Oh, January. ‘Tis the season to want to get shit done, right? Whether you’re the resolution type, the measurable goal-setting type, or the sparkly dream-it-till-it-comes-true type, you’ve likely crawled out of the covid cave you’ve been hibernating in and you’re ready to TAKE ACTION IN 2021, DAMMIT.
Before setting your I’m Gonna Conquer the World sails, read up on the ways you might unwittingly blow the wind out of said sails. How can you not be the place where productivity goes to die?
7 Best Ways to Kill Your Productivity
- Procrastination. Tomorrow has been defined as a mystical land where 99% of all human productivity, motivation, and achievement is stored. Here’s another winner: “Procrastination is attitude’s natural assassin. There is nothing so fatiguing as an uncompleted task.” I memorized that William James quote years ago when I wanted to stop assassinating my attitude. Consciously delaying a task not only prevents you from getting it done, but it kills your spirit. What are you delaying, because you’re afraid of what it will feel like to finish it and fail? Is the task you are going to do next going to move you forward towards your goal? Or just get you well-read on the mating habits of sea slugs but no closer to your mighty mission?
- Overscheduling, overcommitting, over-everything. You know who you are, you over-doers. Warren Buffett wisely said that, “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything”. I bet you have a Pleaser or Hyper-achiever saboteur if you’re overdoing the Yes-ing in your life. We all know you could be more successful—and happier—if you’d just do less, so much better. What are three things in your calendar that you can gracefully cancel or bump out, to give yourself more room to live life like you mean it?
- Comparison. As they say, comparison is the thief of joy. Happiness scholars have found that for income, for example, how we stand relative to others makes a much bigger difference in our sense of well-being than how much we make in an absolute sense. People would rather earn less money but know they make more than their peers, instead of making more money but less than the people you work with. Humans: we’re so messed up. Comparing ourselves to others in an indefatigable mission. It drains us and prevents us from getting on with our best work. Who are you comparing yourself to, in a way that’s maybe draining you? And who do you think is comparing themselves to you?
- Perfection. Procrastination’s fuel source. That insidious drive to get it just right, to reach an ideal that makes you feel worthy. It’s all a bunch of bullshit! (This from a recovering perfectionist.) If this is you, look in the mirror and ask what it would look like for great to be good enough, not perfect. Ask yourself if on your deathbed you’d be thrilled you engaged in this highest form of self-abuse– by being hard on yourself– or if you’d wished you’d been a little kinder towards yourself.
- Unscheduled. Are you embracing the gifts of a great schedule? You know I will come over and punch you in the throat if you schedule your life into a boring, robotic routine. But you know you can fit more in, fit more of the right things in, if you plan them and record them in your calendar. Want to see your friends more? Schedule a zoom cocktail hour in. Want to work out more? Block off three chunks a week. Want to get a project off the ground at work? Preserve blocks of time in your workday, instead of letting people railroad you into meetings. Want to dream up and make an astonishing life happen? Block off a few hours here and there to live with vitality and meaning. Vitality and meaning aren’t really looking for you, trying to nose their way into your life. You kind of need to make the space for the things you want to do, and that happens by making sure Saturday from 8-12 is YOURS, for example.
- Sleepless nights. Would you just arrange your life to get at least 7 hours already? Fun fact: If you sleep less than 5 hours a night, you’re asking for a 65% higher death rate compared to those who regularly sleep 6 – 7 hours per night. Doctors call sleep mental floss because it clears the debris that clogs up our brains through the day. Floss, friend. You can’t conquer the world with debris in your brain, or by being dead.
- Ignoring energy. Focusing on your time management skills sounds great but all hours are not created equal, are they? You might be at your best first thing in the morning, or maybe your work product is a total piece of garbage then and you shine at night. Energy, not time, is the fundamental currency of high performance. Rather than looking at your time and productivity through a quantitative lens, experts recommend using a qualitative lens… so when you’re looking at your calendar, are you strategically blocking time when you’re “on”? Hoarding your best hours for yourself and using the post-lunch dip for less cerebral things, like checking email? I make sure that I’m working on creative stuff when I have my coffee between 8 and 10 in the morning. I want to wring all that I can out of that caffeinated cup of joy. When are you firing on all cylinders? Are you deliberately plotting those precious productive hours to suit you best?
So there you have it. Seven ways to avoid snuffing the life out of your desire to get things done. Where might you want to tweak the way you approach your goals? Pick one thing on this list at a time— and don’t you even think about procrastinating working on procrastination, friend.