Obstacle Course: Banning Behaviours that Block Productivity

Remember the last time you experienced the smug satisfaction of being genuinely, even prolifically productive?

That feeling’s just not that common, is it? Because let’s face it, everyone battles with some sort of unproductive behaviour – whether your own or someone else’s – which ultimately prevents you from reaching your productive potential. This week, in the last of our posts on productivity (for now, anyway – we’ll always have plenty to say on this topic), we’re going to narrow our focus. While our previous two posts discussed the significance of context for everything we do, let’s not forget that productivity also depends on maintaining efficiency in everyday actions. This time, the devil’s in the detail.

As is the case with addressing any less-than-ideal behaviours, the first step is to ’fess up to your foibles. And to assist you in identifying those unhelpful habits, we’ve compiled a little list of the key productivity preventers we encounter time and time again. Have a read. Do any of these sound familiar? And if they do, no problem – help is at hand. We’ve prescribed a PEP-approved solution with each one:

Living in your inbox

This particular pitfall is so prevalent, we’ve already devoted an entire post to it. However, we find regular reminders about the importance of systematically filing, archiving and deleting never go amiss. “Remember, no one cares about how many emails you’ve answered,” PEPworldwide:nz managing director Kathryn Anda points out. “What matters is what you’ve actually achieved.”

Ineffective meetings

Manage meeting requests as rigorously as you edit your email inbox. “Only attend meetings that are relevant to you and will have a significant impact on your role and your business,” advises Anda. “And ensure that the meetings you do attend are run as efficiently as possible. Maintaining discipline in team discussions depends on appropriate pre-meeting prep.” She cites Bill Gates to illustrate her point: “You have a meeting to make a decision, not to decide on the question.”

No one cares about how many emails you’ve answered. What matters is what you’ve actually achieved.


Now, we know not every interruption is unwelcome (coffee run, anyone?). But whether a colleague is unwittingly enabling procrastination or unhelpfully derailing your train of thought, a considered response is required. “Assess the priority of the request,” advises Anda. “Is it truly urgent or more important than what you are working on?” If not, then schedule another time to discuss the issue, she says. “Stay in control.” (Note: in the case of a proposed coffee break, extra discipline may be required.)

Lack of clarity

Clarity is, of course, the big kahuna when it comes to productivity – as our two most recent posts have demonstrated. Anda suggests you keep one more tip in mind: “Can you quickly list the three most important aspects of your role? If not, you need to clarify what they are. Fast.”

Lack of planning on projects

Aphorisms abound for this one: “Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.” Or “Proper preparation prevents poor performance.” And why so many pithy principles? Because it’s such a common issue. Yet putting in a little time to prepare a plan of attack saves you hours of stress in the long run, explains Anda. “Get into the habit of proper planning and prioritising. It will make a huge difference not just to your productivity, but to your stress levels too.” Sounds like a no-brainer to us.

Ok, then. Time for a rapid recap of the productivity-boosting pointers from our last three posts. Clarity around context? Check. Strategy for success? Sorted. Hints about replacing unhelpful habits with helpful ones? All over it. But most importantly, we hope we’ve provided you with a fresh perspective on productivity. In which case, our work here is done. And we like to think that once you’ve taken our advice on board, yours will be too.