Why You’re Getting Less Productive But More Stressed (Part 1)


You’d think that productivity and stress go hand in hand; that when you’re not as productive, you’re also not as stressed because you’ve got less to do. Similarly, when you’re at maximum productivity, your stress levels will also go through the roof. Unfortunately, though, it’s not always the case; so often, we find ourselves getting more and more stressed, but our productivity levels either remain the same or worsen.

It makes sense the more you think about it. When you’re not getting as many things done as you’d like for whatever reason, you get worried, which adds to your stress levels. The more stressed you are, the more preoccupied your thoughts become, which really doesn’t help your productivity.


Fortunately, the reverse is also true: there is a way to be more productive while also being less stressed. David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” methodology, for example, emphasises having a system in place to allow you to keep track of all your ongoing projects and tasks. In so doing, you learn to appropriately engaged with your tasks, which means you don’t think about things more than you need to. Hence, you get more done while being less stressed.

Most of us, though, are far from this ideal state of affairs, probably because of inefficient workflows that keep us from attaining optimal productivity while also burdening our minds unnecessarily with more stress, worry, and anxiety. Part 1 explores why. 

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1. Compulsively reaching for your phone

Phone addiction is perhaps one of the most widespread and yet underrated phenomena to afflict modern society. 

Despite the ubiquity of touch-screen devices, from phones, watches, laptops and TV screens, we consistently underestimate the severity of our own compulsiveness when it comes to reaching for those devices, especially when it comes to email-checking or social media browsing.


Each time you reach for your device in the middle of doing something else, you’re breaking your own concentration, and accustoming your mind to perpetual interruptions. In turn, being in a state of constant distraction eats away at our ability to focus over time, ultimately lowering our maximal productivity.

Additionally, device addiction can heighten your stress levels because it worsens the feeling that there’s always something you need to check, do, read, reply, edit, or vet. In other words, it makes you feel like you’re never truly free from your daily work, and the anxieties that can come with it.



2. Multitasking

Multitasking is to productivity what water is to fire. On the surface, dipping your hands into more than one bucket at any one time might seem like a much faster way of getting things done. The reality, though, is that it actually slows you down instead of speeding you up.

When multitasking, your mind is constantly switching from one gear to another, which means that it spends much more time adjusting and “re-tuning” itself than necessary. In fact, research has shown that it can take up to 20 minutes for the mind to adjust between tasks.


Do the math: if you’re multi-tasking for even 2 hours straight, how much of that is actually spent getting things done, and how much of it is spent mentally adjusting yourself?

Worse, most of us today are probably so used to multitasking that we don’t realise how much it divides our attention. The more scattered your thoughts are, the harder it is for your mind to organise them and tease out the coherent thoughts. It also makes it harder for you to mentally shut down when you need to at the end of the day or when you want to de-stress; you just feel like you’re “always on” all the time.


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