When you work for yourself, your potential is defined (and limited) by how efficient and engaged you are with your daily tasks.
If your productivity wanes, it can negatively impact your entire business. It’s so important to spend some time reflecting on everything from your environment to your tools to identify what might be preventing you from being your most productive self - doing so could save you tons of time, money, and headache.
Throughout the workday, you may have to fight against both external and internal interference - a growing inbox, a wandering mind. If you aren’t careful, you’ll end the workday right where you started, and you won’t be any closer to making what you want to create.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common culprits that may be holding you back from achieving optimal productivity.
1. Poor Office Ergonomics
Believe it or not, ergonomics play a significant role in how productive you are in the workplace on a day-in, day-out basis. Good posture puts muscles at ease and relieves undue pressure from joints, while bad posture does the exact opposite.
A healthy spine should have three natural curves that look like an elongated S. Good posture means “Your head is on top of your body in alignment with your spine — not leaning forward or right or left,” says Dr. Laura Deon, a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist at Rush University Medical Center. “Your shoulders are down and back, hips and knees are in a neutral position with feet shoulder width apart, and your body weight is distributed evenly.”
The problem is that good posture goes by the wayside as soon as most of us sit down at a computer. It’s easy to hunch over, tense up muscles, and contort the spine into unnatural positions for prolonged periods of time if you’re not careful. This leads to constant shifting, physical ailments, and an overall sense of discomfort. Even if the impact seems subtle, it may be holding you back from your best work.
2. Lack of Privacy
Over the past few years, there’s been a rise in open office floor plans where employees trade offices for desks in a single large room. But, sadly, this lack of privacy can hurt productivity.
“Ambient noise and lack of personal space can make it hard for employees to concentrate and get things done,” says Jeff Lowe, vice president of marketing at Smart Technologies. “All of this has led us to reimagine the workspace and productivity.” Lowe’s company has created individual “pods” and smaller meeting rooms to allow for more privacy throughout the workday.
Another alternative is to work from home if you have the option and the space to do so. Whatever the case, be sure to find some private, quiet place to focus in on your work from time to time - you might be surprised at the difference it can make.
3. Lack of Breaks
Most people assume that breaks hinder productivity. After all, when you’re on a break, you aren’t getting anything done. But did you know that the exact opposite is true? Not taking breaks hurts productivity more than it helps.
Remember that the brain has limitations. Pushing through without taking breaks will have you running on fumes sooner or later, but a well-rested mind can mean you’re sharper and more attentive. Take a quick break every hour for best results.
If you struggle with this, set a timer, ask a friend to remind you, or stand up and stretch every time you have the urge to check your email. It’ll be worth it.
Now get to work
Let’s keep it short and sweet: Productivity is a precious asset that you can’t afford to squander. While it’s impossible to be totally focused 100% of the time, by eliminating common culprits that zap your productivity, you’ll be able to get more done and feel better while doing it.
Whether you work for yourself or are on the payroll at a company, being more productive will have a big impact on what you create and your overall career growth. But productivity doesn’t come easy - you have to work for it.
Anna Johansson is a freelance writer, researcher, and business consultant. A columnist for Entrepreneur.com, HuffPost.com, and more, Anna specializes in entrepreneurship, technology, and social media trends. You can follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.