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Friday, June 22, 2012

6 mistakes I was making that were killing my productivity and my focus

1. Grinding the tabs

The problem: opening 34 new links as soon as you start working and start grinding through them.

The fix: Stay mindful. Do one thing at a time: see a link, open it, read it immediately, close it.

Not staying in control of my browsing activity. I use iGoogle to keep everything in one place (feeds, to do, bookmarks, email, weather). I also use Instapaper (with a sweet RSS feed to my iGoogle) to and Gimmebar (this is great for when you just want to quickly save snippets of text instead of bookmarking and tagging entire pages).

Coming back to iGoogle, naturally when I'm going through that huge list of headlines I would open everything that looked interesting in a new tab (if you've browsed Wikipedia, you've been there too, not surprisingly it's called the Wikipedia effect); wanting to go through everything and know everything about a certain subject.

If your mind is wandering, jumping one thought to the other and you can't seem to compose it to actually get something figured out, when you start surfing, it will lead you to "grinding the tabs".

2. Perfectionism

The problem: Getting lost in the details.

The fix:

Do not wait; the time will never be just right. Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along."

Hill, Napoleon

It happens too often: firing up too many applications. Opening too much documentation.There's a thin line between setting everything in order and getting in the right mind set versus hoping by that cluttering yourself enough with information, tools and links, the job will somehow get done by itself.

Nobody cares. People who get things done are more valued then perfectionists.

3. Brain freeze

The problem: Using Google as your memory; rereading an e-mail you just sent a few moments ago or just going through the same paragraph of an article over and over not being able to make any sense.

It's not really a problem, because even so, I'm sure you get your job done. These things are just beating down your potential because you habituate yourself with slacking.

The fix: Figure out your productivity hours. For example: (10:10 - 11:30; 15 - 16; 17:20 - 18:00) Put more effort in what you're reading and habituate with reading only once. Even if you feel you’ve left something out, don’t go into that. Resist the urge. Don't feed a bad tendency, it will become a bad habit.

Deal with the frustration of not knowing something instantly. It will train you to pay more attention.

P.S.: Brain freeze = ice-cream headache :P

4. “Ego depletion”

The problem: Decision fatigueThe fix: There's no quick fix. Stay mindful and focus on what's really productive.

Your phone needs your attention, your Facebook refreshed, your colleague just said something on Skype. I know, I know... even though we mock these frantic attention killing habits, we still do them.

Obviously I'm too stupid to coin a term like ego depletion. But that's because I multitask.

5. Forgetting to be human

The problem: Breaks, food and mental gymnastics
 The fix:

If you want the most control over your own mind so that you can alter your responses to the world instead of giving in and doing what comes naturally, stay fresh. Take breaks. And until we understand just what ego depletion really is, don’t make important decisions on an empty stomach.

Willpower plummets, stretch, wander around with your eyes, rub your hands, breathe deep and allow the oxygen to fill your entire body

From experience, being grumpy, avoiding or holding grudges with the people in your vicinity makes you tired, dull and passive aggressive. Forget that. Forgive, cherish and open your heart.

On sitting straight all the time: don't stress too much over it, just be sure you're providing as much room as possible for air to get in.

Human beings are gentle. Don't forget to be kind to your eyes.

6. Being attached to the "I".

The problem: We identify ourselves with the habits we have.

I know some people can’t work without music. But if you’re like me, if I don’t enjoy and delight myself in the song I’m currently listening to, it’s just noise. I prefer the sound of my colleagues typing, fan humming noise and random noise office rather than noise. No, I’m not going to debate about “noise” means.

Personally, I have a problem with struggling to be too Zen, to be regard by others as mysterious and intriguing. What a load of crap!

Listening to music, telling jokes, smiling, being calm or on the contrary always keeping a straight face. We get so attached to these meaningless things which we think defines who we are.

The fix: Stop wanting to become this or that. Stop wanting to NOT become this or that. Stop wanting = Stop struggling. Simply dwell mindfully in the present moment.

There you have it. I can't believe I'm actually still being paid for how much time I waste.

What about you? How much time does it take you to set up your work environment? Do you pay to much attention to the details or you just hack things together until they work? When's the last time you had a brain freeze?