We all know that watching Netflix or trolling social media for hours on end does not a productive day make. But while these bad habits dominate the productivity conversation, a number of stealthier issues may be wreaking havoc on your ability to produce high-quality work.
If you’ve cut down on TV time and silenced social media notifications but are still struggling to stay productive, consider whether any of these four unexpected factors might be to blame.
Troubles at home
Our culture tends to talk a lot about the separation between “work” and “life,” which implies that our personal lives cease to be relevant the moment we step into an office.
But of course, that’s not how humans work.
If we’re dealing with stressors at home, we carry those stressors into our workplace–and that can make a serious dent in our productivity.
As just one example, research suggests the divorce of a salaried employee costs a company thousands of dollars in lost productivity resulting from higher rates of absenteeism and/or presenteeism, anxiety and depression, and so on.
If you’re dealing with issues at home–whether in the form of an unhappy relationship or a loved one’s illness–the solution isn’t just to suck it up and work harder.
Instead, it’s important to acknowledge the issues that are detracting from your productivity and identify constructive ways for managing those issues. Whether that looks like therapy, hiring a caregiver, or something else, taking steps to address troubles at home will empower you to find more focus at work.
When it comes to productivity, most conversations focus on the actions we take: Are you devoting your time to accomplishing tasks, or frittering it away on internet rabbit holes and the like?
Less attention gets paid to the underlying thought processes that consciously or unconsciously inform our work every day. But the truth is that our mindset can have a huge impact on our productivity.
For instance, low self-esteem or self-doubt can cause us to underperform or self-sabotage. This may stem from a person’s self-limiting beliefs about what they’re actually capable of, or people may hold themselves back because they don’t feel worthy of standing out for their exceptional work.
No matter the cause of low self-esteem, it’s important to address this issue before it sabotages your work. A therapist is a great place to start.
Sleep is one of the first things to slide onto the back burner when we’re trying to churn out lots of work, but both short-term and chronic sleep deprivation can destroy your capacities for productivity.
You don’t need me to tell you that a single night of sleep loss is enough to impair your ability to concentrate or make sound decisions. In fact, one study found that losing as little as 16 minutes of sleep can inhibit your ability to stay focused and maintain good judgment. Those consequences are amplified when you regularly get less than the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep each night.
While it might be easy to de-prioritize sleep in favor of activities that feel more urgent, your productivity hinges on obtaining plenty of down time.
Anxiety and stress
If you pay attention to headlines, then you already know stress is a major issue in the U.S. right now. It’s damaging people’s mental and physical health and diminishing quality of life for many Americans.
What fewer people realize is that unmanaged stress and/or anxiety can also impair their ability to get things done. Research suggests that anxiety and stress can diminish workplace performance, relationships with colleagues, and overall quality of work.
Stress and anxiety can result from a range of causes, and these conditions can be acute or chronic. No matter the cause, it’s important to acknowledge these issues and seek out resources for managing them effectively.
The most common source of anxiety and stress for entrepreneurs is uncertainty. Dr. h.c. Harald Seiz, CEO of Karatbars International, suggests, “To reach their own goals, entrepreneurs need a structured and well thought out strategy. However, even the best plan can’t account for all future incidents. An economic crisis, the loss of important employees, or difficulties in the private life are rarely predictable. Their consequences practically can’t be planned for. To accept this is the first step towards a productive relationship with doubts.”
To deal with uncertainty-related stress, the one thing not to do is pretend you’re fine and keep barrelling forward. That’s a recipe for diminished productivity, burn out, and lower quality of life.
These four issues might not be as easy to solve as a penchant for scrolling through social media. But they’re just as important to address–if not more so. By learning how to effectively manage familial issues, low self-esteem, sleep deprivation, and/or anxiety and stress, you’ll simultaneously enhance your productivity and your life.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.