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Stop Undermining Your Productivity

Business.com / Last Modified: December 15, 2017
Photo credit: Bacho/Shutterstock

Get more done and set a good example for employees by avoiding these four traps.

Think about your daily to-do list. It likely includes reviewing reports, sending emails, going to meetings and calling clients. Now be honest, how many of those things do you actually do in a workday? 

Difficult choices have to be made every day. "Should I get everything done by working an exorbitant number of hours or work reasonable hours but let things slip through the cracks?"

Many people have trouble finding the right balance. In fact, a May 2017 survey from The Alternative Board found that, on average, business leaders only have 1.5 hours of uninterrupted, highly productive time each day.

While you may be inclined to look for quick-fix tricks and tips to be more productive, there's a better way to approach the issue. Start paying attention to what's derailing your productivity and find ways to remove those deterrents. A stronger foundation for your productivity will enable you to create better work-life balance and get more accomplished. 

Here are four productivity traps to avoid.

1. Ignoring hidden strengths

It’s very hard for people to process their weaknesses. Not wanting to show flaws, leaders work hard to improve their imperfections, but this wastes too much time.

Everyone has traits and skills that come naturally to them and those that don't. While it's important to know your limitations, you also must recognize that some changes aren't worth the effort. For example, if you're someone who sees the big picture, it will take a lot to develop even mediocre skill levels to focus on smaller details.

A better route is to develop your hidden strengths. These are skills that, with a little bit of training, can become full strengths. For instance, even if you're not good at oral communication, you could still become a talented writer.

By taking comprehensive skills assessments, you learn what your hidden strengths are. Then, you can work to improve those, which is a much more productive use of your time.

2. Trying to multitask 

When you have multiple responsibilities, it can be tempting to try to tackle several tasks at once. But this doesn't improve productivity; it just divides your focus.

In fact, 2017 research from Aalto University found that when you switch between tasks quickly, it interferes with your brain's activity. In the end, multitaskers end up making more mistakes and producing lower-quality work.

Give your attention to one task at a time. This will ensure that you're not missing steps and making mistakes along the way. Plus, when you finish a task, you'll have a feeling of accomplishment that will motivate you to take on the next job. 

3. Doing the same old thing

Have you ever been driving home only to find yourself in your driveway unsure of how you arrived there? You can't remember if you stopped at any stoplights. You're unsure of how many times you changed lanes. Yet, you're at your destination.

This happens when you take the same route over and over. Your mind goes on autopilot and just cruises through the task. The same thing happens when you have the exact same work routine every day.

The problem is that this leads to unnoticed mistakes. Your memory of how to do a task is so ingrained that if something different comes up, your mind doesn't adapt. You believe you're being productive, but in reality, you're making errors. Correcting those mistakes derails your productivity.

Avoid wasting precious time by shaking up your routine. If you tackle tasks in a different order every day, there's less of a chance of autopilot taking over. It keeps your mind sharp and aware of what challenge it's facing. 

4. Having unnecessary notifications on your phone

Technology is wonderful. Devices, like smartphones, give leaders access to endless information they can use to improve their business. But technology can also be a huge productivity killer. 

In fact, a 2016 CareerBuilder report found that 55 percent of employers think cell phones are the biggest distractions at work. However, since leaders need to be connected to their team, they can't just ditch their smartphones.

A good compromise is to turn off unnecessary notifications during work hours. After all, do you really need to see everyone's Facebook updates while you're at the office? Save your social media, app or game time for after work. 

As a leader, your productivity sets the standard for the rest of the team. If you know how to avoid typical pitfalls, you can do your best work and inspire your employees to do theirs.

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