self sabotage

Stop Self-Sabotaging Your Productivity With These Simple Shifts

You want to be more productive. But despite your good intentions, it doesn’t seem to happen. A pesky pitfall may be to blame: Self-sabotage. If you want to stop self-sabotaging your productivity, a few key shifts are in order – starting with your self-esteem and definition of success.

“By focusing on a quantitative definition of productivity in the workplace, we are creating a cycle of self-sabotage. When people feel that there is too much to do and not enough time to do it, especially to the level of quality they feel it should be done, it feeds their low self-esteem with evidence that they are not good enough. They cannot achieve what they should be achieving,” says business consultant and productivity expert Alex Aldhous.

“This then leads to self-sabotage; unconsciously, we begin to avoid doing the work. We would rather fail because we did not try hard enough than because we were simply not good enough. It is easier for us to accept a failure of action than accept a failure of self.”
Here are a few tips to help stop this vicious self-sabotage cycle in its tracks.

1. Change your definition of productivity

The first simple shift you must embrace if you want to avoid self-sabotaging your productivity is to stop equating productive with busy.

“There is a big difference between being productive and being busy; oftentimes we equate the amount of work we have got done with how productive we have been,” says Aldhous. “This pushes us to fill our days/weeks with more and more tasks to tick off until our workload becomes overwhelming and we compromise the quality of the work.”

Instead of measuring your productivity based on how packed your schedule is, start keeping track of your progress towards accomplishing important goals.

2. Embrace a ‘done is better than perfect’ mindset

According to Aldhous, most people are perfectionists – they have unrealistic standards for themselves and their work. When their workload increases, they cannot reach their self-imposed standards and start self-sabotaging their productivity as a coping mechanism.

The antidote lies in embracing a “done is better than perfect” mindset. The next time you procrastinate on submitting a deliverable because you want to keep polishing it, get out of your comfort zone by submitting it as is. You’ll be amazed at how productive you end up being when you set the bar just a little lower.

3. Focus on task management

Aldhous also recommends moving away from the idea of time management in favor of task management. This mindset shift will have you place more value on effective prioritization rather than time spent working. “If we can focus on prioritizing our tasks and work on completing the most important instead of the most volume, we can avoid self-sabotage and increase our productivity,” she says. “I like to use the Eisenhower matrix and demonstrate that anything that is not urgent and not important can be removed from the list entirely.”

The Eisenhower Matrix is a prioritization framework that allows you to categorize tasks based on their urgency and importance – and it leads to a short to-do list with a big impact. “A shorter to-do list can be far more productive because instead of simply taking action for the sake of it, we actually achieve the priorities that move our business/our job forward,” adds Aldhous. “By feeling less overwhelmed by the quantity of work we have to achieve, we can focus our energy and efforts on producing quality work that has a significant effect.”

4. Set boundaries and stick to them

You’ve probably heard all about the importance of setting boundaries. Boundaries are more than a buzzword though – you need to set them and stick to them to avoid self-sabotaging your productivity. “Even if you don’t feel like you have had the most productive day when it gets to the end of your work day, don’t simply keep going. If you are due to finish at 5 PM, book something for 5:15 or 5:30 PM so that you have to leave your work desk,” recommends Aldhous.

“When you can do this consistently, Parkinson’s law will come into play and you will become more efficient at getting your work done within your working hours,” she adds. Parkinson’s law is the idea that work stretches to fill time, so being disciplined about your boundaries can have big payoffs as far as your overall productivity.

Plus, it’s counterproductive to punish yourself for not getting enough done by working longer to try to catch up, says Aldhous. The more exhausted you become, the less efficiently you work. The opposite is also true.

5. Find evidence of your success

Finally, since self-sabotage is linked to your own self-image, it’s important to look for and acknowledge evidence of your success on a regular basis. “Productivity self-sabotage is a vicious cycle of low self-esteem, perfectionism paralysis and then finding evidence that backs up our idea that we are not good enough,” according to Aldhous.

She suggests using positive self-talk to overcome this tendency to beat yourself up and reframe your thoughts. For example, instead of saying “I only got one thing done today,” tell yourself “I gave all my attention to my top priority today.”

“By refusing to let negativity run our mindset, we reset our ability to get important tasks done and celebrate when we have done them well instead of when they are done quickly,” adds Aldhous.