Other than weekends and vacations, your best days are likely when you get a bunch of stuff done. But high-achievers who feel good when they’re most productive are also prone to habits which on the surface appear as virtues, but work out to be exactly the opposite. Here are three habits you need to banish if you really want to perform at your highest level.
If you want to be creative and productive you have to kill this beast, or at least ignore it. Best-selling author Matt Richtel tells the story of getting 75 percent through the process of writing his first thriller when a literary agent read his work and loved it. Paralysis took hold and what had been a joyful process became one full of pressure. Fortunagely, a few weeks later he was able to push the expectation of perfection away, keep working and finish his book. “Much more importantly, I’d found a process that I’ve come to trust, one rooted in rarely looking over my shoulder or in the grates under the sidewalk to see IT, the perverse-faced clown of perfectionism, beckoning me to rewrite vapor before it’s barely on paper,” he writes. “Leave IT to the sewers.”
It can seem like you’re getting a lot done when you’re checking email while talking on the phone while keeping your eye on a busy Slack channel. But researchers have consistently found that switching between tasks involves mental gymnastics which actually decrease productivity by as much as 40 percent. Try stashing your phone in a drawer and working with only one tab or window open on your computer at a time.
Organizing and other warm-up activities often are just a way of putting off dreaded work. To figure out which activities could be side-tracking you, writer Barry Davret suggests tracking every single thing you do for an entire day and then categorizing your actions into several buckets:
- Critical - two or three work activities which matter most
- Preferable - activities which can be skipped if they interfere with critical ones
- Necessary - such as commuting
- Sacred - two or three non-negotiables involved in your health and well-being
- Unnecessary - everything else
With a better perspective on how you tend to waste time, it’s just a matter of starting. Don’t think about the 100 tasks involved in a big project. Just do the first one. “You then build momentum and move onto the next call, sentence or whatever it is you do,” he writes.