It’s a new year. You told yourself it was going to be different. You were going to be different. You were going to be more organized, more productive, accomplish more and basically, be Super Mom.
Yet, here we are – just weeks in – and well, it seems like it’s business as usual. Every day seems just as hectic as it did last year—if not more!
What to do? How can you finally get it together and be more productive once and for all?
Well, the eliminating the following bad habits should help. At least, they should get you moving in the right direction!
Checking Email and Voicemail All the Time
Checking email and voicemail constantly can be a huge productivity killer. It interrupts you from whatever you are doing and distracts you from the tasks at hand. Instead, try setting specific times to check them and respond. This allows you to be proactive instead of reactive. Additionally, it lets you have longer spans in which to work so that you get more done.
Thinking Working More = Getting More Done
Often, we think if we just work harder and longer, we will accomplish more. Yet, this usually backfires. Instead, we get burnt out and usually, end up being less productive.
Similarly, not taking breaks hurts productivity more than it helps. Thinking you can “power through” is a bad idea. Your brain – just like any other muscle – needs time to rest. Furthermore, don’t eat lunch at your desk or on the go. Instead, get away from the office and enjoy lunch with a friend.
A good tactic to learn and try to combat “overwork” is time blocking. This is a strategy where you work consistently for a set period and then break for a few minutes to relax. Working in “chunks” in this manner makes tasks seem more manageable and thus, makes us less likely to want to (or actually) put off until later. There are many apps and tools out there that can help you with time blocking (also called “The Pomodoro Technique”).
Just do the bigger stuff—first! When there are things you are tempted to procrastinate – or that seem so overwhelming that we do decide just to put them off until later – do them first. It also helps if you promise yourself some ‘reward’ for getting them done. Additionally, do them earlier in the day when productivity is the highest. Save the easier – less intense – tasks for later in the day when people are naturally less-focused.
Not Sleeping Enough
Sleep deprivation can make us grumpy, easily distracted, and more prone to mistakes—just from being tired in general. Yet, the issues go deeper than that as well. The average adult needs 7-9 hours of sleep a night. It’s critical for many reasons.
We sleep in cycles of 90 minutes. Most of that cycle is light sleep. Then, we move into REM sleep—which is where we dream. REM is also when our brain stores away the things we have learned during the day and sets them into our memory. Additionally, it’s when serotonin (our “feel good hormones”) is rebuilt. Of overall sleep, at least 20-30% of this time should be deep sleep. Deep sleep is when our body heals itself. Immunity is developed and restored. Muscles and systems are strengthened. It’s vital to our total health and well-being. Thus, shortchanging sleep is way more important than most people realize.
Trying to Do Everything Perfectly
However, perhaps the biggest productivity-zapper is the belief we can do everything perfectly. Study after study has shown multi-tasking is not only not beneficial to productivity, but rather diminishes it significantly.
Likewise, the idea that we can be good at everything hurts us more than helps. Everything in our lives is not equally important. Thus, it doesn’t need equal attention and equal effort.
Therefore, decide what is most important. What does need to be done without error (or as little error as possible), so that it deserves more of our focused attention? And what just needs to get done—period? Learning to prioritize not only helps us be more productive—it helps us stay sane.
This new year is a new opportunity—a new chance to get it together and finally improve our productivity once and for all. All it really takes is acknowledging where we are allowing it to drain and then plugging the holes with better habits.