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12 mistakes you are probably making that are killing your productivity

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Do you want to know how to be more productive and start crossing things off your to-do list a hell of a lot faster? Then I totally have your back, my friend!

Uggh, I get it, sometimes it feels like it takes aaages to get something done. Does this also happen to you? Your to-do list seems totally do-able and realistic, and you feel like you have such a busy day, but in the end, you didn’t even cross off half of it.

And I mean, it’s totally OK if you just have one these slooow days or something unexpected end up happening.

But if this happens consistently, then there are basically two possible scenario’s.

Or you just totally underestimate how much certain tasks take you to get done

Or there are some mistakes that you’re making that are undermining your productivity

…And in the majority of the cases, it’s the second one.

The good news is that it’s totally do-able to solve these. You’re already putting in the hard work, so by implementing these tiny changes, you will know how to be more productive and start crossing things off your to-do list at the speed of light.

Here are 12 mistakes you might be making (and how to solve them!) that are killing your productivity.

Other Reads:


Mistake #1: You are checking your e-mail too much

First, let me get this straight. No, e-mail is not the enemy, but too many people are spending just too much time checking their e-mails.

Studies say that on an average workday, Americans spend about 352 minutes per day checking their e-mail. I mean, that’s like 5 hours per day, can you imagine?!

This probably has already happened to you too: you’re concentrated on working on this important project, and then there pops up this e-mail notification. You read the e-mail that is requesting something from you. You try to focus again and continue to work on your project, but you just can’t seem to stop thinking about this e-mail. You’re thinking about different ways to answer the e-mail and how to get access to this requested information. It just bothers you too much, so you just end up opening your mailbox again and answering this damn e-mail. But after, while you are at it, you answer some other e-mails as well… And before you know it, you just stop working on this project altogether.

I don’t say you shouldn’t read your e-mails. E-mails are important but not so important that you should allow them to totally break your flow.

How to be more productive ? Action point: There is no rule that says that you should answer every e-mail you receive in less than 30 minutes. So ideally, just check your mailbox on a few dedicated moments throughout the day, for example just answering the most urgent e-mails in the morning and after lunch, and then dedicating 1 hour in the late afternoon to answer all the other e-mails. For the rest of the day, your mailbox shouldn’t be opened.

Mistake #2: There is too much bleeding time

Bleeding time is the time you lose when one task takes unnecessarily too much time and causes a delay in your schedule.

For example, a meeting or call you have is very chaotic and this person doesn’t seem to get to the point, consequently, this meeting ends up taking 1,5 hours instead of just 1 hour. Or another example, you can’t find some materials or files on your computer that you need in order to accomplish the next task on your schedule. Things like these will create bleeding time, and lead to lost available time to do the next task, and makes your whole schedule delayed.

How to be more productive? Action point: Of course, it is OK if tasks sometimes take up a little more time than initially anticipated, but in the majority of cases, this bleeding time can be totally avoided by introducing more structure and organization into your schedule (for example sticking to the agenda points in a meeting, making sure all material is in hand-reach, sticking as much as possible to your schedule,…).

Mistake #3: Information overload makes you feeling exhausted

Your attention span isn’t something unlimited. There is a maximum amount of information and signals that someone can process in a day.

Every time you’re scrolling through your social media feed, there are thousands and thousands of signals being sent through your brain. But also other activities, such as going grocery shopping for example are incredibly exhausting for your brain because you’re seeing thousands of products that you have to decide whether or not to purchase.

How to be more productive? Action point: Be conscious about the information that you’re consuming and all these tiny decisions that you take on a daily basis. Limiting these will save up so much mental energy that you can use to focus and get things done.

Mistake #4: Social media notifications are distracting you

When your phone is vibrating and social media notifications are popping up, then your attention is naturally drawn to your phone.

Even if it is for a millisecond, your concentration is lost and you have to make the decision to either pick up your phone and see what the notification is about OR best-case scenario, you have to make the decision and convince yourself to ignore the notification. And then you have to bring your focus back to the task and try to concentrate again. Worst case scenario, you pick up your phone, check your social media feed, and before you know it an hour has passed scrolling through social media.

