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PRE-SIMPLIFY Productivity Series! Part 1: More Time Grabbers (2nd Half)

Updated: Dec 23, 2019

Heads up. Last week we visited the first three time grabbers that adversely affect productivity for most of us. If you haven't read this yet, please click here, as this post is the second half.


In an effort to lay the foundation for our decluttering method called Simplify, we are tackling the topic of PRODUCTIVITY. Can't start a life-changing decluttering habit without getting some basics in place, right? And we can't be effective at this new life-changing habit unless we reclaim some time––ridding our lives of some time grabbers that are stealing our precious 960 minutes a day. We dealt with three last week:

1- Procrastination & Clutter

2- Technology

3- Emotional Issues

Today we'll be looking at four more that try to steal our time and kill our productivity. Let's kill these time grabbers so we can get to the process of simplifying our lives...


I have always been able to handle many things at once. Bran gives me quite a few things to do to help with his TV production, customer service, and the like, so juggling various jobs at once has always been the norm for me. Some people are not like this and have to focus on one thing at a time. But before you start wishing you were like me, let me quickly tell you that multi-tasking is not the optimal way to be as productive as possible. Studies show that when you constantly are switching back and forth between tasks, your brain takes time to re-adjust and this takes a toll on productivity.

Researchers who study what happens to cognition (mental processes) when people try to perform more than one task at a time have found that the mind and brain were not designed for heavy-duty multitasking. They tend to liken the job to choreography or air-traffic control, noting that in these operations, as in others, mental overload can result in catastrophe. (source)

Think about it. If you’re performing two tasks at once, you have two sets of rules, two sets of parameters to work within. If these are important tasks that require concentration and creative effort and feedback, you’ll come up short and be unable to do the best job possible. You’ll finish the tasks, I’m sure, but it will require more time and either you will miss important details of both tasks, or the quality of the outcome will suffer.

Now, before you object, I must clarify that I'm not talking about tasks that require little to no brain energy. We all can handle multitasking when it comes to listening to a podcast while exercising, reading a book while commuting to work on a subway, stuffing envelopes for a mailing campaign while watching Netflix. Mindless tasks can be combined to actually motivate us to work and get the menial jobs done faster. Tasks that use different parts of our brain are OK to combine. I encourage people to especially take advantage of time sitting in waiting rooms for appointments, in line at the store, etc., to write lists, check emails, return texts, etc. This is being productive and using our time wisely. But what happens when we try to do two "thinking" tasks at once, switching back and forth between the two?

Attention Residue. Yes––they have actually given a name to the issue of your brain still trying to process information regarding the previous task. (source) Constantly trying to regain focus after a time grabber incident, or after switching back and forth between tasks, helps build "Attention Residue." Studies show it takes 20 minutes to fully recover from a switch. You should strip the residue by focussing on one task at a time. Your productivity will soar and the brain fog will disappear.

PhD and author, Guy Winch says, “When it comes to attention and productivity, our brains have a finite amount.” He goes on to teach that productivity is wasted because your attention is expended on the act of switching gears, and you never get fully “in the zone” for either task. This is a problem.

Have you ever heard of the acronym OHIO? This is a principle taught by organizers, and also by experts who handle patients with ADHD. It stands for “Only Handle It Once,” and refers to the immediate handling of mundane tasks to avoid the piling up of decisions to make later. It’s the “do it now” mentality that keeps procrastination at bay. For those with ADHD (who normally have organizational difficulties), they don’t have to remember to do it later, thus, freeing up stress. It works for the rest of us, too. But what does this mean in relation to multitasking? I'm mentioning OHIO because It’s pretty much impossible to pull it off while handling multiple tasks at once. This is also something to keep in mind. By multi-tasking, you'll have residue AND not be able to "OHIO." 😊

In an article published in the Stanford Report on August 24, 2009, explains:

People who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information do not pay attention, control their memory or switch from one job to another as well as those who prefer to complete one task at a time, a group of Stanford researchers has found.

He ends his article with these profound words: “By doing less, you might accomplish more.” Yes, I know that multi-tasking seems like it's helping you accomplish more, but it truly isn't. It means you're not giving your full attention to the task at hand. Why not make it simple and focus on one thing at a time? Once you finish, move on. In our Simplify method, we will be talking about doing tasks one at a time in order to obtain the highest efficiency and productivity. I am all about saving time, trust me. But I’m realizing that when I pour 100% effort into one task at a time, I get better returns.


How many times has your day been sabotaged because well–meaning family or friends have eagerly transferred their own personal deadlines and stress over to you, and since you "had no plans," you couldn't say no? Having a plan in place means getting to honestly say, “I’m so sorry, I’m swamped today. Wish I could help, but I’m unable to.” Or, if you’re able and willing, you could say, “I do have some time this afternoon, between 2 and 4, if you need my help.”

Having a plan in place helps determine where you’re headed, helps avoid pesky detours, and in the long run, increases your productivity. What’s not to love?

"By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail." -Benjamin Franklin

When we plan, we also save money (along with time). Case in point. You realize you have a little time to run to the grocery store between appointments. You jump in the car, race over there, grab a cart, and run in only to find that you don't have your grocery list or recipe you're making tonight. So you rush down each aisle hoping that items will magically pop out at you so you can grab them and go. But in the end, you purchase unneeded items seized in haste, often unhealthy, and steal valuable time by trying to remember what you need, traipsing through the entire store instead of just the required aisles, often having to make a second trip for the forgotten items.

