One of the trickiest things about trying to be more productive is how much we deceive ourselves. Productivity lies can be sly, making you feel better in the moment as you fall behind, letting priorities slip. It’s better to work smarter than work harder — and part of working smarter is to be more truthful about why you choose to do, or not do. Here’s how to face the truth when you catch yourself claiming these three common productivity lies.
- I’m going to catch up later – The game of catch up usually never ends. It’s the old procrastination rationalization: “I’ll do it later!” you tell yourself, as you imagine this paragon of productivity who looks like you, zipping through a hundred complex tasks in one weekend. That person doesn’t exist. Borrowing time from the future is like having bad credit. It’s much harder than you-in-thepast figured it will be to pay it all off because you’re likely to continue your existing pattern of behavior. Focus on what’s important. That means setting and sticking to priorities by deliberately scheduling or allotting time to work on them, and trying your best to be at peace at letting many things go.
- I just don’t have any time – When there never seems to be enough time, you’re left with the feeling that you’re constantly behind. We feel too busy, then we start feeling stressed and guilty, which disrupts our motivation and productivity, and then sink deeper into feeling like there’s never enough time. Research has shown that one of the basic keys to understanding time management is managing your sense of control. When you perceive more control over how you spend your time, it boosts happiness, because you don’t feel like you’re at the mercy of, often competing, demands. The simple act of scheduling your tasks and goals on a calendar, as you would a business meeting, will increase your sense of control. Making appointments for non-work, me-time type activities is incredibly powerful, because these are the important priorities that tend to get pushed off — whether it’s making time for family and friends, or reading more books.
- I’m productive because I’ve been so busy – There are a million ways to fill your day. Sometimes busyness can feel satisfyingly productive but it actually doesn’t have much depth, while draining you of energy. This requires a hard look at what you mean by being productive. Take a pause at the end of the day to reflect on what you got done, rather than focusing on the many things you have left to do. Examine whether you’ve spent the day wisely. A routine of self-reflection will prompt reevaluation, boost learning, help you plan and prioritize, and gain insight into how you can work better. Do less overall, but do more of what matters.