You know those days when you’re checking stuff off the list, responding, reacting, getting everything done? You’ve been going since your eyes opened, and only on your drive to pick up the kiddos (or the dry cleaning) do you have an utterly annoying revelation: You have no idea what you’ve gotten done all day.
How is it possible you can’t pinpoint one significant accomplishment, and yet, end the day exhausted and scattered? Beyond frustrating.
Unfortunately, in our hectic lives consumed by social media, family commitments, emotional highs and lows, and the demands of work, days like this become more frequent. If you’ve recently had “one of those days,” reflect on your actions to see where you lost control. Here are five mistakes you might be making.
Top 5 Annoying Productivity Mistakes (& How To Avoid Them)
Annoying Mistake #1: Zero planning the night before
The last thing you want to do after you walk the dog, do the dishes, and pay the bills is review tomorrow’s full schedule. But it’s this small investment of energy that’ll save you hours in time and frustration the next day. Simply seeing your appointments, events, calls, and meetings trigger questions like: How much time do I need to get there? Do I need to bring anything? When should I wake up? Why did I think a 6 a.m. Pilates class was a good idea?! However, NOT reviewing your calendar for the next morning can mean that you:
- forget the kids have to be at school early
- have no idea what to wear to your 9 a.m. meeting (or where it is, for that matter)
- don’t know your priorities for the day (This one snowballs into a storm of time-wasters.)
Avoid starting the day in a frenzy with a 10-minute rundown of your next day before you call it a night. With a quick check of your calendar and a read-over of your to-do list, your day can kick off on time, calmly, and on a high note.
Lesson learned: Successful days start the night before.
Annoying Mistake #2: Email. Enough said.
You’ve been down that exasperating road before, so you don’t know why you end up there time and again. Even when you have the best intentions of tackling priorities, you tell yourself you’ll take a quick look at your email. A simple check and then back to business as planned.
Fifty-three-and-a-half minutes later, and you haven’t come up for air, but boy have you gotten through a lot of messages. In a panic, you realize you only have seven minutes before you head to a meeting, which doesn’t give you much time to focus on that prep work you really should be doing. You continue your day like this, and guess who has no energy to be thinking about sales proposals, meal planning, or hitting the gym?
You might be beginning to see how your lack of setting aside specific time for email may lead to your demise. Blocking time for email isn’t instinctual, but it’s a practice that will serve you well. Put a start and end time for email, perhaps two to four times a day, so you have a dedicated period to focus on it.
Lesson learned: Put boundaries on your email time so you don’t waste time down a rabbit hole.
Annoying Mistake #3: You let one bad habit lead to another.
Let me guess. While sucked into the email abyss, you got sidetracked by updates, alerts, and searches? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Recently while I was working on emails, I remembered to check into my upcoming flight, which reminded me to buy sunblock, which triggered me to sign my son’s permission slip, which caused me to upload his camp pics, which flashed an ad for the perfect yoga pants, which took me to their website, which made me search on Amazon, and who knows what happened after that. I fell into distraction quicksand, and every time I struggled to crawl out, I sank in deeper. Apparently, it happens to the “pros” too.
Without boundaries around social media or online shopping, your reactivity spirals, responding to any request or thought thrown your way. To beat this dirty addiction, block out time for distractions before they end up becoming your priorities. As with email, if you carve out time for “online activities,” you’ll find yourself getting much more rewarding work done in the day.
Lesson learned: Block your time. Even for the distractions. (Especially for the distractions.)
Annoying Mistake #4: You let your lists fall by the wayside.
Your lists are your lifeline, so you need them most when you’re drowning. Except when you’re so overwhelmed that you forget about them completely. It seems harmless at the moment, but at 5 p.m. you feel like a slug for not getting anything worthwhile done.
On the other (more sensible) hand, instead of shrugging responsibilities, use your lists as the prioritization tools they are meant to be. Lists help you organize your thoughts, build a simple structure, get tasks in order, and release anxiety. Keeping everything in your brain feels heavy and overwhelming. The simple act of getting information and thoughts out of your head can take you from scattered to grounded. When your mind is swirling, rely on your lists to prioritize, see things clearly, and start acting. It’s amid your chaos that you need them most.
For immediate clarity on your next actions, do a brain dump of all your thoughts compounding in your mind. You’ll be amazed by the crystallization of ideas and priorities that jump out at you when you go through this exercise.
Lesson learned: Ignoring your lists makes everything worse.
Annoying Mistake #5: You focus on nonsense.
When the day flies by and it’s 4 p.m. when you’re ready for the “real work,” you do what any respectable woman would do. You organize your paper piles into perfectly aligned stacks on different areas of your desk. Perhaps you throw out a few papers, reshuffle the rest, and add a few sticky notes to your folders. You. Are. Ruthless.
It’s amazing how many unimportant tasks we can spend our time on, especially when we don’t want to do what we really should be doing. This is otherwise known as procrasti-doing. Keeping busy feels productive in the moment, but at the end of the day, you’re zapped of energy and have nothing to show for your efforts.
When you sense you’re falling into this trap, pull yourself away from the nonsense by taking a deep breath and getting back to that list of yours. You’ll feel far more successful and much happier when you end the day knowing you accomplished something meaningful, even if it’s only an inch closer to any of your important goals.
Lesson learned: Focusing on nonsense doesn’t make you feel good at the end of the day either.
It’s demotivating to delay goals due to circumstances that are in your control. Being intentional with your time simply means you need to be aware of it. So when you fall into the black hole of distractions, avoidance, perfectionism, or confusion, you have the strength and ability to pull yourself out, reassess, and realign. When you do that, you never wonder, “What did I get done?”
What mistake can you avoid today?
And for more general tips on getting organized, click HERE!