Chances are you’ve found yourself behind on your deadlines, procrastinating in your work, or just failing to get much accomplished during your day. If you’re anything like me, the desire to be productive is not just a good idea, it’s an absolute necessity. Unfortunately, unless you’re taking deliberate steps to increase your output, you may be sabotaging your own ability to accomplish your goals. Here are twenty reasons why you may be spinning your wheels in the productivity department.
1. You fail to develop productive habits
In the April 2014 edition of Success Magazine, editor Daren Hardy confesses that some of the most productive people are actually lazy. He attributes their ultimate success to their ability to develop and maintain disciplines, routines, and habits that help them accomplish their desired goals. If your daily routines fail to go beyond waking up and brushing your teeth, chances are you’ll never reach your productivity potential.
2. You have no sense of urgency
Have you ever noticed that the people who seem to get the most accomplished always seem to be in a hurry to get things done? I learned this lesson from Jim Rohn, who said, “Without a sense of urgency, desire loses its value.” No sense of urgency to get something done right now? No problem. Just don’t expect to have a greater desire to do it later.
3. You relish procrastination
Speaking of procrastination, this one almost goes without saying. Believe it or not, procrastination itself is not necessarily detrimental. The problem comes when procrastination becomes the expected outcome and, as such, the goal. People who enjoy procrastination more than the satisfaction of an otherwise completed task will not seek to be productive and, hence, never will be.
4. You don’t have a big enough “Why”
Simon Sinek, in his bestselling book Start With Why, proposes that if you don’t have a big why–a big enough reason to inspire you to action–you’re essentially at risk of just going through the motions. No risk of productivity there.
5. You’re too comfortable
My good friend and motivational coach Eric Thomas tells the story of a young man who asked a guru how to be great. The guru led the young man to a body of water and held the young man’s head under for a significant period of time. “What did you want more than anything when your head was under the water?” “Only to breathe,” answered the young man. The guru replied, “When you want to succeed as badly as you wanted to breathe, then you’ll be successful.” The same principle applies when accomplishing any task. Unless accomplishing that task is as important to you as breathing air when you’re drowning, you’re liable to suffocate in a sea of excuses where productivity is sure to die.
6. You think that productivity has to do with inborn talents, gifts, intelligence, or resources
Contrary to popular belief, leaders are not only born, but can, in fact, be made. While these inborn gifts can obviously help in the productivity department, there are tons of templates, tools and apps for those of us that weren’t born with a productivity spoon in our mouths.
7. You don’t surround yourself with productive people
Jim Rohn has a great metric for assessing your immediate potential. “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” If you’re struggling with productivity, so are the people around you, and you know what they say about birds of a feather flocking together. When you’re serious about upping your productive-game, you’ll find those people that will support you and keep you accountable. Until then, just take a look at your surroundings and you’ll know what to expect from yourself.
8. You don’t have strong enough goals
“A goal should scare you a little and excite you a lot.” Joe Vitale
Of course you know that a goal is a desired result or outcome, but unless you subscribe to Joe Vitale’s philosophy of what a goal should do for you, it’s possible that you’re not getting the most out of your aspirations. When you give yourself big goals to work towards, you gain several advantages that not only propel you towards the goals themselves, but help you to be more effective in the process.
9. You don’t value your contribution or influence
While we all have different motivators, most of us don’t want to be seen as non-performing, or as the cause of someone else’s decline. The truth is that most of us don’t consider much of what we do (or don’t do) as significantly impacting another’s world. So what if you don’t send that invoice today? Who cares if you never post that article? Maybe no one will notice if you take an extra hour for lunch. But each decision to slack off in one area ultimately impacts another area, and another person’s life–usually more significantly than you might ever realize.
10. You don’t plan to be productive
You know the old saying: “when you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. Nowhere is this statement more relevant than in the area of productivity. For most of us, the ability to be productive doesn’t just “happen”; it has to be planned. It has to be scheduled and that schedule has to be followed (no surprise there). When you’re aiming to get something done, a good rule of thumb is to plan the night before, making sure that you prepare for all those things that usually distract you. Make a checklist, that way you’ll have zero excuses and can produce to your heart’s content.
