Get more done in less time. That’s the goal of almost every worker staring down a hefty to-do list. Today’s worker almost always has more to do than time to do it — and that’s not just work! Someone who’s productive is not only able to do their work more efficiently but can enjoy the other parts of their life more fully.
Most of our to-do lists won’t just focus on work matters — we have homes, kids, families, hobbies and more all vying for our attention. Trying to decide what to do first can be so daunting that sometimes we are tempted to just open our browser and do nothing at all. But that is the first of our productivity mistakes.
Here are some basic guidelines for avoiding the top productivity mistakes:
Doing Is Not Accomplishing
Many of us fall into the trap of thinking that if we’re busy doing something, we’re being productive. But “doing” is not the same as getting things done — rather it’s just a form of procrastinating, the equivalent of “I think we’re lost, but we’re making good time.”
We All Have Different Time Sucks
For many people their top time thief is social media or aimlessly wandering the World Wide Web. For others that time is well spent because it’s how they market their company or come up with new ideas and trends that will help them in their business. So it’s not the social media sites that are doing harm, it’s what you’re doing while you’re on them. The same can be said for someone who is spending hours organizing their office. Sure the files may look great but if you’re just pushing papers around, you’re spending time “doing” but not “accomplishing.” For others that organizing might allow them to be more productive in their office or uncover leads they need to follow up on. It’s not the task itself that’s the issue, it’s whether or not it is the right thing for YOU to be doing.
We Put Too Much on Our To-Do List
Yes, you read that right. The truth is, I know very few people who have too little on their to-do list. Of course it is very satisfying to cross things off your list, but if you are putting too much on there, you might be falling into the trap of making yourself think you’re making progress when you might not really be. A better strategy is to consider whether something you’ve put on your list is a small task that can be done almost as quickly as you write it down. If a task is only going to take you 5 to 10 minutes, such as sending a thank you note or paying a bill, just get it done. You’ll get an immediate feeling of accomplishment.
We Spend Too Much Time on Email
Even though a previous point discussed that everyone’s time suck is different, email can be a universal one for most people. That’s because we rarely actually take care of the email in the box, we just move it around as a sort of “reminder system,” which in reality usually only serves to create stress when you open your inbox. The goal with email should be to take care of it at the moment, or file it in a folder where it won’t constantly pop up in your email inbox. Set aside time to tackle your email, including unsubscribing from lists or newsletters you no longer value, and see how your productivity improves accordingly.
We Allow Others to Plan Our Time for Us
The constant bling and buzz of our phone, email and texts can make it almost impossible to concentrate on what we’re working on. Many of us do feel that we need to be in constant contact, but many of us just have FOMO (fear of missing out) that compels us to wonder who is texting or calling — or how important that email is. But the truth is that very few things are so important that they can’t wait a little while. If you are in the midst of a project, turn off your notifiers so you can concentrate and finish what you’re working on and then tend to other matters.
We Don’t Build in Time for the Unexpected
Actually, calling it the “unexpected” is a misnomer, isn’t it? Because it’s really more accurate to call it the “inevitable” since we can legitimately expect that there will be an unforeseen glitch in most projects. By building in time at the end of each day or even during lunch for new tasks, we are able to finish things that come up, without sacrificing the productivity of completing our to-do list.
We Overestimate How Much Time Something Will Take
Have you heard the phrase, “Work expands to fit the time available??” You might be surprised to learn it has a real name, “Parkinson’s Law,” but you won’t be surprised to learn that it is accurate most of the time. That’s why we sometimes do our best, most efficient, work on deadline. You don’t want to create unnecessary stress on yourself, but at the same time, you don’t want to allow your work to expand so much that you keep working on something for longer than needed.
Being productive is one of the keys to success. Paying attention to common productivity mistakes is the first step to being more productive and successful.
The following articles discuss productivity mistakes to avoid: