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Productivity Shame: How To Stop Feeling Like You Haven't Done 'Enough'

The Busyness Paradox: Addicted To Being Busy

  • Personal productivity is not about all-round efficiency, and it is wrong to think about your input as that of a machine in a factory unit.
  • This is further complicated by our mistaken assumption that being in demand means that we are doing a splendid job.
  • We blur our all boundaries between our work and personal life and every minute of the day is to be kept busy as we rush to attend every meeting, cross out every task from the to-do list or to answer every email that we get.

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IDEA EXTRACTED FROM:

Productivity Shame: How To Stop Feeling Like You Haven't Done 'Enough'

Productivity Shame: How To Stop Feeling Like You Haven't Done 'Enough'

https://blog.doist.com/productivity-shame/

blog.doist.com

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Key Ideas

Productivity Shame

Work is never finished, and we are unable to disconnect from it, causing us to experience productivity shame, impacting our happiness and creativity.

The modern working profiles (like knowledge work and remote work) do not have strict guidelines on a day’s productivity or any clear deliverables. It relies on a constant flow of communication, collaboration and multiple switching of context.

The Busyness Paradox: Addicted To Being Busy

  • Personal productivity is not about all-round efficiency, and it is wrong to think about your input as that of a machine in a factory unit.
  • This is further complicated by our mistaken assumption that being in demand means that we are doing a splendid job.
  • We blur our all boundaries between our work and personal life and every minute of the day is to be kept busy as we rush to attend every meeting, cross out every task from the to-do list or to answer every email that we get.

Completion Bias

Our brain starts to favour small tasks that give a false impression of productivity (woohoo! I just sent out fifty emails!) while we neglect the large, complex but meaningful tasks.

This is known as the completion bias.

Changing How We Understand Productivity

We are not a factory pumping out products. Our constant switching of context, and checking our smartphone notifications/email has a huge impact on our productivity, focus and our ability to get things done. We are rarely productive in the real sense but feel productive doing pseudo-work all the time.


Productivity is not getting more stuff done every day, but getting important stuff done in a consistent manner.

The Progress Principle

If we don’t see enough progress by the end of the day, it feels (to us or our superiors) like we haven’t done enough.

Apart from the completion bias, where our brain seems hardwired to wanting to finish the given tasks, we are also having another cognitive bias called the planning fallacy, in which the brain is unable to estimate how long any task would take.

The answer is The Progress Principle, the art of reducing big, audacious goals into small chunks of doable and easily trackable tasks that provide us with a sense of accomplishment.

The Motivation Trap

Our self-motivation and excitement have a relatively short life span, and while we want to be motivated before we start something, it is only possible once we have begun. This paradox is called the Motivation Trap and basically implies that action precedes motivation and not the other way round.

The trick is to to create systems and tools that get things done and sets us up for future success.

Getting Things Done (GTD)

Getting Things Done is a productivity system that helps us capture our work in one place and manage where our attention is going to be. The five steps of GTD are:

  1. Capturing one’s ideas in a tool which is an app of your choice.
  2. Clarifying each task to it’s next most easy step that reduces any friction.
  3. Organizing each task by priority level and due date.
  4. Review and reflect on your to-do list.
  5. Engage yourself and get in action mode, implementing the list.

Learning To Disconnect From Work

There are four elements that need to be done as a ritual to disconnect from work:

  1. Create a shutdown ritual each evening.
  2. Physically separate from your laptop and/or smartphone if possible.
  3. Take some time to relax and reflect on the day, just with yourself.
  4. Take up a hobby or something that interests you outside of work.

A Threshold Of Success

Take a good look at your life, and the goals you have set, and find out that sweet spot, the threshold of success that you think is ‘enough’ for you to feel productive and successful.

Example: At Google, projects have multiple objectives but instead of an all-or-nothing situation, they have Objective and Key Results (OKRs) which let them set a success threshold (usually 60 to 70 per cent) so that they feel challenged and motivated and at the same time do not feel like a failure.

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Make planning a habit
Make planning a habit

Some mornings we feel motivated to create a to-do list, but that is often the exception. We need to get things done, even when we feel disengaged.

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Align your to-do list with goals
  1. Break down your big goals into daily tasks. You can't add "Get in shape" to your daily to-do list, but you can add "spend 30 minutes on my bike."
  2. Consider your week as a whole. You likely have multiple goals. Some goals benefit from daily activity, while working towards others a few times a week can create momentum.
  3. Add your have-to-do tasks last. We often fill our to-do lists with have-to-do tasks that crowd the whole day. Adding it last forces you to fit your have-to-do tasks around your goal tasks.
Have one daily priority

Many of us start our mornings with dozens of things we need to get done, but later realize that we haven't crossed any of them off our lists. We did get stuff done, but none of the things we planned.

A balm against hectic days that pass without progress is to choose a single activity to prioritize and protect in your calendar. If you struggle to select your top priority, ask yourself, when you look back on your day, what do you want the highlight to be? That's your priority.

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The Spiral of Productivity Shame

Productivity shame is a feeling that you are not doing enough, whatever the number of hours you are working, or the number of tasks you are crossing off your to-do list. It also means you fe...

Causes of Productivity Shame
  • We link our products to our self-worth, thinking that we need to get more done, and our self-esteem depends upon it.
  • We set unrealistic goals, which can be discouraging for us if we keep on focusing on the end result.
  • We compare ourselves with others, who seemingly are doing better and are more productive.
Overcoming Productivity Shame

  • Disconnect your Self-worth from your achievements.
  • Set realistic, effective goals: The three elements of goal-setting are knowing what you want to achieve, how you're going to get there, and why you want to achieve something. If you have a compelling reason and motivation, go for it.
  • Appreciate progress: Consistent progress aids productivity better than the achieving of goals. 

