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Audrey Thomas
Organized Audrey and

Ten Reasons You Might Be Unproductive

By Audrey Thomas, CSP a.k.a. Organized Audrey – April 2016

You’re running late for a client meeting. You can’t find the binder containing the spreadsheets you so carefully finished at midnight. And you just realized you forgot to load your PowerPoint on a flash drive. As you hurry off to your meeting, you promise yourself this is the last time you leave details to the last minute, the last time you’re going to be late for a meeting, and the last time you get “that look” from the boss when you finally arrive.

Sound familiar? As you ponder your frustration, and commit to making improvements, consider these possible contributors to your inability to get things done.

1. Lack of focus. As you sit at your desk, what’s staring back at you? Clutter demands our attention and robs us of focus. It’s time to do a little pick-up if you’re staring at piles of paper, freebies from a recent tradeshow or even “stuff” that has taken on a personality of its own living underneath your desk. Clear the clutter and clear your mind.

2. Inability to say “No.” Sometimes we think our disorganization is due to having too much to do in which case we need to start saying “no” to requests as they come along. Every boss loves when an employee is willing to take on new projects. However, you’ll be the one disappointed when you’re unable to deliver on time or at the quality desired.

3. Inability to prioritize. In the email culture we live in, it’s easy to buy into the urgency of a request, email or project. Take caution: most emails are important, but few are urgent. Learn to prioritize items on your To-Do list according to deadline dates and amount of work required to complete a project.

4. Procrastination. Putting things off or leaving things until the last minute invites unnecessary stress caused by hurrying, overlooking details and potentially disappointing the boss. Procrastination also affects those around us, such as our coworkers and can cause feelings of tension and mistrust in the workplace.

5. Lack of systems. Incoming email, project folders, paper and appointments are an everyday part of your job. Creating email, hard drive and paper folders for all current projects will help manage this information in an organized fashion, allowing quick retrieval of items when needed and preventing the accumulation of clutter.

6. Perfectionism. If you are a perfectionist, you already know it. And many of the actions you take every day are actually wasting your time. Make this your new mantra: Done is good enough.

7. Multi-tasking. According to research conducted by the University of Michigan, a worker’s productivity decreases 20-40% every time they multi-task. Phone calls are interruptions that can’t be avoided. However, starting a new project or responding to email while another task is already in process is multi-tasking.

8. Sharing work space with others. Common areas of an office—mail center, break room, production areas—sometimes experience clutter because several people use these areas and everyone has different expectations for how the space should be used. Creating and posting guidelines may be beneficial in maintaining shared spaces within an office.

9. Major life changes. Moving to a new home, having a baby, losing a job, going through a divorce or taking care of elderly parents. Major life changes take a tremendous amount of time and energy. When “stuff” happens—and it always does—take a deep breath and a step backward, and recognize the need to major in the majors and minor in the minors. In other words, make sure the really important things get your attention and don’t worry about less important items. They’ll still be there when the dust settles.

10. Inability to make decisions. We are expected to make hundreds of decisions a day. And when we can’t or choose not to, clutter ensues. Reading an email and leaving it in the inbox creates clutter quickly. Storing a box of who-knows-what under your desk not only takes up leg space but also becomes unsightly clutter. In most scenarios, a decision requiring a nanosecond of your time is all it will take to prevent clutter from appearing in the first place.

Being able to reflect and identify some of these unproductive contributors will help you make long-lasting changes. Showing up to a presentation late or ill-prepared will become a thing of the past

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