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The 5 Most Common Mistakes Productive People Make

The 5 Most Common Mistakes Productive People Make


    We all pride ourselves on being productive. That’s why you are reading these words right now.

    But by being productive, we become susceptible to some common mistakes that make us actually less productive. What’s tricky is that these mistakes actually make us look more productive so it is easy to commit them without noticing.

    A great way to prevent yourself from making these mistakes is to become aware of them and to be able to recognize when you are doing them. For each of these mistakes, I will briefly touch upon WHY they are counterproductive despite how they may seem.

    The first of these common mistakes is…

    Not Having a Clear Vision

    As productivity junkies, it is easy to become focused on doing things faster and better so we sometimes forget the point of what we are doing. We use excellent time management tools to fill our schedules with activities and we use a system to get through our huge To Do lists we create for ourselves.

    The problem that arises when you constantly focus on HOW to do things more efficiently is that we forget WHY we’re doing what we’re doing. If what we’re doing is not meaningful or worthwhile, does it matter that we can do so much of it efficiently?

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    Ask yourself: Do I want to be only efficient or efficient AND effective?

    If you chose the latter, make sure you’re clear that what you’re doing is worthwhile. If you’re not sure where to start, Scott H. Young might be able to help you with his article How to Find a Meaningful Life – Without Quitting Your Job

    The next mistake we often make is…

    Multitasking

    The person who is talking on the phone while typing an email on their blackberry all the while checking out the latest news on the TV has become the poster child for productivity. Everyone wants to be able to process many things at once and being able to multitask well seems to imply intelligence.

    This is one of the most tempting mistakes productive people make. Much research has shown that the human brain actually processes one thing at a time. If you are reading a report while talking with your friends and surfing the Internet, you are actually doing each of those activities one after another and not in parallel. If you don’t believe me, try to multitask and observe what your thoughts are.

    Multitasking is counterproductive because every time you switch back and forth, you need to stop and review what you did the last time. Try reading something while doing anything else. You end up reading passages over and over again. For more information on multitasking and how to be less distracted, check out The Ability to Multitask Isn’t What It’s Cracked Up to Be.

    Ask Yourself: Do I multitask? Am I really doing my tasks in parallel or am I switching between tasks at short intervals?

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    I recommend focusing on doing one thing at a time. The Pomodoro Technique is a great way to do this. Speaking of Pomodoro, this brings me to the next mistake…

    Using Too Many Systems and Tools

    I have to admit it: I like bright, shiny objects.

    When there is a new time management or productivity system, tool or app, I want to learn about it. The great thing is that they usually all have value. The problem is that there is a learning curve for each one and you spend a bulk of your time learning productivity techniques as opposed to actually doing what you want to do.

    Another counterproductive behavior associated with this mistake is tracking too many things.

    I get it. What gets measured gets done but it is easy to fall into the trap of tracking data for the sake of tracking data and spending a bulk of your time updating your data sheets and not analyzing them to improve your behavior.

    Ask Yourself: How many productivity systems and tools do I use? Am I overextended? How much time do I spend each day on tracking my progress and productivity? Are all the things I’m tracking relevant?

    Stick to a few techniques that work for you and continue to refine them for your situation. For those of you who successfully stick to one productivity technique that works, you might be inclined to make the next mistake on this list…

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    Taking on Too Many Projects

    We get things done. That’s what we’re known for.

    Unfortunately, the more efficient we become, the more things we try to do. Maybe it’s because we like the challenge or maybe it’s our confidence that we can handle it.

    What ends up happening is that we do get it done. Just not within the time frame we wanted to. Although I’m improving, I still make this mistake. When I get excited about something, I just add it to my project list. The problem is when we start too many activities, we inevitably delay everything else we are working on.

    Ask Yourself: How many projects am I working on now? Were any of them new projects that were added last minute? Do I have ample time to finish my projects by their deadlines? (Note: If you’re still not sure, check out the 15 Signs You’re Working Too Much and Burning Out.)