Measuring Employee Productivity
Measuring Employee Productivity

Fixing employee productivity in the industrial age, when most workers were handling machinery and it’s parts, was a tedious but doable process. The managers had to fix the people who were making mi...

The Old Productivity Formula

The basic productivity formula(productivity= output divided by input) worked well in the industrial age as the output and input were clearly defined and measurable.

Today’s leaders need innovative solutions to measure and improve productivity in a knowledge-based workplace, as the measurement of output and input is not what it was.

Quality And Quantity

While assigning value to the output of knowledge workers, we cannot simply measure the output like before.

Coders and doctors cannot be measured by the hour, as their output is not uniform or consistent every hour.

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The weekly review

It’s dedicated time to think about the past week, reflect on what went well and what didn’t, and plan for the week ahead. 

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The 3 parts of a weekly review
  • Get Clear: process all your loose-ends.
  • Get Current: make sure all your items are up to date.
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Benefits of weekly reviews
  • You gain an objective view of the week: a weekly review forces you to practice intention by taking time to pause and reflect as you consider what you did versus what you planned to do.
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Time Debt
Time Debt

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Track Your Time

You need to find out just where your time is going currently. You can use a pen and paper, a spreadsheet, or an app to visualize where you spend most of the hours in your day.

Create A Time-Blocking Template
  • Block your time for specific types of work, not individual tasks.
  • Block your time for core work like coding, designing or writing, for shallow work like daily tasks and maintenance, for meetings and emails, and fill it with frequent breaks to replenish yourself.
  • Give yourself space between blocks so that you can decompress and keep your energy levels high.

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The urgency bias
The urgency bias

We usually give priority to unimportant tasks when there is a sense of urgency around them.

We’re actually psychologically wired to put aside important tasks in favor of ta...

Why it’s hard to ignore urgent tasks

A few explanations as to why it’s so hard to reject urgent tasks:

  • The completion bias. Our brains crave the reward we get from checking off small to-dos from our list.
  • Tunnel vision: When we get overwhelmed by the things we have to do, we choose to act on those most available to us; these are usually emails, calls, meetings, and other low-friction tasks.
Urgency puts us into reactive mode

The problem is that we’re continually bombarded with urgent work: emails, meetings, calls, and instead of being in control of our time and attention, we respond and act on someone else’s priorities.

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Learn To Use Procrastination
Learn To Use Procrastination

The desire to procrastinate is a healthy brain craving, a natural need for novelty and curiosity. We must stop the negative self-talk we have towards us not working as a machine all the time. The l...

Observe Your Need To Procrastinate
  1. Observe the need to procrastinate, recognizing and being aware of your desire. This is called meta-recognition and is what all the Gurus keep talking about when they speak about awareness.
  2. Label and accept your urge to waste your time, but without any negative judgement.
  3. Validate your urge to procrastinate, increasing your self-esteem.
  4. Approach procrastination as a friend, not as a threat.
The Real Enemy of Flow

The biggest obstacle, the main villain hampering our productivity is always in your hands, and rarely in your pockets. _It’s your smartphone. It needs to be powered off for some time. Your laptop, clamouring for attention, is not helping either. Remove all distractions and notifications so that you can get in the ‘flow’ mode.

Creating friction between us and the open black hole of the online distractions helps us focus on work.

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The Progress Principle: Tiny steps build motivation
The Progress Principle: Tiny steps build motivation

If you wait for the ideal conditions before you start, you'll probably never do it.

A lack of motivation is an emotional issue. That means there is no hack to save you....

Look for ways your work impacts the people around you

Procrastination is worst when we don't see the point of our jobs. The connection to a larger purpose helps us find meaning and motivation at work.

If your job doesn't make a huge impact, think about how it has helped the people you spend your day with. Each day, write down three ways your work has helped your coworkers.

Giving advice to someone else can be motivating

We don't lack motivation because we don't know how to be motivated, but because we don't know how to act on our own knowledge.

When we feel unmotivated, it's common to seek advice. But research shows that giving advice can be more motivating than receiving advice.

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Stuck in a state of passivity
Stuck in a state of passivity

Passive behavior is the sense of feeling a lack of motivation, energy, and willpower. It is often the cause of people feeling stuck at work or in their life.

It occurs whe...

Lack of motivation leads to passive behavior

The most common cause of passive behavior is being unmotivated.

It is a myth that motivation needs to come before action. More often, it is action that leads to motivation. You forced yourself to get in your workout gear and then suddenly felt ready to go. You forced yourself to meet friends and ended having a great time.

Action comes first, then motivation follows. When you feel unmotivated and passive, do something. Motivation and productivity will follow behind.

Lack of goals lead to passivity

When your only goal is to make it through the week, you may feel like you spend your life going through the motions with the same tasks week in and week out. It can become very dull. Finding meaningful goals can change all of that.

Meaningful goals can be spread out across all areas of life. Find purposeful goals within the work section of your life. Volunteer for a charity or get involved in other projects. Doing so will inevitably lead you out of passive behavior.

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Obstacles to Getting Stuff Done
  • The habit of putting off starting, because it’s uncomfortable.
  • Maybe you get started, but then constantly switch to other tasks.
  • You put off starting (or finishing) because con...
Picking one important thing

If you focus on getting the small stuff done but not the big stuff, or switch between tasks all the time, you’ll be less effective.

Pick one important thing to focus on at a time and learn to evaluate what tasks and projects are of higher value to you.

Starting

It's best done by focusing on the smallest first step and practicing just launching into that.

Pick the tiniest first step, and launch into it.

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