Overcoming productivity obstacles is possible with the right steps. This week we’re talking about ways to overcome productivity roadblocks.
Productivity is a goal we can work towards every day
Those of us who care about being productive–both about getting the things done that are important to us and about making a life that matters–are very aware of the many obstacles that can get in the way of both. Overcoming obstacles to productivity requires a strategic approach, combining an understanding of your work style, proper planning, and specific tactics to handle common productivity roadblocks. We’ve talked about many of these in the past, and I thought it was a good time to look at this again. Here are some common obstacles and strategies to overcome them, including references to past episodes of this podcast that might help, as well as other resources worth investigating
In the age of digital technology, distractions are ever-present. Social media, constant email notifications, and other interruptions can significantly hamper your productivity. Overcome this by scheduling specific times for checking emails and social media and sticking to this schedule. Consider using tools and apps that block or limit time spent on distracting websites or apps. We talked about distraction and overcoming it in more depth recently in episodes 448 (Managing Distractions in a Digital Age) and episode 454 (our Productive Reading discussion of Nir Eyal’s Indistractable), and farther back in episode 243 (Dealing with Distraction).
2. Poor Time Management
The phrase “time management” is an iffy one for me. Although I’ve thought about and studied “time management” since I was a young teenager, I’ve come to realize that we don’t–can’t–really manage time at all. It’s a fixed resource. There are 24 hours in a day, and we can’t manage those hours in the sense of moving them around or saving them up for use later. What we can manage is our use of time–what we actually do with those 24 hours in each day. And if we’re not managing our use of time effectively, we can end up feeling overwhelmed and unproductive, perhaps being very busy without actually accomplishing the things we care about. Lots of what we talk about on this podcast is about just that: being more intentional, efficient, and effective in how we use our time. So some suggestions to help us do that are:
Procrastination is defined as the action of delaying or postponing something. It’s not procrastination when we intentionally and for reasons we like choose to defer doing something until a later date. We procrastinate any time we do something else other than what we intend and plan to do, and procrastination is a major productivity killer. Again, we’ve addressed this many times in past episodes, such as episode 434 (Procrastination and Regret); episode 347 (10 Unproductive Things to Stop Doing); episode 312 (That Project You’ve Been Avoiding); and episode 111 (Time Thieves).
We overcome procrastination by getting to the root cause–the reason why we’re procrastinating on something we have decided we need or want to do. Many times we procrastinate because a task or project feels overwhelming. We can overcome this by breaking the task or project into smaller, manageable parts and starting with the easiest part. This will create a sense of progress and make the task seem less daunting.
Cultivating the habit of using techniques like the “2-minute rule” (if a task takes 2 minutes or less, do it immediately) can also help.
4. Lack of Motivation
It’s tough to be productive when you’re not motivated. Motivation (defined as the reasons one has for acting in a certain way or the general desire or willingness to do something) can come from many different sources and fades for lots of different reasons, such as boredom, perfectionism, discouragement, or external circumstances.
To boost motivation, set clear, attainable goals, and visualize the benefits of achieving these goals. Remember to give yourself credit for the tasks you complete. Check out episode 227 (How to Renew Your Motivation) for some specific suggestions on how to reinvigorate your motivation when it fades.
Here we’re talking about trying to do at the same time two tasks that require attention. Multitasking can seem like a good idea, but it often leads to mistakes and reduced productivity. Focus on one task at a time, and give it your full attention before moving on to the next task. I had to mention this in an episode about productivity obstacles, but we’ve discussed it more than once even in recent episodes such as last week’s episode 457 about productivity myths, as well as episode 347 (10 Unproductive Things to Stop Doing); episode 286 (11 Time Wasters to Eliminate); and episode 79 (Staying Focused and Paying Attention).
6. Stress and Burnout
Whether coming from overwhelming workloads, difficult personal circumstances, or just the rigors of 21st-century life, high levels of stress and burnout can lead to decreased productivity. When we’re under stress we struggle to focus on our work and to stay motivated to get things done. Health problems arising from chronic stress, including high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes can make it difficult to get our work done. One article I read recently summarized the productivity-impairing effects of stress: “When we are under stress, our bodies and minds focus on coping with the stressor rather than on the task at hand. According to CAMH, this can lead to decreased concentration, memory problems, and difficulty making decisions. In turn, these cognitive difficulties can lead to decreased productivity and a decline in the quality of work.”
We talked about this in more depth a couple of months ago in episode 414 (Women, Stress, and Productivity). Some ways to reduce stress and its effects on our productivity include:
- Incorporate relaxation and mindfulness practices into your daily routine, such as meditation or yoga.
- Regular exercise, a healthy diet, and adequate sleep are also crucial for maintaining energy levels.
