FrustrationUpping your productivity isn’t an exact science — and it isn’t something you can do overnight. Instead, you will probably need to try out a few things, see what works and throw out what isn’t working for you. Of course, to get rid of things that aren’t working, you have to recognize the warning signs before your productivity hacks turn into problems. Here is a spotter’s guide to a few of the problems I’ve run into, or heard about, when implementing new lifehacks.

1. The To Do List Shuffle

Shuffling tasks from list to list, categorization to categorization or due date to due date, as well as making lists just for the sake of making lists, are hints that you aren’t actually getting anything more done than before you implemented lists into your life. I’ve been guilty of this myself: I’ll wind up spending all my time on organizing my tasks into some very nice lists, rather than, you know, actually completing my tasks. This issue is not something that you can simply tweak: it’s a willpower issue for most of us. The only cure seems to be focusing on completing tasks rather than rearranging our to do lists.

2. The Energy / Inspiration Blues

Have you started finding a bit more time in your schedule — but you also find that you’re too tired or uninspired to move on to your next project? Lack of motivation can be a crucial sign that something in your grand scheme just isn’t working, and you can’t fix it with a shot of caffeine. Part of being productive is having the energy and motivation to finish out the day’s schedule. Luckily, I’ve known many lifehackers to up their energy and inspiration with fairly minor tweaks to their overall system: changing diet, exercise or sleep schedule can have immediate effects — although simply making a little room in the day’s tasks for a few minutes of relaxation may be enough.

3. The New Time Sinkhole

As we change our schedules and habits, we often pick up new ways of using our time — which aren’t always good. This warning sign often goes hand in hand with ‘The Energy / Inspiration Blues’: when we finish certain tasks, we don’t want to move on to others, for any number of reasons. Instead, we find other ways of filling our time. Some people work on perfecting their solitaire skills, others spend their days ‘networking’ on Facebook — there are thousands of ways to fill newfound hours, and it’s just going to take work to find a schedule that not only helps you to be productive but also prevents you from losing time to such sinkholes.

4. The Worry Wart Wiggle

Most lifehacks are intended to take worry out of our lives. So, if you find yourself still worrying day in and day out about small problems, your lifehacks are probably less than successful. A little worry is normal in the beginning, as you build confidence in your system (and yourself) but if you’ve got some long-term wiggling going on, you may need to focus on just why you aren’t so sure that your lifehacks won’t fail miserably. If you don’t have confidence in the way you do things, your current method just plain may not fit your lifestyle for some reason or another.

5. The Prioritizing Pickle

In every facet of my life, I’ve struggled with prioritizing. Are certain parts of my shopping list more important than others? Will I get through the day if I don’t run all of my errands? What parts of a project does a client have to have, and which just sound like a good idea? Most productivity hacks focus on automating as many tasks in your life and prioritizing the rest. Important stuff is supposed to be the first done. But if you don’t have a clear way in which to decide just which stuff is ‘important,’ your system is standing on pretty shaky legs. If you keep finding yourself puzzling over just where in your queue a task belongs, it may be time to sit down and think about the implications for your productivity.

6. The Feeling of Frustration

If you find yourself feeling frustrated with any hack you try to make a part of your life, it’s okay to give up. Not every trick works for every person, and if any hack you try isn’t making your life easier, I have to recommend dumping it faster than expired milk. For each success story with a given method for increasing a person’s productivity, I can list off ten people who just couldn’t shoehorn that style into their lives — and that’s perfectly legitimate. Move on, and figure out what actually fits comfortably into your lifestyle.

These days, it feels like there are more hacks for every part of a person’s life than there are people. And, while options are great, some people seem to get feelings of inability if they can’t make each one work in their lives. When something doesn’t work, people tend to run into the above signs but try to persevere on through the problems. Warning signs show up for a reason, though. If you run into any of the above warning signs — or any other issues that give you pause in your productivity process — take a step back and figure out just what isn’t working for you. Remember, you have different needs from everyone else (including productivity gurus)!

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