Being productive can come in handy, especially when you have a lot of different tasks to accomplish. It’s easy to get sidetracked while working on something, or to feel so overwhelmed that you don’t end up accomplishing much. If you often have a heavy work load, whether its in the office or at home, here are five things you need to stop doing to maximize your productivity.
1. Stop Working Overtime
You’ve probably heard of Henry Ford. Yes, the Henry Ford, the industrialist and automobile manufacturer who revolutionized assembly-line production for the automobile. In 1926, he conducted experiments, finding that when the workday was decreased to 8 hours from 10, and the work week shortened to 5 days, then productivity increased. He created the 40-hour work week for better working conditions, to attract better workers away from his competitors for his automobile plant. Thus, the eight-hour, five-days-a-week work schedule that many of us abide by is still in use today.
So, as Ford found, the longer you work, the less productive and effective you will become. Research suggests that working long hours can damage your health, productivity, and put a strain on your family and home life. Longer hours most often do not result in more output. To truly be most productive, it’s important to get enough sleep, and not to overwork yourself.
2. Stop Being Afraid to Say “No”
Having too much on your plate can cause stress and decrease productivity. It can be difficult to tell a co-worker you can’t help with his or her project, or to tell your neighbors that you can’t watch their kids on Saturday, but for the sake of your own mental health, learning to say no is extremely important.
Many companies today expect their employees to do more work in less time. When someone wants to add to your workload, determine 1) how long you’ll need to finish quality work, and 2) how the extra task will affect your existing workload. Don’t just say yes because you feel bad, or because you feel like you need to. If you can’t perform the task without becoming stressed out or feeling like you need to work longer hours, kindly say no and ask if you can contribute at a later time, or in a different way. Keep your explanation short and simple.
3. Stop Trying to Do Everything Yourself
You may know the saying “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.” You may even live by it. But the truth is, you can’t handle everything by yourself, all of the time. And really, who would want to? Sometimes you just need a little help, and that’s perfectly OK. Whether it’s at home or at work, asking others to help out with your workload by pitching in can give you more time to focus on your most important tasks.
If you insist on doing all the work, research shows that having a friend with you while you work may help to increase productivity. In ADHD treatment, there is a method called a body double. A body double is someone who sits with a person with ADHD as he or she tackles tasks that might be difficult to complete alone, because the person is easily distracted. A friend sitting next to you while you clean out your closet or work on a DIY project might keep you company while still allowing you to handle things on your own.
4. Stop Being a Perfectionist
Dalhousie University Psychology Professor Dr. Simon Sherry conducted a study on how perfectionism relates to productivity, and he found that perfectionism can actually be a self-defeating behavior. Sherry discovered that professors who display a higher level of perfectionism are less likely to produce publications, garner citations or publish their research in high-impact journals. “We found that perfectionism trips us professors on the way to research productivity,” he explained. “The more perfectionist the professor, the less productive they are.”
While this study was conducted on college professors, the results can be applied to many other circumstances. “Perfectionists tend to do things perfectly — or not at all,” Sherry said, “They cannot relax until a task is perfect.” Whether you see perfectionism as a positive or a negative trait, the fact is, it may be hindering you from being as productive as possible. You may be spending too much time on one task, refusing to move on to the next until the first one is “perfect.” If you never really feel that your work is good enough, it may be holding you back from other accomplishments.
5. Stop Working, and Create Some Free Time
It’s entirely possible to become too focused on something. It’s important to walk away from your work desk or household chores every once in a while and take some time for yourself. At least once a day, whenever you can sneak away for a bit, turn off your cell phone, unplug your computer, and do something relaxing. Take a walk in a nearby park on your lunch break, read a few chapters of an interesting book, or go for a jog in the morning before your day starts — Your mental health depends on it!
According to the American Psychological Association, mental health conditions are ranked number one among reasons for lost productivity at work. Stress is something we all struggle with from time to time, so it’s important to give both our bodies and minds the time they need to relax and reflect. If you’re looking for simple but effective ways to relieve stress, check out this list.