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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.

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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 July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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