Stop these five things and watch your productivity go through the roof
“Focus on being productive instead of busy.” — Tim Ferriss
Iknow this has happened to you before.
It’s Friday, and you are looking at your calendar, thinking about everything you have to get done before the end of the day and how much time you DON’T have to do it.
You’re lamenting the thought of having to work the weekend (again) because you couldn’t get it all in.
You think about where all the time goes and why you can’t finish everything during the week.
You wonder why you seem constantly stressed out and running from meeting to meeting every day.
Why I can’t be 100% sure of all the reasons, there’s are good chance you are doing one, if not all, of these five productivity killers that aren’t allowing you to get it all done and keep your weekends free.
Trying to get by on too little sleep
It took me some time to figure this one out.
I felt like a zombie for about 12 years without even realizing it.
I always thought that the more I worked, the more productive I was.
What I didn’t realize was that because I was so sleepy, my productivity was suffering greatly, which then caused me to work more hours than needed.
Get 7–9 hours of sleep each night.
Most people need at least this much to have optimal health and be productive.
I used to get by on six and sometimes even five hours of sleep.
Now, I realize that I need 7.5 hours to feel 100%.
Don’t cheat yourself and work harder than needed by trying to power through a zombie-like state.
Not taking breaks
In the same vein that it sounds like you’re being more productive by sleeping less and working more, not taking breaks is more detrimental than helpful in the long run.
We’ve all seen those people who are always working.
You always see them eating at their desk and never taking a break to relax or give their mind a change of scenery or break of any kind.
While this may appear to allow you to get more work done in a day, science says this is not the case.
Your prefrontal cortex is like a muscle that works hard to stay focused on the task at hand.
However, if you refuse to take breaks and white-knuckle your focus on a task for too long, it eventually loses effectiveness, and the quality of your work will suffer.
Use the well-known Pomodoro technique of focusing on something for a predetermined time and then taking a break to allow your brain to think about something else and recharge for the next round.
In an hour, a 50/10 split is pretty common and has been proven effective in allowing one to maintain their focus.
A 2018 study even showed that taking “micro-breaks” effectively allowed one to get a boost of focus back on the task at hand and produce higher quality work in the outcome.
Watching/listening to television while you work
In today’s world of remote work, there are a number of people who do this because they say they need a little “white noise” in the background to help them think.
It is believed that as much as 50% of the remote workforce watches television WHILE they work, up to as much as 5 hours per week.
And while it is true there is a certain type of background noise and music (mostly classical or instrumental) that will help you concentrate and focus better, television does not fall into that category.
Watching or listening to television has the exact opposite effect, as it is a form of multitasking that produces too much cognitive dissonance in your mind to remain truly focused.
While people “feel” that it is making them more productive, a study was done in 2012 by the National Science Foundation, which proved that wasn’t the case
It instead just made the participants “feel” better.
The part of your brain that allows you to make sense of speech and decipher words differs from that which allows you to listen to music without words passively.
This is why listening to music with words is considered more harmful than helpful regarding productivity.
Take a break USING the television.
If you still want to use television during the course of the day to help break up the monotony, implement it with the use of your Pomodoro technique.
If you need some noise in the background, use classical or instrumental music to help you focus during your time of deep or focused work, and then pop the television on for a 10-minute break or so to help give your mind a much-needed break to relax a bit.
This way you get a few updates on how your favorite couple is doing on 90-Day Fiance without destroying your ability to stay productive at the same time.
Packing your calendar with back-to-back meetings
We all know those people.
You never expect them to show up to a meeting on time.
They are always 5 -10 minutes late, and every time they arrive, they say they were late because their previous meeting ran over.
Stop doing this.
It not only can make you look sloppy and unprepared to your co-workers, but it also doesn’t allow you to bring your best self to your next meeting.
Similar to why multi-tasking doesn’t work because your brain is stuck between trying to think about two things at once, when you plan back-to-back meetings, the first 5–10 minutes of the new meeting involves you “getting your head into the game” and stop thinking about the content of the previous meeting.
Leave white space on your calendar.
White space is the time between meetings in which you refuse to schedule anything over.
White space is important to be able to decompress from the last meeting, as well as make sure your notes are buttoned up and captured, so you don’t miss any important action items.
It also helps you prepare and ensure you are on time for your next meeting and have made the mental switch to give that meeting your 100% focus.
This will ultimately lead to you being more effective in all your meetings, leading to exponential productivity in the long run.
Not batching your work
We all know multitasking is bad, but not committing to a task long enough can be equally ineffective.
Trying to do a little bit of this or a little bit of that for short durations is usually not good for the brain.
Throughout this article, the theme of productivity has been based on focusing and dedicating your mental energy to committing to something.
When you try to work on a number of different tasks in only short bouts, you hurt your brain’s ability to get into the all-important flow state needed to maximize productivity.
Spending 30 minutes doing this and then 30 minutes doing that is extremely ineffective in allowing your brain to build the momentum it needs to do something well.
Block off your calendar to batch your important activities in one to two-hour blocks.
Two hours may seem like a lot of time to block out your calendar, but when you need to do some serious thinking and really get into something, that two-hour period is the perfect window to allow your brain to build the momentum it needs to get it done.
If not, you can spend a week or more trying to find enough 30-minute windows on your calendar to complete a task that you can knock out by committing your focus without distraction.
This technique will not only allow you to get more done faster but also typically results in you producing much higher-quality work.
A double whammy that will give your more time during the week and make sure you keep your weekends belonging to you and you only.