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5 Deadly Productivity Killers (and 3 That Get a Bad Rap)

Productivity tips are like pumpkin spice lattes. They’re trendy, everyone’s got one, and while you really want to hate them, they’re just so delicious (and helpful). The right tips can make a huge difference in your day-to-day workflow, and hey, as busy marketers we’ll take all the help we can get.

So, like the 511,990 #PSL posts currently on Instagram, we’re joining in the fun and sharing the five habits making you less productive, and three that don’t deserve the bad rap they generally receive. Did we forget any of your favorite productivity tips or marketing tools? Let us know in the comments below.

5 Deadly Productivity Killers

1. Email // Slack

Is email your lifeline at work? An August 2015 survey found that the average U.S. worker spends 6.5 hours a day checking email. That’s a lot of hours you could be getting actual work done. While it may not be possible to check email only once a day, it is possible to find a balance that benefits both you and your workflow.

Productivity Tips:

1. Go Dark: Log out of your email and slack accounts for specific chunks of time. Start with an hour and gradually build up to saying “adieu” for an entire morning. Setting aside time to focus all of your energy on one task will lead to better, more efficient results in your work and in your email responses.

2. Organize Your Inbox: Instead of getting to the elusive “inbox zero,” try getting organized. By creating folders, filters, and labels, you’ll ensure that those emails from your boss stay flagged at the top of your inbox, while messages from Debbie in accounting asking for recommendations on dry needling specialists go straight to a “Save for Later” folder (aka. Bye, Felicia).

2. Meetings

Ahh, meetings. Those ritualistic gatherings we love to hate. We know they’re necessary. We know they’re not going anywhere. But we’re still screaming into a deep, dark abyss for the meeting gods to have mercy on our souls when we see four straight hours booked on our calendars.

Productivity Tips:

1. Prepare: If you’re the meeting organizer, here’s how to prepare for a productive meeting:

  1. MINTO your meeting goals. By defining the Situation, Complication, Question, and Answer of what you’re trying to solve for in the meeting, you’ll have a better understanding of what you want to accomplish in your meeting, what your agenda should look like, and who needs to be there.
  2. RASCI your meeting attendees. By deciding who the Responsible, Accountable, Supporting, Consulted, and Informed parties of your issue are, you’ll know how to designate ownership within your meeting. It will also further help you define who needs to attend and why.
  3. Create an agenda, and send it out before your meeting. Some companies have a “no agenda, no meeting” rule. This ensures that the meeting organizer is making the most of each attendee’s’ time and setting firm expectations for how that time will be spent.
  4. Send a meeting wrap up. Every meeting should close with next steps for all parties. It’s a good idea to reinforce those next steps with a wrap up email or slack message sent out after you disperse.

2. Change your default meeting times to 15 and 30 minute blocks. By setting shorter default meetings, it encourages participants to be prepared, organized, and efficient. And don’t be afraid to adjust those times further to 10, 20, or 40 minute blocks.

3. Tumbling Down the Rabbit Hole (or Internet Surfing)

Does this sound familiar? It starts with a quick Facebook check (harmless enough). Then you click on a Buzzfeed article your friend shared that’s titled “35 Reasons We Heart Brooke Davis.” That spirals into “Our 52 Favorite Episodes of One Tree Hill,” which turns into YouTube clips, and finally ends with a Netflix hangover.

Productivity Tips:

1. Track your time using a platform like Toggl. Decide you’re going to take 15 minutes to give your mind a break and scroll through Instagram, but open Toggl to track your time, so you don’t go over.

2. Block certain sites (or all sites) for a designated period of time using platforms like Cold Turkey and StayFocusd. Target sites you know you’re prone to checking or getting lost on, and enjoy an hour or two temptation free!

4. Disorganization

We’ve talked a little about organizing your meetings and your email inbox, but how do you keep your scheduled organized? As marketers, designers, and creatives, it’s easy to look at your to-do list, feel overwhelmed, and spend a whole day hopping around to different tasks without making a meaningful dent in any of them.

Productivity Tips:

1. Organize, prioritize, and track the progress of projects on your to-do list using a platform like Trello. You can set due dates, receive email reminders, and collaborate with colleagues.

2. Work in sprints and find your flow. In psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s book Flow, he explores what it takes to achieve “optimal experience.” If you can limit distraction, set goals, and stay focused on achieving those goals, the author claims that you can achieve a state of flow in which greater enjoyment and creativity contribute to better work.

5. Noise

In a job climate where open workspaces, coworking spaces, and ahem ping pong tables at work, it’s important to know when to stay focused and when to give in to the chaos. Especially as creatives, sometimes you need to tune out and finish writing, designing, or scheduling.

Productivity Tips:

1. Invest in a quality pair of headphones. This writer has a deluxe, noise-cancelling option for when I’m really holding myself to a deadline, and a pair of standard earbuds for when I want to remain accessible. Know when it’s appropriate to tune out, and when it’s right to hang with one earbud in. Your coworkers and your deadlines will thank you.

2. Try ambient noise. Can’t work with Queen B blaring through your head? First, I’m sorry for you. Second, I get it. Some people can’t work with lyrics or hardline beats. The “Focus” genre on Spotify has tons of great playlists for background music. There are also site like Coffitivity, which stream white noise like that you’ll find in your local coffee shop.

…And 3 That Get a Bad Rap

1. Coworker chit chat

A 2014 Workforce Mood Tracker survey revealed that 87% of the participating employees believe that work relationships matter to their quality of life. So not only is a reasonable amount of chatting acceptable, it should be encouraged! Two ways to keep the conversations from getting out of hand?

1. Organized outings: Encourage your company to host monthly or quarterly outings. It gets everyone out of the office and getting to know and interact with each other in new and different ways. Isn’t it much easier to field work requests from someone you’ve shared a beer (or four) with?

2. Walking meetings: Walking meetings are a popular trend in the startup community. Have a weekly one-on-one? Discuss it over coffees at the corner shop, or simply take a break from your busy day and invite a coworker along for a walk. Which leads us into our next point…

2. Taking breaks

By now it’s no secret that breaks offer workers a huge productivity boost. But it’s still hard to make that time. Here are a few ways to ensure a productivity boosting break:

1. Take a walk: A 20-minute walk increases blood flow to the brain, in turn boosting creative thought. Struggle making yourself set aside that time? Invite that coworker from above and clock some well-deserved chit chat as well.

2. Eat or grab a coffee: First, make sure you’re drinking coffee at the right time so that you’re getting the most buzz for your buck. Then make sure you’re munching on the right foods that will fuel your productivity.

3. Make your lunch break count: Getting outside, reading fiction, and working out are all great ways to boost your productivity in the afternoon. Take your lunch break now and make it work for you later.

3. Not being a multitasker

When interviewing a new hire, buzzwords like “multitasking” and “handling shifting deadlines” are generally heralded as assets. However, research shows that when a person tries to handle several tasks at once can result in lost time and productivity.

1. Instead, _try working in 90-minute intervals{:target="blank"} and then giving yourself a break to recharge and relax. By directing all of your attention to the task at hand, the results will be better and faster than if you are trying to be all things to all people all day.

2. If your deadlines are shifting, be flexible, but ask questions. Deadlines are there for a reason, and it’s a good idea to hold yourself accountable to those goals and push back constructively if they’re challenged.

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