Normally, I write a lot of posts about what you should do in order to become highly productive, but what you shouldn’t do is equally (if not more) important…
In a world where we have more information than ever, more ambition than ever and more stress than ever — I believe that the quickest way to accelerate your success comes from removing a few habits instead of adding more.
That’s why, in this article, I’ll share the 4 silent productivity killers that you should remove out of your life if you want to reach higher levels of productivity and success. Not only will this help you become a lot more focused and productive, but it will also help you keep stress and overwhelm at bay.
Sounds good, doesn’t it?
Productivity Killer 1: Alerts & Notifications
Alerts and notifications are the biggest sources of distraction for the modern day knowledge worker. Every buzz, sound, light or pop-up pulls for your attention and opens a new mental loop that wants to be closed.
In fact, it turns out that we are addicted to these alerts and notifications as dopamine is produced every time we see or hear a new notification. Our curiosity of finding out what the latest message or Instagram post contains is usually too strong to neglect. Therefore, fighting the temptation of checking your phone or social media is incredibly hard, and only becomes harder as your willpower depletes during the day.
I experienced this last weekend when I had coffee with a dear friend. Multiple times during our conversation she got completely distracted by the notifications on her phone, which pulled her out of the conversation and into another virtual world. It completely hijacked her attention for at least a few minutes. It’s quite hilarious to see actually.
In fact, research has shown that every single time we get distracted it takes (on average) 25 minutes before our focus is fully restored and 100% available for our task at hand. Keeping in mind that most of us receive a message, phone call, notification or pop-up from social media every few minutes and you can see how problematic this is for our ability to focus — and our productivity suffers from that.
Keep in mind, these notifications exist to suck you back into social media and messaging apps. In other words, you’re serving the agenda of the app developers instead of following your own path.
Therefore, if you want to protect your valuable time and mental resources (such as your focus and willpower) I’d highly recommend you turn these alerts and notifications off.
Personally, this small change had a huge impact on my ability to focus on my most important and most challenging tasks. Furthermore, I no longer get sucked into a distraction vortex that secretly takes away 10 to 30 minutes of my time.
All in all, by disabling alerts and notifications I’m much more productive, highly focused and, more importantly, I have more peace of mind during the day.
Productivity Killer 2: Spreading Yourself Too Thin
Do you know when I was struggling the most as an entrepreneur? When I was trying to do it all at the same time.
And do you know when I was (and still am) getting my best results? When I focused the biggest majority of my time and energy on just 1–3 things.
Unfortunately, spreading yourself too thin is one of the most made mistakes that’s sabotaging your productivity and, ultimately, your success.
Many beginning entrepreneurs that I talk to these days are almost always struggling because they try to do everything at the same time. As self-development and entrepreneurship ‘gurus’ fuel the belief that you constantly need to hustle harder, work every minute of the day and pull all-nighters, many high achievers feel they need to do everything all at once.
So, they start a YouTube channel, start a podcast, create an Instagram account, write blogposts, build a website, network with other entrepreneurs and a ton of other things — all at the same time. Thereby spreading themselves way too thin to actually be highly effective.
I can very well relate to them, as I used to do the exact same thing. Funnily enough, as I’m writing this I still think ‘Shouldn’t I do more myself??’
Yes… but mostly No.
You see, doing a lot of things can definitely pay off. And I’m not saying you don’t have to work hard. All I’m saying is that you should narrow your focus more. The reality for most people is that, by doing everything at the same time, none of their projects gets the full attention it deserves and requires in order to bring in any significant results (views, leads or sales).
In reality, as you are spreading your focus and energy too thin, you’re only hindering your own progress and success.
By trying to do too much at the same time, you actually accomplish too little.
Rather, I recommend you take the time to reflect and create awareness around your own personal strengths (in my case, writing) and then make the decision to focus the majority of your time and effort on this skill. This way, your chances of success will significantly increase.
