Six things that suck the life out of your productivity

When I taught pre-school children (way back when), I would have the kids jump up and down to “shake the wigglies out” before working on projects that required their sustained attention. This allowed them to have a bit of fun before starting to work, and they were ultimately able to focus and complete their projects more easily. Though I should probably be jumping up and down more (exercising) myself, I’ve noticed that my productivity doesn’t get up to full speed until after I’ve done a few non-essential tasks. Though they’re not specifically related to tasks on my to-do list, doing them helps me get into a productive mindset. And, while I’m working, I subscribe to the “silence is golden” rule. I have a better chance of completing tasks efficiently when there’s very little noise and few interruptions.

While it helps to identify the strategies that help you do what you do consistently well, you probably need to figure out the things that cramp your productivity style, too. Are there particular things that throw you off track? A recent article on Mashable suggested that there five things that you should stay away from so that you can get more done (like not sleeping enough), and I’m sharing six more that you should consider kicking out of your regular routine.

Having poor eating habits

This one goes along with not exercising enough (or exercising too much), not drinking enough water, and not taking regular breaks. Lest you start thinking that I sound a bit like your mother, there are some statistics to back up this suggestion. A study published by Population Health Management found that …

Employees with an unhealthy diet were 66 percent more likely to report having experienced a loss in productivity than those who regularly ate whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Employees who exercised only occasionally were 50 percent more likely to report having lower levels of productivity than employees who were regular exercisers.

So, in order to be at your best, take care of yourself and refrain from…

Moving at the speed of light

There are many benefits of slowing down and keeping your pace at a speed that doesn’t make your head spin. Taking your time means that you’ll likely be better at deciding what your priorities are. You’ll also be able to give your full attention to your most important tasks without feeling frazzled.

Trying every productivity strategy

There are many strategies that can motivate you to get stuff done, but not all of them will be the right fit for you. For example, if you know deep down you’re a paper person, use a paper calendar, a notebook, and handwrite your to do list instead of investigating digital options. Gadgets and digital solutions may seem bright and shiny for a moment, but if they don’t suit you, they won’t really help you in the long run. The same is true for how you set up your environment. If you get tons done when you have music playing, go for it. But, if you prefer silence, then keep the music off.

Once you find “the one,” stick to it. Yes, you may need to use a new technique when your life changes, but when you find a system that works well with your learning and work styles, don’t spend any unnecessary time checking out other things.

Working only on other people’s stuff

Sometimes it may seem that you’re getting a lot accomplished, but are those tasks that you’re checking off your to-do list yours? Or do they belong to someone else? It’s nice to help your colleagues, but not at the expense of your own responsibilities. Set aside time to assist others but ensure that you’re giving priority to your own projects. You also need to be careful so you’re not …

Taking on too much

In the spirit of being helpful and wanting to be a team player, you may say yes to any or all opportunities that are offered to you. (Can you really take that board position and coach the basketball team?) Instead, be more selective about what you choose to take on and figure out if accepting something new will negatively impact your life in other ways. Think about the time commitment and, before you say yes, take a look at your calendar and task list to see if you really can accept new projects. Your stock response when other people make requests of your time should be, “let me check my calendar and get back to you.” Save the “yes” responses only for those rare times when you know your boss will be very upset if you don’t jump right in.

Having no way to keep yourself accountable

Whether you’re working on personal or work-related goals, you will need to find a way to hold yourself accountable so that you can meet those goals. If you have no way of tracking your progress, you probably won’t accomplish the necessary tasks. An easy way to work toward completing your goals/projects is to set deadlines and/or milestones. Add due dates and milestones to your calendar (or project management program) and use “naked planning” to your benefit by scheduling regular check-in meetings others involved in the project.

If you can avoid these six productivity traps, you should be able to get things done on time and done well.

7 Comments for “Six things that suck the life out of your productivity”

  1. posted by Flounder No More on

    Saying no to incoming stuff/work/projects is a critical skill that always (seems) to need honing. For the taking on too much stuff, it might be good to have a couple stock answers at your disposal. “I am focused on X right now.” I once had someone say to me, “If you need an answer right now, it is no, but if you can give me some time, that could change.” I decided to keep that one for my own use.

  2. posted by WilliamB on

    My number one rule: no multi-tasking!

    Real multi-tasking uses different body parts, such as cooking (hands) and watching TV (eyes & brain). Even so it’s important that either task can be put on hold i/f/when the other needs full attention.

    My number two rule: limit shifting between ongoing tasks.

    Too darn easy to lose focus, especially if shifting between smaller tasks. I’m much better off to do the one then do the other. The most insidious moment is when I’m waiting for one computer to do something. The temptation is to start something on the other computer while I wait. Generally a very bad idea (for me, at least). I’m generally quite bad at avoiding the insidious temptation – something I need to work on.

  3. posted by Another Deb on

    The analogy I have heard that makes sense to avoid stress and still keep up the productivity comes from hiking. The advice was “Stay within your breath”.

  4. posted by Jacki Hollywood Brown on

    I think the BIGGEST productivity killer is lack of sleep!! It affects everything, speed and accuracy. When you’re low on sleep it is you’re more likely to feel the effects of stress and that also decreases productivity. We are living in a sleep deprived society.

    Nighty night folks!

  5. posted by Another Deb on

    I agree Jacki,
    I have recently been diagnosed with sleep apnea and got a CPAP machine in September. The difference is quite noticible. The fog of weariness has been a problem for so long that I didn’t realize it was even more than just the late hours. Waking up now, my first thought is not “When can I sleep next?”

  6. posted by Marcie Lovett on

    Deb, I used to teach and I, too, had the kids move around for what I called “brain break.” When I get stuck, I take a walk around the office or outside for a few minutes and I’m much more productive when I get back. I tell clients that it’s better to get up and get a drink of water than to force themselves to try to power through a mental block, which just leaves them frustrated (and often leads to Web surfing!).

  7. posted by bytheway on

    Yes to all of this. It took a year of really focusing on my body to make my mind-body connection work in sync. Diet, exercise, sleep…it’s all huge, and yet we act like it isn’t. My job is mostly a thinking job rather than a physical one, and what I “thought” was the state of my body didn’t matter. I was wrong.

    Regular exercise was the key for me to really tune into what my body was telling me. Exercise makes me feel confident and powerful–enough to say, “no thanks” “not right now” or “gee, sounds like a wonderful opportunity…for such-and-so.” Because of regular exercise, I sleep better. Because of better sleep, I eat better. I am more balanced emotionally, my writing comes faster and clearer, and my conflict management skills stay sharper. It’s been a truly amazing thing. It also makes me that much more sensitive to others’ malaise. As earlier post-ers have written, ill health (or what could be such better health!) is pervasive these days.

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