Why We Fail at Productivity
Hi, friends! Welcome to week 4 of Project: Purposeful Productivity! Over the past few weeks, I’ve been talking about the strategies that help me to waste less time and accomplish more. But do you want to know a secret? When I do these series on organization and productivity… they’re more for me than anyone else. 😉 I don’t do them because I’ve got it all figured out and know everything I need to know. I do them because it forces me to think about areas in my own life that I need to improve.
It’s kind of funny that as I’ve been writing this productivity series this month that I’ve felt like I’m in kind of a productivity funk. As I shared on Instagram a few days ago, there’s nothing majorly wrong or anything, I’ve just been feeling a bit “off” and like I’m not getting as much accomplished as I usually do.
So this weekend I sat down and thought long and hard about what was getting in the way. What is keeping me from being as productive as I want to be? There are many reasons, but as I made my list, the same 5 themes kept coming to mind.
5 Reasons We Fail at Productivity
And what I’ve learned as I’ve blogged about this topic over the past few years is that I’m usually not alone– the things that inhibit my organization and productivity are the same things that get in others’ way too– so I thought I’d share what I came up with in case it would be helpful for anyone else!
Here it goes…
1. We’re worn out.
Whether it’s from not getting enough sleep at night or from being mentally/emotionally worn out from all that we take on during our days, I find that one of the main reasons I’m lacking in the productivity department is that I’m just too worn out.
I think that if I go and go and go and go, that will be how I will be able to check off everything on my to do list, but in reality, I’m working myself into burnout mode, which usually results in non-productivity.
This past weekend I probably did the least amount of work that I had in a long time. Instead I took my kids on a hayride, went on a date with my husband, and spent some quality time with my mom.
Even though I didn’t check off many things on my to do list, I came into the week feeling more energized and ready to work because I had taken the time to rest and rejuvenate.
2. We’re distracted.
This is a big one. Even though I have a list of things I want to accomplish, all of the sudden my Facebook and Instagram feeds become the most interesting things I’ve ever seen, I start scrolling around Pinterest mindlessly, and I look for any excuse to do exactly the opposite of what I’m supposed to be doing. I am so easily distracted by anything and everything.
I’ve found that I am most prone to distractions when I’m trying to avoid certain tasks on my to-do list. They’re hard, not fun, or I just don’t feel like doing them, so I begin wasting time instead.
The biggest way I try to combat this is by tackling the “worst” tasks on my list first. When I have them out of the way, I don’t spend the rest of the day dreading them, and my mind is free to focus on the other more enjoyable tasks that need to be done.
3. We have no accountability.
I may be able to stay motivated and accomplish things on my own, but I’m always amazed at how much more I can do when I have someone to hold me accountable. Especially when I feel like I’m in a rut, confiding in someone who will hold me responsible for what I do or don’t accomplish is exactly what I need to get myself out of it.
Starting this blog was like that for me. For a while I had thought about doing something like blogging as a creative outlet and a way to exercise my mental muscles, but it wasn’t until I told Donnie about my plan and asked him to help me put it into action that I actually went for it and did it… and here we still are, almost three years later!
4. We’re overwhelmed.
Oh friends, this is such an easy one to fall into. The tasks in front of us seem so big or we have so much on our plate that we feel like there’s never any way we’ll get it all done, but instead of doing the logical thing and chipping away at our list little by little, we avoid it, waste time, and in turn, don’t get any closer to the finish line.
It sounds silly, but one area where I find myself doing this the most is with cleaning. I love to organize, but I am not the best housekeeper. I get so overwhelmed with all of the cleaning tasks that have to be done– windows and floors and laundry and dusting and bathrooms etc. etc. etc.– that I just shut down and put it off until I can’t take it anymore. (Which of course makes it 10 times worse!)
When I can get in a routine and tackle one small area at a time, though, I realize it’s not so bad at all and is totally doable! (Though I still don’t know that it will ever be my favorite thing… 😉 )
5. We don’t have goals and/or a plan to achieve them.
If you read my blog often, you probably knew this one was coming! I am huge on not only setting goals, but also putting action steps in place to help achieve those goals. As much as I love the goal setting process, though, and know it works, I am far from perfect at it.
Earlier this year Donnie and I put a lot of time and effort into relaunching an eBook. The “big goal” was to get it launched successfully, and we did.
I had been so fixated on that goal, though, that I hadn’t put much thought into what my next steps would be after we completed it, so I spent a few weeks kind of piddling aimlessly because I didn’t have a set goal and planned action steps to work on next.
When I refocused and settled into a long term plan, then I again began to be more productive and get things accomplished.
Am I the only one who has experienced these stumbling blocks?! Are there other ones that have affected you? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!
If you’ve missed the previous weeks of the Project: Purposeful Productivity series and want to play catch up, you can do so below…
Week 1- How I Crush My Biggest Goals: My 5 Step Formula
Week 2- 10 Simple Ways to Be More Productive Today
And Week 3- 5 Ways to Revamp Your Routine and Increase Productivity
Have a productive day, friends! 🙂
Okay, 4 out of 5 is true for me 🙁 My biggest regret is not having an accountability partner. I really need one, I would be much-much more effective. I don’t have one, unfortunately. Now, I’m even thinking about getting a coach for that. Or offering myself for being a case study 😀 Whatever works 😀 But honestly, an accountability partner is on my wishlist, that’s for sure.
Yes! I know I’m definitely much more productive when someone else is holding me to it! Funny how that works! 🙂 Hope you have a great weekend, Noemi!
