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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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    Last Updated on October 23, 2018

    How to Eliminate Work Stress When You’re Stressed to the Max

    How to Eliminate Work Stress When You’re Stressed to the Max

    Workplace stress is a modern epidemic. More than one-third of American workers experience chronic work stress. This is estimated to cost American businesses up to $300 billion a year in lost work hours and medical bills.[1]

    Clearly, if you’re suffering from work stress – you’re far from alone. But, work stress isn’t inevitable.

    In this article, I’m going to help you identify the root cause of your stress and suggest the most suitable ways to cope with job stress so you can become a happy and productive worker again.

    Where Work Stress Comes From

    Certain factors tend to go hand-in-hand with work-related stress. The causes of stress include:

    • Too much work – you feel overwhelmed by your work and find yourself saying: “There are not enough hours in the day!”
    • The job is too easy, not challenging or inspiring – this is where boredom (which is stressful) sets in.
    • Pressure from co-workers or lack of social support – colleagues are not helpful or only care about their own tasks.
    • Little praise and lots of criticism – this is where a lousy manager uses constant criticism to ‘try’ to motivate you.
    • Very demanding or competitive working culture – sales departments often fit this category.
    • Not having enough control over job-related decisions – this is when people try to micro-manage you.
    • High expectations on yourself or seeking perfection – while it’s good to do your best, being a perfectionist can be a powerful stress generator.
    • Low salary – if you work hard but receive slim financial rewards, you may start to feel downhearted, frustrated and stressed.

    The Negative Effects of Stress on Your Mind and Body

    Chronic stress is bad news for your mental health and physical health. These are some health symptoms of stress:[2]

      If stress hormones are triggered in your body for extended periods, they can lead to increased physical aging. This is because stress makes your cells look and act older – and this is reflected in your physical appearance.[3]

      In addition to the negative effects on your body, stress also has a significant influence on your brain – negatively impacting your daily performance.

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      I recommend you watch the 4-minute video below to see just how stress can wreak havoc on your brain and your performance:

      How to Cope with Work Stress (A Step-By-Step Guide)

      You don’t need to be a victim of work stress. Here’s how to manage stress in the workplace:

      1. Set aside some time for planning

      If work has become too much for you, and you’re constantly falling behind… stop! Instead of trying and failing to catch up, you’d be much better off spending some time thinking about your goals and how your prioritize your tasks.

      Learn how to set clear goals with this step-by-step guide.

      For instance, if your initial goal is just to get on top of your work (probably for the first time in months), then take 10 minutes to think clearly and deeply about how you can achieve this. Most likely, you’ll be able to come up with tasks that you need to complete to reach your goal. And once your goal and tasks are clear in your mind, you’ll be ready for the second step.

      2. Align your tasks with your goal

      Just knowing your goal and associated tasks is not enough. Many people reach this stage but still fall behind with their work and fail to achieve their goals.

      The secret is to understand which of your tasks should be high priority and which ones can be done when you have spare time.

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      For example, checking your inbox every 20 minutes may seem to be a productive task for you, but in reality it acts as a constant distraction and productivity killer. Instead, you’d be better off setting aside 30 minutes in the morning to check your emails and 30 minutes in the afternoon to do the same.

      By doing this, you’ll free up the bulk of your day for tasks that can help you reach your goal. These tasks are likely to be things like: writing a business proposal, creating a PowerPoint presentation, and finishing an important project.

      These tips on how to prioritize will help you align your tasks with your goals and work 10X more efficiently.

      3. Remove, change or accept the stressors

      How to tackle specific work stressors? I recommend the following method that WellCast introduced:[4]

      Take a piece of paper and divide it into three columns. At the top, write remove in the first column, change in the second and accept in the third.

        Next, think of the stressors that are getting to you the most. Perhaps it’s your paycheck; it might be way smaller than you’d like or feel that you deserve. Don’t worry, this is your chance to break free from the stress surrounding your low pay.