For example, if you are amazing in front of the camera, build your business around YouTube or Instagram stories. If you are a great writer, use the power of Medium or Amazon Kindle. If you are a fascinating speaker, go all in on podcasting or public speaking. The point is, first focus on doing one thing extremely well. Only then look to expand to other projects if you want to.
Personally, when I decided to stop spreading myself too thin and focus instead on a few key things, I started seeing much faster business growth than ever before. When I decided to stop spending time and energy on building my podcast and YouTube channel (at least for now) and instead focus the majority of my time and effort on writing on Medium, everything changed. Nowadays, because I focus mostly on Medium, I’m able to publish 5–6x per week. This leads to at least 15k — 20k views per month, something which I never even came close to with other platforms and content forms.
I have to admit, this felt very weird at first. I wanted to be everywhere and do more, more, more. Still, to this day, I have to discipline myself to leave my YouTube channel for what it is and focus my valuable time and energy on writing instead. This is not to say that I’ll never try to grow my YouTube channel anymore. Rather, it means that right now, at this moment, it’s not the right decision as I’ll spread my focus too thin.
Productivity Killer 3: Adopting The ‘Any’ Value Mindset
Many people are spread too thin because they have adopted the ‘any’ value mindset. This mindset states that you do anything that has any value, without concern about the amount of value a task or project brings.
Redesigning your website has value. Creating a new logo has value. Posting on Instagram has value. Starting a Facebook group has value. Answering emails has value. Creating new business cards has value. But how much value exactly? That is the question you need to answer.
Just because something brings any value doesn’t mean you should spend your time and energy on it. Instead, take some time to identify your most valuable tasks and projects. Resolve to protect your time and limited mental resources (such as focus and willpower) for those tasks and projects that are highly valuable.
Focus more on those activities that significantly move the needle for your business or personal goals. Don’t just work on anything that moves you somewhat closer to your goal. You’ll only overwhelm yourself, be spread too thin with your time and focus — and make much slower progress. All in all, your productivity will suffer immensely from the ‘any’ value mindset.
Productivity Killer 4: Productive Procrastination
Productive procrastination is the act of being busy all day while still procrastinating on your most valuable tasks. Many people fall into the trap of productive procrastination because it’s quite hard to detect at first.
When you procrastinate, you almost always realize that you’re doing it. However, when you fall into the trap of productive procrastination, you hardly realize that you’re doing it. That’s because, with productive procrastination, you’re keeping yourself busy by tackling a lot of different to-do’s, while often these to-do’s are of low value.
However, because you’re being busy and you’re getting a lot of tasks done, you feel very productive and good about yourself. Therefore, you don’t realize that you are actually killing your productivity levels.
Being busy is definitely not the same as being productive. Where being busy is all about doing as much as possible for as long as possible, being productive means that you actually tackle meaningful and worthwhile tasks (your priorities) in an efficient matter.
When you are engaged in productive procrastination, you tend to work hard without first analyzing the value of the tasks that you’re working on. As we’ve talked about before, just because a task or to-do holds any value, it doesn’t mean you should actually spend your time or energy on it.
Remember, it doesn’t matter how hard you work if you work on the wrong things (aka, mid-low value tasks)
Most people assume they have to work 50 to 60-hour workweeks in order to become successful. I say, don’t focus on the number of hours that you work. Rather, focus on the value you create in the hours that you work.
Focus on quality over quantity.
In fact, by being truly productive for merely 2–3 hours per day you can actually get more results and make more progress than someone who does ‘busywork’ for 8–10 hours per day.
As our society has primed us that we need to work at least 40-hour workweeks it can sometimes be quite difficult to accept that we don’t need to work that many hours in order to achieve our goals (although, you can). Keep in mind that the 40-hour workweek is an outdated system and that you should always focus on the value you create vs the hours you work.
Now Do It
Change only happens when you execute. Therefore, as an action point, aim to remove these 4 productivity killers as soon as possible from your (work)life. You’ll quickly notice how much more focus you’ll have and how incredibly productive you are.
To Your Personal Growth,
Founder Personal Growth Lab