Cheat Sheet - Productivity Pitfalls

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Productivity pitfalls are common problems that work against getting results. The following table summarizes common productivity pitfalls:


Pitfall Description
Analysis Paralysis You think you can … you think you can … or can you? … or what about this way or that way? … or what about … well, back to the drawing board.
Big Bang Rather than delivering value along the way, you wait until the very end. Only to find out that you’ve missed the mark. You lost interest along the way. Worse, your supporters lost interest and trust.
Biting Off More Than You Can Chew Maybe you think you really can boil the ocean. Maybe it’s just your aim to please people where you just can’t say no. You’ll eventually let them down, just not up front.
Blamer / Victim It’s their fault. Why does it always happen to you?
Burnout Burnout is when you shut down. It happens when you keep solving the same problem and you don’t feel like you’re making progress.
Burning the Candle at Both Ends You rob Peter to pay Paul. Downtime is for wimps. All you need is some more caffeine. Any free time is more time to burn the candle.
Churn Churn is when you spin your wheels against a problem, but don’t make progress.
Crossed-Expectations This is when you let yourself down or you let somebody else down. You either failed to reset expectations or the expectations weren’t accurate.
Death by 1000 Paper Cuts Click … scroll … click … scroll … click .. scroll … click .. scroll – ahhh, there’s that file that you use everyday! It’s not a lot of overhead. It’s just a little. About a 1000 times a day.
Do It Later Later never comes, or when it does, something else is more important. A little now might be better than nothing later.
Do It When You Feel Like It You’ll do it when you feel the inspiration. You don’t need to make time for it, you’ll just wait and then strike when the iron is hot.
Do Whatever It Takes You’ll step on whoever or whatever you have to. You’ll spend every last bit of your precious life force trying to pull it off.
Doing the Same Thing, Expecting Different Results. You hit a glass ceiling, but you keep doing the same thing.
Don’t Know The Work To Be Done You don’t know the work to be done. This means you don’t know how much effort or time it might take. This also means you don’t even know who to ask for help. If you don’t know any better, when things go wrong, you might end up thinking the world is out to get you.
Externalize Instead of Internalize No satisfaction, just applause or money. Sure you used to enjoy it, but now all about the rewards. Doing a good job used to be its own reward. It’s more important what other people say than how you feel about the work you do.
Friction It’s just a little too much resistance. You barely notice it, but it adds up. Instead of creating a glide path, you ignore the friction. Gradually, the friction snowballs … at least mentally.
Getting Stuck Congratulations – you found your glass ceiling!
It Doesn’t Feel Good You haven’t really thought about it, but you just gradually stop doing it. You know you should really do it, but it just doesn’t feel good. You thought you could talk yourself into it, and that worked for a while, but now you’d rather do nothing than something that just doesn’t feel good.
Lack of Boundaries Work spills into the weekends. The workday spills into the night. Time for your body gets used for time on your work. When you’re playing you’re thinking about working and when you’re working you’re thinking about playing.
Lack of Buffer One more straw will break your back. Go ahead just let somebody try and ask you to do just one more thing. As long as everything goes just right, and nothing changes for the foreseeable future … you’ll be fine.
Lack of Demand You let your supply side get in the way of the demand side. There’s no demand, but you think there should be. You get mad when nobody appreciates all the hard work you did, that nobody asked you to do to begin with.
Learned Helplessness What’s the use in trying? All you get is pain. This is the worst place to be. This is when you tell yourself that no matter what you do, it won’t work. You basically shut down and stop trying. There’s lots of ways to end up here, but more importantly you need to know how to get out. The keys to getting out are taking action, changing your approach, and learning from what works.
Limiting Beliefs or Assumptions You limit yourself. Worse you limit other people. You’re pretty sure you can’t do it, though you never tried.
Limiting Situation Your container limits your results.
Monolith Bigger is better! … and more complex … and a little tougher to finish … and tougher to fix … and no way are you doing it over – it’s too big and too complex!
Watching the Scoreboard You keep your eye on the scoreboard … But isn’t the saying, keep your eye on the ball?
Not Letting It Go It’s not working, but you hold on. It’s not serving you, but it’s a habit you carry forward. The more you hold on, the tougher it is to let go, the more you break.
Perfectionism It’s never good enough. As a result, you’re never done. Or if you can’t be the best, you never start.
Throwing Time at the Problem It will be done when it’s done. You perpetually miss deadlines, or worse, you continually meet deadlines, at the expense of other areas of your life.
Wrong Approach You’ve got the right idea, just not the right approach.
Wrong Technique Lots of energy, lots of time, no results. You throw more motivation at it, but your hammer just won’t turn the screw.
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