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Do you know the feeling of needing to start a big project but, when it’s time to begin, you find you can’t do anything? Perhaps there is the sound of construction nearby. Or maybe you feel the need to first respond to a few emails. Or maybe you’d rather have one more look at yesterday’s football scores.
What do you do in this kind of situation? How do you break out of it? How do you increase your productivity and get to work?
A good place to start is to identify the three most common ‘productivity killers’ - distraction, displacement and procrastination - and then think of how you can get past them.
Let’s look at each.
A distraction is anything that stops you from concentrating on something else. Distractions are particularly harmful when you are working on a task that requires a lot of focus and attention. Loud noises, social media notifications or addictive games on your mobile are common examples of distractions.
The best way to overcome them is to simply remove the source of the distraction. Think about working from a quieter place, putting your mobile out of reach, turning off notifications or closing your browser. Not having things there to distract will allow you to focus entirely on your project.
Displacement - also sometimes called ‘productive procrastination’ - is when you find some other productive thing to do, as an alternative to what most needs to be done now. For example, instead of working on that important budget proposal that is due next week, you choose to clean out your inbox or work on another far less urgent project.
It might be that you are overwhelmed by the size of the task. If this is the case, try breaking the project into parts and setting mini-deadlines for yourself. These deadlines would ideally be slotted for a few times a day. When you have completed a smaller task, reward yourself by taking a break or - why not? - playing that addictive game on your mobile.
The last of the productivity killers is procrastination. This is when you put off, for no good reason, doing something important but difficult. Perhaps the best-known example of this is when a student needs to study for an important exam, but keeps delaying it.
A Psychology Today blog piece on how to overcome procrastination makes a great suggestion on how to focus on the task at hand: ask a friend to hold you accountable. Agree on deadlines on certain tasks and have the friend check in with you at those times. Staying true to your word can be a great motivator!
The key factor in getting past these productivity-killers is to stop avoiding the tasks and to develop a ‘will-do’ attitude. By just starting somewhere, you will likely soon find the direction you need to go. And once your productivity is flowing, you’ll have that project done in no time!
Want to learn more about increasing your productivity? Check out one of our Business Express courses. These courses make great use of your time by condensing practical business tips into a short course format: