From the minute I entered school till the day I graduated from university, I was taught the innumerable merits of industrious labor. As a result, I was always the nerd burning the midnight oil before even the most trivial of quizzes and studied for protracted hours, giving up all recreation and fun in the process. To my surprise, my peers who studied smartly always beat me at it. This forced me to question my approach. I realized that I should work smart, not hard; something I have carried over in my professional career and succeeded.
And it’s not just me! Take into account a small business owner who works round the clock. However, does such diligent hard work enable him to stand head and shoulder over his multi-billion competitor? You need to keep in mind that time is a rare commodity. A magnate can only work 7 days a week and 24 hours a day, and their competitor can still spend more time on the project, build a better and stronger team, and spend more money. If so, why is the history replete with the heroic tales of small startups accomplishing things that larger corporations couldn’t even dream of touching? After all, Snapchat, a budding startup with a mere team of 30, is snubbing big time offers from tech giants, such as Google and Facebook! A fluke of luck you may call it, but efficiency is what their luck depends on!
In an era where everything moves at a rapid pace, it’s far more important to manage your energy than manage your time. Simply appearing busy doesn’t translate into productivity. In fact, science has laid waste to a plethora of our pre-conceived notions and has determined a few common, and seemingly productive, things that we need to stop doing ASAP to boost efficiency and productivity:
1. Working Overtime
According to a study conducted at the Stanford University, employee output starts to take a downturn spiral when they clock in more than 50 hours per week and plummet sharply after they have crossed the 55-hour mark. Additionally, working for long hours is linked to higher employee turnover rate, more absenteeism and a host of health concerns. All this evidence is a testament to the fact that working overtime can be counter-productive and you need to circumvent it whenever possible. In another report issued by the Business Roundtable in 1980 states, labeled the Scheduled Overtime Effect on Construction Projects, “The more you work, the less effective and productive you are going to become over both short and long term.”
In fact, pulling all-nighters and sleep deprivation could be the main driver behind your lack of productivity and motivation. After all, Leonardo Divinci slept less at night but compensated by taking several naps a day, President John F. Kennedy had a habit of taking his lunches in bed before settling in for a serene catnap, while the French Emperor Napoleon daily indulged in regular naps to rejuvenate his mind for the hectic day ahead! Who knew something as fun as sleeping could be the most potent tool in the arsenal of entrepreneurs?
2. Doing Everything Yourself
Another grave mistake is to try to become the jack of all trades. You eventually burn out! Unfortunately, this is what subjects us to serious amount of work related stress and anxiety. Why not let someone who is better at a task than you are, take over some of your load. Most productive people know the importance of delegating work, leaving their hands free to handle more pressing matters.
3. Saying “Yes” To Everything
“Just saying yes because you cannot bear the short term pain of saying no is not going to help you do the work.”—Seth Godin
Precedence has it that the most successful individuals say no to almost everything! You need to determine when to say yes to the most important tasks and nodding your head to everything else that bring no results. While you have may harbor a trepidation of appearing as the bad guy, Saying “Yes” to everything that comes your way can subject you to extreme work pressures, in addition to hampering your productivity. Learn to say “No” if you want to be more productive. Steve Jobs summed it up brilliantly with, “It comes from saying no to 1000 things to make sure we don’t get on the wrong track or try to do too much.”
4. Wasting Time
Time is a precious commodity. We all know that, right. Do we treat it like money? No. Be it emails, meetings, social media, chatting with co-workers or anything else, we all waste time at work in one way or another. Meetings are the biggest productivity killers at work, followed by emails.
According to a Salary.com survey, 47% of participants also consider meetings as the biggest time wasting activity at work. According to a Forbes article, office workers receive around 200 emails every day and they spend 2.5 hours on average reading and replying to these emails.
Factor in the time we waste on browsing through our social media feed or gossiping with our co-worker and half of your workday goes to waste. Stop wasting time on useless meetings or make meetings fruitful, manage emails efficiently and keep distractions at bay to be more productive.
5. Juggling Multiple Balls At Once
Multitasking is a good thing as it helps you get more done in less time. At least, this is what how most people think. Unfortunately, it’s a far cry from the truth. Another research conducted at Stanford University brings to light a startling fact about multitasking. Multitasking decreases your productivity and efficiency. Yes, you read that right. If this was not enough to convince you, here is another one. According to a study conducted at University of London, multitasking can decrease your IQ and damage your brain.
Focus on one thing at a time because our brains are hard-wired to do that. When you try to multitask, your brain starts to switch focus from one task to another, which can result in a loss of precious time, making you less productive in turn. Although, it might not be the easiest thing to avoid considering the highly competitive business environment, you can at least use a task management software to manage things more efficiently.
6. Chasing Perfection
Just like multitasking, you might consider striving for perfection a good thing. However, Dr. Simon Sherry, a psychology professor hailing from Dalhousie University, conducted a study on perfectionism and productivity. She found a strong connection between increasing perfectionism and declining productivity. Here is what she had to say, “We found that perfectionism trips up professors on the way to research productivity. The more perfectionist the professor, the less productive they are.”
Whenever we strive for perfection, we tend to spend more time on a particular task to complete it as immaturely and flawlessly as possible, which automatically brings our productivity graph down. In some cases, perfection can also lead to procrastination, as we tend to wait for the perfect moment. We all know how bad procrastination can be for your productivity but there are ways to use procrastination positively. Do not wait for your moment because the perfect moment is now and stop chasing perfectionism, otherwise, you can bid adieu to productivity.
7. Skipping Breaks
Are you a workaholic who doesn’t believe in taking regular breaks? We have some bad news for you. Recent studies have shown that employees who take breaks after each hour of work, tend to be more productive. It is highly recommended that you follow the 90-20 rule for breaks, which says you should take a 20 minutes reprieve after every 90 minutes work session. This will not only rejuvenate you, but also help you focus better, which will eventually lead to higher productivity. Take a stroll with a friend, grab a steaming cup of coffee, read your favorite book, or doodle in your break time to get your creative juices flowing again.
Which activity has the biggest negative impact on your productivity at work? Feel free to share it with us in the comments section below.