    I recommend having at most 3 main projects or goals that you are working on at any given time. Sometimes if it is a big project, I keep it to one. This is not easy and that’s why I end up making the last mistake on this list…

    Not Sleeping Enough

    Productive people like to do a lot. As I just mentioned, they also tend to take on too many projects. When they get busy, the first thing to be sacrificed for a productive person is sleep because it doesn’t seem like a priority. There are even people who boast about sleeping less than 4 hours each night. I should know. I use to be one of them.

    I’ve come to realize that this is one of the biggest mistakes to make because when we don’t rest our bodies, we cannot do our best work. Just because we have more time doesn’t mean we’re using it in the best way. I’m not even going to get into the health benefits of sleep.

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    Ask Yourself: How much sleep do I get every day? Is sleep a high priority? How often do I sacrifice sleep to get things done?

    The best way to get more sleep is to treat it like any other big project, schedule it in and do it.

    I hope this list will help you avoid making these common mistakes. I’m interested to hear if there are any other mistakes we are susceptible to in the comments section.

    As an added bonus, check out 31 Tips from the Pros for a Successful, Satisfying and Insanely Profitable 2012 where you can find some great advice from productive people doing something meaningful with their lives.

    (Photo credit: Oops via Shutterstock)

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      Robert Chen

      Executive Coach

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      Last Updated on August 20, 2019

      26 Useful Things to Learn Now That Will Change Your Life

      26 Useful Things to Learn Now That Will Change Your Life

      If you pay attention to your everyday life careful enough, you’ll know that you can learn from everything and everyone you come across. Our life is basically full of useful lessons that we should learn.

      Here are 26 useful things to learn that Abhishek A. Singh shared on Quora. Let’s see how these life theories would lead you to live a different life.

      1. Primacy and recency: People mostly remember the first and last things that occurred, barely the middle.

      When scheduling an interview, ask the employer the time slots they do interviews and try to be the first or the last.

      2. If you work in a bar or in customer service of any kind, put a mirror behind you at the counter.

      In this way, angry customers who approach you will have to see themselves in the mirror behind you and the chance of them behaving irrationally will be lowered significantly.

      3. Once you make a sales pitch, don’t say anything else.

      This works in sales, but it can also be applied in other ways.

      My previous boss was training me and just gave me pointers. I was working at a gym trying to sell memberships. He told me that once I got all the small talk out of the way and presented the prices, the first person to talk would lose.

      It didn’t seem like a big deal but it actually worked. Often there were long periods of awkward silence as the person tried to come up with some excuses, but usually they bought.

      4. If you ask someone a question and they only partially answer, just wait.

      If you stay silent and keep eye contact, they will usually continue to talk.

      5. Chew gum when you’re approaching a situation that would make you nervous, like public speaking or bungee jumping.

      When we eat, our brain tell ourselves, “I would not be eating if I were danger. So I’m not in danger.” This has helped me to stay calm.

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      6. People will always remember how you made them feel, not what you said.

      Also, most people like talking about themselves; so ask lots of questions about them.

      7. When you’re learning something new, teach it to a friend. Let them ask you questions about it.

      If you’re able to teach something well, you will be sure that you’ve understood it very well.

      8. If you get yourself to be really happy and excited to see other people, they will react the same to you.

      It doesn’t always happen the first time, but it will definitely happen the next time.

      9. The physical effects of stress — breathing rate and heart rate — are almost identical to the physical effects of courage.

      When you’re feeling stressed in any situations, immediately reframe it : Your body is getting ready to be courageous, you are NOT stressed.

      10. Pay attention to people’s feet.

      If you approach two people in the middle of a conversation, and they only turn their torsos and not their feet, they don’t want you to join in the conversation.

      Similarly, if you are in a conversation with a coworker who you think is paying attention to you and their torso is turned towards you but their feet are facing in another direction, they want the conversation to end.

      11. Confidence is more important than knowledge.

      Don’t be intimidated by anyone, everyone is playing a role and wearing a mask.

      12. If you pretend to be something for long enough, you will eventually become it.

      Fake it till you make it. Period.

      13. Not to be creepy, but if you want to stare at someone unashamedly, look directly past them and wait for them to try and meet your eyes.

