1. Lack of Challenge: “But I don’t even have all that much to do!“
Many articles about productivity address work situations where you’re interrupted all the time because your boss needs you for this important assignment or you have to help out with that million dollar deal. In reality, many people go home after an unsuccessful day feeling stressed that they wasted time on Facebook and meaningless little things, and that they never even got round this one 5-minute task they really had to do. If there is no challenge at work, every little thing starts taking soooo much time. Consider taking up some extra tasks, or start your pet project. It’s often easier to get a lot of work done in a day than just a little. If you have interesting work to look forward too, you’ll also be more motivated to tackle the one important item early in the morning.
2. Too Much Work: “It is chaos every day, I just dive in and give it my all, but I get nothing done“
Most probably you do get things done, but just not everything. Before thinking that you need to work faster and harder and better organized, consider the possibility that you simply have too much to do. The solution to this problem is different if you’re self-employed or have a boss. If you’re self-employed, first decide for yourself if too much on your plate is a real problem for you, or if it’s just something that comes with the independence of being your own boss. If you realize that you’ll never be able to do everything in one day, you might find yourself not so stressed out about it, and accept it as part of your life. If it’s a real problem, and every day is a losing battle with your agenda and to-do list, talk about it. Preferably with somebody who has a professional interest in your company: your accountant will likely come up with more constructive advise about outsourcing certain things or putting some activities on hold than to a close friend or your significant other. He or she will probably just advise you to take it easy. You have a boss? Talk to him or her about your objectives. If he’s a good boss, he’ll help you prioritize. If you’re less lucky, and she just wants you to do everything anyway, you might not get too much help there. Do your best, and try to set a clear set of goals for yourself every day anyway. You might not get everything done that your manager wants, but you will finish a few things every day instead of spreading your time and attention very thin over a multitude of projects without being able to cross any off your list.
3. Too Creative “I’m investigating a better way to do this“
You think about better ways to do your work all the time, in the shower, in the car, in the grocery shop when you’re forgetting the milk, again. Yet you constantly feel like you’re not getting enough done, and you beat yourself up for not being productive at work all of the time. Be a little less hard on yourself. Embrace your wandering mind, but set a time limit on creative thinking. The great John Cleese suggests to put one hour aside to think about a problem. Don’t try to solve the problem, just think about it. Creativity comes with the gift of being able to postpone decisions. You wouldn’t think it’s a gift, but it is. If you let your mind settle over a problem, the solution will be much better than when you force yourself into an immediate decision.The trick is to limit your creative thinking to one hour…