Ever had that feeling of working super hard, all day long, only to discover that you’d hardly accomplished anything at all? Constant interruptions, whether from electronic notifications or a chatty coworker, can undermine our productivity and sap the brain of the energy it needs. Productivity is about amplifying our efforts. As we put technology to its best use, we also want to eliminate habits and tendencies that might be slowing us down.
Here are 12 habits that we want to nix in our quest for better productivity.
- Multitasking—Multitasking tops the list because it’s the number one productivity killer in the workplace (and out of it, too). It’s also making us stupider, and more tired. Tasking switching depletes the oxygenated glucose that the brain uses as fuel. The idea that we can actually perform multiple tasks at once is a pervasive and popular but false fiction. What actually happens is rapid switching between tasks, lowering our cognitive capacity, and ultimately our performance. It leads to poor decision making as well, leading us into the next point
- Saying yes too often—Why do we say yes so often? Perhaps because of the perpetual distraction that has become the norm for many of us? ‘Yes’ feels good and empowering, and a culture that values innovation might lead us to say yes more often, but every yes puts a demand on our resources and diffuses our efforts. Say yes only to the best ideas and proposals, and you’ll spend less time bogged down in pointless initiative that go nowhere.
- Not following up—Not sure if an idea is a good one? Immediately create tasks to test its validity and assign them to the appropriate person. The ‘touch it once’ principle of organizing can apply to ideas and tasks too, and immediate follow up clears away nagging concerns that might otherwise undermine your cognitive powers. Use the supercomputer in your pocket to send invites, make notes, add a contact or create tasks to follow up on the spot.
- Using email too much—Email is a real productivity drainer that can sap you of valuable time and mental energy. Many different rules and schemes for organizing email have been proposed, but the ideal email management program will probably be unique to you. The more time you spend in your email, the more potential distractions you open yourself up to, and the more you use email, the more you train your contacts and team to use email, too.
- Putting up with bad technology—Better technology is the only sure path to permanent productivity gains, but bad technology can have the opposite effect. To put it simply, if the time, effort and money you spend maintaining, training and managing a technology solution is greater than the return you get, it’s not going to help you be more productive.
- Checking your phone too frequently—FOMO and the instantaneous gratification of digital interaction has created a culture of smartphone junkies. We touch our phones thousands of times each day; all that tapping, swiping and clicking provides a tiny jolt of dopamine. Train yourself instead to enjoy the deep satisfaction of a job well done and resist the urge to give into all those tiny temptations.
- Not automating low level tasks—Automating low level tasks is a sure way to turbo charge your productivity. So why is it so hard to let go of all those tiny, repetitive tasks? Maybe because we aren’t organized enough. Establishing routines and completing task inventories can prepare you to automate and outsource routine work so you can do higher level work.
- Indecision—Indecision is an unfinished task taking up room in your brain, and hogging cognitive resources. Imperfect decisions are better than indecision, and can move you forward. You can refine as you go along, the important thing is to keep moving.
- Being a perfectionist—Being a perfectionist can be one of the contributing factors to a culture of indecision. Being a perfectionist can slow you down in nearly every area, and prevent necessary action. Lost opportunities, poor culture and anxiety can all result from perfectionism—ultimately a conceit of the ego and the enemy of creativity.
- Avoiding delegation—Wanting everything to be perfect can also make it hard to delegate—especially if you’ve been doing a task for a long time and have gained mastery over it. Gaining mastery also means you may do the task automatically, with little awareness of the process because it’s become almost automatic. However, it may be just these little tasks that you do so well that are holding you back from more important work.
- Plowing through without breaks—Everyone has a different flow: productivity isn’t something that can be replicated exactly. However, brain work uses energy and scientific research indicates that a break every 50 minutes or so is needed for optimal performance. Likewise, a few days off can help you recharge and prevent burnout. A true break, whether it’s over a long weekend or a quick ten-minute breather, should allow you to completely disengage from a mental task or problem. Taking a walk, doing some light yoga, or getting out into nature can help your brain rest and recover from the demands of a digital world. Remember, too, that there is a difference between unproductive and unplanned breaks—known as interruptions—and a break taken at a stopping place, when you’re starting to get tired or sloppy.
- Inadequate sleep/exercise/nutrition—The brain needs fuel—fat, carbs, and micronutrients. It also needs sleep. Poor productivity gains are presently correlated with a documented sleep epidemic—the US alone loses $411 billion a yearto our poor sleeping habits. Likewise, the brain thrives on movement. Although we think about the brain as being centrally located in our skull, it’s actually the center of a distributed network that extends all the way to the big toe via the nervous system. Try a walking meeting or active break—do some stretches or gentle movements. Your brain will thank you.
Does your technology help you accomplish more, or does it just make you do more tasks? To qualify as smart technology, a system must add at least marginal human benefit. Technology can help us be more productive, but the wrong technology can have the opposite effect.
At Spoke Phone, we’ve built a global phone system for use on mobile. You can add a business line to your smartphone and set up a virtual PBX in three minutes flat. It updates your directory, automatically geo-routes your calls and comes equipped with an AI attendant that learns and grows with you. We’re building cool tools to help busy teams on the go, like the ability to easily save and share notes from a call. Want to learn more about how Spoke can power your business on the move? Request an interactive demo, and we’ll be happy to show you how it works.