perform at the highest level.
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No matter how well you plan, sometimes you find yourself facing a giant stack of work. When a lot of tasks have piled up sometimes you feel like retreating rather than face a laundry list of things to do. Just the thought of getting started is daunting and can overwhelm you into inaction.
The best way to tackle this feeling is to break down your tasks and group them.
- Sit down and actually write down all of the things you have to do. If it is one big project, then break it down into the individual components.
- Organize each of your tasks by the time and energy each will take.
- Create a timeline, spacing out tasks that are more energy and time-intensive tasks. Keep in mind whether certain tasks must be completed in chronological order.
By focusing on each day or each hour of work individually your tasks will feel less like a giant insurmountable mountain, and more like easily manageable hills, with timely breaths in between.
Waiting for the Perfect Circumstances
You might feel that you need the stars to align before you can take action on something. This isn’t waiting on another team member to finish their part of the task. Rather you’re waiting for something that might or might not happen.
You’re waiting until you’re not as busy, until you can find certain help, until the workspace is perfectly silent, or until you’re in the perfect mood.
Whether we like to admit it or not, this is just a form of procrastination. Things will never be perfect if we wait for them to happen organically.
Instead, try creating the optimal work circumstances for yourself. Sometimes you just have to start.
Other times, it’s a matter of making it work. Maybe you can’t create the perfect settings but you can create the optimal situation. One that encourages productivity.
Routine and ritual will help place you into a productive mindset to work.
Find the clothes that make you feel productive and ready to work; this is now your uniform. You will put on this outfit, or something similar, whenever you need to sit down and get things done.
Get yourself a beverage or snack that always signals it’s time to buckle down. Get some noise-canceling headphones. If you prefer silence, just cover your ears. Or start your working session playlist.
Failing to Plan
It can be very tempting leading up to a big presentation to leave planning behind, wait for the burst of adrenaline to start, and just “wing it”.
It’s tempting because it’s the course of action that requires the least effort and work, and things usually turn out alright.
Regardless of how practiced you might be at “winging it”, a high performer will take the time to plan and prepare, to produce a quality product.
Give yourself a little more time, a couple of days at least, and really plan things out. Then complete it methodically, step by step. You will be surprised at the quality of work you are capable of without the stress of a looming deadline hanging over your head.
Contrary to what you might think, multitasking actually makes us less productive. Bouncing from task to task will keep you from completing any one, important thing off your to-do list.
Not to mention, your brain has to constantly stop and start every time you switch tasks.
Better to focus on one thing at a time, letting our brains come to the natural conclusion of a task before moving on. This is not to say that you can’t have several balls in the air at once, but that you should focus on catching one before shifting your attention to another.
If you’re waiting for someone to finish their part, there is no point in sitting idle. You can file the task away momentarily and transition to another. That way you can stay organized with individual task lists.
Bring each task to a conclusion before moving on. You’ll avoid confusion and you’ll work much more efficiently.
While the rest of these have been fairly timeless problems, faced for generations, we now have an entirely new set of distractions to contend with.
The internet has undoubtedly helped us learn more efficiently, work more efficiently, and stay connected across the world. The drawback is that it can easily distract us and keep us from productivity.
We are now more available to others and information is more available to us than ever before. Your boss or your team members can now send you an email or a text that you might see immediately even if you are on the toilet!
Placing your phone into ‘do not disturb’ mode is a good start, but it might not stop you from picking it up and compulsively checking your messages.
Not only are we constantly accessible but we are terrified of missing out on new information. Some of us pick up the phone every time it “blinks”.
Try placing your phone in a drawer that is inconvenient to reach from your workspace. It will still be accessible, but you won’t have the temptation to check it constantly.
Turn off email notifications while you are working. If you are truly worried about missing out on urgent news, limit yourself to checking once every hour or two.
When you do check, ask yourself if you really need to respond to that message or email. The longer you spend away from your task, the more difficult it will be to return to it.
We have enough in our lives that we can’t control. Those things may prevent us from performing to the ability we want. Don’t let one of those things be yourself. Take care of what you can control.
Use these tips to plan ahead and increase your productivity so that when something happens that you can’t control, you’ll be ready to get right back on the horse.
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