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13 Things That Are Stressing You Out And Making You Less Productive

13 Things That Are Stressing You Out And Making You Less Productive

Ever wonder what makes you stressed and less productive?

I’ll tell you.

It’s having a lack of focus.

I’m not generalizing. It’s really that simple.

The twelve things listed below are all causes of stress that drain your focus. The only way to become relaxed and productive is by fixing these things one at a time and gradually improving. There is no quick fix, no magic pill.

The first two things, multitasking and instant gratification, are the two main culprits, from which the other ten things stem.

1. Multitasking

Men can’t do more than one thing at a time, but women can. Women are great multitaskers!

Wrong.

All multitasking is detrimental to your productivity and will quickly stress you out by draining your focus. When multitasking, you often get more stimulation than your brain can handle without getting tired.

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The best way to stop multitasking is to quit cold turkey. You will notice massive positive results in a week or two.

Some more strategic and sustainable ways of reducing multitasking include preemptively shutting off your phone, limiting or removing your Internet access, keeping your door closed or locked, and making sure that you are not constantly snacking.

2. Instant Gratification

Instant gratification is closely related to multitasking. In both cases you are gradually conditioning your brain to need more and more stimulation, thereby increasing the threshold to the point where you can no longer keep focused for longer than a minute without having to check Facebook or your phone.

The most common forms of instant gratification include:

  • Social media
  • Phones
  • Youtube
  • TV
  • Music (Sure, there are exception, but let’s ignore the positives for now)
  • Sugar
  • Snacks
  • Masturbation
  • Drugs

Instant gratification is basically anything that gives you a quick boost of stimulation without having to put in any work beforehand. When engaging in too much instant gratification, you will have trouble focusing, as a result of having conditioned your brain into believing that it doesn’t have to work before it gets its reward.

This is the difference between watching TV and reading a book. TV is a passive medium that doesn’t require your mental engagement, whereas a book does. It is impossible to read without engaging the brain to a certain extent.

There is no easy way of quitting instant gratification. It is simply a matter of discipline.

3. Not Taking Short Breaks

Are you going beyond what you can handle in terms of optimal productivity because you paradoxically believe that you are being productive?

If so, try to taking a quick break for 5-10 minutes and then returning to your work. Here are a few things you can do to come back fresh:

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  • Get some fresh air
  • Go for a sprint
  • Stretch
  • Tense your muscles
  • Drink a glass of water
  • Change your environment

It’s not rocket science, but it makes a big difference. Try it out!

4. Checking Your Email All the Time

Don’t check your email first thing in the morning. Especially not on your smartphone. Make sure you activate your brain and body and get yourself into an optimal state before doing anything else. Here are a few ideas you can experiment with:

  • Reading for 30+ minutes and taking notes
  • Meditating
  • Going out for a run or going to the gym

5. Being a Perfectionist

If you are trying to live up to a standard that is impossible to reach, how could you NOT be stressed out?

The main reason why perfectionism is harmful to productivity is because of the 80/20 principle, which is surprisingly accurate. This means that the final 20% of completing a task will usually take a disproportionally longer amount of time compared to the first 80%.

How to fix it?

  • Fail a lot. Fail on purpose. Learn that it’s perfectly fine to fail.
  • Ship before the product is completely ready. It hurts the ego, but it usually pays off in the long term.

6. Not Organizing Your To-Do List

If you are not keeping a to-do list or if you don’t have any means of organizing the tasks that you are going to do today, this week, or this month, then you are going to have a hard time staying focused on what to do, because no one can keep everything in their heads.

Some ways to resolve this issue:

  • Keep your to-do list on physical paper
  • Keep a calender or use Google Calender and sync it to your phone
  • Keep a commonplace book to store all your information
  • Buy yourself two whiteboards: one to keep track of goals and to-dos at home and another at work

Or, if you are already keeping a to-do list but it’s giving you more stress or less productivity than you’d like, here’s what you can do:

  • Shorten it. Most people overestimate their efficiency.

7. Not “Warming Up”

Have you ever heard about mental rehearsal?

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It is like visualization, but more specific. It is a term usually associated with elite athletes. Mental rehearsal is when you see yourself doing exactly what you want to be doing. For a short-distance runner, this can mean seeing himself getting off to a perfect start and then winning the race. He sees himself doing all the motions in advance, thus becoming mentally warmed up and prepared to do it in reality.

