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Summary:

Many of the things that masquerade as helpful in getting work done can, in fact, make jobs harder and draw things out.. Here’s a list of three things that have led me down the garden path when it comes to being genuinely productive.

domino

Sometimes, the things that start of seeming like a they’ll be a great boon to productivity turn out to be not such a great help. In fact, many things that masquerade as helpful in getting work done can, in fact, make jobs harder and draw things out. Here’s a list of three things that have led me down the garden path when it comes to being genuinely productive.

1. Working weekends.

Being a remote worker, I don’t follow the traditional workday pattern. That means I can shift things around to clear up time for other activities, but it also means that I have trouble drawing the line between work time and professional time.

It also means that I’ve been known to work on weekends, even when there wasn’t a particular need to. Working weekends just seems logical, since it should, technically, be all bonus time. If you’re working when most people don’t, shouldn’t that also translate into increased productivity?

Not necessarily. Maybe at first, working weekends (and I’m just talking about working straight through seven days) does indeed provide a spike in productivity, but over time, if you don’t take time off for yourself, in the form of actual entire days off, it’ll affect the work you do. A refreshed worker is a better one, and working without pause will eventually led to unnecessary rework, mistakes in judgment and general sloppiness. It’ll cost you more than you gain, in other words.

2. Staying on the cutting edge.

Many of us like to stay abreast of tech and web trends. For instance, I recently got into Instagram in a big way. And while it’s a great app, I don’t really have any way of using it to improve my productivity, no matter how hard I may try to justify it to myself.

Another great recent example is RockMelt, a new browser designed with social networking in mind. RockMelt provides Facebook and Twitter integration, so that you never have far to go to share content or chat with friends. I’m tempted to try it out as a web working tool, but I know that in fact, it won’t actually help me get anything useful done.

Staying on top of new tech developments is good practice for web workers, but you have to be careful and structured about it. Set aside time during the week specifically for the task, and try not to get your head turned by every new service and/or app that launches. Plus, you can always count on us to keep scanning the horizon for the next big thing so you don’t have to.

3. GTD.

People take Getting Things Done (GTD) very seriously. So seriously that there’s an entire economy based around GTD apps and services. I probably own around 10 to-do applications for my iPhone and Mac combined.

Making lists and getting organizing projects is definitely not something I’m saying is a bad idea, but like anything else, they are appropriate in some circumstances, but not in all. Sometimes, especially if your job has a fairly regular rhythm that doesn’t deviate very much, GTD can be just another form of procrastination. Always ask yourself, “Does I really need a list/plan to accomplish this?” You’ll be surprised at how often the answer is no.

Those are my top three productivity pitfalls masquerading as useful work-boosting tools. What are yours?

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  1. I agree that putting routine tasks on a list (i.e. check your e-mail!) can be extremely redundant. However, the majority of my work day is filled with non-routine tasks. Most people who work in project-oriented jobs find that their tasks change with the project, and that’s where the GTD tools really shine.

  2. You’ve got everything right here and I can’t stop laughing at the last item. I’d say I’m guilty of trying to make a long list so absurd that it’s already taking a lot of my time when I should be working on the items instead. I think that a productive worker means getting more out of your work life – more money, more passion on what you do and more freedom on what you love most. Simple.

  3. Royale Scuderi Tuesday, November 9, 2010

    I agree completely. It’s harder sometimes to get work done, because of all of the communication devices, tools and technologies available to us. Sometimes I find myself spending more time on planning than doing…

  4. P.S. Jones @Diary of A Mad Freelancer Tuesday, November 9, 2010

    I am a workaholic by nature but it doesn’t help that I really just love what I do. But I recently stopped working on weekends for the exact reasons you explained. And now, I feel like I’m getting more done and have time for things other than work.

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