All these applications are designed to convince you to spend as much time as possible on these apps. They know exactly what interests you, which people you admire, what makes you laugh, what makes you angry, everything.

How to be more productive? Action point: By just turning your notifications off, you don’t even have to make the decision in the first place. SO TURN YOUR NOTIFICATIONS OFF and ideally, leave your phone in another room, because even just seeing your phone next to you can already be distracting. Also, make sure to turn off any notifications on your computer as well.

Mistake #5: People are disturbing you during your focus time

I know it isn’t always possible to have complete quiet time when focusing, especially when you have children or there are people passing by in your office, but try as much as possible to not be disturbed while you’re trying to concentrate.

How to be more productive? Action point:. Set boundaries and ask the people you’re surrounded with to leave you alone for a few hours

Mistake #6: Your own thoughts are distracting you

Your mind on itself can be distracted…EVEN by its own thoughts. Your mind has endless thoughts consciously and unconsciously and the majority of these have nothing to do with the task you’re working on.

Your brain might be reminding yourself of something you have to do, or something important that you absolutely can’t forget, there might be random ideas popping up in your head or maybe you’re thinking back at this dream you had last night and how it made you feel. These thoughts are so distracting and can really break your productivity.

How to be more productive? Action point: If this is something that happens to you quite often, it might help to start with something that’s called ‘morning pages’. In the morning, you take your journal and just start free-writing and brain dumping whatever comes up in your head. It doesn’t only empty your head and avoid thoughts popping up all the time during your focus sessions, but it’s also a great way to get to know yourself better and become aware of the thoughts you have.

Mistake #7: You’re doing tasks at the wrong moment

It isn’t always as easy to focus. Naturally, we have productivity cycles throughout the day. There are moments we reach our productivity level peaks, while at other moments it drops tremendously.

And these aren’t just random cycles. There are real patterns and tendencies about at what moment during the day you are the most productive and at what moment you are just… not.

In the past, you might have planned very focused intense tasks on moments where you reached your biological dip, and then it’s completely normal that you’re struggling a hell of a lot more with focusing.

How to be more productive? Action point: Observe and take note of your natural productivity cycle. When do you feel the most energetic during the day? Are you a morning person or a night owl? At what moments throughout the day do you tend to reach the flow state most easily? Taking these peaks and dips into account when planning your day can be incredibly powerful.

Mistake #8: You’re switching too much between different types of tasks

Every time you’re doing a different type of task, such as calling someone one moment and writing an e-mail the next, you’re actually using different parts of your brain.

Every time you’re doing a different kind of task, your brain has to make this shift. And this shift takes a little while.

Furthermore, most activities and tasks have a certain ‘ramp up’ and ‘wind down’ time.

So consequently, it’s much more efficient and smooth to consistently do the same types of tasks, to avoid extra ‘ramp up’ and ‘wind down’ time, and to continue using the same part of your brain for a longer period of time.

How to be more productive? Action point: Batch similar tasks together and do them one after the other. Batch brainstorming together, batch writing together, batch meetings together, … will make a huge difference in how quickly you can complete these tasks.

Mistake #9: You’re accepting requests and favors that are taking up too much of your time

I totally get that you want to help people and want to be there for them, but sometimes you just simply don’t have time for it or just aren’t the right person to do this favor.

In order to stay true to ourselves and to have time for the things that truly matter in life, we just have to say no from time to time.

It’s not harsh, mean, or selfish, it’s necessary.

How to be more productive? Action point: Try to become more intentional with your time and remind yourself that every time you say yes to someone or something, you’re actually saying no to something else.

Mistake #10: Your working environment isn’t ideal

Maybe you don’t have a dedicated space where you do your work. Or maybe you do, but it is cluttered and super messy. Or maybe your workspace is boring and you just don’t like using it.

These can be important reasons why you are not getting things done efficiently. Just by improving this, and making your workplace work for you, can make such a HUGE difference in your productivity.

