What’s Really Holding You Back From Being Productive?

So much has been written on productivity habits. We have been given lists of the best apps to get us to work and articles on the mornings of the most successful people in the world. We are told that waking up early is best and that multitasking will make us less productive.

We could read all of these productivity tips and still fail to be productive. Much like losing weight, we know exactly what we have to do. Often, however, there are underlying problems that stop us from losing weight and being productive. Then we start making excuses and looking to change our habits by copying others, rather than figuring out what works for us.

Finding your most productive self requires that you address the factors that are keeping you back. Organizing your goals clearly helps too. The following is not a list of the ultimate apps or the best time to work. Instead, it is a list to figure out what is holding you back, for you to find your ultimate productivity habits.

1. Let go of fear.

That book you keep meaning to work on or that call you are postponing is your way of allowing fear to stop you from moving forward. Leo Babauta, of Zen Habits, talks about fear holding us back from being productive. We fear “not having control, certainty, security, comfort,” Babauta says. Fear will always be an underlying problem but we can feel that fear and still push to do the things that need to get done. 

2. Break down the distractions.

We could be working in a bare room, without internet and still find means to get distracted. Distraction is often a sign of something else. Ask yourself, are you tired or bored? Maybe you are spending too much time working and not enough time socializing with the people you care about. Make sure your mind is being allowed to be distracted in the right way with breaks along the day, so you can focus on work when it is time to do so.

3. Define the important tasks.

Daniel Gilbert, the author of Stumbling on Happiness has said that “a wandering mind is not a happy mind.” Having to continually wander on the tasks you need to get done can leave you overwhelmed. Make a list of the most important tasks of the day or the week. Make time for the creative process but also for the things that need to get done, such as replying to emails, and the work that gets the money.


Photo Credit: Carl Heyerdahl

4. Define your goals.

Tying up with the former point, having a clear idea of what your goals are will set your productive behavior in motion. Make smart goals. Use a journal and write down the things you want to achieve then break each one down into weekly or monthly goals.

5. Track your progress.

Tracking where you are at with each of your goals means you will have a clear idea of how effective your productivity habits are in helping you to reach these goals. Through tracking, you will understand which habits are helping you move forward and the ones that are keeping you back.

6. Figure out your best time.

Early risers are associated with success and night owls have been called more creative but don’t let research dictate your work schedule. If you’ve done your best work at three in the morning, why should you stop? If you have the luxury to make your own schedule, then listen to your body clock. In doing so, you will find it comes naturally to be more productive and focused.

productivity tips

Photo Credit: Brooke Lark

7. Meditate.

It can feel strange to stop and meditate when you have a slew of things to do. Yet, meditation will not only give that sense of peacefulness your mind needs but studies on the brain showed how meditation increases “grey-matter density in the hippocampus, known to be important for learning and memory, and in structures associated with self-awareness, compassion, and introspection.” For guidance on the best way to start your meditative journey download an app. Headspace is one of the best meditation apps out there but there are others, such as Stop, Breathe and Think and more.

8. Burn unnecessary adrenaline.

Anxiety can hold us back from getting work down. Instead of suppressing the adrenaline anxiety brings with it, burn it through exercise. Run your anxiety away on the treadmill, punch it out on the punching bag or find the workout that will help you feel less anxious.

9. Switch off.

When you define your important tasks and schedule a time for everything, then it is easier to switch off from the online world. Emails and social media can be addressed during certain times. This way, you can be more productive on work that needs your full concentration.

10. Stop daydreaming.

Daydreaming has its benefits but not if you daydream about having already reached your goals. Studies have shown that “positive fantasies about future success yield poor results as they do not generate the energy needed to pursue the desired goals.” In a nutshell, if you are experiencing the happiness and success you are pursuing, then you are going to be less productive and willing to experience these same feelings in real life. You will have to make a conscious effort not to indulge in this form of daydreaming. One way you can stop daydreaming about having reached your goals is by going over your progress and acknowledging what you have done so far and that you still have work to do.

Productivity is about working smarter, not harder. It is not about working fifteen hours a day. Rather, it is about doing a set amount of work and seeing real results, where you are always a step closer to your goals.

16 March, 2017
Written by:
Allen Brouwer

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