Personal productivity is a vital skill, no matter what kind of life you live. But in this modern world, getting distracted is as easy as turning on your computer screen. Changing work models have made this problem even worse as more businesses gravitate toward a work-from-home approach. Now, personal and professional hours blur together more than ever before, making it difficult to focus entirely on either.
Breaking habits is a challenge, but the first step to doing so is recognizing your unproductive traits and setting the intention to fix them. If you feel like you’re not as productive as you could be and want to improve your daily efficiency, start by taking an honest look at your own routines—good and bad—and ask if they’re standing in the way of your potential. For example, here are three unproductive habits you may have fallen into without even realizing:
1. Multitasking vs. switchtasking
There is nothing wrong with multitasking. In fact, for some people, the practice can actually improve personal productivity. But getting a positive outcome from multitasking starts with an understanding of when you’re doing so.
You need to distinguish clearly between actual multitasking and just “switchtasking.” Multitasking typically involves a mindless or repetitive task, like knitting a sweater while watching a television program. It can also involve switching tasks briefly when progress on one stalls out. For example, you might take a break from writing to do the laundry in an effort to clear your mind.
Switchtasking, on the other hand, means trying to do two things at once, such as reading a book and carrying on a phone conversation at the same time. Rapidly shifting attention between one focus and the next stretches the mind in too many directions at once. This has been scientifically documented to cause tasks to take longer and have more errors compared to when we focus on one thing at a time.
The more you can avoid switchtasking and either focus on a single task—or more productive multitasking—the better!
Power tip: A to-do list is an excellent way to avoid switchtasking and increase personal productivity. But without proper organization, to-do lists can also quickly lead to problems such as a lack of prioritization and overloading. Use Tasks in Evernote to construct detailed notes and to-do lists, set reminders, and flag critical tasks.
2. Trying to remember everything
Even the most organized brain sometimes gets things mixed up. Relying entirely on your memory for accuracy—especially with a lot going on—is like playing with fire when it comes to staying productive. The more things we try to remember, the more risk there is of forgetting important pieces of the puzzle.
A great deal of important information can slip through the cracks when we try to juggle too much, especially when it comes to details like times, dates, and schedules. The stress created by trying to remember too many details only exacerbates the problem, leading to increased frustration and a natural loss in personal productivity.
Power tip: Instead of trying to remember everything yourself, centralize all your facts and figures into one central “second brain” on your device with Evernote. Notes in Evernote all live in one place and can connect with other apps you use in your daily life. Capturing thoughts and filing them away quickly helps free up your mind to concentrate on more important things.
3. Not implementing a system
When maximizing your personal productivity, it’s helpful to think of your life as a system. Each aspect of your life interacts with every other—you work to earn money, which you then use to make purchases in your personal life, for example. Productive work entails balancing all those components in harmony.
Taking this “systems thinking” approach to life means breaking those components down and examining how they can interact together. If you go to the gym twice a week and make trips to the grocery store twice a week, try to combine them by stopping at the store on the way home from the gym, rather than tending to each task separately. This can save time, effort, and transportation costs.
Organizing your chores and life systemically on a comprehensive scale is the first step on the path to productivity. Building a structured hub of lists, plans, calendars, and reminders in Evernote will help you spot areas to streamline and sync in your daily life.
The key to personal productivity
Personal productivity is a matter of cultivating good habits and breaking bad ones, which, as always, depends on the individual. Complicated systems or an array of apps alone won’t work if you can’t address the habits that hurt your productivity. Unless you identify your own counterproductive tendencies, you’ll just end up repeating the same mistakes.
Evernote not only streamlines and simplifies schedules, reminders, and calendars; it also helps you identify and break bad habits, and create and maintain good ones. Together, you can cut out distraction and focus on building a better, more productive lifestyle.