Productivity isn’t a simple matter. It is hard enough to keep it up when you sit in an office surrounded by people who check up on you all day. But when you work for yourself, such as for a small online sticker printing company or as a contractor, it is even more difficult – mainly, because you are only accountable for yourself, and with so many ways to distract yourself it can be hard to get anything done on time.
You have probably found yourself scrambling to do what you promised you would after realizing you have frittered away the day watching YouTube clips and posting anonymous comments on blogs that feature funny cat pictures. But it doesn’t have to be that way – not if you are willing to admit you have a problem.
Here are five serious productivity killers and five tools that can help you to beat each one.
“I will just finish reading this article, and then I will get to work.” How often do you say this to yourself? More importantly, how often do you really start working after the article instead of finding another one to immerse yourself in the moment you finished reading the first?
This is one of the most common problems people encounter, and it is amazing how quickly time can be wasted. Hours will pass before you even realize you have spent the entire morning reading. Because this is such a frequent problem, I usually recommend Read It Later. This excellent little thing can be associated with an account that is then accessible from your mobile device, browser or desktop, no matter where you are. While it is meant to bookmark articles, it can actually save any web page. So you can use it to keep track of things you want to watch, as well.
You can be in the middle of work and find yourself distracted in seconds. Maybe it is a link that caught your eye, or you suddenly remembered some lyrics but you can’t remember the title of the song. You might have received an email that doesn’t have to be answered (or even read) immediately, but you just can’t help yourself and open it anyway.
The best thing to do is cut out any distractions, but when you work on a computer that can be hard to do. That is why I like LeechBlock. Made for Firefox, this add-on blocks specified pages – or even all Internet use – for a certain amount of time that you set in advance. You can give times during the day to block or just say how many minutes per hour, several hours or day can be spent on those sites. Every browser has its own version of this kind of program.
3. Over planning
It isn’t the planning that is the problem here, from what I have seen. It is the sheer amount of time people will use finding, signing up for and then customizing elaborate planning programs that then do absolutely nothing at all for them because they stop using them within a day. Spending too much time planning, or just putting in too much detail, is a waste of a lot of time. Instead, keep a simple checklist of what you need to get done and then do it, removing things as you go.
One of my favorite productivity tools is a super easy one that anyone with Windows has: Sticky Notes. You might laugh, but there is no simpler or effective way of keeping a visual list that will keep you moving to finish it than this free program on Windows. The Tasks app on Gmail is also very effective if you spend a lot of time with the page open.
Sometimes we don’t know how much time we waste every day, which makes us complacent. You might not even realize how badly your productivity is off. I knew a person who owned his own graphic design company. He got his deadlines done on time, though just barely.
The problem was that he didn’t understand where all his time was going and thought he might have been undercharging hours. So he used RescueTime, a great monitoring and analysis software that works for free, to see where he was going wrong. It turned out he was spending an average of three hours a day on Facebook – most of it spent playing Mafia Wars. Seeing that, he started blocking Facebook while he worked using LeechBlock and found himself finishing projects days, and sometimes even weeks, ahead of schedule.
Not taking the time to make sure you are organized can be a really big problem. According to a number of studies, the average person loses a full hour a day when they have not properly organized everything. From making sure you have a clean workspace to being able to find files and have information ready when someone asks for it, you need to be organized and focused.
One of the biggest things to organize is your time. That is why I like Focus Booster. It basically uses the old tried-and-true method of working for 25 minutes without any distractions before taking a five-minute break, only through an actual app. During that 25 minutes you only work on one single thing, avoiding everything else, including email.
These are the five biggest productivity killers for most people. But the tools above can really help you to cut down on wasted time and get more done when you need to, whether you are a business owner, a freelancer, a student or an office worker. Check them out today!