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When productivity tips become counterproductive

Sometimes productivity hacks just treat the symptoms without helping you discover what to focus on and why.

It is easy to get sidetracked and optimize the heck out of your day, while completely ignoring some underlying issues, such as:

  1. You are trying hard to meet someone else’s expectations

  2. You are unclear on what your priorities are

  3. You are living your life according to social norms

Trying to meet others’ expectations

It is a tricky one, as the more you deliver, the more people expect from you. Sounds familiar? Becoming more productive in this case is in fact counterproductive. Working from home makes this even worse, because you are trying to keep up, do more, appear to be working and being online throughout the day which seems to not have a clear 'end' anymore. In order to break the cycle, you need to set boundaries and say ‘no’. Easier said than done, I know I know...

Being unclear on your priorities

If you are one of the few people who can clearly articulate their top priorities for the next year, 3 months, the current month, and week, congratulations! :) Though even in that case, I would say that often there are unrealistic or competing goals, which again call for a bit of reality check and prioritization exercise. I know that it is super hard to set priorities in a world where we just don't know what life is going to look like in a month's time, let alone in a year. The issue with that though, if you don't set any priorities and commit to them knowing that will evolve and you will have to adapt, you will end up drifting. I believe that the last few months have felt that way already for many. Let's break the cycle.

Living your life according to social norms

Without getting too deep here, let me just ask you to notice how often you use the word ‘should’. ‘I should have got promoted already’. ‘I should be able to do this like everyone else.’ ‘I should make an effort to get up at 5am and exercise.’ If you are trying to be more productive so that you can fulfill your ‘should-s’, I would suggest pausing and asking yourself why this matters to you in the first place. Is it for social proof? External validation? Is it due to the blueprint you have created in your head around how your life 'should' be? Figuring out the 'why' can be a lot more valuable exercise than researching productivity tips.

You can read, watch and listen to as many productivity tips as you want. However, you may just become productive doing things that don’t matter as much at the end of the day.

No amount of ToDo lists, email hacks, and calendar tricks will help you create something that makes a real impact in your life. Personally, I spend an equal amount of time on a weekly basis asking myself what would get me closer to my main goals as well as setting up my planning for the week so I can feel accomplished.

If you are interested in setting priorities and goals, feel free to read my previous blog post on this topic. I also go deeper in my #MakeItHappen approach that creates a link between priority setting, productivity systems, and hacks. As you can tell, I love a good system that actually works, instead of getting sidetracked by what I call "productivity porn" - chasing and experimenting with the latest apps, tricks and morning routines - that gets you nowhere.

Over the weekend, ask yourself: what will make the biggest difference in my work and in my personal life this coming week? How do those things align with what I want to accomplish this year (and quarter, if you already have that breakdown)?

To sum it up, friends, productivity porn creates stress, focusing on the right priorities creates productivity.

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