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How to Manage Common Productivity Traps for Improved Productivity

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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)

    More by this author

    Royale Scuderi

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

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    Published on September 21, 2021

    How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

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    How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

    The internet is flooded with articles about remote work and its benefits or drawbacks. But in reality, the remote work experience is so subjective that it’s impossible to draw general conclusions and issue one-size-fits-all advice about it. However, one thing that’s universal and rock-solid is data. Data-backed findings and research about remote work productivity give us a clear picture of how our workdays have changed and how work from home affects us—because data doesn’t lie.

    In this article, we’ll look at three decisive findings from a recent data study and two survey reports concerning remote work productivity and worker well-being.

    1. We Take Less Frequent Breaks

    Your home can be a peaceful or a distracting place depending on your living and family conditions. While some of us might find it hard to focus amidst the sounds of our everyday life, other people will tell you that the peace and quiet while working from home (WFH) is a major productivity booster. Then there are those who find it hard to take proper breaks at home and switch off at the end of the workday.

    But what does data say about remote work productivity? Do we work more or less in a remote setting?

    Let’s take a step back to pre-pandemic times (2014, to be exact) when a time tracking application called DeskTime discovered that 10% of most productive people work for 52 minutes and then take a break for 17 minutes.

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    Recently, the same time tracking app repeated that study to reveal working and breaking patterns during the pandemic. They found that remote work has caused an increase in time worked, with the most productive people now working for 112 minutes and breaking for 26 minutes.[1]

    Now, this may seem rather innocent at first—so what if we work for extended periods of time as long as we also take longer breaks? But let’s take a closer look at this proportion.

    While breaks have become only nine minutes longer, work sprints have more than doubled. That’s nearly two hours of work, meaning that the most hard-working people only take three to four breaks per 8-hour workday. This discovery makes us question if working from home (WFH) really is as good a thing for our well-being as we thought it was. In addition, in the WFH format, breaks are no longer a treat but rather a time to squeeze in a chore or help children with schoolwork.

    Online meetings are among the main reasons for less frequent breaks. Pre-pandemic meetings meant going to another room, stretching your legs, and giving your eyes a rest from the computer. In a remote setting, all meetings happen on screen, sometimes back-to-back, which could be one of the main factors explaining the longer work hours recorded.

    2. We Face a Higher Risk of Burnout

    At first, many were optimistic about remote work’s benefits in terms of work-life balance as we save time on commuting and have more time to spend with family—at least in theory. But for many people, this was quickly counterbalanced by a struggle to separate their work and personal lives. Buffer’s 2021 survey for the State of Remote Work report found that the biggest struggle of remote workers is not being able to unplug, with collaboration difficulties and loneliness sharing second place.[2]

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    Buffer’s respondents were also asked if they are working more or less since their shift to remote work, and 45 percent admitted to working more. Forty-two percent said they are working the same amount, while 13 percent responded that they are working less.

    Longer work hours and fewer quality breaks can dramatically affect our health, as long-term sitting and computer use can cause eye strain, mental fatigue, and other issues. These, in turn, can lead to more severe consequences, such as burnout and heart disease.

    Let’s have a closer look at the connection between burnout and remote work.

    McKinsey’s report about the Future of work states that 49% of people say they’re feeling some symptoms of burnout.[3] And that may be an understatement since employees experiencing burnout are less likely to respond to survey requests and may have even left the workforce.

    From the viewpoint of the employer, remote workers may seem like they are more productive and working longer hours. However, managers must be aware of the risks associated with increased employee anxiety. Otherwise, the productivity gains won’t be long-lasting. It’s no secret that prolonged anxiety can reduce job satisfaction, decrease work performance, and negatively affect interpersonal relationships with colleagues.[4]

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    3. Despite everything, We Love Remote Work

    An overwhelming majority—97 percent—of Buffer report’s survey respondents say they would like to continue working remotely to some extent. The two main benefits mentioned by the respondents are the ability to have a flexible schedule and the flexibility to work from anywhere.

    McKinsey’s report found that more than half of employees would like their workplace to adopt a more flexible hybrid virtual-working model, with some days of work on-premises and some days working remotely. To be more exact, more than half of employees report that they would like at least three work-from-home days a week once the pandemic is over.

    Companies will increasingly be forced to find ways to satisfy these workforce demands while implementing policies to minimize the risks associated with overworking and burnout. Smart companies will embrace this new trend and realize that adopting hybrid models can also be a win for them—for example, for accessing talent in different locations and at a lower cost.

    Remote Work: Blessing or Plight?

    Understandably, workers worldwide are tempted to keep the good work-life aspects that have come out of the pandemic—professional flexibility, fewer commutes, and extra time with family. But with the once strict boundaries between work and life fading, we must remain cautious. We try to squeeze in house chores during breaks. We do online meetings from the kitchen or the same couch we watch TV shows from, and many of us report difficulties switching off after work.

    So, how do we keep our private and professional lives from hopelessly blending together?

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    The answer is that we try to replicate the physical and virtual boundaries that come naturally in an office setting. This doesn’t only mean having a dedicated workspace but also tracking your work time and stopping when your working hours are finished. In addition, it means working breaks into your schedule because watercooler chats don’t just naturally happen at home.

    If necessary, we need to introduce new rituals that resemble a normal office day—for example, going for a walk around the block in the morning to simulate “arriving at work.” Remote work is here to stay. If we want to enjoy the advantages it offers, then we need to learn how to cope with the personal challenges that come with it.

    Learn how to stay productive while working remotely with these tips: How to Work From Home: 10 Tips to Stay Productive

    Featured photo credit: Jenny Ueberberg via unsplash.com

    Reference

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