How to be more productive? Action point: Having your own office is of course the most ideal situation, but if not, just having a table where you only sit when you’re doing focus work does the job as well. This is important since after a while, these focus sessions will become a habit and you will start to associate sitting down at this desk with being focused so that you will be able to focus way easier.

Your working space should be as organized and clutter-free as possible (clear space = clear mind).

Make sure your working environment works for you. Have all the material by hand that you need in order to focus. Do you need a monitor and keyboard to work easier? Do you have a great office chair that is comfortable? Are you one of these people who love using a physical planner? Or maybe a notebook by hand to make little notes or do quick little brainstorms when needed? Figure out what material you need in order to be your most productive self and make sure to have these on your desk. Also, make sure to make your work experience as comfortable as possible. Coffee? Check. Fluffy blanket? Check. Candle? Check.

Mistake #11: You don’t have systems in place

Omgg, I was sooo guilty of this one.

I had so many different notebooks that I was using simultaneously, and on some days, I just felt more like doing things digitally. But after a while, I just couldn’t remember where I had written something down, or where I had saved something. And man, it was frustrating…

So I learned (the hard way!) that if every time I need to get the same task done, I’m thinking about how exactly I will be accomplishing this task, I’m just wasting my time.

I was also experimenting with way too many productivity apps, task management techniques and it just became overwhelming.

How to be more productive? Action point: Setting up systems for recurring processes is key! Create a specific workflow that you can just execute without thinking so everything goes smoothly and seamlessly. The same counts for productivity tools and task management techniques. Find only 1 that works for you and then stick to it.

Mistake #12: You strive for perfection, not progress

If you’re expecting to do something perfect from the very first time you do it and when you notice that it isn’t done perfectly, you tend to just quit or give up, you might be a perfectionist.

And perfectionism is dangerous for your productivity. It will slow you down and make you lose so much time over little details.

In many cases, you never even publish your result because you don’t think it is good enough… And that’s just so unfortunate and sad because even though it might not be perfect (disclaimer: perfection doesn’t exist), it could be super impactful and truly help people.

How to be more productive? Action point: opt for progress, not perfection! Define your goals realistically and reach them at your own pace that is sustainable for you.

how to be more productive
how to be more productive

Other Reads:

Let’s Chat!

Let me know in the comment down below, how many of these productivity mistakes are you making? And no worries, I was guilty of every single one of them too. The good news is that you can change these and become a true productivity ninja!

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  1. Great advices my dear. I do majority of this mistakes, some days I check my e-mail 30 times and Instagram even more. I also get distracted very easy. I will start working on it and improving day by day.

  2. Stacy Zeal says:

    Great tips! I definitely spend way to much time on my phone in general, especially checking emails. Going to try turning off notifications and see if that helps!

  3. Janel says:

    These are great tips. We’ve been using Microsoft Teams at work ever since going remote, and I’ve found that setting my status as “Do Not Disturb” has done wonders for my productivity. I didn’t realize how much I was getting distracted by messages from my coworkers! Knowing when to set boundaries is so important. Turning off notifications also helps a ton!

  4. Savi says:

    Love these tips, I definitely need to work on mistake #2 myself!!

  5. I’ve recently read Tools of the Titans, the compilation of advice, strategy and routine of billionaires and successful people. A lot of the points you make here are replicated by successful people. The way you write is very digestible and succinct. Thanks. I make a lot of these mistakes and need to get better control over them for better productivity. I’ll have to book mark this.

  6. Mike Worley says:

    All great points. Social media in particular can be a ridiculously distracting element if you let it. Good solutions as well. Thank you

  7. Tati says:

    #1 will be with me for a long time 😛! Thank you for sharing your article!

  8. Hope says:

    Great post. I feel like I need to do better. Especially with social media. I do a lot of scrolling when I could be doing something productive!

  9. Aditi Jain says:

    Information overload!! There is soo much out there. Really need to make some changes to that habit of mine.

  10. Aurora Hansen says:

    You really know what you are talking about, thank you so much for publishing this list, it’s fabulous and thorough! Your information is giving me so much perspective, I can’t express my gratitude sufficiently. 🙂

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