Being a productivity expert means people are often ask me for ways to get more done. Many people, I find, approach this from the wrong angle. They want to know how they can write their lists for maximum efficiency or what smartphone app is going to manage their busy schedule. While these things can help, being productive isn’t so much about what you do, it’s more about what you don’t do.
I am a big believer in doing less with my day. This may seem like it’s at odds with being productive, but it’s much better to do a few things really well then lots of things poorly. For example, if you do a rushed job when you vacuum, you will probably have to go over it again in a couple of days. However, if you try to reach into every nook and cranny you won’t have to worry about vacuuming again for a while.
Here are some things you can avoid doing to be more productive:
Try to change things that are out of their control — In life there are only two things that you have absolute control of at any given time. Your thoughts and your actions. For example if you get stuck in traffic there’s not much point in throwing a diva fit or trying to cut your way through it. Rather than focus on what the traffic is preventing you from doing, instead that about how you can better use this time. You could listen to an audiobook or call your Mom (on a hands free device!)
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Multitask — The great irony about multitasking is that it’s pitched as a way to get more out of your time. In reality multitasking is filled with good intentions, but you often get very little or even nothing done. When so many different things are pulling your focus how can you expect to concentrate on any single task? Instead choose one thing, stick with it and make it good! Set a timer if you have to to keep yourself on track.
Check social media — It’s always nice to stay up to date on what your friends and family are up to. But our compulsion to refresh our social media feed could be getting in our way of actually being sociable and liked by people. Facebook doesn’t notice if you don’t click on it, but your co-workers will notice if you’re on Facebook avoiding work! Use social media as a reward after you’ve finished a task. Don’t let it sidetrack you from what you need to be doing.
Try to be perfect — We are all flawed, it’s part of being human! Sometimes though our obsession with making sure everything is just right can massively hinder our productivity. After a certain amount of time passes you either have to finish a project or let it go. There’s no point beating a dead horse. Instead spend your energy working on something more worthwhile.
Have no plans — If you have no idea what you’re going to do today, the answer is probably not very much. That’s fine if you have time to spare, but if you need to get more out of your day you should start by making your to do lists the night before. Write out everything you need to do the following day. Every email, phone call, etc. This way when you get into work in the morning you can hit the ground running and don’t have to decide what to work on. You already know.
What time wasters do you avoid?
Originally published at listproducer.com on December 5, 2016.
Originally published at medium.com