If you work a nine to five job, chances are the week before you go on vacation is pretty productive. In fact, I’d bet that you get a normal week’s worth of work done in the two days before you head out of the office.
Now, think about what would happen if you could be that productive every day—if you were always your pre-vacation self.
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A lot of people think that’s out of reach. They think it would be impossible to get that much done on a consistent basis. But increasing your productivity isn’t just about doing more work. It’s also about figuring out what distracts you and removing those things from your day.
If you want to get more done, then start eliminating these five distracting habits from your day:
1: Mistaking Movement For Progress
Early on in my career, I had the bright idea to get three computer monitors. That way, I could keep track of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, email, news stories, stock prices, and every other online event at the same time.
Not surprisingly, it destroyed my productivity.
I’d made a classic mistake—conflating movement with progress. The more information you have pouring in, the more it feels like you’re doing something. But in reality, you’re accomplishing less.
Productivity is about getting things done, not watching them happen.
2: Needing Constant Connection
In today’s work environment, most distractions stem from the fear of missing out, or FOMO.
Social media and the constant churn of the 24-hour news cycle has created a sense that things are always happening. And if we don’t catch them right away, we’ll have missed out on something important.
Take the fire in Notre Dame, for example. I love that cathedral. I’ve been there and seen its majesty in person. It’s hard to overstate its cultural importance.
But I didn’t need to watch it burn in real-time.
Yes, it’s important to stay up-to-date and informed—I’m all for learning about the world we live in. But unless your job requires you to be on top of the latest breaking news, I promise it won’t matter if you learn about a story a couple of hours later than everyone else.
3: Having Unfocused Work Time
I hate to break it to all you “multitaskers”, but the myth of multitasking has been thoroughly debunked. People just aren’t as productive or effective when they attempt to split their focus between a number of tasks.
To truly be productive, it’s important you don’t look at a two-hour block of time as simply “work.” If you go in with several different items you need to accomplish and 20 open browser tabs, you won’t get the most out of your time. You’ll become distracted and flit back and forth between one task and another.
So you have to be specific about what you’re doing with your time. Tell yourself exactly what you’re going to work on for the first half-hour. Then the next. Once you stop splitting your focus and start structuring your time, your productivity will soar.
4: Relying On Your Memory
I had to learn this lesson the hard way.
When I was younger, I used to tell myself, “Oh, I’ll remember that. No problem.” Of course, I wouldn’t remember it and would miss the deadline, call, or whatever I needed to be doing. I dropped a few balls before I wised up, but today, I put everything on a to-do list or calendar.
It’s so much easier to jot down what you need to do, set reminders, and refer back to your schedule throughout the day. You’ll save yourself some pain, and the reminders will keep you from getting distracted and drifting off into unproductive territory.
5: Prioritizing Your Wants Over Your Needs
Productivity comes down to self-discipline.
That means if you’re traveling, but you need to get work done, you do it on the plane rather than watching a movie. It means if you’re taking time off, you get all your work done first, then go hit the beach.
I know it can be tough to prioritize what you don’t want to do. But whenever I feel like putting off a task I’m really not looking forward to, I think of a favorite quote of mine from the book The Hard Thing About Hard Things: “If you’re gonna eat shit, don’t nibble.”
Do what you have to and move on. Get the unpleasant work out of the way so you can focus on the next thing. Don’t worry, the world will wait for you to get it done. People will still be posting on social media when you’re finished with your work. The news cycle will keep spinning. That beach isn’t going anywhere.
Once you realize this secret—and begin cutting out distractions and becoming more productive—you aren’t simply making room in your life for more work. You’re creating more time to do everything in life you really want to.