Do you know specifically what results you produced at work today? Do you even know what you’ve achieved over the last week?
Astonishingly, many people have no idea what they’ve actually got done. It’s not for a lack of effort. Most people work long hours and are exhausted at the end of the work week, but all too often they lack focus on creating tangible results and have too little to show for it.
If this sounds like you, don’t worry, you’re not alone. 63% of employees in America feel like they are struggling to engage at work and nearly 50% say they have trouble focusing and gaining even 15 minutes of momentum on tasks.
Below are some key reasons why you struggle to get things done, and some tips on how to be more productive at work:
You Don’t Prioritize Effectively: Prioritizing is a key part of maximizing output. One natural tendency people have is to put off the harder tasks for as long as possible in order to stay in their comfort zone by working on less meaningful tasks.
Unfortunately, difficult problems rarely solve themselves or get better if you put them off. This is why scheduling your tasks ahead of time is important. This way you can not only take the exhausting doubt and uncertainty of what task to work on out of your mind but also sit down and think clearly about which task is going to have the most leverage.
Ranking tasks in order of priority is actually more difficult than it sounds because we tend to rationalize why it’s better to do the easier task first rather than the most uncomfortable one. We are biased when we decide what tasks we’re going to do, so it’s helpful to sit down in an objective frame of mind and plan your schedule in advance. That way, when the time comes to do the difficult task, you don’t end up talking yourself out of it and are actually able to execute on it.
You Are Resistant to Getting Started: There have been times where I’ve really resisted starting a block of work. This is understandable, as we’re sometimes in the frame of mind to want to avoid the things we should be doing, especially if the tasks are difficult or a bit awkward.
The strange thing is that I used to have a mental stubbornness against starting tasks even if they were easy or not too unpleasant. Fortunately, once you get started the flow can come surprisingly easy and you notice how, step by step, that feeling of procrastination evaporates as you gain momentum and the minutes fly past.
One great way to deal with this problem is to use a clock timer on a time tracking tool and set up a small manageable easy chunk of time to work through. Before you know it, the end of the time allotment is up, and you feel proud that you’ve just made solid progress.
The key to battling this type of procrastination is just to start. However small a step you take, just block off the time and start moving in the right direction. Start typing and bit by bit you’ll find your rhythm.
You Have an Irregular Routine. Contractors and freelancers especially struggle with this one. If you don’t have a preplanned start and end times for specific tasks, you’ll struggle to win any consistency and will be left at the mercy of your wandering mind.
Instead, schedule these set blocks of time as non-negotiable. When it’s time to work, work. When it’s time to stop, stop.
Don’t let anything interrupt these blocks of time. Be mentally strong and vigilant because if you get into the habit of allowing yourself to be distracted and not sticking with the schedule, you’ll break the planned script too easily whenever you’re in a slightly irritable mood or have some personal issues on your mind.
You Allow Others to Interrupt Unfortunately the biggest distractions we face can come from people around us such as your co-workers, or even friends and family if you’re a freelancer and work from home. You must make it absolutely clear that work time is work time and you are not to be disturbed during these hours. If you allow people to interrupt your flow or bother you with unscheduled phone calls or requests, they can drastically reduce the quality of your output and make it difficult to get started back up again.
Don’t allow people to break your rhythm. When you start measuring a block of time, stick to it at all costs.
More Productive at Work
The good news is that if you take a few steps to mitigate this tendency to lose focus and waste time, it will put you in the top 1% of people who manage their time and structure their working day competently. Ultimately this will give you more free time, make you more productive at work, and give you the opportunity to make more money.