Have you come to the end of the day wondering where the time has gone? This feeling is more common than you think. With more and more things vying for attention, it’s no surprise that interest is steadily fading away. However, poor time management is just one of the productivity thieves that can creep in every day.
Filipa Bellette is the co-founder of the virtual health practice Chris & Filly Functional Medicine. She is a clinical dietitian, PhD researcher, and writer who helps busy and stressed professionals, especially those with children, become healthy, productive, and connected.
Billett’s research highlights seven signs of poor productivity that are more likely to indicate more serious physical, mental, or behavioral problems. Don’t leave your productivity to chance with Bellette’s guide on fixing your productivity issue across these key areas.
1. Extreme multitasking
“Multitasking is a recent phenomenon,” Billett explains. “Women in particular have been stereotypically known to be exceptionally multi-tasking,” yet “to wear the mark as a mark of honour, and to be proud of themselves in business, work, children, partner, study, hobbies, and household chores.” However, this is not the way to go. To work, it can do more harm than good. “Multitasking can lower IQ, shrink brain gray matter, and reduce productivity by a whopping 40%.” Not ideal when high performance is required.
On a sufficiently long time scale, Billett added, excessive multitasking “can cause anxiety, fear, and sadness.” Rather than fiddling with too many tasks, she advised, “clarify the task you want to focus on and close any windows or apps on your computer or phone to prevent distractions.” Bellette also recommends putting your phone in airplane mode when doing anything really important.
2. Poor time management
Research shows that poor time management is a big cause of inefficiency at work. Characterized by “feeling distracted and torn, and a bit of an organizational (or emotional!) mess,” this can be a sign that you are “not prioritizing things of high value” and instead trying to do everything. Being stuck in a “never-ending merry-go-round, or constantly chasing your tail,” as Billett describes the problem, is not conducive to long-term success.
If time management isn’t a skill you master, now is the time to take it seriously. Bellette advises that you “use a time management tool like Kanban to set priorities and keep track of goals, projects, and tasks.” Be clear about what your ideal week looks like and how you want to spend your time. “Include work, travel, personal development, self-care, and spending time with family and friends.”
3. Say yes
Take a look at your calendar and rate each entry. How many commits are there because you really want to make them? How many have you accepted out of guilt or obligation? How many of them achieve your goals and how many of them achieve the goals of others? If you spend time accepting requests from others, this may be a sign that you are saying yes a lot. This is a common occurrence, Billett explained. “Humans have an inherent desire to help others.” Especially with the working parents she advises, you often see clients “put their children, clients, colleagues, job opportunities, friends and family first before their own needs.”
Billett knows that this “will inevitably lead to burnout, reduced productivity and, unfortunately, dissatisfaction in life” and advises her clients, instead, to “make a plan for what you’ll say ‘no’ to a company, what it will be ‘maybe, let’s check’, and what it will say” Big yes, then stick to your limits. Plus, always recharge after spending energy on your work or family life before you say yes to the next thing.
4. Suffering from brain fog
Metaphorically burning a candle from both ends can cloud the head, thoughts and mind. Science says that brain fog “can happen when you feel tired and taxed. Chronic stress can deplete neurotransmitters (such as adrenaline, dopamine, and serotonin), which can lead to neurological problems.” These issues may include lack of focus, decreased mental clarity, forgetfulness, all issues that would kill your productivity.
Brain fog doesn’t have to be a permanent component of your life. To eliminate its effect, Billett advises her clients to “take a break from the computer every two hours. Science shows that “grounding” is a quick and effective way to reset your brain. Go outside, take off your shoes, walk on the grass barefoot, or lie down with your bare skin touching the ground. It seems It’s hippie, but tree hugging, your face resting on the trunk, works too.”
Bellette works with clients who find that they “struggle to get out of bed in the morning, want to sleep in the afternoon, or crash early in the evening,” all of which indicate “energy issues.” She said, “Fatigue is a common sign of burnout and will inevitably affect your productivity and ability to get work done.” Not only that, but busy entrepreneurs potentially work overly busy entrepreneurs to keep up with their busy lives.” The roller coaster of stress hormones that peaks and deteriorates throughout the day can cause accidents and make you feel bad.
The answer to fatigue may seem obvious: get some sleep. However, the duration and quality of your sleep must be taken into account. A dark, cool room, minimal noise or disturbance, and tech-free space can help professionals get more comfortable every horizontal minute. With better rest, cortisol levels can be better managed and less reactive with each daily encounter.
While a constant feeling of worry and anxiety may not automatically correlate with poor productivity, Billett knows that entrepreneurs who struggle with these feelings “may start second guessing their words and actions, stop trying new things, or stop taking calculated risks out of fear of the unknown.” Anxiety can also “reduce your ability to play and be creative, which is a huge part of being productive.”
Constant feeling of anxiety is a sign of the need to intervene. Bellette recommends that you begin with, “An assessment of your stressors.” A lot of times people get anxious because they worry about things that are beyond their control. “Make a list of all the things that worry you, identify stressors you can control, and focus on addressing those stresses.” It is essential to identify the root cause of your anxiety. Working with a functional medicine practitioner can help get to the root cause of anxiety and other symptoms of body fatigue.
Not only can the pain be “your body is screaming at you to stop” and a sign that you’ve “been going too hard, for too long,” Billett said, it can also stress your work output and cause poor concentration. Constant pain, suffering from backache, feeling tense with tight shoulders or suffering from headaches or abdominal pain are all ailments that can get out of control and lead to an inability to work together.
As with the other six signs of a productivity problem, the beats of prevention cure the pain. Billet advises her clients to “take regular breaks while working. Stand up, stretch, go for a 10-minute walk, and do some foam rolling. Look at your work environment in your workplace as well. Many people find that using a standing desk helps manage and prevent Hip and lower back pain.” As the saying goes, those who do not prioritize their health will soon have to prioritize their illness.
There is no place for anxiety, pain and exhaustion in the schedule of an entrepreneur trying to make a living and make a difference in the world, nor does he multitask, brain fog or run to meet unnecessary obligations. But unless you are intentional about how you spend your time, your attention will turn to who or what is screaming the loudest. If you neglect your well-being, you will return to demand more attention and soon you will have no time left.
Wasted minutes turn into wasted hours, weeks, and months, then whole jobs and lifetimes. Discover the seven causes of lost productivity and put solutions in place.