5 Things that Kill Your Productivity (and What to Do About It)

Do you ever feel like you are spinning your wheels? You spend hours working but you don’t make much progress. And you wonder where all those hours go?

You look at the pile of things you still need to do and you feel overwhelmed.

To make things worse, your coworker, who has a lot more on his plate than you do, is able to stay on top of his stuff and is always cheerful and positive.

You wonder how on earth does he do it? Has he been blessed with a special productivity gene? Is he using a special tool? Why can’t you be in control like that?

Maybe he never ever procrastinates.

But could he be doing something else, something that you haven’t tried yet?

If you feel that you are not getting the results you want, you may be victim to one of these five productivity killers.

1. Maddening multitasking

Multitasking is a good and necessary skill in life. However excessive multitasking doesn’t help your productivity. In today’s highly connected and fast-paced world we are constantly bombarded with information. It’s not unusual to be answering emails, instant messages, and texts almost simultaneously. Of course you want to reply to all right away, but you’ll pay a price.

On a study conducted by Stanford University a few years ago, investigators found that excessive multitaskers were not able to filter information as well as light multitaskers. They concluded that “failure to filter means they’re slowed down by that irrelevant information.”


The fix: Slowing down on the multitasking isn’t complicated. It’s just one decision away. For most of us the key is to have less communication devices open when we have to concentrate on an important task. You can silence your phone, set yourself “busy” in the messenger, and if you are working on something you really dread you can even close your email. You’ll be able to be more efficient when you silence the distractions. Of course answering multiple communication devices at the same time is not the only way to multitask, if you find yourself doing several things at a time, ask yourself if you are really being efficient.

2. You work without priorities

You have a lot of different things you need to do, but are all of those top priorities? You may have 50 emails you need to reply to, but if you have a deadline tomorrow morning, you need to start working on the deadline’s tasks first.

Not recognizing what are the things that need to be finished first and working on something that can be done later is a huge cause of inefficiency. You can stay very busy all day, but if the important things don’t get done on time, you’ll be in trouble.

The fix: I learned my favorite way of dealing with this problem from Brian Tracy. It’s really simple and works wonderfully. Here is the summary:

  • You list all the things you need to do.
  • You categorize those things; you put a letter A, B, C, or D besides each item on your list.
  • You force yourself to not start on any B items until all the A items are done.
  • Repeat for items for category B, and so on.

3. You work till you are burned out

You noticed that you don’t work at the same pace all day long. You go through energy cycles during the day and after working for a long time you can’t seem to make any progress. Working eight hours straight is a fantasy. You are going to get tired, your eyes are going to need a rest after reading so many emails and reports, and your mental output will go down.

The fix: Divide your working time. Tony Schwartz (author of NY Times bestseller The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working), says we ideally should work in 90 minute increments.  So you work 90 minutes, then take a break, and repeat throughout the day. He says that if you work beyond 90 minutes fatigue will settle in, and you won’t be able to accomplish much. You’ll be spinning your wheels.

If you have enough willpower you can turn the breaks into active ones. By going for a short walk, or exercising at work, you’ll be combating the effects of a sedentary lifestyle. You’ll be also pumping endorphins into your system, which in turn will make you feel happy.

4. You are surrounded by chaos

The environment you work in affects you. If you are surrounded by piles of papers, folders, and post-it notes you’ll be distracted. Stuff around you competes for your attention, which is the last thing you want when you need to be effective.

In addition, an unorganized working space and computer filing system can create a huge waste of time for you. How many hours have you spent looking for missing documents in the past few months?

The fix: Spend 30 minutes getting your desk organized. Get rid of stuff that you no longer need and put away papers you need where you’ll find them easily. Regarding your electronic documents, make sure you have a filing system that works for you. Then when you need a document you won’t spent more than a couple of seconds to find it.

5. You succumb to self-doubt

Did you ever start a project only to start doubting yourself in the middle of it? What if I can’t finish it on time? What if nobody is interested in the results? What if I waste weeks on this and it flops? That kind of negative thinking can consume hours and even make you quit altogether.

Sometimes self-doubt can lead you to positive questioning. It can help you figure out that you need help to finish a project or you need to learn new skills. But more times than not self-doubt will only take you further from your goal. On extreme cases it can send you on an emotional ‘I’m not good enough’ ride.

The fix: The first step in fixing self-doubt is recognizing it. Once you recognize it, you need to put that thought to the trial. Is the doubt based on any real facts? Are you just dealing with fear of failure? Is there something you can do that will help you succeed? What is the worst thing that can happen if you keep going?

And remember what Henry Ford said “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.”

You can double your productivity today

You lead a very fast-paced, demanding life and it’s not slowing down any time soon.

Technology was supposed to come to your rescue and make things easier but somehow you are still constantly busy, short on time, and running behind.

It’s time to get your to-do list under control. You can stay ahead of the piles of work and you don’t need to stay late at work or work during your weekend to catch up.

All it takes is learning a few tricks on how to be more efficient.

So decide today to eliminate the productivity killers in your life and start enjoying the amazing benefits.

Author Bio: Corina Semph is a mom, designer, and blogger on a mission to help people transform their houses into peaceful and uncluttered homes, even if they have a problem getting rid off stuff.  Download her FREE Ultimate Cheat Sheet to Transform Your Closet from Crazy to Blissful in No Time.



Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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