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5 Mental Mistakes That Sabotage Your Productivity and How to Overcome Them

In today's fast-paced world, productivity is a highly sought-after skill. However, research indicates that only a mere 26% of individuals consistently accomplish their intended tasks by the end of the workday. To regain control over our productivity, it is crucial to understand the mental mistakes that hinder our ability to focus on and complete meaningful work.

Today we will delve into five common mental traps that impede productivity and provide specific examples to help you overcome them.

1. Underestimating the Time for Focused Work

One of the most prevalent mental mistakes is underestimating the time needed for focused work. Often, we fall into the trap of assuming that tasks can be completed in a shorter span than they actually require. This leads to rushed and subpar work, ultimately hindering productivity.

For instance, imagine you have a report due in two days. Instead of allocating sufficient time for research and analysis, you underestimate the effort involved and procrastinate until the last minute. As a result, you find yourself scrambling to meet the deadline, compromising the quality of your work.

To overcome this mental mistake, it is essential to accurately estimate the time required for each task. Break down larger projects into smaller, manageable chunks, and allocate realistic timeframes for each. By doing so, you can avoid the stress of rushing and ensure high-quality outcomes.

2. Overlooking Simple Productivity Hacks

Another mental mistake that hampers productivity is overlooking simple productivity hacks. Often, we get caught up in complex strategies and overlook the small changes that can make a significant impact on our efficiency.

For example, something as simple as decluttering your workspace can have a profound effect on your ability to focus. By removing distractions and creating an organized environment, you can enhance your concentration and productivity.

To avoid this mental pitfall, take the time to explore and implement simple productivity hacks. Experiment with techniques such as time blocking, prioritizing tasks, and utilizing productivity apps. By incorporating these small changes into your routine, you can optimize your productivity levels.

3. Thinking About Change in an All-or-Nothing Way

A common mental mistake that stifles productivity is thinking about change in an all-or-nothing manner. We often believe that significant changes are necessary to improve our productivity, leading to feelings of overwhelm and inaction.

For instance, you may believe that you need to completely overhaul your work routine to become more productive. As a result, you delay making any changes, waiting for the perfect moment that never arrives.

To overcome this mental hurdle, embrace the concept of incremental change. Start by identifying one area where you can make a small adjustment to enhance your productivity. It could be something as simple as implementing a morning routine or setting aside dedicated time for deep work. By taking small steps towards change, you can gradually increase your productivity without feeling overwhelmed.

4. Forgetting How to Do Infrequent but Recurring Tasks

Another mental mistake that hampers productivity is forgetting how to do infrequent but recurring tasks. We often waste valuable time relearning a process or searching for information that we haven't used in a while.

For example, if you only perform a specific task once every few months, you may forget the steps involved and waste time figuring it out again. This not only slows down your progress but also decreases productivity.

To combat this mental trap, create a knowledge repository or cheat sheet for infrequent tasks. Document the necessary steps and key information to refer back to when needed. By having a quick reference guide readily available, you can save time and maintain productivity.

5. Underestimating the Costs of Small Time or Energy Leaks

The final mental mistake that undermines productivity is underestimating the costs of small time or energy leaks. We often overlook the impact of seemingly insignificant distractions and interruptions, failing to recognize their cumulative effect on our ability to focus and complete tasks.

For instance, constantly checking email or engaging in non-essential conversations throughout the day may seem harmless. However, these small disruptions can add up and significantly diminish productivity.

To address this mental pitfall, practice mindful awareness of how you spend your time and energy. Identify the activities or habits that drain your focus and take steps to minimize or eliminate them. By consciously managing your time and energy, you can optimize your productivity and achieve better results.


Recognizing and overcoming the mental mistakes that impede productivity is the first step towards regaining control over your workday. By accurately estimating time, embracing simple productivity hacks, adopting incremental changes, documenting infrequent tasks, and eliminating time and energy leaks, you can enhance your productivity and accomplish meaningful work. Remember, small adjustments can yield significant results. So, are you ready to reclaim your productivity?


Jonathan H. Westover, PhD is Chief Academic & Learning Officer (HCI Academy); Chair/Professor, Organizational Leadership (UVU); OD Consultant (Human Capital Innovations). Read Jonathan Westover's executive profile here.



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