      When they fail to do that, they’ll look around (usually nervously for a second) they won’t look at you again for some time. This is your chance to straight up stare at this person for at least 45 seconds.

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      And as suggested by Brian Stutzman:

      If you’re staring at someone and get caught, DON’T turn your head or your body to look away, because that just confirms that you were staring.

      Just move your EYEBALLS off the person. Unlike turning your head, it’s instantaneous. And the person will think you were just looking at something behind them and that they were mistaken for thinking you were staring. Do it confidently, and ignore any reaction from the person, and you can sell it every single time.

      After a second, you can even look back at them with a “Why are you staring at me?” look on your face to really cement the deal!

      14. Build a network.

      Become the information source, and let the information be yours. Even grabbing a beer with a former colleague once a year will keep you in the loop at the old office.

      Former coworkers might have gotten a new position in that office you always wanted to work in, great! Go to them for a beer, and ask about the office. It’s all about connections and information.

      15. If you are angry at the person in front of you driving like a grandmother…

      Pretend it is your grandmother, it will significantly reduce your road rage.

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        16. Stand up straight.

        No slouching, hands out of pockets, and head held up high. It’s not just a cliche — you literally feel better and people around you feel more confident in you.

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        17. Avoid saying “I think,” and “I believe” unless absolutely necessary.

        These are phrases that do not evoke confidence, and will literally do you no good.

        18. When feeling anxious, clean up your home or work space.

        You will feel happier and more accomplished than before.

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          19. Always buy the first pitcher or round of drinks.

          You’d be surprised how long you could drink on the phrase “I bought the first one.”

          20. Going into an interview… be interested in your interviewers.

          If you focus on learning about them, you’ll seem to be more interesting and dynamic. (Again, people love to talk about themselves.)

          21. Pay attention parents! Always give your kid a choice that makes them think they are in control.

          For instance, when I want my son to put his shoes on I will say ,”do you want to put your star wars shoes on or your shark shoes on?”

          Pro-tip: In some cases, this works on adults.

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            22. Your action affects your attitude more than your attitude affects your action.

            As my former teacher said “You can jump and dance FOR joy, but you can also jump and dance yourself joyful.”

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            23. When a group of people laugh, people will instinctively look at the person they feel closest to in that group.

            Notice who you look at and who look at you when you laugh with a group of people!

            24. If you want to build rapport or gain someone’s trust quickly, match their body posture and position.

            If someone is sitting with her legs crossed, cross your legs. If they’re leaning away from you, lean away from them. If they’re leaning towards you, lean towards them.

            Mirroring and matching body position is a subconscious way to tell if someone trusts you or is comfortable with you. If you’re sitting with your arms crossed and you notice someone else is sitting with her arms crossed, that is a good indicator that you have/are successfully built/building rapport with that person.

            25. The Benjamin Franklin Effect (suggested by Matt Miller)

            I find the basis of the Benjamin Franklin effect is very useful and extends far beyond pencil borrowing. This knowledge is useful in the world of flirting too.

            Asking a girl in your class if you can borrow a pencil or her notes or to explain the homework will make her more likely to like you than if you let her borrow your stuff or are the one to help her. Even just asking a girl to buy you drinks (facetiously) leaves a much bigger impression than offering to or actually buying a girl a drink.

            The best part is it kills 3 birds with one stone: you get the advantages of the favor itself, the person subconsciously likes you more, and it makes them more open to future favors and conversation.

            26. Handle panic and anxiety behaviors by tapping fingers (Suggested by Jade Barbee)

            When you’re feeling stressed, worried or angry, tap each finger tip while thinking (or speaking quietly) a few specific words about what is bothering you. Repeat the same words while tapping each of your 10 fingers, including thumbs.

            For example, tap while saying, “I’m so angry with her…” Doing so will likely take the charge out of the feeling and return you to a more resourceful (better feeling) state of being. It’s called EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) or “tapping,” and it is useful in many life situations – emotional sadness, physical pain, food cravings, traumatic memories…

            Featured photo credit: Nicole Wolf via unsplash.com

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