Life moves so much faster now than it did a decade ago. They promised us all of these productivity improvements but rather than simplify our lives, we’ve accelerated the speed at which we burn out if weren’t not careful.
Almost every single person I talk to says they’re busy, maybe even swamped. We’re inundated by email, phone calls, meetings, projects, family, social media, broadcast media, responsibilities, fun, etc.
So given that none of this is likely going away in the short term, where are we most at risk of being sucked into the time vortex and losing our capacity for true productivity with purpose?
Here are the top 10 traps that keep us from using the time we have in the most conscious way.
1. Doing busy work
There is a difference between being busy and being productive. When you’re merely busy, time goes by and you feel you’ve used it well, but in reality, you haven’t. You’ve deluded yourself into thinking you’ve accomplished something meaningful, when you’ve really just stood still. Think about a hamster running in a circular cage. True, he’s burned up some calories but he didn’t really get anywhere. How much cage running do you do that you pass off as getting somewhere?
2. Procrastinating on important tasks
Fear can be gripping. It’s likely the source of your preoccupation with busy work. When you don’t tackle those scary items, you let opportunities pass you by. You effectively give up before you even start, assuring yourself of certain defeat. The gold medal could be yours, but you never even start the race.
Given all of the distractions listed earlier, this is an easy one to give in to. Unfortunately, it’s a major drain on your productivity. When you multitask (and I’m guilty of this myself), you lose focus. And with lost focus, productivity suffers. You shift gears constantly and never get “into the groove”.
There is something to be said for assembly line work. As boring as it can be, the repetition of the same task over and over makes those assembly lines crank out a ton of product at low margins. When you multitask, your brain has to start from scratch every time you shift gears, wasting energy and brain cells and costing fluidity and productivity.
4. Flying by the seat of your pants
Some people hate to plan. Are you one of them? If so, you may pride yourself on being flexible and spontaneous. Both of these are virtues, but can also cause lost opportunities. Without a plan, you’ll forget things that are important. You’ll stay focused on what’s presented to you and not what is truly important.
5. Focusing on urgent, rather than important tasks
People who fly by the seat of their pants often are trapped in a either an urgent, emergency world or a drifter, come what may world. If this is you, you are responsive but probably not making the progress you’d hoped for, if you even remember what that progress would have looked like. Focusing on the urgent generally keeps you working on someone else’s projects not your own.
6. Living in your Comfort Zone
Miracles and major achievements occur outside your Comfort Zone. It feels nice and safe inside your CZ, but you’ll also fall victim to doing busy work and not confronting what it takes to step up and become heroic about your accomplishments. So your accomplishments don’t actually happen or take much longer than necessary.
7. Working outside your ‘gift’ zone
You have gifts (we all do) and those special skills are uniquely yours. Unfortunately, when you work on everything that crosses your desk, you exhaust yourself. You stifle your creativity because creativity arises when you’re free and unburdened, not when you’re engrossed in a task that’s a struggle for you.
8. Not allocating your time properly
You don’t know how long it takes to complete your tasks (likely because you are multitasking and working on 5 things at a time). Additionally, your calendar likely gets filled up with meetings and before you know it, you’re out of time and didn’t get to the things on your to do list. Does that sound familiar…more work than day available?
9. Not monitoring your use of time
When you don’t allocate, it’s hard to monitor. And what doesn’t get monitored, can’t get measured nor managed properly. If you saw how much of your time you were flushing down the toilet, you’d probably be shocked.
10. Forgetting the big picture
Most people get up and get to work. They work on what’s in front of them or happens to them during the course of the day. When you forget the Big Picture of why you’re here and what you’re supposed to be working on, your day gets filled in by many of the above items. It leaves you feeling somewhat frustrated, wondering ‘what’s the point’? You wake up one day singing ‘What’s it all about Alfie?’ (if you’re in my generation), talking about the Good Old Days, but feeling like you’ve missed out somehow…even though you’ve been busy the whole time.
Don’t fall victim to these traps. It’s not too late! Change your habits before you miss the big boat.