Productivity is always in the back of our minds. We worry about how well we’re getting things done on a day to day basis. We also have a natural tendency to think that individuals who are more productive than us are simply skilled at multitasking. Decades of research, however, show that there is no truth to these ideas and the brain has a finite number of tasks it can execute each day. In this post, you will learn 5 main factors that affect productivity and what impact your environment has on your productivity and how the brain manages its limited resources.

5 main factors that affect productivity

Below are the 5 main factors that affect productivity. They are:

1. Multi-tasking, or trying to do more than one thing at a time.

Research shows that tasks completed well under their natural limitations reduce productivity. This is because the mind must throw away the information gathered from one task to begin executing the next.

The goal is to keep all intellectual processes and tasks separate so they do not interfere with each other. The separation of these tasks will allow you to get into a flow state which allows you to perform tasks with more ease.

Tips to improve:

  • Wind down and only perform high priority tasks after dinner.
  • Create a morning routine such as meditation, exercise, and checking your email.
  • Identify what you want to achieve each day and set a timer for 10-15 minutes.
  • Limit your intake of coffee, food, and alcohol during the day.

2. Time.

It is well known that it takes time to become productive. However, it takes far more time to become productive in a new way than it does in the original way. This is because changes in the way you work are often hard and painful at first. But, once you have adopted the new routine, your productivity will greatly increase as a result of less mental effort and time spent on tasks not useful for you (such as distractions).

Time management is a huge factor in productivity. A good way to make the time pass is to do something productive with that extra time, such as setting goals.

Tips to improve:

  • Set specific goals and do a weekly review of your progress.
  • Try to work in short bursts and take breaks once you feel the stress or burnout setting in.
  • Use a timer on your phone while you are driving so that you know when to take your break or resume work.
  • Create routines based on your daily activities such as eating, working out, and sleeping.

3. Distractions.

The constant distractions of email, Twitter, Facebook, and other technologies have made us less productive than we once were. They also allow us to get distracted by what others are saying and doing and cause us to lose track of our own work. These distractions prevent us from thinking about what we are doing and our work will suffer because of it.

Try and remove all distractions from your environment. Turn off email notifications if you can or make decisions about when it is okay to check them.

Tips to improve:

  • Turn off email notifications.
  • Schedule time to check your social media accounts. You can even do it while waiting in line at a restaurant or the movies.
  • Turn on airplane mode while you work or exercise.
  • Shut off all electronics and notifications when you are at home and with your family.
  • Get an accountability partner to help you stick to your goals and not get distracted by others.
  • Don’t work long hours as it will increase distractions from family, friends, and co workers.

4. Learning.

While learning new skills or information will improve your productivity in the future, it makes you less productive at the present time (i.e., when you are learning). This is because the focus of the brain shifts from what it is already doing to what it is trying to learn as a result of attending a lecture or reading a chapter in a book.

Sometimes it’s good to stop learning and focus on what you are currently doing. This will allow your brain to fully commit to the task at hand since it is not distracted by other ideas and facts.

Tips to improve:

  • Avoid learning new technology or different information while you are working.
  • Learn to quickly skim the ideas in books in order to gain an idea of what is being said.
  • Use a timer on your phone while you are driving so that you know when to take your break or resume work.
  • Identify what you want to learn each day and set a timer for 10-15 minutes.

5. Motivation.

Motivation is a major factor that determines how productive a person will be. People who are highly motivated will tend to be more productive than people who are not motivated. Motivation does not come from outside of you, but from within yourself. If you are motivated to achieve something, it will make you more productive because your brain is using its resources to focus on that goal and achieve it instead of wasting energy on other tasks (such as procrastination).

Tips to improve:

  • Identify what you want to achieve each day and set a timer for 10-15 minutes.
  • Create a morning routine such as meditation, exercise, and checking your email.
  • Set specific goals and do a weekly review of your progress.
  • Use an accountability partner to help you stick to your goals and not get distracted by others.

How do you measure productivity?

When you work in a traditional environment you are often given objectives you must complete. For example, if you work in an office and are told to complete 10 sales calls by the end of the day then this is an objective. When you work for yourself or a small company, your objective will be less structured and more open-ended. For example, if you are an artist and the objective is to paint a picture or write a song.

Measuring your productivity can be hard since you are often the only one that knows what your objectives are. When I work for myself, my goal might be to finish painting a picture by the end of the day. I would consider that objective as being productive. What I do not take into account (but should) is whether or not I worked efficiently to create that objective (or completed other important tasks).

What are the best ways to increase your productivity?

Many people underestimate the importance of sleep. Studies show that lack of sleep affects productivity and can cause you to take on more tasks than you can complete no matter how hard you try due to the decreased mental capacity, decreased focus, and increased stress from lack of sleep. It is also important to ensure that you are getting enough rest since too little sleep will impact performance during the daytime as well.

The average adult needs somewhere between 7-9 hours of sleep per night. For most people, sleep is a vital part of their life and can be improved by making changes to your sleeping environment.

Top 5 myths about productivity

1. You can never have too much of something

The productivity myth  is that you can never have too much of something. This is simply not true. You can always improve your productivity by doing a better job of focusing on what you are currently doing and making sure that you are not distracted during your time at work (meaning, attempting to multitask). In fact, multitasking is counter productive since it causes the brain to be less productive than when it was focusing on one task instead of switching between multiple tasks.

2. You can work on multiple projects at once

The productivity myth is that you can work on more than one project at a time. While it is true that you may be able to complete some portion of a project if they involve similar tasks, you will spend much more time shifting between various tasks than if you were doing just one assignment. The best way to increase your productivity is by narrowing the focus of your attention so that you are only doing what needs to get done for the current assignment or task.

3. Following common sense is productive

The productivity myth  is that you can be productive by doing things that sound logical or common sense. For example, many people believe that taking on more goals and responsibilities is a good way to increase your productivity. What they fail to consider is whether or not you are actually able to complete the additional tasks without sacrificing the quality of your work for existing tasks. You must also determine if the time and energy spent on new tasks is worth the value of the accomplishment. If you have so many tasks that they become overwhelming, you will be less productive instead of completing everything faster.

4. Doing more will lead to doing better

The productivity myth  is that doing more will lead to accomplishing better work than if you were doing fewer things. For example, many people believe that they can manage multiple projects and deadlines simultaneously by working longer hours or working on weekends. While this may give you a quick boost of temporary productivity, it is often unsustainable and will lead to burn out. You should instead focus on the quality of your work and the value that you are providing to others.

5. You can maximize your productivity with technology

The productivity myth is that technology is a good way to increase your productivity. While technology can help you complete some tasks more quickly through the use of automation, it can also cause you to waste time trying to figure out how to use it. If you don’t know how to take full advantage of a new tool, it might be best to simply ignore it and continue working the old fashioned way.

You should also be aware that technology such as social networking sites can be very distracting and cause you to lose focus on your tasks.

Conclusion

This post is to focus on the major productivity factors, how they impact productivity and what can be done about them. With this knowledge, we can be more productive with our laptops/desktops, smartphones and tablets.

So hopefully this article has helped you get a better understanding of productivity and how to increase it. Do you have any thoughts or feedback on this post? Feel free to comment below.

We also have a guide on learning how to develop a productive mindset here.

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