For years now, a silent assassin has been lurking near you, keeping you from putting out your best work. You could never quite shake off the feeling that you’re not working at your 100% yet, and you’re desperate to get more done. So what’s holding you back, and how can you avoid it?
by Hal Elrod
⏱ 14 minutes reading time
🎧 Audio version available
Not Getting Enough Sleep
The first and most brutal productivity killer is one that sneaks up on you– and not even in the workplace. Instead, it takes place in the days before. You may think that skipping a few hours of sleep in order to get more work done is better, but it’s actually harmful in the long run.
According to several studies, there is a direct correlation between workplace inefficiency and getting less sleep. This is because lack of sleep directly affects your brain’s prefrontal cortex, where your mind’s problem-solving functions are located.
Or in other words, if you’re groggy and cranky, you won’t put out quality work.
The recommended number of hours you need to sleep in order to wake up a productive person is no less than eight hours. It’s also important that the hours you do get of sleep are of great quality. That means avoiding electronics before bed, as well as any devices that emit blue light. Instead, experts recommended reading and having a relaxing bath. Once you wake up feeling fully refreshed, you’ll feel more ready to tackle the day head-on.
Avoiding Challenging Tasks
It’s human nature to want to put off difficult and time-consuming tasks, thinking they will only take up your time and that it’s better to finish the more minor things first. However, this is a terrible idea. Why?
As Mark Twain put it, it’s best to “eat the frog” first thing in the morning. The metaphorical frog, of course, refers to your most challenging task of the day. Otherwise, you may end up procrastinating everything to a later hour, and the work won’t stop piling up, forever killing your productivity– and creativity due to its crushing weight.
Studies show that every person has a very limited amount of willpower, like a well. And this well of willpower decreases and drains throughout the day, so it’s best to “eat that frog” first thing in the morning, leaving your afternoon guilt-free and free to tackle any more manageable tasks.
Having Distractions All Around You
You can have nerves of steel– and still, lose focus when you keep getting interrupted every few minutes. An interrupted task will take considerably longer than an uninterrupted one.
In fact, it’s been found that it takes, on average, around 25 minutes for your mind to return to its regular, focused rhythm after being interrupted from a task.
Perfectionism is the ultimate productivity killer. You may think that, for now, your need to achieve perfectionism strengthens your productivity and pushes you to do better and more work, but in reality, it only results in stress and frustration– and procrastination.
See, perfectionism has you striving to meet unreasonably high standards. And when you’re inevitably unhappy with the work you put out, the discouragement is ten times worse. You may even feel the need to scratch your work and start all over, which is a negative 100 in terms of productivity because you’re literally starting all over again.
Taking On Too Much
Here, we come across a conundrum. You want to get more done, so you take on more work, but you can’t seem to get back to those levels of productivity and efficiency you want. What’s the problem?
The problem is that you’re taking on too much at once. Multitasking, especially several projects at the same time, is a myth. But, trust us, you’ll be able to get more– and do a great job at it since you’ve been giving each task or project all your focus.
Leaving Your Space Cluttered
A cluttered space can easily clutter the mind.
Another productivity killer lurks in the form of your disorganized desk or office. The mess can significantly impact your focus and limit your ability to get work done. Plus, you’ll always be held back if you constantly have to get up to look for lost papers and items.
To avoid being distracted, a cleaning session is in your future. So strap on your cleaning gloves, get a waste bin, and get rid of any unnecessary items in your office. Once you have sorted out what’s necessary and what’s not, consider purchasing some organizers to help sort files and folders in an easy-to-find system.
Yes, your actual coworkers may be one of your most challenging productivity killers. In a survey conducted by Salary.com, 43% of those participating said that one of the top ways they’ve found themselves wasting time at work was chatting with their coworkers.
Of course, communication and good relationships at work are essential parts of a successful career, but there’s a line that needs to be drawn.
It’s estimated that the average employee experiences a staggering 56 interruptions at work every day. It’s also estimated that 80% of these interruptions are related to trivial, unnecessary matters. In most cases, it’s office gossip that gets in your way of being your top, most productive self.
So how can you avoid your coworkers without damaging your relationships?
It’s easier than you think. Let your colleagues know when you’re busy and when you’re open for conversation. You can make things easier– and make interrupting you more challenging– by moving to another room or asking your boss if you can work remotely for a day or two. Invest in some good noise-canceling headphones to send the message that you mean business.
Also, invest in perfecting the art of saying no. A simple “No, I have a deadline to meet” will work miraculously.
Each person’s productivity killers are different. The most important thing you can do is understand what triggers you to become unproductive, what pushes you to get the work done, and which of the previously mentioned killers pose the bigger challenge for you. Once you figure out those answers, you’ll be on your way to becoming your office’s hardest worker!
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