Five Mistakes That Affect Productivity

Research shows that only a mere 26% of people often leave the office feeling accomplished at the end of their workday. This shows that it’s very common to feel as if you were busy all day but didn’t actually get that much done. Of course life isn’t about being productive every single day like a robot, but most of us would like to feel well organized and efficient at pursuing goals. 

It’s vital to understand the mental slip ups that prevent us from being as productive as we can, in order to learn how to avoid them. In her article, Alice Boyles of Harvard Business Review outlines five mistakes that typically get in the way when trying to concentrate on meaningful work tasks. 

Overestimating Time

Strategic thinking and long-term creative projects require many blocks of highly-focused time. Oftentimes, when we think we have all day to accomplish something at the office, we underestimate how much time we will inevitably end up spending responding to emails, Slack messages, phone calls, etc. 

It’s important to acknowledge the amount of uninterrupted time you actually have to complete tasks. Select your top priority for the workday, and then remove all distractions. Silence your phone, your email notifications, and close the door to your office so you can really dive in deep with full concentration. 

Overlooking Proven Methods

There is a psychological concept known as “implementation intentions”, which means that planning when and where you will complete a task and how you’ll overcome obstacles that you may encounter will make it easier to actually get it done. Planning ahead in this way will also reduce your daily mental fatigue, which will in turn serve to make you more productive. 

The hardest part of any task or project is getting started. So, by planning ahead, it will be easier and less daunting to begin. Define each step of the process to complete your task, and ensure that you have the right materials on hand to accomplish it. 

Thinking of Change as “All or Nothing”

Most of us know of at least a few changes we could make to be more productive, but are also psychologically resistant to actually making those changes. Simplify the process of changing habits by starting with small changes that don’t feel like a big deal. 

For example, many people feel that they would be more productive if they went to sleep earlier, but yet they continue to stay up late. Productive change doesn’t have to mean going to sleep two hours earlier or doing nothing – it can just be going to sleep 10 to 15 minutes earlier than usual, and building that up in small increments over time. Small goals are more easily accomplished than big ones and, eventually, several small accomplishments will add up to a large one.

Forgetting How to Do Recurrent Tasks

When you have the same task that needs to be done every day, you will quickly develop a fast and efficient way to get it done. But, for tasks that only need to be completed a few times a year, however simple they may be, you may forget how to do them and end up wasting valuable time researching it again. Whenever you complete a process that you know you will have to repeat at some point in the future, be sure to write out instructions and save them in a place you’ll remember for the next time.

Underestimating the Cost of Minor Time Leaks

Responding to a quick email in the middle of a project task may seem like a harmless thing to do, but after doing it several times, those small time leaks start to add up. Before you know it, your workday is finished and you didn’t complete what you wanted to that day. 

Little disruptions like that will interrupt your workflow and have a negative impact on your overall productivity. Create a system that addresses small time leaks before you even begin a task, so you can avoid distractions and focus on the goal at hand.