Another aspect of “warming up” is that you can’t jump between activities without expecting to be a bit less productive. If you are acting in alignment with the 80/20 principle and focusing on the most important things, then you should definitely make sure you get “warmed up” and take responsibility for getting yourself into an optimal state for doing the task.

If you are not doing this, you are missing out.

Here are a few really great ways to “warm up” and get into a state of being highly focused on the task:

  • Before you know you are going to do something important, see yourself doing it first. Don’t divert your thoughts to other things that are not pertinent to the task at hand.
  • Every night before falling asleep, see yourself completing the tasks scheduled on tomorrow’s to-do list.
  • Tell yourself repeatedly what you are going to do next inside your head.

8.  Having Your Phone’s Sound and Vibrate Mode Turned On

If you keep your phone in an active state, you are begging to be interrupted, and interruption demolishes focus and thus productivity. It can take over 15 minutes to get back to a state of high focus after being interrupted.

What can you do about it?

  • Turn it off…

9. Watching YouTube Excessively

If you find yourself watching one YouTube video after another, perhaps it is time to set some serious  limits to your daily use.

Do this:

  • Block your connection to YouTube. Let a friend set the password.

10. Not Knowing How to Say “No”

If you say YES to every thing that comes your way, you will quickly become overwhelmed by tasks and social activities. You will become involved in way more things than you can handle in a productive and optimal manner. By doing this, you will end up doing a ton of things haphazardly rather than a few things well, and you will massively violate the 80/20 principle.

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Here’s a word of wisdom from Steve Jobs for you to ponder:

“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.”

11. Postponing Priority One Tasks

Have you heard of the law of diminishing intent?

It states that the longer you postpone doing something that you feel like doing or know that you should be doing, the less you will feel like doing it.

Productive people respect the law of diminishing intent by acting on their key priorities right away and doing the less important things after that.

Do this:

  • As soon as you feel like doing something important you know you should be doing, DO IT!
  • If you don’t feel like doing it, but you are thinking about it, DO IT!

12. Feeling Like You Must Socialize

You don’t have to talk to people unless you want to. It’s OK to focus on your work or studies and keep your door shut. Actually, people are likely to respect you more when you do this, because it suggests that you have respect for yourself and value your time.

Do this:

  • Avoid speaking to people for a day
  • Shut your door
  • Explicitly tell people not to disturb you because you are busy

13. Attending More Meetings than Necessary

If find yourself attending too many meetings, you will inevitably become less productive as a result of being interrupted.

Perhaps this could have been fixed if you knew how to say NO.

Or maybe I am just jumping to the conclusion.

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Last Updated on March 25, 2020

How Do You Change a Habit (According to Psychology)

How Do You Change a Habit (According to Psychology)

Habits are hard to kill, and rightly so. They are a part and parcel of your personality traits and mold your character.

However, habits are not always something over-the-top and quirky enough to get noticed. Think of subtle habits like tapping fingers when you are nervous and humming songs while you drive. These are nothing but ingrained habits that you may not realize easily.

Just take a few minutes and think of something specific that you do all the time. You will notice how it has become a habit for you without any explicit realization. Everything you do on a daily basis starting with your morning routine, lunch preferences to exercise routines are all habits.

Habits mostly form from life experiences and certain observed behaviors, not all of them are healthy. Habitual smoking can be dangerous to your health. Similarly, a habit could also make you lose out on enjoying something to its best – like how some people just cannot stop swaying their bodies when delivering a speech.

Thus, there could be a few habits that you would want to change about yourself. But changing habits is not as easy as it seems.

In this article, you will learn why it isn’t easy to build new habits, and how to change habits.

What Makes It Hard To Change A Habit?

To want to change a particular habit means to change something very fundamental about your behavior.[1] Hence, it’s necessary to understand how habits actually form and why they are so difficult to actually get out of.

The Biology

Habits form in a place what we call the subconscious mind in our brain.[2]

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Our brains have two modes of operation. The first one is an automatic pilot kind of system that is fast and works on reflexes often. It is what we call the subconscious part. This is the part that is associated with everything that comes naturally to you.

