Common Mental Mistakes Are Destroying Your Productivity

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The pursuit of productivity has become an obsession, with no shortage of advice available for how to increase one’s output. Similarly, advice on how to avoid habits that result in the opposite are hardly in short supply either. Sometimes the things that derail us are right under our nose, things we control that have a nasty cumulative effect, like that of simple mental miscalculations we make and their effect on our productivity.

1. You think you have more focused time than you do
We used to continually fall victim to this. The core of the issue is that we underestimate the number of interruptions we’ll get during the day. We’ll check our iPhones for the fourth time in the last half hour because we subconsciously don’t feel like thinking and buckling down. We reason that’s okay though because there’s plenty of time to focus remaining in the day.

And it just doesn’t turn out to be true.

The solution is to be realistic about how much heavy concentration-time you’ll really have and to use that realistically shortened window as the prompt to be brutal about prioritizing the most important thing or things to accomplish.

2. You think you’re a good multi-tasker
Guess what? You’re not because no one is. Multi-tasking isn’t even an actual thing and it’s the biggest mental mistake of all in terms of wasted productivity. Multi-taskers create the illusion of productivity because they feel good about their habit but are actually less likely to be productive.

In fact, with task switching, your brain is forced to switch among multiple cognitive tasks as these tasks use the same part of the brain. So literally and brain-science wise, you can’t do two things at once. So stop making the mistake that you can and develop a habit of single-tasking versus multi-tasking.

3. You think you can do everything by yourself
If you want to be maximally productive you have to learn to delegate or farm out tasks to someone else who is better suited to them than you are.

Bringing a business manager and project manager on board to the company is the smartest thing. Too often, we burn productivity by trying to handle too much, too often. Don’t fall into this trap.

4. You mentally dismiss the basics
Boyes indicates we’re too likely to skip proven, sustainable productivity tools we can implement. Things like to-do lists, ending the day by making a plan for the next day, removing your phone from your workspace during crunch times –these are all things that aren’t sexy. So we blow by them in search of a bigger wholesale change to implement. There isn’t one. Productivity enhancement is a series of incremental small steps that lead to big change.

5. You underestimate a break in the flow
Those little stops you make to check your phone are more harmful than you think. Noted psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi teaches the concept of flow, getting into an enjoyable mental state where you’re maximally productive, in a rhythm, and producing at your peak. Breaking flow is a big deal.

6. You think taking plenty of breaks tanks productivity
Don’t be confused by number five above. You should take breaks. In fact, the Pomodoro technique, which has a great effect, says work in 25-minute blocks (using a timer if it helps), followed by a 5-minute break. Most people think productivity comes from marathon sessions, not so.

Improving productivity takes effort so you don’t want to unwind the progress you’re making with mental mistakes. A little mindfulness will go a long way.

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