Do you struggle with procrastination? Or feel like you should have gotten more done than you did on any given day? It’s a common problem. The American Psychological Association reports that roughly 20 percent of American adults admit to procrastination. Maybe you do it consciously, and you’re well aware of those moments you choose to re-organize your pantry instead of doing the work you need to be doing. Or, maybe you only realize it’s happened retrospectively. The time frame in which you were meant to finish something lapses and you’re nowhere near done. But, you don’t know why. Where did that time go?
There are a lot of things pulling at our attention and reducing our ability to focus at any given moment. And even if you want to squeeze the most productivity out of every moment, you might consistently find yourself behind. And then, your work and other tasks can bleed into your much-needed self-care and relaxation time. If you want to win that time back, identifying what’s standing in your way of being productive is key. Here are the hidden productivity killers robbing you of your time.
This seems counterintuitive because we’ve come to see multi-tasking as a way of getting more done. But, what actually happens is that you fail to ever get into a groove with any given task. Your mind needs a moment to acclimate to a given task before it really starts doing its best work. If you continuously switch tasks, you never give your brain the time to operate at peak efficiency. Research published in Atlassian shows that it can take nearly 10 minutes to get back into a workflow when you so much as switch between apps. You’re better off completing one task before moving on to the next.
If you re-read an email five times before you send it off or fixate on how changing one word could alter the tone…you’re probably a perfectionist. And perfectionism kills productivity. There’s a well-known saying about it: “Imperfect action is better than no action.” If you refuse to wrap something up, turn something in or publish something until it’s “perfect,” then you may never consider it done.
It happens to everyone. You wake up to an upsetting text or email. Then you call a friend to vent about it. Then you still have to meditate to flush out the negative emotions. And after all of that, you spend another 30 minutes ruminating about how much time you’ve already lost. Disruptions and interruptions will happen. Sometimes those are out of your control. What you can control is your emotional response to them – which can either propel you forward or keep you stuck in procrastination mode.
Even if you don’t have a boss or outside party telling you exactly when to get things done, you could benefit from being your own time manager. You might tell yourself, “I have all day to get this done,” and then what happens? It somehow takes you all day, when it could’ve been done in 45 minutes. Creating a set routine helps you be more productive. It allows you to designate time slots for each task. Then you know that you must get X, Y or Z done between noon and 1:30 p.m. because at 1:45 p.m., you have something else to do. Knowing you’ve set aside time for each task also lets you release it from your mind when you’re doing other things.
With technology rapidly developing, there is always some new app or software that can help you get things done faster. However, you need to take the time to learn how to use it. If you refuse to pause your work for an hour (or even a day) to learn how to use a new tool that will expedite your work, you’ll lose countless hours in the long run. Pausing to learn something new can feel like a step back, but if it helps you ultimately work faster, it’s actually a way of speeding up.
One of the best ways to get things done is to recognize what doesn’t have to get done. Look at everything you “need” to do each day. Now separate items into two lists. One list should consist of things that absolutely need to get done. The second list should consist of things that you’d like to get done, but don’t have to get done. Do everything essential first. If there’s time for the other stuff, great. If not, you’ll feel accomplished because you at least finished the essential items.