Productivity tips can seem like silver bullets that promise to transform you into a hyper-focused professional, Monique Valcour writes for Harvard Business Review.
In reality, you could read a hundred articles on productivity and still have trouble focusing, writes Valcour, an executive coach and management professor.
Learning how to focus involves more trial and error than most professionals expect, and it's easy to feel discouraged when widely recommend tips don't seem to work, she writes. When you find yourself in a productivity rut, Valcourt identifies seven mistakes you may be making.
1: You assume that what works for others must work for you
Everyone approaches work differently. The types of deadlines or goals that work for your colleagues may not work for you, Valcour writes. If you find yourself feeling constrained by one approach, it may not be the right one for you, she notes.
2: You don't experiment
If one approach isn't working for you, try a different one. Even if a productivity tip doesn't sharpen your focus, you'll learn something about your work preferences in the process, Valcour writes.
3: You don't listen to your body
If you listen to your body's aches and pains, you may be able pinpoint the moments in your workday where you need a break. A tightness in your shoulders, for example, signals that it's time to stretch or take a walk around the block, Valcour writes.
5 indicators of burnout—and Melinda Gates' advice for avoiding it
4: You don't organize a "downhill start"
Optimize your workflow by giving yourself a "downhill start," recommends Theresa Glomb, a professor at the University of Minnesota. That is, set yourself up for success by creating work conditions that make it easy to get started and stay motivated, Valcour writes.
5: You don't practice self-compassion
When you feel defeated, make sure to acknowledge your frustration, she writes. Instead of berating yourself, practice self-compassion by remembering your unique strengths, she adds.
6: You don't find the meaning in each task
It can be especially difficult to power through tasks that feel unimportant, Valcour notes. To stay motivated during those tedious tasks, find their connection to your core values, she writes.
7: You forget what's at stake
Before you jump down that internet rabbit hole, ask yourself whether the time you'll spend surfing the web is worth the time you'll lose to complete your tasks, Valcour writes, (Valcour, Harvard Business review, 12/8).
Also see: 7 things you can do in 15 minutes to be more productive
Next in Today's Briefing
The skills that Google's most valuable employees share—and what they mean for students