We all wish that we could be more productive. But, how is that possible when assignments keep piling up, the latest season of Orange is the New Black just appeared on Netflix, and you have a flurry of emails, texts, and social media notifications distracting you?
Over the past month I've had WAY too much going on. I have been dropping the ball left and right. This is unacceptable if you're a business owner. I have people relying on me and I shouldn't allow this to happen. It's caused me to evaluate things that are killing my productivity.
The first step I had to do was to identify the time wasters and nip them in the bud so that I could stay productive. Here are eight time wasters that I noticed kill my productivity and most of the people that I work with.
1. Constantly checking your emails.
It shouldn't come as a surprise that email is one of, if the biggest, time waster. After all, more than 200 billion emails are sent everyday and it's been found that the average employee checks his or her email 36 times an hour. And, we're all guilty of it. I can't tell you how many times I've been writing an article only to get distracted by an email notification, either on my laptop or smartphone.
I completely understand that you can't leave a client or your boss hanging by not responding to an email, but a lot of times we receive newsletters or coupons that we end-up clicking on, which leads us to browsing a website. For you to remain productive, you have to limit the amount of time that you spend checking your emails.
Some organizations have actually installed filters on email programs. This files away all incoming messages so that they can be read later. While banning email is one way to solve this problem, limiting email checks to certain times can be just as effective. For example, you can set aside twenty minutes, three times a day to check and respond to your emails.
If you're worried about those notifications peaking your curiosity too much, you can turn-off your notifications on both your laptop and smartphone.
2. Not automating your social media accounts.
While social media is a one of the best tools to spread brand awareness, network, stay updated on the latest industry news, and catch-up with friends or family, it's another huge time waster. In fact, we spend an average of 118 minutes per day on social media. Unless you're a social media manager, there's no need for me to spend that much time on social media.
As with your emails, schedule certain times throughout the day to look-at and update your social channels, such as during your commute to and from work. You can also use blockers like Cold Turkey and keep your notifications-off. I would also suggest that you use social media management tools like Hootsuite so that you can schedule all of your social media updates in advance from one dashboard.
3. Bulky to-do-lists.
Whether you write down your to-do-lists on in a notebook or use a tool like Evernote, to-do-lists can be a real life-saver since it reduces the stress of trying to remember things like a meeting or what you you need to pick-up at the grocery store. To-do-lists can also help keep you on-track by highlighting the most important tasks that you need to accomplish.
For to-do-lists to be effective, and to prevent you from getting overwhelmed, you need to keep your lists short, usually around three of your most important items per day. You should also write down your lists that night before so that you wake-up in the morning you can start tackling your list.
Multitasking doesn't work. "When it comes to attention and productivity, our brains have a finite amount," says Guy Winch, PhD, author of Emotional First Aid: Practical Strategies for Treating Failure, Rejection, Guilt and Other Everyday Psychological Injuries.
"It's like a pie chart, and whatever we're working on is going to take up the majority of that pie. There's not a lot left over for other things, with the exception of automatic behaviors like walking or chewing gum."
Multitasking wastes productivity because when you switch back and forth between tasks your "attention is expended on the act of switching gears."
Do one thing at a time. Once you've completed one task, then you can move on to the next one.
5. Being a perfectionist.
When you have unrealistically high standards you'll devote more time than you should on a task. Even after it's completed, you still make revisions in order to make it "perfect." In other instances, being a perfectionist can throw you off since things didn't go your way. That means you may give-up on a project that you already started working on.
Here's the thing. Perfection is an impossible goal that not only kills your productivity, it's also detrimental to your health.
Overcoming this mentality is no-easy task. But you can start by focusing on getting your work. For example, get the bare-bones of a project done first. You can always go back and make it "perfect" later.
You may actually notice that it's not as bad as you thought. You also need to accept failure. It happens to all of us. Instead of letting that consume you, learn from your mistakes so that you don't repeat them.
6. Unnecessary meetings.
Did you know that there are 25 million meetings daily in the U.S. alone? The problem with that is executives have admitted that these meetings are failures, which means that organizations are wasting time and money with unnecessary meetings.
If you want meetings to be productive, keep them under 30 minutes, set clear expectations, send materials in advance, start and end on-time, and stay focused. I would also recommend that you ask whether or not a meeting is really necessary. In most instances a quick email or phone call will suffice.
7. Saying "Yes."
It's understandable that you don't want to disappoint others, but it's not feasible for you to keep everyone happy. You're doing yourself a major disservice by saying "yes" to everyone since you end-up spreading yourself too thin.
Be honest with others and inform that you simply don't have the time to lead a meeting, write a blog post, or whatever else it is that they're requesting. You can then offer to come back to their request when you do have the availability.
8. Postponing harder tasks.
We all have those tasks that we either just don't want to do or find too challenging. We ultimately push those tasks off until another time and work on those easier tasks instead. That doesn't change the fact that that task disappears. Instead of letting that hang-over your head, you need to just bite the bullet and get it done.
Avoiding this type of procrastination ensures that you stay productive day-in and day-out.