Work illusions that derail productivity

  • Wednesday, March 26, 2014 10:31am

According to, the word ‘illusion’ means, “something that deceives by producing a false or misleading impression of reality.”

Most of us are probably falling for productivity illusions all the time.

We are working away, striving to be efficient, when we may be doing just the opposite.

Can you picture yourself in any of these four scenarios?

You are busy, busy, busy! You are working long hours and yet you still don’t feel like there are enough hours in the day.

You are leaving the office late, taking work home and even eating up some of your weekend time dealing with email.

It’s important to remember that you can’t confuse long hours with productivity. Really be honest about how you are spending your time and where you can make improvements. Are you working on your most critical tasks or could Facebook, excessive email checking, texting, chatting and stops for coffee be sneaking in there?

You have so much on your plate and you are going to take the bull by the horns and take action.

You are going to knock things out today. You sit down at your desk and check an email, listen to your voicemail, start working on a report and then respond to a text.

Action and forward momentum is fantastic, but not without proper planning.

Don’t sit down and work willy-nilly. Center yourself at the end of the day by preparing for the next day.

Review your calendar so you know what your schedule looks like the next day.

Are you swamped with meetings or do you have a few hours in a row to hammer out some projects?

Next, make a list of what you must accomplish as well as a list of what would be nice to accomplish.

Be sure to estimate how much time you think each task will take so you can be realistic about what you can get done. Straighten up your desk and files for the next morning.

The next day you will be able to sit down and get right to work because you have a plan.

Make sure you work on the list of what must be accomplished first.

You’ve been in your line of work for a long time and you are really good at what you do.

You’re really busy and it’s just faster to do everything yourself so no one messes it up.

You should be contacting customers that have potential to bring in revenue, but, instead, you are online ordering office supplies.

Being over-controlling is a productivity illusion, you’re doing it all but it’s not efficient.

Delegation is a powerful productivity tool that you should embrace right away.

Look for tasks that other people can take on and take them off of your plate. Look for someone who can do that task as well as you can or even better than you can.

We all have our strengths and talents and we can’t be good at everything. It will take the investment of your time and energy to train someone else to do these tasks, but in the big picture it will be a time saver.

Make sure your expectations are clear and set check-in dates prior to the due date for longer projects.

You are super busy so you are going to save time by multitasking and knocking out two tasks at one time.

We are all hearing more and more about how ineffective multitasking is.

Our brains are actually switch tasking because we are not designed to do two activities at one time, except for the work our brain stem does with body system functions. When we multi-task, it actually takes more time to complete a task and it increases our chances of forgetting something or making a mistake.

It’s not realistic to ask you to completely stop multitasking, but a great goal is to work for 96 minutes (20 percent of an 8 hour day) every day without multitasking or interruptions.

Work on your most critical task during that time and you will strengthen your productivity muscles.

Small changes in the way you use your time can have a big pay off by improving life balance, reducing stress and bolstering feelings of accomplishment when you meet deadlines.

Monika Kristofferson is a professional organizer, productivity consultant and trainer who owns Efficient Organization in Lake Stevens. Reach her at 425-220-8905 or