5 Ways You’re Sabotaging Your Productivity

Time for a productivity smack down!

It’s Christmas! Well, not exactly Christmas in the traditional “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” Christmas, but that other Christmas…Productivity Christmas! Otherwise known as “Back to School”!

Jump to the bottom of this post to learn more about this month’s “Back to School Bundle” Giveaway

I don’t know about you, but what really makes me giddy are the aisles of new notebooks, pens and pencils in fun colors, and STICKY NOTES! All the STICKY NOTES! Not to mention, I love the smell of crayons in the morning.

A recent trip to my local big box store had me wandering up and down the back to school aisles even though I haven’ t had any children in school mode in many moons. Probably not the most productive use of my day, especially considering I’m in the middle of trying to finish a book (sorry Justin, if you’re reading this…), that I have workshops to write, blogs to post and I’m behind in my newsletter.

It occurred to me that I was self-sabotaging my day. Well, that can’t be good. So – just as I like to look at productivity hacks during the first part of the year, (here’s my favorite post about “Just Getting it Done) – I thought this was a good time to look at it again. Only from a “self-sabotaging” perspective.

Without further ado – here are my top five items that are sabotaging your productivity efforts…drum roll please:

Messy Work Space

Okay, here’s the thing – we say our messy work space is an indicator of a creative mind. This may be true to some extent, and this is what I tell myself from time to time. However, psychologically messy spaces cause the brain to become unfocused. We see the files, then we wonder what are in the files. We move the files around…ultimately, they are a reminder or a suggestion of unfinished tasks, even if unconsciously.

If it’s old file put it away

If it’s an unfinished project put it in a file folder labeled, “works in progress”

Here, a Harvard Business Review report discusses how a messy space can undermine and even sabotage our overall environment.

Not Making Time for You

This is not a new piece of advice. Yet, we are still TERRIBLE at doing this. For some reason, we prefer to jump into the middle of a cold swimming pool, absorb the shock and flounder around. How is this productive? How is this helpful? Now, some of you may be telling me through your computer screens that planning your day is near impossible. Too many fires, too many balls in the air, too many people demanding your time. This could be true…

However, all I ask is for you take 5% of your day. 24 minutes. The time it would take you to get a cup of coffee and talk about the results for America’s Got Talent, to sit down and think about what needs to be accomplished TODAY.

We self-sabotage when we don’t fight for what is important. Are there times when you plan your day but your plan doesn’t work out…sure. If it happens more times than not, then perhaps there is need of a deeper time management intervention. But give peace of mind a chance…here is a  Procrastination Plan for you to try out and a post on how to ramp up your mojo! 

Letting Email Control Your Day

In other words, death by a series of small cuts.

We spend an average of 28% of our day on email. Here is a fascinating article by Fast Company about how long it takes to get back into the groove after distractions. Let me cut to the chase. It takes, on average, about 23 minutes and 15 seconds to refocus. YOWSA! Don’t believe Fast Company, okay…here’s a report from the University of California, Irvine, they say it takes 25 minutes.

Saying you are going to take a minute to check your email soon turns into a fool’s game. We become a victim of the always on, always available culture. By allowing this we self-sabotage our productivity efforts. We check email with good intentions, but then there’s something that claims our attention, “I’ll just take care of this now”, or “I might as well do this now so I don’t have to worry about it later”. Sound familiar? All this is yanking our attention from what matters most.

Sound familiar? All this is yanking our attention from what matters most.

Here is a Learning Rebels cheat sheet for out of office notifications you can use every day that won’t ruffle any feathers.

Not Focusing on the HVA

This is a riff on the items above. Not focusing on “High Value Actions”. This is where we can apply the 80/20 rule. We know the to-do items that are going to give us the biggest bang for our buck, but for some reason, we self-sabotage ourselves by not addressing the tasks. This may be for a few reasons.

We’re scared.

We don’t know where to start.

It’s hard.

I get it. Been there, done that, made a video, bought the t-shirt. Time to refocus. When we focus on the tasks that are going to bring 80% of our results, it feels good! It breeds confidence for the next item. It may make the next task a little easier. Don’t let those little bitty things that are getting in the way of your 20% take over your day.

Staying inside all day

“We know that creativity and innovation happen when people change their environment, and especially when they expose themselves to a nature-like environment, to a natural environment,” says Kimberly Elsbach, a professor at the University of California, Davis Graduate School of Management, who studies workplace psychology. (Credit: Inc.com, surprising ways to boost creativity)

In other words, get thy bootie outside. Find some sunshine, or at the very least change locations. (This is for those of you like me who are banished to the indoors for 4 months of the year, thank you Jack Frost!). Not moving, and not changing our environment is the self-sabotaging way of stifling creativity and innovation. There are enough ways that Corporate America stifles creativity without doing it ourselves. Am I right?

If nothing else, take your lunch break some place other than your desk. Yes, I’m looking at you…you, reading this post with your Quinoa Chicken Salad balanced on your keyboard. Finish reading, enter the contest below, then go find some sunshine! 


August Giveaway

In honor of “Back to School” I’ve decided to giveaway a few items that made me smile while going through those back to school aisles, along with a copy of Brian Tracy’s “Eat That Frog, 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating” 


Productivity Smack Down Giveaway!

Don’t miss out on Learning Rebels unique content – sign up for the “Rebellion” and begin taking over the world!

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Shannon Tipton

Shannon Tipton

As Owner of Learning Rebels, Shannon Tipton is a skilled learning strategist, content developer and International speaker. Shannon has over 20 years of leadership experience developing successful learning strategies and infrastructures for training departments within organizations in North America, Europe and Korea.

Shannon works with people and organizations to develop learning solutions that brings actual business results. Recognized as bringing real-world expertise into the learning field, Shannon integrates technologies and social learning tools to strengthen workplace alignment, enhance collaboration and increase learning connectivity.

As author of “Disruptive Learning” Shannon frequently speaking at conferences across North America and Europe and ranks as one of the top 100 L&D influencers on Twitter (@stipton).

4 thoughts on “5 Ways You’re Sabotaging Your Productivity”

    • LOL! Actually, if I had to be honest at this moment…my desk looks like a hurricane hit it. But it is research for another project. I’m really trying to clean up as projects progress because it is totally distracting to be surrounded by all these papers and folders! UGH.

  1. Ok coming back after skimming the HBR article. I think the experiment wasn’t *as* valid as it could be because there’s a difference between working in your own clutter vs. working in someone else’s or existing clutter. I see making my desk neat as something else “to do” which is why it normally doesn’t get done. I am going to try a neat desk for a week and take note of the difference!

  2. When I work at home I listen to classical music as lyrics are distracting and the melodies keep my brain in creativity mode. I can’t even listen to opera, even in a foreign language! I have recently begun listening to classical music while at work and it’s done wonders for my productivity! I have to remember to bring my iPod with me, but it’s so worth it.


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