When the only answer to a leader’s personal productivity challenge is better time management, you know that it’s missing the mark. After all, one causal answer can’t remedy a very long list that amounts to trouble. It’s far simpler than that, but it takes some self-insight to succeed. Let’s take a look at the real symptoms behind poor productivity.
We ignore the underlying cause.
All of us procrastinate. Doing something other than what you’re supposed to can be a welcome relief, but getting a fifth cup of coffee and doing unimportant work is not getting you anywhere. You already know that. With hybrid work, the challenge of doing double-duty when working from home makes a single-minded focus even tougher. The clock ticks toward the due date for everyone when they deliberately delay.
Contrary to what most people believe, it isn’t lack of discipline that causes procrastination. We procrastinate when we are feeling a strong emotion about the work we want to avoid and that causes us to put it off.
To address procrastination, you have to look inward. Tune into your thoughts and emotions to better understand what you fear. With the clarity you gain, you are in a better position to give yourself good counsel and make adjustments that relieve whatever is interfering with the work.
We are overwhelmed with collaborative overload
Who isn’t distracted by unnecessary email, wasteful meetings and demanding requests? Most people believe that this is where we waste the most time at work and take measures to lessen the distractions. It turns out that if you are an average user of digital media, those aren’t the biggest time wasters you can do something about. The culprit is over-collaboration. Efficient collaborators are selective because they are attuned to their own triggers for self-sabotage.
Strong performers who value their boundaries turn away from their known temptations.
We are focused on distraction management, rather than forming good habits
Time is a valuable non-renewable resource. Since we’ve come to rely on our electronic devices to serve multiple functions and with the pervasiveness of social media, people know to reign in digital distractions. This is widely known as attention management. It also focuses on productivity as a function of time management.
What’s worrisome is that with distraction management as a lens, people rely on willpower alone. Willpower is a strange thing. In my lab, i think of designing a habit sequence to override willpower , because it’s so fickle. Sometimes it works, and other times it fails you.
If you have a habit in place, it acts like a force field because you are no longer thinking “Should I or shouldn’t I?. You are simply repeating the tiny actions you’ve designed.
We misunderstand willpower
In the past, we’ve been told that our willpower depletes over time, and that it’s better to sync up your must-do activities that require your focus for the time of day when you are at your best. Yet Carol Dweck and others at Stanford University found that self-control is as strong as you think it is. If you think it’s less available and easily depleted, then you are right. If you believe it isn’t limited and your self-control can be generated with a good challenge, you are also right.
In practice what this means is you can persuade yourself that you aren’t so easily depleted, you’ll do much better at avoiding distractions. A growth mindset provides us with a view that we can replenish our willpower. This has not only changed my mind about willpower, but I can also predict that I can keep my focus when I most need it.
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