4 Mental Traps That Kill Productivity

Nir and away

Nir and away

Productivity has many enemies: too many meetings, external triggers like coworker interruptions, and multitasking the wrong way, to name a few.

But more often than not, it’s mental traps that trip us up.

“Mental traps are habitual patterns of thought that disrupt our fluency, take up an awful lot of time, and drain our energy without accomplishing anything of value,” psychology professor André Kukla wrote in his book, Mental Traps: The Overthinker’s Guide to a Happier Life.

Learning to recognize these mental traps disarms them, allowing us to overcome their threat to our productivity.

Here are some common mental traps, along with a solution to set you free.

Mind Trap: The Planning Fallacy

According to the American Psychology Association, planning error is “the tendency to underestimate the time required to complete a future task, in part due to reliance on overly optimistic performance scenarios.”

Underestimating the time you need for certain tasks means that you are consistently unable to meet a deadline. If you’re a freelancer whose clients have strict deadlines or you’re part of a team that depends on you to complete a project as planned, meeting deadlines is crucial to your professional success.

If you misjudge the time you need to tackle tasks, it also means that you will try to accomplish more than is possible in a day, which will lead to an imbalance in your life. If you overdo it at your job, you may need to reallocate hours set aside for other areas of life – yourself and your relationships – to complete those tasks.

These high expectations, along with the low control you have to meet them, are a guaranteed formula for burnout. After sacrificing hours previously meant for pleasure, self-care, or sleep, you are likely to enter a state of emotional, mental, and often physical exhaustion brought on by prolonged or repeated stress.

Solution: Don’t use a task list without timeboxing

To-do lists alone are a trap. In the absence of constraints, they show no compromise on prioritization of forces and do not help you meet a realistic schedule.

Timeboxing, on the other hand, is a time management technique where you set aside a specific period of time in your calendar for each activity. This is a great way to beat the planning error because it allows you to visualize your time. (If you’re new to timeboxing, try this timeline template to get started.)

You can use time tracking apps to monitor how much time you typically need to complete a work project, recipe, workout, etc. Once you have a good idea of ​​how long something might take you, write it down in your timeline. This should give you a good idea of ​​what you can realistically do in a day.

Be liberal with allocating time to your tasks. Don’t limit yourself to the minutes you need for best-case productivity—timebox for your worst-case scenario. If you finish early, you have room to take a break.

Mind Trap: Liminal Moments

The liminal moments are transitions from one thing to another throughout our days. Have you ever opened a tab in your web browser, been annoyed by the loading time and opened another page while you waited? Or did you watch a social media app as you walked from meeting to meeting, only to keep scrolling when you got back to your desk?

By doing these actions for “just a second” or “five minutes maximum”, we risk doing things we will regret later, like going off track for half an hour.

Solution: The 10 minute rule

The next time you feel the urge to check your phone in a moment of boredom or distraction, tell yourself to just wait 10 minutes. Chances are that once the 10 minutes are up, your craving will be over.

Attention essential readings

The 10 Minute Rule, also known as “surfing the urge”, is about taking a breath to notice your sensations and riding them like a wave, which helps you cope until the feelings calm down.

Surfing the Craving is effective in helping me cope with all sorts of potential distractions, like Googling something rather than writing, eating something unhealthy when I’m bored, or watching another episode on Netflix when I’m “too tired to go to bed”. ”

Mental trap: the simple emergency effect

The simple urgency effect is the “tendency to seek urgency rather than importance,” as defined by this recent study. He says, “People may choose to do urgent tasks with short completion windows instead of important tasks with larger results.”

In other words, we tend to prioritize completing the menial five-minute task over the important project that will take us hours of work.

Email is a perfect example. It is the curse of the modern worker. The average office worker receives 100 messages a day. Even if you can type an answer in just two minutes for each, that’s over three hours a day. It will consume all the time you need for more important tasks if you let it.

Solution: Plan targeted work sessions

Timeboxing can protect us from the siren call of menial tasks. In your calendar, set aside a time for focused work and let your family, co-workers, boss – anyone who might try to approach you at that time – know that you won’t be available.

This will take away the guilt or anxiety you feel for not responding to emails every 30 seconds because your boss and co-workers will know you’re not slacking off – you’re Indistractable.

Scheduling a targeted work time will also let you know that any other task you are doing during that time is a distraction. You might be tempted to double-check your inbox or, if you’re working from home, quickly throw laundry in the wash, but that’s forbidden during your concentrated work time.

Mental trap: Shame for not doing everything

Humans are not machines, so we are going to have times of low productivity, even if we are proactive in managing our time and attention. Shaming yourself for your lack of productivity won’t do you any good.

Maybe you’ve shamed yourself into sleeping instead of getting up for your early morning workout. Or maybe the distraction may have stolen your attention more than usual today.

Don’t give in to self-blame. This toxic guilt will only make you feel even worse and can, ironically, cause you to seek out even more distractions in order to escape the pain of shame.

Solution: self-compassion

Everyone struggles with distractions from time to time. The important thing is to take responsibility for our actions without toxic shame.

Self-compassion makes people more resilient to disappointment by breaking the vicious cycle of stress that often accompanies failure.

If you find yourself listening to the little voice in your head that sometimes intimidates you, it’s important to know how to respond. Instead of accepting what the voice says or arguing with it, remember that obstacles are part of the growth process.

Talk to each other like you would a friend. We tend to be our own worst critics, but if we talk to each other like we would help a friend, we can see the situation for what it really is. Telling yourself things like, “This is how you get better at something” and “You’re on the right track” are healthier ways to deal with self-doubt.

Feelings of guilt are another reason to use a schedule generator rather than to-do lists, which perpetuate harmful self-stereotypes because they act as a constant reminder that you didn’t do what you said you did. you would do.

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