Busy professionals today put an emphasis on discovering different tricks they can employ to boost productivity. From new iPhone apps to specialized to-do lists to dieting and exercising, productivity is an obsession for many. Although adding to your productivity stack can be useful, it's easy to overlook the inverse approach. What are your biggest productivity killers and how can you remove them?
Stop, reflect, and look at your current habits and choices and begin eliminating the most detrimental ones. Following this approach will likely yield larger productivity gains than searching for new tactics that help at the margins.
Here are top productivity killers to be on the lookout for that you may not not even be noticing. These can save you significant time and energy once eradicated:
1. Getting distracted when you're in the zone.
You know those times when you are totally zoned into the work you're doing? You're "in the flow." Your thoughts aren't wandering, you're engulfed in your work, and you're extremely productive. All of your energy and attention is dedicated to the tasks at hand.
Anytime you're in that space and get distracted, it causes a giant productivity hit. A 2017 study from the American Academy of Pediatrics even found that heavy multitaskers across different forms of media have poorer memory, increased impulsivity, and struggles with learning.
These distractions frequently come in the form of notifications on your phone or computer from various apps like Facebook, text, Instagram, Snapchat, or even email. When you're working, just put your phone away, keep it on silent, or check it periodically at set times.
Another common distraction is physical interruption. If you're trying to work in a space surrounded by family or friends, it's easy to fall off task. Put your emphasis on working in locations void of distraction.
When you're in this productive headspace, you should do everything you can to stay there.
2. Talking with loved ones.
Talking and spending time with people you love can be comforting, mindless and often exciting. Time can fly without your even realizing it. You could spend two hours on the phone with your significant other in what feels like minutes.
While it's by no means bad to spend a lot of time with loved ones, you should be cognizant of how much. Set boundaries based on what you need to accomplish at work so that you don't unintentionally lose precious working hours.
I sometimes schedule an alarm or a reminder to notify myself if a certain amount of hours have passed while I'm visiting a loved one. They know I do this and it doesn't ruffle any feathers. It's especially useful when you know you need to get back to work at some point.
3. Getting organized and productive.
It may seem counterintuitive, but "getting organized" can actually interfere with productivity. This is the one that plagues me the most. I'll often spend 30 minutes in the morning trying to get organized and into a productive head space. I go over my to-do list, figure out what my priorities are, try to organize them for the coming week, get my head into working mode, and then get started.
What has recently worked much more efficiently has been sitting down once every few days, or even once a week, to map out how to spend my upcoming work time. Then, when I get back to the grind, I jump right in instead of losing time and energy figuring out what to do.
4. Picking the wrong goal or framework.
Maybe the worst time-killer of all is dedicating your time and energy to the wrong thing.
I remember working on a project to integrate two different software products, and navigating the APIs for the tool I was using became extremely complex. I dedicated 20+ hours trying to solve the problem, even working with various support teams. Eventually, I discovered a different tool that connected the services within an hour.
Instead of diving right in to something, ensuring that you're taking the right approach is critical. Regardless of how productive you might be, if you're working on the wrong thing, you may have to start from close to square one when you realize it. This not only kills time but is demoralizing. Making sure you have the right goal or focus up front is invaluable.
These productivity killers are fairly common, but everyone has their own vices. Pay attention to what you spend too much time on, whether it be navigating on your computer, cooking, or even taking showers. Making a dedicated effort to gradually spend less time on what kills your productivity will pay large benefits as you accomplish more and more.