The second mode is the conscious mode where every action and decision is well thought out and follows a controlled way of thinking.

A fine example to distinguish both would be to consider yourself learning to drive or play an instrument. For the first time you try learning, you think before every movement you make. But once you have got the hang of it, you might drive without applying much thought into it.

Both systems work together in our brains at all times. When a habit is formed, it moves from the conscious part to the subconscious making it difficult to control.

So, the key idea in deconstructing a habit is to go from the subconscious to the conscious.

Another thing you have to understand about habits is that they can be conscious or hidden.

Conscious habits are those that require active input from your side. For instance, if you stop setting your alarm in the morning, you will stop waking up at the same time.

Hidden habits, on the other hand, are habits that we do without realizing. These make up the majority of our habits and we wouldn’t even know them until someone pointed them out. So the first difficulty in breaking these habits is to actually identify them. As they are internalized, they need a lot of attention to detail for self-identification. That’s not all.

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Habits can be physical, social, and mental, energy-based and even be particular to productivity. Understanding them is necessary to know why they are difficult to break and what can be done about them.

The Psychology

Habits get engraved into our memories depending on the way we think, feel and act over a particular period of time. The procedural part of memory deals with habit formation and studies have observed that various types of conditioning of behavior could affect your habit formations.

Classical conditioning or pavlovian conditioning is when you start associating a memory with reality.[3] A dog that associates ringing bell to food will start salivating. The same external stimuli such as the sound of church bells can make a person want to pray.

Operant conditioning is when experience and the feelings associated with it form a habit.[4] By encouraging or discouraging an act, individuals could either make it a habit or stop doing it.

Observational learning is another way habits could take form. A child may start walking the same way their parent does.

What Can You Do To Change a Habit?

Sure, habits are hard to control but it is not impossible. With a few tips and hard-driven dedication, you can surely get over your nasty habits.

Here are some ways that make use of psychological findings to help you:

1. Identify Your Habits

As mentioned earlier, habits can be quite subtle and hidden from your view. You have to bring your subconscious habits to an aware state of mind. You could do it by self-observation or by asking your friends or family to point out the habit for your sake.

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2. Find out the Impact of Your Habit

Every habit produces an effect – either physical or mental. Find out what exactly it is doing to you. Does it help you relieve stress or does it give you some pain relief?

It could be anything simple. Sometimes biting your nails could be calming your nerves. Understanding the effect of a habit is necessary to control it.

3. Apply Logic

You don’t need to be force-fed with wisdom and advice to know what an unhealthy habit could do to you.

Late-night binge-watching just before an important presentation is not going to help you. Take a moment and apply your own wisdom and logic to control your seemingly nastily habits.

4. Choose an Alternative

As I said, every habit induces some feeling. So, it could be quite difficult to get over it unless you find something else that can replace it. It can be a simple non-harming new habit that you can cultivate to get over a bad habit.

Say you have the habit of banging your head hard when you are angry. That’s going to be bad for you. Instead, the next time you are angry, just take a deep breath and count to 10. Or maybe start imagining yourself on a luxury yacht. Just think of something that will work for you.

5. Remove Triggers

Get rid of items and situations that can trigger your bad habit.

Stay away from smoke breaks if you are trying to quit it. Remove all those candy bars from the fridge if you want to control your sweet cravings.

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6. Visualize Change

Our brains can be trained to forget a habit if we start visualizing the change. Serious visualization is retained and helps as a motivator in breaking the habit loop.

For instance, to replace your habit of waking up late, visualize yourself waking up early and enjoying the early morning jog every day. By continuing this, you would naturally feel better to wake up early and do your new hobby.

7. Avoid Negative Talks and Thinking

Just as how our brain is trained to accept a change in habit, continuous negative talk and thinking could hamper your efforts put into breaking a habit.

Believe you can get out of it and assert yourself the same.

Final Thoughts

Changing habits isn’t easy, so do not expect an overnight change!

Habits took a long time to form. It could take a while to completely break out of it. You will have to accept that sometimes you may falter in your efforts. Don’t let negativity seep in when it seems hard. Keep going at it slowly and steadily.

More About Changing Habits

Featured photo credit: Mel via unsplash.com

Reference

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