3 Surprising Reasons You Aren’t Being More Productive

Being productive encompasses a lot of things. If your productivity is suffering right now, you’ll probably blame it on a lack of self-discipline by default. You tell yourself you just need to work harder or focus more. So, you put your head down and crank up the pressure, but before you know it, you’re back on Facebook or simply staring at a blank word document wondering why you let yourself slip into this situation – again. You may be surprised to learn, however, that your “push-through-it” mentality may be the real culprit of your wasted hours and ever-growing work pile.

If this sounds like you, you may need to take a look at these three possible productivity killers, and how you can make some simple actions that will make you more productive.


1. You’re setting too many goals for yourself.

Although a healthy amount of ambition is usually rewarded, having too much on your plate can be destructive. Is your daily or weekly agenda realistic?

What often happens when we’re making our game plan for the week is that we let our ambition do the thinking for us. This can lead to unattainable goals and feelings of failure and inadequacy when we don’t meet those goals. This practice can also lead to an “all or nothing” mentality, where failure to meet every goal kills our motivation to try for anything.

To prevent yourself from over-ambitious planning, keep a log of what you actually, truthfully accomplish over several days. When you plan for the next week, keep that log in hand as a reminder of your realistic work capacity. If you feel like you can be more productive than what’s recorded in your log, it’s okay to add one or two more tasks to your schedule. Keep the number of added tasks low, though, so you can see how you do with your new workload without overwhelming yourself.

And remember, it’s so important to have “wins” to celebrate each day. The psychological boost from each win gives you confidence and motivates you to keep going. So, be realistic about what you can accomplish and you’ll be giving yourself the gift of wins and actually being productive.


2. You’re not taking any breaks.

Wouldn’t it be great to be able to power through your workload from start to finish until it’s done and end the day feeling productive? Of course it would, but such a feat would often require us to sit at our screens for 12 straight hours, which is neither healthy nor realistic. Even for people who have the gift of concentrating on a task for hours at a time, the truth is that we all need to step away from our work from time to time. This is not just for our sanity, it’s for our overall productivity as well.

When we focus on something for too long, our brains begin to “check out,” because we crave rest and balance by nature. If you’re not giving yourself permission to take a break every couple of hours or so, your body will compensate for that withheld refreshment by seeking it within your work time. This is why we lose our ability to concentrate after working on a project for too long. Our brains simply refuse to function until they get a rest. In order to avoid long stretches of hard, shoddy work time, simply take breaks. Every two or three hours, get up, stretch, take a brief walk, or just do something completely unrelated to work. After your brain has the chance to recharge, your productivity will soar once you get back to work.


3. Your workspace is cluttered.

There is certainly some truth to the saying “A cluttered desk is a cluttered mind.” Although many of us may consider maintaining a particular atmosphere in our personal workspaces to be of minimal importance, keeping a clean and orderly workspace can have a remarkable effect on our ability to be productive. The more clutter we have on and around our desks, the more chances we have to get distracted or simply feel cramped and frustrated by the accumulation of unnecessary objects closing in on us.

Before you begin your next project, take the time to clean and organize your work area. First, take all the non-essential items off of your desk. You’ll be surprised at how little you’re left with.

Next, organize the remaining items in such a way that they’re easily accessible when you need them, but far enough away from your actual working area that they won’t distract or interfere with what you’re doing.

Finally, make a commitment to keep your workspace in that condition. Think of decluttering as a daily decision followed by action. Perhaps write down some rules for yourself about keeping the clutter off – like sorting through the mail daily or using the last 15 minutes of your day for filing – or invest in some office storage pieces. Once your workspace is clear, you’ll be amazed at how much easier it is to be productive and get things done.

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