If you're struggling with succeeding at work, use these strategies to avoid any business and social work pitfalls you may encounter.
By the end of this lesson, you should be able to:
- Recognize and avoid five common productivity pitfalls
How productive are you?
As a conscientious employee, it's your duty to be on task as much as possible. However, it's difficult to be highly productive at all times. Productivity pitfalls such as procrastination can impede work performance and lead to poor performance reviews.
Read the scenarios in the rest of the lesson to learn strategies for overcoming the most common productivity pitfalls.
Productivity pitfall: Procrastination
The project is due tomorrow. You've had two weeks to complete it, yet you've waited until the last minute—again. Now, you're faced with spending the next several hours working late into the night.
Whether out of anxiety or lack of time, we've all put off doing something that needed to be done. But in the workplace, procrastination can really get you in trouble. You may never know when your manager or supervisor will drop by your desk to check your progress on a particular project.
Signs you may be prone to procrastination:
- You often find yourself putting tasks off.
- You work on more minor tasks to avoid working on the ones that are higher priority.
- You consistently underestimate the time it will take to complete things, so that you are left scrambling at the last minute.
To stop procrastinating at work:
- Create a to-do list and stick to it.
- Complete unpleasant tasks first.
- Decide which project-related tasks you can accomplish in the short-term, and set a deadline for them.
- Decide which project-related tasks you can accomplish in the long-term, and set a later deadline for them.
Productivity pitfall: Perfectionism
You've been assigned a team project at work. After attempting to take on a majority of the tasks, you reluctantly let a coworker take responsibility for an important aspect of the project. As a result, you're nervous the project won't be completed on time or well, despite the coworker's professional reputation.
You may feel that perfectionism makes you a better employee, but perfectionism at work can be counterproductive. After all, you can't do everything. And remember, employers value employees who can work well in a team atmosphere.
Signs you might be prone to perfectionism:
- You believe that others can never do the work as well as you can.
- You often repeat tasks over and over until the results are absolutely perfect.
- You prefer to work alone rather than with others.
- You believe there is always a "right" and "wrong" way to do everything.
To avoid perfectionism at work:
- When appropriate, delegate tasks to others.
- Try to stop comparing your work to the work of others.
- Work on acknowledging that there can be many "right" ways to solve a problem—if your coworker has a different solution, give him or her a chance to try it.
- Set deadlines for projects you're working on, and stick to them. Don't keep working on a project to make it "perfect."
Productivity pitfall: Distraction
You arrive at work early in order to meet a deadline. Your coworker stops by your desk to chat, and before you realize it 40 minutes have passed and your deadline is fast approaching.
Distractions such as chatting with coworkers and surfing the Web for pleasure waste a lot of time at work. If you're not focusing on what you're doing, it's also more likely that you'll make mistakes or miss important information at meetings. Employers may see your distractability as lack of commitment to the job.
Signs you might be prone to distraction at work:
- You email and surf the Web instead of working when you're on a computer.
- You get distracted by noise while working.
- You socialize when you should be working.
To keep focused at work:
- Limit your trips to the break room.
- When others distract you, chat for a few moments, then politely tell them you are trying to meet a tight deadline.
- Avoid surfing the Web for pleasure while working.
- Create a to-do list and stick to it.
Productivity pitfall: Boredom
You have been steadily working on the same task for hours. You are bored, so you decide to call a friend on the company phone to chat.
Most people like to feel that they are contributing something to their work environment. Feeling bored and unproductive at work can lead to job dissatisfaction. Worse, if boredom leads you to act unprofessionally or avoid your assigned tasks, you could be fired.
Signs you may be frequently bored at work:
- You often daydream at work.
- You often find yourself counting the minutes until you can go home.
- You socialize or do nothing when you've finished a task, instead of finding something else to do.
To address boredom at work:
- If you truly have a lack of things to do, ask your supervisor to give you some projects.
- Be proactive. Seek out projects. Your manager or supervisor will appreciate it.
- Talk to coworkers about what they do. See if you can help or collaborate with them in some way when you have some downtime.
Productivity pitfall: Displaying hostility
Your coworker was supposed to prepare a report for your joint presentation on Monday. As usual, he arrives at work on Monday 15 minutes late, and without the finished report. Fuming, you yell at him in front of your team members and supervisor.
There may be cases where you have a legitimate problem with a coworker, customer, or boss, but acting openly hostile at work is unprofessional and can get you into trouble. It is also counterproductive, since your supervisor will be less likely to pay attention to your concerns after witnessing an outburst.
Signs you may be displaying hostility at work:
- You often badmouth your employer.
- You frequently speak rudely to customers.
- You often speak angrily to your boss or coworkers
To avoid hostile behavior at work:
- If you are angry about something at work, make an appointment to discuss matters privately with your supervisor.
- Practice voicing frustration or anger quietly and productively. Tell the person you're speaking to what the problem is and what he/she can do to fix it.
- If you encounter anger or frustration in others, take a deep breath and calmly ask them what you can do to remedy the situation. Don't raise your voice. Call your supervisor if necessary.