11. You’re not organized and you refuse to get help
The fact that one’s level of organization is directly related to one’s ability to be productive is an understatement. Those minutes you spend looking for a working pen or trying to remember where you saved that file are all directly impacting the time and focus you have to be productive. Here’s a tip (and this goes with #10 above): if you’re not the intrinsically organized type, find a friend who is and get her to help you get organized. If you give yourself at least a solid week to focus solely on this task, you’ll be surprised and delighted at the results of your efforts in the weeks that follow. Barring that super-organized friend, you can always find tips and videos to help out.
12. You allow or tolerate distractions
Believe it or not, you do not have to answer that phone. The world will not collapse if you don’t check your email each time you get a new message. Distractions come in all shapes and sizes, from crying babies to ringing alarms. While we can expect them, the trick is to not give them permission to derail us from our goals. When you’re serious about being productive, you’ll turn off that phone, block that Facebook, and give the baby his bottle before he loses his cool.
13. You lack focus
Years ago I had a coach who gave me a scenario that, to this day, helps me to focus at any time. He asked me to imagine sitting at a table with the person I loved the most. Then he asked me to imagine that person losing his life if I failed to accomplish my goal within an allotted period of time. The truth is, many of us are “focused” on several things, and that’s a sure-fire way to focus on nothing at all and directly thwart any hope of being productive. If you need a quick focusing hack for yourself, choose one goal or task and pay attention to that one thing like the life of your loved one depends on it. Get fully engaged. This means no multitasking and no distractions. Once complete, repeat with your next task and reap the productivity rewards.
14. You spend more time focusing on the problem than on the solution
We can all see that someone spilled the milk, but spending an hour talking about the time of day in which it was spilled, the type of milk (was it 2% or whole?), or the trajectory of the milk as it spilled does nothing to help clean up the mess that was made when it spilled. This is an example of how many of us waste precious time talking about the problem rather than the solution. This doesn’t mean that we don’t take some time to understand the problem. Understanding the problem means we’ll be less likely to have the same challenges in the future. But most of us could dramatically increase our productivity by actually working on the solution…and you wonder why there’s still a mess on the floor.
15. You confuse being busy with being productive
Remember that milk analogy? Well, moving the spilled milk around the floor with a broom won’t help to clean it up either. That is to say that just because you’re busy doesn’t mean you’re being productive. Often “being busy” is exactly what ends up happening. If you have a deadline you need to meet, simply moving papers or people around won’t get you any closer to your goal than sweeping spilled milk will get your floor cleaned.
16. You don’t manage your energy state well
Tony Robbins attributes his ability to focus and have the success he does to one thing: his ability to manage and manipulate his state. He explains “state” as how you are feeling at any given time. Sometimes you may be in a nervous state; other times you may be in an excited state. The trick, he says, is to practice moving yourself from one state to another, and this can be learned successfully over time. Feeling sluggish? Imagine you’re about to run towards someone you love and haven’t seen in years. Getting anxious? Maybe you need to quiet your mind and meditate. Whatever your process, know that it is possible for you to control your body, mind, and energy for maximum productivity results.
17. You don’t take time to decompress and relax
If you’re not taking time to care for your mental and emotional health, it’s going to show up in your ability to be productive (and by “ability”, I mean “inability). For some this might look like taking a long walk, for others it might look like taking a nap, and for the vast majority of us, it probably looks like a three week vacation from it all. When you make relaxation and play a part of your daily routine, not only do you find more joy in your tasks, you’ll find that you get more done when you get back to work.
18. You don’t put the right food in your body to feed your brain
You know the old saying “you are what you eat,” but are you eating the types of foods that will feed your brain for productivity? Just like a vehicle requires specific fuel to be efficient, your brain and body require certain foods to be optimally productive. Even the slightest changes in diet can have significant effects. So what’s in your diet?
19. You don’t know your 80/20 productivity ratio
It’s said that 80% of our results come from 20% of our efforts, but unless you know which 20% of your efforts are producing the 80% of results that you want, chances are you’ll forever be in the dark and lose out on opportunities to increase your productivity. It may take some experimenting and testing, but when you finally understand where all that energy has been going, you might even be able to boost your productivity by, let’s say, 80%.
20. You spend more time preparing than doing
As necessary and worthwhile as it is to take time to prepare to execute your desired outcome, there comes a point where you’ve got to, in the famous words of Nike, “just do it.” Because at the end of the day, no amount of preparation or training is going to get you to the finish line until you begin. So now that you’ve come to the end of this post, you’ve got nothing else stopping you. Get to work!