We continuously push ourselves to get more done and work faster, yet it doesn’t seem to work. What if it’s not that we’re not working fast enough or hard enough, instead it’s just that we fall prey to the numerous productivity traps that eat away at our days.

The simplest way to improve our productivity is to avoid the most common productivity traps and put better processes into place.

Interruptions

Right at the moment when you get in the zone of some really productive work is when co-workers show up, the phone rings and new message notifications pop up. Your focus is ruined, your mind has to make a mental shift and momentum is gone. Interruptions are difficult to recover from, so the best strategy is to avoid them by effective planning and clear boundaries. Try closing email, silencing your phone, shutting your door and sending a strong message that you’re in “focus mode.”

Social media

Social media is a wonderful tool for gathering information, marketing your brand and developing relationships, but any tool that is over-used turns into a time suck. Definitely use social media, it can be valuable, determine its true value relative to other activities you could be doing. Try to limit your Facebook or Twitter time to either one reasonable session or a few mini-sessions per day.

Over-scheduling

Most of us in this fast-paced society succumb to over-scheduling of our time. We think our value is determined by how much we pack into our days, but all it really does is cause us more stress. We rush everything and pay attention to nothing. It doesn’t have to be this way. First, say no… a lot. Firmly decline any commitments that don’t have clear value. Also be realistic about how much can be done in any given period of time. We usually underestimate the time necessary for tasks.

Multitasking

We mistakenly believe that we can juggle more than one thing at a time and thus accomplish more, but our brains are not wired that way. There is really no such thing as multi-tasking; it’s really “switch-tasking.” Our brains rapidly switch back and forth, with different items competing for attention and it just doesn’t work. It has been shown that we actually do higher quality work, enjoy it more and get more done if we focus on one thing at a time.

Low value tasks

Determine the value of each activity. Do you really need to do everything that you are doing? Eliminate or delegate activities that don’t add much value and aren’t your strengths or that can easily be done by someone else. Make the most of the time you have by working on tasks that add the most value or you truly enjoy.

Email black-hole

Email is a fabulous technology invention. I would be lost without it. It’s email technology itself, but our obsession with it that’s the problem. We don’t want to miss anything and don’t want to be seen as incompetent or inconsiderate we don’t fail to respond immediately. It will still be there when you get back and if it’s urgent they’ll call. Turning off email notifications and check your email at pre-determined intervals throughout the day if you can.

Low energy

Energy is the unsung hero of productivity. You can accomplish more and get better results if you have sufficient energy. Maximize your energy by getting plenty of sleep, taking breaks, making healthy food choices and staying hydrated. Getting up from your desk to move, stretch or get a drink will increase energy levels more than another caffeine hit.

Lack of clarity

This is often overlooked as a cause of poor productivity, but it might just be the most crucial strategy. Be very clear about the end goal, desired result, potential obstacles, deadlines and the guidelines surrounding it.

Implementing even one of these strategies can make a huge impact on your productivity. It’s well worth the initial effort.

(Photo credit: Businessman trapped on mousetrap via Shutterstock)

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