We all want to be more productive, right? We’re always looking for shortcuts or ways to streamline what we need to accomplish. However, we also need to look what we’re doing wrong, specifically productivity mistakes to avoid.
Often, we spend a lot of time being busy but don’t feel like we’re accomplishing much. We’re exhausted but have nothing to show for it. What causes this? Bad habits that we’ve developed over time.
Here are the top productivity mistakes to avoid:
Not Identifying Your Peak Hours
When we talk about being the most productive as we can be, we often think about the constant hustle. However, it’s really important to understand what your best times to work are. Of course, we can’t always choose when we want to work. If you have a job that requires you to work from 9-5 or 8-4, that’s when you have to be there.
But if you’re a stay-at-home mom or you have a work-from-home position, you have a lot more flexibility to be productive. You’re not required to force yourself to be a morning person (unless you’re a mom – sometimes we can’t get away from that).
You need to find the best hours for you to get things done. This will require patience and practice as you experiment with different schedules. As you experiment, you need to make sure you measure your results by paying attention to your energy levels and both the quality and quantity of work completed.
If you struggle with any kind of mental or chronic physical health issues, knowing your peak hours is imperative. You probably can’t just keep going nonstop (even though you might try). The goal here is to work smarter not harder. Continuously pushing yourself will only lead to burnout.
No Rewards or Too Many Rewards
You’ve probably heard me talk about celebrating your successes and rewarding yourself to help maintain motivation. If you don’t see any reward, you will lose motivation quickly and be less productive.
However, if you reward yourself too often or too easily, it can ruin your achievements. Consider what you use for rewards and make sure the reward matches the effort of the task. For example, if you’re trying to be healthier, rewarding yourself with a banana split isn’t the best choice. Likewise, if you give yourself a day off for finally sending an email you’ve been putting off or finishing a project you were behind on, you lessen the effect of the accomplishment.
Lack of Discipline or Prioritization
If you’re someone who is always overcommitted and you’re constantly busy without achieving what you need to accomplish, you probably have a prioritization issue. You allow other people to dictate what needs to be done when. These distractions take away from reaching your goals.
When you prioritize your to-do list, you need to take prioritization seriously. You can’t decide that all of the easy tasks are more important and have to be done first because you’re really avoiding doing something else.
You also can’t let friends and family sway your attention. Yes, emergencies arise (especially when you’re a mom—we tend to drop everything for our kids). So treat emergencies as such, but be aware of things that are fake emergencies.
Allowing Procrastination to Take Charge
It might not seem like you can control procrastination, but you can. Procrastination is a normal reaction to anything that you don’t want to do, but when it becomes chronic, and you can’t start things that you don’t mind doing, it’s a problem.
Part of this might be discipline, but chances are, there’s another issue at the root. You need to think about why you’re procrastinating and address that. Are you afraid of failure? Is perfectionism stopping you in your tracks? Are you just distracted by your own thoughts or the outside world?
Poor Time Management
Productivity is closely tied to time management. Having a to-do list and using a planner is a start, but you need to be realistic about how long tasks take as well as how much time you have. For some of you, you have no clue. Time blindness is your life.
You think you have plenty of time to get the kids from school (20 minutes)—it’s a 10-minute drive, so no rush. You can pop a quick load of laundry into the machine, but then discover that your daughter’s soccer uniform isn’t in the load and she’ll need it for practice. You go to her room to grab it and spend some time straightening up as long as you’re there. You grab the uniform and go back to the machine.
You look at the clock and suddenly you only have 5 minutes to get to the school (10 minutes away).
This is a combination of distractibility and time management. You know how long it takes to get to the school, but you don’t consider things like finding your keys and getting to the car. While it’s only a few minutes, it counts. Tossing a load into the washer should’ve been fine, but you got distracted by other things.
You need to learn how to be realistic with your time management. That means actually timing how long tasks take. It might be a shock to you once you reflect on how long you spend doing things because you have an idea in your head and it probably doesn’t match the reality. This isn’t about judgment. It’s about learning to be better at time management.
Remember that hustle I mentioned earlier? This is where it really comes back to bite you. You spend so much time on the hamster wheel, doing, doing, doing, and you’re afraid to stop to take care of yourself. Self-care feels like an indulgence when you have a never-ending to-do list.
But if you don’t take care of yourself, it’ll be a sure path to burnout. And the thing about burnout is, it’s tough to come back from. Once you hit burnout, your productivity is out the window. You won’t be able to function like you have been and your goals will be put off indefinitely.
You need to time off to relax and recharge. Not allowing yourself to do so will have a negative effect on your productivity. And it won’t happen all at once. It’ll slowly creep up until it’s too late. So make sure to take time off.
Working with Distractions
This one is tough to call out because some of us can’t work in silence. Total quiet makes us less productive. Only you can determine what is distracting.
But often, we work around things that are distracting. You might say that the TV is on as “background noise,” but then you find yourself totally focused on the plot of the show. That’s a distraction. Background noise is not a distraction.
For others, tabs on your browser are always open to social media, making it super easy to click over and be sucked in. don’t leave the tabs open. If you find yourself reopening them anyway, consider using a site blocker when you need to focus on work.
Your phone can also be a distraction if you have notifications constantly going off. Unless it’s your kids (or their caregiver), do you really need notifications on? Set specific break times to check your phone and see if you need to respond to anything urgent. Other than that, keep it away from you.
Most people have some bad habits when it comes to productivity. Being away of what you do and how you work can help you make course corrections so you can be as productive as you hope to be in order to reach your goals. Learning which productivity mistakes to avoid is the first step. Then adjust what you’re doing to work toward success.