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Avoiding Productivity Pitfalls and Boosting Focus

productivity pitfalls

When it comes to productivity and focus, I have a secret weapon — a book that I never see anyone talking about.

Now, I know not everyone is a nerd about planning, scheduling, and setting goals, but there is a book by J.D. Meier that’s just fantastic.

It’s called Getting Results the Agile Way. (It’s free on KindleUnlimited, but since it’s more of a workbook I recommend getting the paperback.)

This book is jam-packed with ideas and practical systems for helping you manage your time and priorities. I first went through this book nearly five years ago, and it had a significant impact on the time management system I use today and on which I based The Focus Course.

I say Meier’s book is a secret because I’ve never heard anyone talk about the book anywhere. (Perhaps it’s the fault of the cover design, which, honestly, isn’t great.)

In his book, Meier identifies 30 pitfalls to productivity. These are common pitfalls that limit your results and cause immense friction and roadblocks to your workflows and systems.

Moreover, these pitfalls can be found in your own individual productivity systems as well as within your teams and even within your whole company.

Of the 30 pitfalls that Meier lists, the five most common are:

  1. Analysis Paralysis: You are constantly waiting to take action until you have more information, call more meetings, get more opinions, etc.

  2. Doing It When You Feel Like It: You wait for motivation and inspiration before you get started, and you lack a routine of doing your most important work on a regular basis.

  3. Not Knowing the Work to Be Done: You lack clarity about things as granular as the next step or as macro as the whole big picture, thus you can’t plan accordingly.

  4. Lack of Boundaries: You allow work to spill over into other areas of your life (weekends / evenings); you push yourself past your limits; you allow urgency to become the dominant factor surrounding your work.

  5. Perfectionism: This bites you before, during, and after a project. Perhaps you don’t even begin because you know you won’t be able to do it just right. Or you never finish because you’re incessantly fiddling and trying to get things just right. Or, once you’ve shipped, you’re beating yourself up over how things could have been better.

Do any of these pitfalls sound familiar to you?

Perhaps you see them at work within your office culture or within your own life. Or both!

For me, numbers 1 and 5 are what I’ve most had to learn to overcome. I also use to suffer from a terrible case of #3, but that has changed completely for me over the years — a story for another time, perhaps.

Here are some related links where we’ve discussed other pitfalls and ways to bolster your productivity:

  1. Workshop: Focus, Productivity, and Writing Workflows
  2. The Three Waves of Productivity (and why you need all 3 to reap the benefits)
  3. Threats to Your Time and Attention

FYI: I put together all my book notes from Cal Newport’s book, Deep Work and combined those notes with all the key takeaways and highlights from my interview with Cal. If you haven’t already, you can download the in-depth notes here.