Not Productive (The Ultimate Guide + Image Quotes)

Do you ever find yourself sitting at your desk for hours on end and not getting much done? Do you want to make better use of your time?

If that's the case, I can empathize. As someone who is passionate about personal development and achieving maximum results, I am constantly looking for ways to get more done in less time. I'm also passionate about assisting others — including you — in achieving the best possible outcomes in life. Over the last five years, I've worked with hundreds of people to help them achieve their full potential, transforming them from procrastinators to self-motivated A-students, and from jaded, burned-out individuals to self-initiated and highly productive individuals.

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While some may believe that productivity is simply a matter of hard work and discipline, I have discovered that this is not always the case. Rather, there are key habits that distinguish super productive people from less productive people, and failing to practice these habits leads to a drop in productivity — regardless of who you are. If you're having trouble getting things done, one (or more) of the following factors are most likely at work:

1. You haven't set any objectives

In my latest Lifehack book, 10 Rules of Super Productive People (available now at the Lifehack Book Store with the coupon READNOW for a limited-time discount! ), I share the ten underlying productivity tenets that distinguish super productive and unproductive people. The first rule is about goal setting, which is the oldest and most important rule of personal development. Setting the right goals, in particular.

The problem with most people is that they either (a) don't set goals or (b) set the wrong goals (see the section on “right” goals below). They have no personal vision of what they want their life to be if they don't have goals. While this may appear to be a nice, stress-free life, the truth is that it creates a “floater” syndrome, in which they spend their days “floating” from one thing to the next, subject to the whims and demands of others, and basically having no higher purpose to work towards. Days and weeks pass with nothing accomplished, and before they know it, they are in their 40s, 50s, or 60s, wondering where half of their lives have gone.

How to resolve this:

Set goals, especially for the most important aspects of your life, which are typically your career, relationships, finances, health, and personal growth. Where do you see yourself in one, three, and five years in these areas?
Make a list of your goals and then work toward them. Make a vision board and keep it in front of you every day to remind you of your goals.

2. You don't have the right objectives

Setting goals isn't enough; you must set the RIGHT goals as well. When we set the wrong goals, we set ourselves up for failure!

But what exactly is meant by “right goals”? In Super Productive People, I discuss four criteria for great goals: (1) inspiring, (2) massive, like BHAG-huge (i.e. big, hairy, and audacious), (3) specific, and (4) time-bound. All else being equal, goals that meet these criteria tend to be the most successful.

Unfortunately, many of us set “wrong” goals — goals that do not inspire us, are too small, too vague, or lack a deadline. Because our goals have a direct impact on our actions, which in turn have an impact on our results, setting the wrong goals results in us having little to no results, creating a deadlock situation for ourselves.

How to resolve this:

Make certain that you only set goals for yourself, rather than goals for others. You should never live your life for anyone other than yourself.
Strive for big, not small, goals. “Increase my clientele by 200 percent and become the market leader,” not “Gain one or two more clients so I can make ends meet.”
Please be as specific as possible.
Earn $10,000 per month by December 2014,” rather than “Increase my income.”
Establish a deadline for each goal, which leads us to the next point…

3. You don't have a due date

I discuss the importance of setting deadlines, specifically timelines, in Rule #2 of Super Productive People. If you're familiar with personal productivity advice, you've probably heard of Parkinson's Law, which states that “work expands to fill the time available for completion.” This means that, contrary to popular belief, the time required for a task is determined by the task's difficulty and/or our efficiency/effectiveness, the law suggests that the primary driver is… the time we allocate for it!

This means that if you set a four-hour deadline for a task that really requires two hours, you will inevitably take four hours to complete the task. If you set a one-week deadline for a task that really requires two days, it will take you one week to complete the task. And… if no deadline is set at all, the task can take an eternity to complete. That is, it will never be finished.

How to resolve this: Set deadlines for your tasks and objectives. Set a timeline, which is a detailed breakdown of the steps and milestones to achieve your goals. (In Super Productive People, I share step-by-step instructions for creating a road map for your goals, as well as practical examples and warning signs.)

4. You're attempting to do everything

Have you ever heard the expression “Less is More?” Here's another: “Trying to do everything will result in the accomplishment of nothing.” Today's society places a high value on doing more and getting more done. And, while I completely agree that doing more and achieving more is important, trying to do everything can lead to a lack of focus, not to mention overwhelm and stress. In fact, in my five years of coaching, this has been one of the most common issues among my clients — and we're talking about highly talented people who have accomplished a lot!