I seriously cannot get over how beautiful your new planner is, you did such a wonderful job in putting it together Abby!
These are great tips too, I feel like being distracted is one of the top reasons I personally fail at productivity. Especially with blogging, because let’s face it – there’s just so much on our to-do lists that it can be overwhelming to even know where to begin and to prioritize what is truly important.
Hope you have a great Monday!
Oh girl, I so hear you– I am much too easily distracted!! Eek! Hope you have a wonderful weekend!
I definitely am not productive when I’m worn out. In fact, this past weekend we had one morning where our entire family stayed in all morning. We realized that we hadn’t done that in MONTHS! It felt wonderful to sleep in a bit, read with the kids, do some laundry, and just hang out together. I feel much more focused and ready to tackle tasks today!
I love weekends like that! It is much needed sometimes! Hope you had a great week, Sarah!!
I’m guilty of #2 – I’m distracted. Social networks get me distracted all the time, so now I’m trying to limit the time I spend on social social networks.
I so hear you on that one! They can be such a time suck! Must stay away! 😉 Have a wonderful weekend, Rosa!
I find the computer to be the most distracting of all. I have had some success with the pomodoro method, but I admit I dont use it as much as I should.
Abby, would love your views on the Pomodoro technique for accomplishing tasks.
Love the Pomodoro technique! (I actually mentioned it in this post: https://justagirlandherblog.com/10-simple-ways-to-be-more-productive-today/) It’s funny the ways we can “trick” our brains into doing things! 🙂 Hope you have a wonderful weekend!
I love this series and I am SO excited for your planner. This post was just what I needed. I have a HUGE project at work I have been putting off and today is the day I plan it into my day and get some of it done. One thing that helps with my productivity is I remember this quote “all procrastination is fear” so I ask myself “what am I afraid of?” For me, just pinpointing my fear even if it is as stupid as “I’m afraid of how much work this is going to be” helps me stop spinning and start doing. Thanks for the is series and here’s to a productive week!
Yes! I have gone through that same thought process! The mind can be such a funny thing sometimes, right?! I hope you were able to finish your project! Have a wonderful weekend, Ashley!
I’ve so been feeling this way Abby. I just started staying home with my daughter 2 months ago and since then I feel so much less productive. So many reasons why, but you pretty much captured a lot of them. Thanks for sharing this. I need to get my behind in gear! 🙂
Oh I so remember making that transition! It can be a juggling act for sure– hugs, Tiffany!
I am really really struggling with #2. Social media and other time wasting distractions, plus the constant distractions of staying home with a toddler and an infant! I feel like every day flies by!
I hear you! I often get to the end of the day and think, “Well, where did THAT day go?!” Those little ones sure keep us busy! have a wonderful weekend, Erin!
Hi Abby, I just found your blog & love this article! #3 & #5 are big ones for me. I read an article once that said when it comes to goals, don’t just set them, but put a specific time in your calendar each day/week that you use to move closer to that goal. Then treat it like any other important work appointment that you can’t miss. That was HUGE for me!
This list is spot on!! Distraction? What? 😉
For your 5th point: I love goal-setting, but I sometimes let myself off the hook by not setting a timeline and a plan. That is key!! I finally have set a plan for one of my big goals that I have been pushing off, so I am excited about that. But without a plan, following through on most goals is near impossible!
Wow, Abby, sounds like you’ve been at my desk! This month has just been a bit blah for me as far as accomplishing goals. Which is funny, because I spent all of September writing a series about setting goals, so you’d think I would have learned something!
I think 2,4, and 5, all play a big part for me. I’m overwhelmed by all of the possibilities and how much there is to do, so I end up letting myself get distracted and then completely ignoring my goals or not even taking time to set goals. It’s kind of a vicious cycle. But, as I said in my newsletter recently, November is a new month, a blank slate that can be full of awesome things!
Great job on your planner, it looks pretty cool! Just a quick question, I know you haven’t revealed it all yet, but does it have any extra space for taking notes or brainstorming? My current planning has special sections for that, and I really enjoy that space. Can’t wait to see your final product! 🙂
It is good to know my productivity issues are common, but sad to know so many of us are buying into the need to accomplish so much that we lose sight of what is truly important—nourishing our soul and spirit. If our schedule doesn’t have breaks built into it, our brain (distractions}, soul (overwhelmed) and body (worn out) will make us take a break and cause us to lose focus (no accountability and no plan). If we nourish the real person (we are a soul in a body), we will be able to accomplish all that needs to be done.
LOVE this, Genie!! Thank you so much for the reminder!!
This takes me back to when my four girls were growing up. I started a daily calendar with time blocks. Wow what a relief that came to be. My days flowed so much easier. Then life got away and “happened”. Needless to say watching you develop all this makes me very happy. This is so much needful for anyone who wants to accomplish life purposely! I love it. yeah for you and those who do. Hey, it still is needful for empty nesters, seniors and people with intent purpose. But as these things come you need it to keep moving and doing, not so much organizing business. Thanks.
Love this post! I definitely relate to not being as productive because of overwhelm. This encouraged to go work on a brain download and get cracking 😉 Thanks!
Hi Abby! I can relate to this too! Very much! I’m good at making To Do Lists and most of the time I get everything done but the rest of the time I fail to do so. It’s a combination of being too ambitious when setting goals, getting distracted(mostly with my computer) and feeling overwhelmed because I haven’t done anything about it! But now that I know I’m not the only one going through this, I feel motivated to start getting better at being productive.
So glad it was motivating for you, Alison! I hear you on the distractions… my phone and computer can REALLY hinder my productivity sometimes!