People are always looking for ways to be more productive, habits to put into place, and products and apps to buy. They want to improve without figuring out what the problem is.
But that’s like placing a bandaid on a cut without disinfecting it first — the band-aid’s not going to fix the problem underneath.
There are certain things you might be doing now that are holding you back from being productive. Before you place new habits, find out which bad habits you need to replace.
1. Working with the television on
Some people like working with the television on because it fills the silence. If you’re having a pretty chill day and aren’t on a deadline, you’re free to watch whatever you want. But those days are rare.
Even if you say you’re only listening and not watching, you can’t tell me you don’t glance up at the screen now and then and end up getting distracted for five minutes.
Shows, even if it’s a sitcom you’ve watched before, are distracting. Watching them while you work doesn’t allow you to concentrate.
Why does this matter? Your best work happens when you enter a state of flow. Wikipedia says flow is the “mental state in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.”
You can’t get into that state if a line makes you laugh and you look up every three minutes. Give your work the focus and dedication it deserves.
Plus, you’re taking a lot longer than you have to. What you could finish in half an hour, you’re taking an hour to complete. You don’t need the show. You can watch it before you go to bed — not while you work.
2. Not getting enough sleep
I know some people say you can get by with five hours of sleep, and others say you should wake up at five a.m. even if you’re tired, but that’s bullshit advice from productivity-obsessed entrepreneurs.
Sleep is important, and you need it. Research says that sleeping for seven to eight hours every night can boost your mood, help you focus better, and thus, work harder.
If your eyes are heavy and closing while you type out some emails, you need to get back into bed. I don’t care how important your work is. Your mental and physical health should always come first.
For Health Care wrote, “Without adequate sleep, employees have more difficulty concentrating, learning, and communicating.” Lack of sleep is making you less alert and reduces your work performance.
Besides, you’re not sacrificing a lot. I used to wake up at seven even though I was tired. I’d be in a bad mood all day and my eyes burned with exhaustion — all in the name of work.
Once I started waking up between eight and eight-thirty, I felt more energetic throughout the day. And I still finish the same amount of work I used to finish when I woke up earlier. Try it, and see the difference.
3. Not focusing on what really matters
Everyone has priorities and busywork. The problem is that most people do their busywork first because it’s easy. It requires almost no thinking from you.
But that’s not real productivity. Those items are a distraction from real work — another form of procrastination, like cleaning your house when you know you should be doing something else.
If you don’t figure out what tasks you need to do and which ones could wait until the end of the day, you’re always going to find yourself trying to play catch up before a deadline.
“Without clear priorities, it’s difficult to manage your time and make progress on your goals. You might even be overwhelming yourself by trying to take on too many responsibilities.”
What are your priorities? What matters the most? Take an honest look at your work, and start figuring out what’s essential.
- Make a list of all the work you do on a day-to-day basis
- Label the three most urgent tasks with ‘A’
- Label the next three tasks with ‘B’ (consists of work you want to do but isn’t as necessary)
- Label the least significant items (work you could do at any time) with ‘C’
- Get rid of what doesn’t matter at all
Replace your busywork with real work because that’s what’ll take you one step closer to your goals.
4. You’re not eliminating distractions
The most simple step you can take to focus on your work is to keep your phone in another room. But it doesn’t matter how simple it is, most people don’t do it.
You don’t need to check Twitter while you’re working. You don’t need to text your friends or look at your notifications. Pretend that your work hours are sacred and that nothing should interrupt them.
If you need to buy an app that will block websites, so be it. If you need to delete your email app, do it. What I do is use my phone for personal reasons (social, etc.) and use my laptop only for business.
Pay attention to when you lose your focus.
- Which websites distract you the most?
- How often do you lose concentration?
- What solutions can you take?
Ask these questions, and then take the appropriate steps to fix them.
Your goal shouldn’t be to work longer hours. That’s not going to help you accomplish anything, especially if you spend half of those hours distracted. Your goal instead should be to focus on your work and give it your all.
If you want to be more productive, it starts with realizing what you need to change before implementing changes. Stop making these four mistakes, and you’ll start seeing a difference in your work performance and the work itself.
It’s about how dedicated you’re willing to be. The best part is that if you can finish your work in less time, you have time for other tasks, such as reading, taking online courses, and free-time with your family. Who doesn’t want that?