April 30, 2011
Whether the work week is made up of two hours or two hundred, all freelancers, entrepreneurs, business owners, experts have one common goal: squeeze every last ounce of productivity out of time spent working. After all, time is money, and maximizing productivity is something that typically translates directly into bigger profits. But even the most experienced veterans of work can unknowingly fall victim to productivity killers and undermine their earning potential, or worse – willingly and actively participate in killing their productivity. Here are six productivity killers you need to watch out for to ensure that you stay productive, stay on point, and maximize your potential.
1. Weak or Absent Goal Setting: Are your goals well thought out and clearly defined? If not, your productivity will take a hit. Specific projects, job-hunting strategies, bidding practices, and your long-term career plans all need clearly defined goals and milestones to maximize output. Otherwise, you’re spending valuable energy constantly re-evaluating where you stand, how far you’ve come, and where to go next, robbing yourself of not only work time, but also a clear map to success.
Some people prefer the ‘fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants’ method, but in the long run, this can be self-destructive. Yes, even with clear cut goals, there needs to be room built in for creative brainstorming and trouble shooting; two things that strive on the positive stress of winging it. However, using this model for an entire project, or worse, your entire career, can keep you in a constantly high-stress state causing burnout and health issues that will eventually sap productivity levels to nothing. Speaking of health…
2. Sacrificing Your Health: Health issues aren’t just a concern for providers who don’t set clear goals. Everyone can fall victim to this big productivity killer. Living the dream means setting your own hours and being your own boss, but the dark side translates to late hours, lack of much needed sleep, overworking, and other potential health issues. If you’re not sleeping enough, your productivity most likely will not maintain its optimal level.
And don’t forget diet and exercise. Long hours toiling over projects is hard on the body, so if you don’t make sure to eat well and exercise, it will show in your work. If you take the time out to take care of you, you’ll have more energy and sharper focus, making projects easier to complete in less time. This makes investing in your health very worthwhile for yourself as well as those you work with.
3. Freelance Style Faux Pas: Multi-tasking is a big buzzword and sets up many workers for a huge potential productivity trap. Some people thrive only while juggling a dozen or more projects at once. But what if you don’t?
Many freelancers and business owners feel pressured to juggle multiple projects as part of the lifestyle stereotype, but doing so is by no means a requirement and can actually destroy your productivity. It all depends on how you’re wired.
Multi-taskers need the heightened stimulation achieved by solving many unrelated problems at once. The downside is that motivation suffers when a multi-tasker is forced to concentrate on a single task. On the other hand, focused workers thrive on devoting all of their energy onto one specific task before moving onto the next, and juggling many can cause overload.
Both styles have their ups and downs. The trick to maximizing productivity is to know your style and work with it rather than try to be something you’re not. And for bonus productivity, build your team with a good mix of both styles to ensure everybody is performing at maximum productivity. Or if you’re a sole contractor, pair up with an opposite style freelancer to pick up or offload tasks to maximize both of your styles.
4. Playing the Victim: You lost the perfect deal, job, or contract you were sure was made for you. You’re crushed and can barely bring yourself to turn on the computer, let alone hunt down for more business opportunities. You mope around and do anything and everything you can think of to console yourself, except for the one thing that will actually cure you’re blues – land another deal. If you feed off rejection and let it sap time away from your end goals, you’re robbing yourself of time and money, starving your productivity in the process.
Rejection is hard, but unfortunately, it’s part of the business world. If rejection interferes with your productivity, a mindset shift is needed. Use the disappointment to fuel your productivity rather than hold you back, and you’ll not only increase your productivity, you’ll also decrease the impact rejection has on you in the future.
5. Time Bombs: Many freelancers and business owners thrive on pressure, but too much is never a good thing. Taking on too many projects, jobs, or business clients or grossly underestimating the time required to reach a deadline is a sure way to destroy your productivity.
A good rule of thumb is to always overestimate required time and underestimate the what you can handle. Otherwise, you run the risk of stretching yourself too thin and entering the space where pressure turns into panic. Next, productivity goes down the drain.
6. Senseless Acts of Procrastination: Most workers are guilty of these petty crimes, and justifications easily roll off the tongue – “Facebook and Twitter are good for networking…” “Checking email will only take thirty seconds…” Sound familiar?
A minute here and a few seconds there add up to a lot of wasted time that could be better spent. If you’re serious about increasing your productivity level, treat your work time sacred and log onto networking sites during ‘networking time’. And don’t think leaving it open in the background is acceptable. Why distract yourself with the temptation? (Check out this article “How To Ditch Distractions And Stay Focused When Working Online“)
Some less obvious, but no less serious procrastination crime: Spell-checking and self editing several times as you go through rather than once at the end of the work session, grabbing that second (or third or fourth) cup of coffee, or the big one – taking phone calls. Let voicemail do its job – keep you distraction-free and raise your productivity – then return calls once your work time is up.
Then there’s the professional procrastinator standbys: Refilling your stapler, fixing that squeak in your chair, de-fragmenting your computer, or having an uncontrollable need to clean everything around you immediately. If you find yourself doing these or any similar things, you’re participating in some serious procrastination and delivering a mortal blow to your productivity.
Don’t be your own worst enemy. Stay productive and make every working moment count.