Productivity isn’t as simple as planning ahead, making a schedule, and waking up a few hours early. If you want to be productive, you need to take a brutally honest look at your behaviors. Are you setting realistic goals for yourself, or are you aiming too high? Do you make use of the information you consume or not? Make the most of your time by confronting these problems that kill your productive power.
1. Unrealistic expectations
“Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.” – Alexander Pope
Stop thinking the world owes you something. If there was really a “quick” way to lose weight, don’t you think the average person would be in better shape by now? If there was really an “easy” way to make money, don’t you think less people would be buried in debt by now? You will never achieve anything worth doing if you expect success to come “quick” or “easy.” Success is reserved for people who are willing to put forth as much effort as it takes.
Action Step: Read the success stories of people like Michael Jordan, Oprah Winfrey, Will Smith, and Stephen King. None of these people became household names without struggling first. For example: Stephen King’s first hit novel, “Carrie,” got rejected dozens of times before publication. Are you willing to persevere through failure? If not, don’t bother trying.
2. Information overload
“Never confuse movement with action.” – Ernest Hemingway
Stop consuming information without purpose. Yes, reading is a great way to gain knowledge and grow your perspective, but it can quickly become an act of mental masturbation. Why bother reading a self-help book, blog, or article that you don’t intend to implement in your life? The best advice in the world is worthless if you fail to take action.
Action Step: Choose 1-3 articles to read per day that are relevant to your goals (health, fitness, business, or otherwise). Write or type the central message in your own words. Expressing another person’s idea in your words will help you remember the point. For bonus points, make a list of actionable ways you can apply this information in your life.
3. Instant gratification
“Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.” – Aristotle
Stop behaving like a spoiled child. Text messaging, social media, and mobile technology have made it difficult to be patient. You can broadcast a status update to friends all over the world with a few keystrokes. You can search for information about any subject in an instant.
“Sounds convenient,” you might be thinking, “so what’s the problem?”
Life doesn’t work that way. As a writer, I feel qualified to give this example. A lot of aspiring bloggers assume people will flock to their post as soon as they click “publish.” Wrong. For many months, my mother was the only person who cared enough to read my blog. And don’t get me started on people who think they will make money writing immediately. I had to sharpen my craft for over two years before anybody took a chance on me. Get comfortable with the fact that you might not see the fruits of your labor for a long time.
Action Step: Disable all text notifications from social media as instructed here (this will remove the temptation of checking your phone obsessively).
4. Approval addiction
“Do your thing and don’t care if they like it.” – Tina Fey
Stop obsessing with the opinions of others. Treat people with courtesy and respect, but don’t put their demands before your own needs. To illustrate this concept, here are some common behaviors of approval addicts:
Agonizing over a criticism or insult
I know you want people to like you. Who doesn’t? It’s basic human nature. But you need to accept that some people will never appreciate you, no matter how hard you try.
Checking their email first thing in the morning
The morning sets the tone for the rest of your day. Opening your inbox as soon as you awake will set you up for a day that is ruled by the demands of others. Don’t cripple yourself at the starting line.
Expecting other people to make decisions for them
It’s okay to get feedback from people you trust, but don’t pass the buck. Letting friends or family dictate your every move can only end in regret. Accept responsibility for your actions. You’re the only person who gets to decide how to live your life.
Modifying behavior depending on who they are with
The only people who matter are those who accept you as you are. Why should you spend time with a person who couldn’t stomach your authentic personality if you let it shine? Be thankful for the people who understand you and forget about the rest.
Action Step: If any of the behaviors I described above sound familiar, choose one to address for now. Changing approval-seeking habits will take time, but simply being aware of your actions is step one.
5. Perfectionism / Indecision
“A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” – George S. Patton
Stop chasing perfection. You will only get caught up in trivial things. Perfectionism is often indecision in disguise. This behavior often manifests near a project’s completion. For an example, let’s say an author finished a book. She’s thrilled with the story itself, but nonetheless delays publication, because she can’t decide if the cover should be green or turquoise. Imagine a co-worker who’s working on a Powerpoint presentation. He’s happy with the content, but nonetheless wastes hours playing with slide settings and graphic elements that not many people would care about.
Action Step: Be aware of your tendency to nitpick yourself. When you find yourself stuck on a small decision, ask yourself, “Is this really important? Would my time be better spent elsewhere?” If so, decide now and move on to the next thing.