Overcome Productivity Blockers
I work hard to get things done. I keep lists, manage my schedule, and constantly review my ability to produce. But there is one thing that I tend to overlook when assessing my own capacity: productivity blockers. A productivity blocker is a specific task that prohibits you from unleashing your full get-it-done potential. I'm not talking about the first step of a long project; I'm talking about a unique task that saps your energy, pulls your focus, and incarcerates your industry. These tasks keep you up at night, they have been on your to-do list for two weeks or more, and they have woven their way into every part of your life without ever being resolved. My biggest productivity blocker of the past few months? Taxes.
My task list has had, "Do Taxes" on it for more than six weeks. Every time I started, scheduled, or borrowed time to file my taxes, I was rudely interrupted. Task deferred. Task prolonged. Task leveled up. Every time I started and did not complete the task it became bigger, more intimidating, and felt like it required more time. I just completed my taxes which required less than two hours of my attention. But for the past few weeks, those two hours felt like twenty. For weeks, every item on my task list had to be viewed through the lens of my incompleted tasks. This is a key characteristic of a productivity blocker and why it saps so much of your energy. Here is what you can overcome these productivity-killers.
1. Identify the productivity blocker.
Look at your to-do list. Are there any tasks that have been there longer than two weeks? Disregard complex projects, these will always have a longer life-span on your agenda. Just evaluate individual tasks which have outstayed their welcome on your list. These may be productivity blockers. Have you started and stopped a particular task more than once? Perhaps you have been avoiding a certain task because it is intimidating you. These are likely productivity blockers and you need to eliminate them immediately.
2. Assemble a "special forces" mentality and take it down.
Don't think that you can take out a productivity blocker like any other task. Like my father says, "If you always do what you've always done, then you'll always get what you've always got." By definition, a productivity blocker requires a new approach. Its special and requires you to become far more tactical in your approach. View this task as a special target in the military. It deserves its own special time, special tools, and special attention. When did I do my taxes? Not during my normal "task time." I got up early, grabbed a special coffee, and ignored my normal routine. Each of these things was special and helped me overcome the inertia of my particular blocker.
3. Prevent molehills from becoming mountains.
The best solution is preventative in nature: don't let productivity blockers take hold in the first place. Once you can see that a task has begun to accumulate mass, take it out. Most problems are small ones before they become big ones. Once you understand how and when productivity blockers form in your own life, then you will be able to eliminate them before they begin.