12 biggest productivity killers
Let’s cut right to the chase, since bloated introductory paragraphs could be the 13th item on this list. From misguided multitasking to funereal florescent lights, here are a dozen things chewing up your precious time.
1. Checking the box: quantity over quality
Crossing off items on our to-do lists feels good. Like James Brown good. When you take your task list away from your Post-It stack and put it into the cloud, it still feels good; maybe even better, because when you complete a task in Central Desktop, your colleagues can notice and marvel over how much you’re accomplishing. The trick is to devote proper time and preparation to the big, daunting tasks, and not just become addicted to crossing off little items.
2. Lack of interests outside work
What you do on your own time is your own business – although the lines between “work time” and “home time” are increasingly blurring and will continue to blur. Mounting evidence suggests that away-from-work hobbies – mentally and/or physically active hobbies, not passive potato pastimes – make a positive impact on work productivity. Passion begets passion.
3. You hide out in your office
Perhaps no job performance metric is more hopelessly outdated than “time spent at the office.” Sure, some industries are locked into set hours and set workplaces – I’d rather my doctors not insist on working remotely – but many workers are breaking out of the old 9-to-5, chained-to-cube mentality. And when you are in the office, take breaks from work; truth be told, I still find something valiant about knuckling down and plowing ahead, so I have to remind myself that taking a stroll around the block will often wind up saving more time than it’s “wasting.”
4. You try to control your inbox, but your inbox controls you
Email isn’t dead, but if your inbox is the linchpin in your organization’s daily workflow, you’re setting yourself up to stumble. Gone are the days of important files scattered across local drives and individual inboxes. Gone are the days of “Oh… I don’t think I got your email” excuses. Gone are the days when your coworker’s sick day kept you from accessing creative assets you’re working on together. If you’re constantly feeling crushed under the weight of your inbox, learn more about how you can escape email hell.
5. Certain coworkers are negative influences
If you’re in a healthy work environment, your coworkers help you solve your problems – sometimes simply by distracting you from them. You don’t want to be too isolated, lest you start acting out The Shining. Sometimes, though, they’re more trouble than they’re worth, especially considering we have an amazingly hard time bouncing back from unexpected distractions. It’s such an epidemic that there are actually people studying “interruption science.”
6. “Toughing it out” when sick
“I’ve never taken a sick day” used to sound like a testament of both personal fortitude and professional loyalty. Now it just makes you sound like kind of a jerk; either you’re one of the incredibly small number of people who truly never gets sick (in which case: stop bragging about it) or you’re trudging into the office and starting a vicious cycle of contamination (in which case: go home). If you decide you want to do some work, you can probably accomplish plenty without setting foot in your office. You’re not a hero when you’re Patient Zero.
7. Your office looks like this
Recent headlines I’ve seen around the web:
- “Your Office’s Fluorescent Lights Really Are Draining Your Will to Work”
- “There’s nothing good about working in a cubicle, study finds”
- “Your office design is killing teamwork”
- “Your chair is killing you”
8. Never saying no
Sometimes even the most selfless collaborator needs to say “No.” Always being a first responder to other people’s fires will eat into your own productivity in the end.
You can salvage your commute, at least somewhat. Believe it or not, I’ve met some Angelenos who even enjoy 30-45 minutes in the car each way, using the time to clear their head, practice for their Voice audition or even listen to semi-work-related podcasts. Even the most glass-half-full driver, though, reaches a breaking point. There’s a point of no return with your commute.
10. Multitasking instead of focusing
Multitasking: just say no. You will presumably always have multiple things on your plate at any one time. That’s fine. Just don’t try to toggle back and forth between all of them. Giving 100% to one project will make you way more productive than giving 20% to five projects simultaneously. Frankly, your brain isn’t built to juggle like that; it’s like an “eyes bigger than stomach” sort of thing. Focus, finish, move on.
11. Unnecessary or poorly-run meetings
Study after study cites unproductive meetings as a primary driving force behind lost time and low morale in the workplace. We’ve previously offered some tips on running better meetings. Key points: have an agenda, have takeaways and power through passive agenda items like listening to recaps and updates.
12. Teh internets
I’m not even going to link to this squirrel, an embodiment of the time traps and productivity killers that lurk all over your feeds and inboxes. No offense, Sneezy.