        Think for a few moments, which would you prefer:

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        • To remove yourself from the company
        • To try to change your salary by asking for a pay rise
        • To accept that your salary is okay for you

        You may be surprised at what thoughts come into your mind. Don’t reject them, but allow yourself time to be clear on how you’d like to proceed.

        If the status quo feels good to you, then write “paycheck” in the accept column. If you decide you want to increase your salary but stay in the same company, write “paycheck” in the change column. And finally, if you decide the time is right to seek a new opportunity at a different organization, then write “paycheck” in the remove column.

        By being decisive in this way, you’ll immediately feel freer and in control of your destiny. And your stress levels will begin to trend downwards. All that remains is to set yourself a clear goal of what you want to achieve and how you’re going to do this.(Luckily, steps #1 and #2 above will help you out!)

        Of course, if you have multiple work stressors, then use your remove, change or accept sheet to work through all of them. It will be time VERY well spent.

        4. Create positive relationships at work

        One key to improving your ability to manage stress is being able to accept help from others. Not only does it alleviate negative circumstances by simply distracting you and creating a buffer between daily tasks and their negative connection, it will provide a sense of support and relief.

        Make an effort to create friendships with your colleagues. Go to the after-work happy hour or just ask a colleague out for coffee at lunchtime. Not only will you have someone to confide in, but you will start to associate positive feelings to work.

        Forming a healthy relationship with your manager or supervisor is also a good way to alleviate stress. Positive, two-way conversations about where you stand in your job, being honest about how you feel, and working together to make a plan of action in terms of improved work conditions and expectations are paramount. This will lead to opening up and receiving the necessary resources you need to support or help you.

        5. Take time out for yourself

        Anyone can get overwhelmed when stress occurs at work, and this can spill into other areas of your life. This is why it’s important to clock out mentally from your job from time to time.

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        Take time off to relax and unwind in order to regain your energy and come back to work invigorated. Make sure you actually do something you enjoy like spending time with your kids or partner, or visit that country you’ve always wanted to explore.

        If taking time off work isn’t possible in the midst of your stress, take scheduled breaks throughout your day. Sit quietly somewhere or do some stretches to get your blood flowing like in the example below:

        6. Take mindful action towards your health

        The irony of stress is that your healthy habits can take a backseat. Maintaining and even improving your health will keep your stress under control. Here are some ways to keep you physically fit:

        • Eat healthy foods. Make sure your diet is full of foods that provide your body with sufficient nutrients. Eat more fruits and green vegetables, whole foods, omega-3 rich fish, and seeds such as flax, chia and hemp. These types of food ensure your body is working optimally to cope with its stress mechanisms.
        • Avoid unhealthy foods. This is obvious, but it’s these kinds of food you reach for in times of stress and negativity. High fat foods such as cheese and red meat cause sluggishness and tiredness. Foods high in refined sugars like biscuits, chocolate bars, and bread can be convenient snacks, but they cause you to crash and burn. Same with caffeinated drinks such as coffee and sodas – these are just ‘band aid’ habits that interfere with your ability to sleep.
        • Exercise regularly. Endorphins are the best for counteracting stress, and what better way to release them than doing physical exercise. Exercise creates a distraction and helps you get your thoughts back together in an orderly way. Start a new exercise regime – whether it’s running, swimming, cycling or walking to work. Getting your blood and endorphins flowing will make you feel happier.
        • Get enough sleep. Make getting 8 hours sleep a priority. When we’re stressed it can sometimes feel hard to get to sleep but sleep deprivation only exaggerates our current stress. A well-rested mind is able to find solutions to problems more easily and reacts better to daily stressors.

        Final Thoughts

        Everyone encounters stress at work. It’s a natural and normal human reaction. The difference between letting the stress overcome you and coping with it is getting a head start by creating a positive environment and lifestyle.

        Counteracting stress is both an inside and outside job. Focusing on improving your health will create a positive mind able to react better. Forming positive relationships with certain people around you will give you emotional support.

        Beat stress with the right mindset!

        Featured photo credit: whoislimos via unsplash.com

        Reference

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