- Seek support, whether help with the work or someone to talk to and help you process stressful events or situations.
7. Lack of Skills or Knowledge
I’ve found lots of business-related articles talking about the effects of poor training on company productivity. The concept applies to us personally as well. If you don’t have the necessary skills or knowledge to perform a task–whether for work or a personal project– it can greatly affect your ability to accomplish the task efficiently and effectively. It can also lead to procrastination and lack of motivation to start. Overcome this by investing time in learning and development. Take courses, attend workshops, or seek a mentor in your field. Many years ago when I was a new mom, I wanted to learn to sew clothes for my young daughter. I found a friend who was a skilled seamstress and who taught me how–I would take my daughter and my sewing machine to my friend’s house and we would set up our machines and sew together, with her right there to help me learn as I worked.
8. Poor Physical Environment
Our working environment can be a significant obstacle to productivity, whether because of clutter or sources of distraction or because it’s physically or mentally uncomfortable due to the physical set-up or noise or other reasons. The subject of clutter and its effects on productivity is another topic we’ve addressed many times on this podcast, including last month’s episode 455 (9 Reasons to Declutter) and earlier episodes like 277 (10 Things to Declutter), episode 163 (Clutter, Stress, & Simplicity), and episode 16 (Conquering Clutter, Step by Step). The short answer to overcoming this obstacle is to keep your workspace clean and organized, and make sure it’s comfortable and well-lit. Do what you can to eliminate or minimize noise, interruptions, and other distractions and discomforts. I’ll link in the show notes to a couple of articles with suggestions to help. I also recommend a book I read not too long ago called Your Creative Work Space, which offers lots of ideas and inspiration for creating a work space that supports your productivity and creativity.
9. Lack of Tools and Resources
Whatever kind of work you’re doing–whether on the job, in the kitchen, or in your creative endeavors–not having the necessary tools or resources can hamper your ability to perform tasks effectively. Overcoming this obstacle is simple (although not necessarily easy): figure out what tools and resources your tasks require, and do what you can to ensure you have access to the necessary software, hardware, and other resources you need to complete your tasks.
10. Poor Communication
Miscommunication can lead to confusion, errors, and decreased productivity (both in the sense of getting things done and in the sense of making a life that matters) on the job, in relationships, and just in general. Realizing this, of course, is more than half the battle. To overcome this obstacle to productivity, take intentional steps to improve your own communication skills and seek better, clearer, more open communication with the others in your life, whether supervisors, colleagues, employees, and clients at work, or spouse, children, and other family members in your personal life. Learning to listen to understand rather than refute is crucial, as is being conscious of unspoken expectations and biases in ourselves and others. Improving communication is a lifelong process, but the effort and time invested in that process will pay off in productivity, with less time lost to conflict, misunderstanding, and mistakes.
A few last words
Each of these obstacles requires a slightly different approach, but they all begin with recognizing the problem and committing to a solution. It may take some trial and error to find what works best for you, but once you do, you’ll see your productivity increase.
What do you think?
What obstacles interfere most with your productivity, and what steps do you take to overcome them? Post your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section below or in The Productive Woman Community Facebook group, or email me
Resources and Links
- TPW016 – Conquering Clutter, Step by Step
- TPW040 – Motivation
- TPW079 – Staying Focused and Paying Attention
- TPW111 – Time Thieves
- TPW163 – Clutter, Stress, & Simplicity
- TPW179 – Motivation and Habit
- TPW227 – How to Renew Your Motivation
- TPW243 – Dealing with Distraction
- TPW277 – 10 Things to Declutter
- TPW278 – 11 Ways to Keep Your New Year Motivation Going
- TPW286 – 11 Time Wasters to Eliminate
- TPW312 – That Project You’ve Been Avoiding
- TPW347 – 10 Unproductive Things to Stop Doing
- TPW414- Women, Stress, and Productivity
- TPW434 – Procrastination and Regret
- TPW448 – Managing Distractions in a Digital Age
- TPW454 – Productive Reading: Indistractable, by Nir Eyal
- TPW455 – 9 Reasons to Declutter
- TPW457 – Productivity Myths
- Workplace Stress and Productivity: A Cross-Sectional Study – PMC
- Workplace Stress Hits Women Harder than Men | Corporate Wellness | Employee Well-Being
- How Does Stress Affect Work Productivity? – Timeular
- 18 ways to improve your work environment and optimize productivity
- How to Create a Better Workplace
- 20 Ways To Improve Your Work Environment | Indeed.com
- The Right Tools and Resources Increase Engagement and Productivity
- Lack of tools and resources to do your job effectively. –
- Inadequate Tools and Equipment and Its Effect To Employees Performance | PDF | Employment | Qualitative Research
- The Tools You Use at Work Can Literally Change Your Mind
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Royse City, Texas