How to resolve this: Stop attempting to be everything to everyone. Rather, concentrate on the most important tasks and do them well. What are the 20% high-impact tasks on your list, and how do you get started on them? Dump the less important tasks, batch them (to be completed all at once), or delegate them. This brings us to the next point…

5. You are attempting to do everything on your own

Many perfectionists, including myself, have this problem: we insist on doing everything ourselves. Why? Because we will not let go. We believe that if we let go, we will lose control, that people will muck things up, that everything will become a disaster, and that we will have to clean up the “mess” later.

I understand because I am sometimes like that. I used to be much more “obsessed” with my work, preferring to do everything myself so that I could make it exactly how I wanted it. But I've discovered that no man is an island. Consider this: no matter how productive you are, you will never be able to complete the same amount of work that 10 or 100 people (equally competent as you) can complete in the same amount of time. Two heads are better than one, and many hands make light work (most of the time).

How to resolve this: Allow yourself to let go of the need to do everything yourself. Delegate tasks to members of your team, employees, and/or vendors. Hiccups will occur, but it is up to you to coach them to get things right. (See Rule #9 of Super Productive People for more information on delegation.)

6. You do not have a pleasant working environment

Examine your current working environment. How would you rate it on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best possible working environment? Would you rate it from 1 to 3 (poor)? 3 to 5 (on a scale of 5)? 6 to 8 (all right)? Or 9 to 10 (excellent)?

The majority of us work in a “3 to 5” environment. From disorganized workspaces to poor table heights resulting in noisy traffic (especially for those of us working from home), people chatting, and boring work stations, we are constantly battling our surroundings in order to get things done. This is bad because, instead of pouring our energy into our work and converting it into constructive output, our surroundings drain our energy.

How to resolve this: In Rule #4 of Super Productive People, I introduce the concept of a flow environment, which I coined to refer to “an environment that gives you the best working experience and allows you to easily get into the flow.” When you can easily slip into work mode and feel energized all the time, you know you're in your flow environment! Find your flow environment (or create one if necessary) and watch your productivity skyrocket!

7. You believe that work can only be completed when you have full-hour blocks of time to yourself

Think a five- or ten-minute break won't make a difference in your never-ending to-do list? So, reconsider. These little time windows in between activities, known as time pockets, can make a huge difference when used effectively.

For example, when I was in university, I was on the Dean's List every semester and graduated as the top Marketing student in Business Administration. This was despite the fact that I was juggling extracurricular activities, giving private lessons, and running my graphic design business. What caused this to happen?

It was due to my use of time pockets. Because I was so busy and didn't like studying at home (for those of you students, you're not alone! ), I would look for time slots to work in between classes, during classes, and after school. Rather than slack off, chit-chat with classmates, or doze off during these periods, I would work on upcoming assignments or revise my notes so that I would have more time for other activities later.

As a result, I never had to study outside of school, and I only had to revise for exams a few days before the papers (sometimes even the night before)!

How to resolve this: Make the most of your time slots, even if they are only five minutes long. Don't underestimate the impact a small pocket can have on your life. You'll be surprised at how much of a difference this one habit can make.

8. You are ignoring other aspects of your life

Perhaps the most common misconception about productivity is that you must sacrifice non-work areas, such as family, social, romance, and health, in order to advance at work. Most of us say, “I'll get to these later.”

However, this is not the case. Work does not constitute your entire life, and it cannot fill the gaps that only non-work activities can. While neglecting other aspects of your life (whether social, romantic, family, health, or personal well-being) may initially give you an advantage in your work productivity, this is only temporary — such a setup cannot last. It will only result in a backlash as you become “starved” in other areas of your life and become unmotivated to work at all. Some people refer to this as “burn out,” while others refer to it as a “slump.”

How to resolve this: Determine which aspects of your life you are ignoring. Then, while keeping your work priorities in check, act on them. A happy individual/parent/spouse/child will naturally be inspired and energized to work hard and deliver the best in his/her work.

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You have heard it all before: "Live life to the fullest", "follow your dreams", "be who you are" and "if it is meant to be, it will be". These are all wonderful quotes that are meant to help you live a happy life but they miss the point. Our lives are interconnected with each other and with the world.

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