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How to Manage Common Productivity Traps for Improved Productivity

How to Manage Common Productivity Traps for Improved Productivity

    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    (Photo credit: Businessman trapped on mousetrap via Shutterstock)

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    Royale Scuderi

    A creative strategist, consultant and writer who specializes in cultivating human potential for happiness, health and fulfillment.

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    Last Updated on March 23, 2021

    Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

    Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

    One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.

    The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.

    You need more than time management. You need energy management

    1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive

    How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.

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    I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.

    I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.

    2. Determine your “peak hours”

    Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.

    Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.

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    My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.

    In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.

    Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.

    3. Block those high-energy hours

    Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.

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    Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.

    If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.

    That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.

    There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.

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    Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.

    Featured photo credit: Collin Hardy via unsplash.com

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