It has become harder than ever before for families to find opportunities to spend quality time together. The good news is that information on how to manage your time better and become a more productive person is just a click away. The bad news is that no guide will solve your productivity problems if you’re unwilling to honestly identify what you’re busy with.
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Pretty much everyone knows what it takes to be productive:
1. You set up your priority tasks.
2. You focus on the first task on your list until completed.
3. You move on to the second task and focus on it until completed, and so on.
Yet “not having enough time” is still one of the most common issues affecting people across the world. Parents in particular still struggle to find a healthy work-life balance and many still feel guilty about the amount of time they spend with their kids.
The path to productivity is long and winding. It’s surprisingly easy to fall into (or back into) habits that reduce your productivity. Habits are automatic urges to do something. Most habits that reduce your productivity are driven by the “lies” you tell yourself. Let’s take a look at some of these lies:
The lies stealing your time:
- Lie 1: I’m good at multi-tasking
Being able to do multiple tasks at once makes you more productive, right? Wrong. Research has shown us the cold hard facts: multi-taskers are less productive than people who focus on a single activity at a time.
One study that focused on people asked to perform three tasks at the same time found they were terrible at ALL three.
So why does multi-tasking make you less productive?
Because the brain can only focus on one thing at a time. While it can perform multiple tasks, it will not perform them successfully. Multi-tasking is therefore synonymous with lack of quality.
- Lie 2: It’s got to be perfect
Striving for perfection is a good thing: it helps you produce better work. But here’s the problem: focusing on being perfect actually lowers your productivity levels. It’s easy to hide behind the reasons why you’ve not yet sent out that article you’ve been writing: you’re waiting for it to be perfect; or why you’ve still not finished that project you’ve been working on: it’s not perfect yet. But can you really achieve perfection given that perfection is subjective?
- Lie 3: I don’t have the time
I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time is a book written by time management guru Laura Vanderkam after she had observed over 1,000 women who earned more than $100,000 a year and still found the time to “do it all”. So how did they do it?
* By making use of ALL the hours in a week
* By determining the activities that could be done in the early morning and those that could be done after the kids had gone to bed. This enabled them to time when the kids got out of school and to have family time in the evenings.
So, the questions you should be asking yourself are:
* Are you planning your time or are you letting others plan your time for you?
* What gets to be on your to-do list? Should it be on your not-to-do list?
* Are you responding to the loudest distractions or to important and urgent tasks?
- Lie 4: Working longer is synonymous with working better
Findings from several studies are consistent with the idea that working fewer hours will make you more productive and that long working hours can actually ruin your health. Long working hours stifle productivity.
How do German workers, who have one of the shortest working weeks, still manage to be among the most productive workers? First, they are focused and diligent about work: when its time to work it’s time to work. Second, they work hard but play hard. Focusing on work-related activities during working hours means that, once they leave the office, they can focus on non-work-related activities.
What lessons can you learn from the Germans?
– Being productive does not mean putting in long hours; it means doing what needs to be done by the end of the working day.
– Working long hours and being PRESENT in the office for long hours is not the same thing.
– Working long hours is often a sign of inefficiency.
– Being busy does not mean being better.
- Lie 5: I need to work hard to make ends meet
Quite recently, my partner and I decided to take our minimalist living further. We had fallen victim to wanting (and buying) things we didn’t need. We began by asking ourselves three important questions:
• How much did we really need to get by?
• Could we do without some of the things we’d become accustomed to buying?
• Were we buying things because we needed them or because everyone else was?
Joshua Becker’s The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own is an excellent introduction to minimalist living. Joshua basically argues that the more you consume, the more you want, and he shows why having less (decluttering) leads to a fuller life and less stress. And there is plenty of research to back up these statements. Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School and the University of Illinois have proved that scarcity, rather than abundance, spurs creativity.
Minimalism is not synonymous with frugality. It’s about clearing the cutter and spending on what matters. It’s about being more and doing more with less. It’s about perfecting the balancing act between spending on what matters and eliminating the unnecessary.
- Lie 6: I work better under pressure
Why do some people work under the pressure of an impending deadline? New research (Facebocrastination, (ugh, don’t you just love it!)) suggests that the “social media habit” has created new self-control challenges.
Things competing for your attention have become a lot louder, and may be driving you to choose what’s louder over what’s urgent and important.
Experts in the field of procrastination research in Canada argue that, by procrastinating, you become your own worst enemy. Timothy Pychyl, one of the leading experts in the field and author of the book “Solving the Procrastination Puzzle: A Concise Guide to Strategies for Change“, likens procrastinating to akrasia, a Greek word for weakness of will: you know it’s bad for you, but you still go ahead and do it.
- Lie 7: I can’t afford to take a break
Have you noticed that you’re more irritable and have less patience when you’re tired? A recent study shows that high levels of stress in parents (especially mothers) not only translates into poor education outcomes but also leads to behavioral and emotional problems. This parental stress is often linked to the culture of “intensive parenting” which arouses feelings of guilt and leads mothers to cut back on the time they spend on themselves in order to be more available for their kids. It’s important to realize, though, that:
• If you’re not taking care of yourself, you can’t really take care of what else needs to be done. You’re less productive when you’re worked up and tired.
• If you’re stressed, guilt-ridden and anxious, you can actually do more harm than good.
• Taking time off for yourself will be beneficial for both your professional and your social life. It will make you healthier and happier.
Are you guilty of letting these lies steal your time? Share your thoughts in the comments below and send this post to family and friends if you think they’d enjoy it. I’d really appreciate it.
This post is an excerpt from my eBook “The Seven Lies Keeping You Busy: A Brief Guide on How to Add More Hours to Your Day”. If you enjoyed it, get the complete guide by signing up here – it’s free. In it, you’ll find the 10 ways you can fight back!