4 Productivity Mistakes You Might Be Making Too

April 19, 2012

I’ve been a case study for what not to do in terms of productivity over the last several months. Today I’ll share my mistakes so you can try and avoid them.

1) Spreading Your Focus Too Thin

If you want to cross things off your list, it’s best to remain focused on the top item until it’s complete.  If you can block out distractions and focus your energy on a specific task then your odds of completing it go up significantly.

As you might remember, we had a baby girl a few months back.  The combination of a newborn and our other two young kids have turned my life into one constant distraction.  I haven’t focused on any one thing so its not surprising that I haven’t gotten anything accomplished.

2) Failing to Find Your Optimal Time

Have you ever noticed that a task that takes you half an hour to finish in the late afternoon can actually be completed in 10 minutes first thing in the morning?  Everyone’s optimal work time is different but if you can schedule your most important and/or challenging tasks for the times when you’re most alert and “in the zone” then you’ll get them done much faster.

In the past my productive time was once the rest of the family was in bed.  After everyone else was tucked in I knew I had several hours to get things done.  Unfortunately the unpredictable nature of a newborn baby means they could wake up crying at any point. 

At the end of the day I’ve been physically and mentally exhausted; so even if the baby is not crying I’ve been going to sleep during what used to be my most productive time (in anticipation she’ll wake up at some point in the night).

3) Not Breaking Up Your Tasks

I don’t know about you but I always seem to have more to do, than I do time to complete it in.  A good way to beat this problem is by breaking down your to-do into smaller tasks and completing them a little at a time.

The danger if you don’t take this approach is that you could get overwhelmed by the larger tasks, come to a deadlock, and not take any action at all.

Using this approach is always something I’ve been good at, until the last few months.  I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I’ve been kind of exhausted. I can still identify the times it would be appropriate to squeeze in some work.  Although I see them as a prime opportunity to get something done I’ve been having a tough time getting my brain into gear “on demand”.

4) Placing Blame for Your Lack of Productivity

As you can see I’m guilty of this one, blaming it all on the baby.  The problem with placing blame is that the focus is on the problem and not what you can do to avoid or resolve it.

There will always be something that we can blame our productivity issues on.  Instead of using them as an excuse to be unproductive, you get a lot more done if you come up with a plan to work through the roadblocks.

I’m afraid I’ve probably used our newborn as somewhat of an excuse to be unproductive so here’s my plan to break out of my productivity tailspin.


I have a project that I’ve been working on for a long time that’s pretty close to being ready for prime time.  I’m going to make that my top priority and focus my effort on getting it out the door.

I’m also going to weed out distractions.  I can’t make a crying baby disappear but I can use the time I do have without kids wisely.  When I have a block of time I’m going to say no to distractions like my email inbox and I’ll ignore the urge to prop my feet up and relax.

Optimal Time

The unpreditable schedule shouldn’t be an excuse not to get things done.  I’m going to set aside half an hour each night, from 10–10:30, to make things happen.  If that time doesn’t work out due to kid duties then I’ll have a backup time of 11–11:30.

Of course it’s best to stick with the same time but that’s not always possible.  As our daughter gets older and more scheduled I’ll stick more closely to the 10 PM time block and extend it out to an hour.

Smaller Tasks

On my drive to work each morning I’ll think about what needs to be done that night and I’ll break it out into smaller tasks.  I’ll capture the list on my new handy-dandy iPad when I roll into the office and tackle a piece at a time that night in my time block.

Being More Productive Despite Your Distractions

Of course not everyone is dealing with a new baby right now but chances are you have something that’s dragging your productivity down.  Hopefully you picked up a few nuggets from my exercise in fixing my productivity mistakes and can apply it to whatever is slowing you down.

The first three strategies I covered can be used in conjunction so making just little progress towards having better focus, working during an optimal time, and breaking a goal into smaller tasks can combine for big productivity gains.


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Ben Edwards, the founder of Money Smart Life, saved up enough to buy a Nintendo back when he was 12 years old. When he used the money to buy shares of Wal-Mart stock instead, he knew he wasn't like the other kids... His addiction to personal finance has paid off for his family and now he's helping you to afford the life that you want. Check him out on the web at Google Plus, Twitter and Facebook.

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