And how often have you wasted time trying to figure out what you should be doing, resorting to aimlessly working on minor tasks that seem to scream for attention just because they’re visible?

According to Brian Tracy, author & motivational speaker,

“It takes only about 10 to 12 minutes for you to plan out your day, but this small investment of time will save you up to two hours (100 to 120 minutes) in wasted time and diffused effort through the day.”

When you plan your day at bedtime, you'll have a clear picture of how your day is going to go. You'll be able to prioritize your tasks in order of importance, which will prove useful as we will learn in Simplify to always do the worst things first. When you complete your worst task first, you will feel more accomplished and have added energy to complete the easier jobs that require less brain power.

So what's your worst job on your to do list? Let's say you have to finish this today:

• reorganize master bedroom closet

• send two emails

• undo the dishwasher

• replace the lightbulb in the hallway

• pay the electricity bill online

• fold one load of laundry

And let's say you have only so much energy and time to accomplish this list today. Obviously, you're going to attack that closet first. Once that huge job is out of the way, you'll feel so accomplished and can then spend the rest of your energy on the smaller tasks. Always do the worst things first.


Choose your 'yesses' and your 'noes' carefully. We all need to evaluate what our priorities and responsibilities are before saying yes or no to anything. Every single yes commits you to a time grabbing task that dictates your schedule, which is why we need to understand our priorities first and see if the task helps us with our responsibilities or takes away from them. If we have spare time after evaluating our own priorities, then, by all means, say 'yes.' If not, it should be a 'no.' But what if we just can't say the word? "N....n.....n........."

The inability to say no boils down, I believe, to a problem of insecurity and fear: a fear of disappointing others, a fear of hurting a friendship, a fear of not being liked. Does any of this resonate with you? If it does, this is killing your productivity. Poor self-esteem generates an idea that others' priorities are more important than your own, which then allows for others to dictate your schedule with ease. "People Pleasing" complex plays into this big time. The desire for approval from others can run so deep that it leads to exhaustion, and extra stress that can cause health issues in the long run. So how do you stand up for yourself? What needs to change?

As believers, we must recognize that we do not need approval from others, only from God. In John 12:43, we find people even in Jesus' time who wouldn't follow Jesus because they 'loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.' This, my dear friend, is the sin of idolatry.

It is not our job to make people happy. Rather, we are to live as the best people we can be, serve the Lord in every way He calls us, die daily to our own selfish desires, and receive our reward from Him (1 Corinthians 4:5). When that is our life goal, we will stop being people-pleasers. (source)

Standing up for yourself is crucial and can make or break your productivity. Stop apologizing for having to say no. Stop the long explanations. Stop feeling guilty. You can only do what you can do in the time given to you. The best answer you can give to somebody begging for a piece of your day when you're overtaxed with your own is, "Let me get back to you." Or, "I need to check with my husband/wife," or "I have some big projects I'm currently working on, but let me see if I can fit it in." This buys some time for you to properly evaluate what you can and cannot do, and removes the temptation to give an instant "yes" which often leaves us with subsequent remorse and stress. We'll be eventually dealing with the important skill of learning to say 'no' in our method of Simplify.


Oh, the beastly productivity killer of being a perfectionist. You knew I had to mention this one, right? It's a toxic trait many of us share––one that can either motivate us to our best work (if controlled), or push us to the point of paralysis. Perfectionism is not always bad, but when the trajectory of your productivity turns south, then, Houston, we have a problem.

Perfectionists usually live in the world of extremes. All or nothing. If they miss something, they've failed, and failure is absolute death. This usually leads to fears that can greatly harness, and even halt productivity. Believing you've failed when you haven't attained perfection is detrimental to your growth as a person and a great cause of stress. We mustn't treat mistakes as failures, no. Instead, we should embrace them, learn from them, fix what we can, and move on. I promise you... making a mistake or getting less than a 100% approval from a boss, a teacher, peers, or friends is NORMAL. Perfection is RARE.

The fear of bad reviews from peers, or those dreaded typos, or the fear of something out of place or messy when hosting a party, or even the fear of not measuring up to others–– all of these are based on insecurities, envy, worry. And guess what? None of these are fruits of the Spirit. Hey. Being perfect at something is just not attainable. Nobody has ever been perfect except Jesus. Remember that.

More often than not, perfectionists are over-thinkers who would greatly benefit from just doing the best they can and moving on. Productivity would notably increase, as projects wouldn't be halted by multiple reviews and editing. An increase in productivity then, would lead to a boost in morale, a surge in energy, and a willingness to take risks which previously, would have been unappealing. Being your own toughest critic should motivate you to do better, not kill your productivity.

The endgame for perfectionism is dissatisfaction and a critical nature. If you find yourself over-obsessed with results, always unsatisfied, and barely putting out the work, you need to re-evaluate your expectations, split your goals into smaller pieces so they're more attainable, and just don't set yourself up to fail in the first place. Good enough is good enough, and done is better than perfect. Just keep moving in the right direction.



Seven time grabbers. There are so many more. Calling attention to these main ones will hopefully spark an interest in identifying more in your own life, so you can stop them in their tracks. The purpose of this Pre-Simplify series it to lay a solid foundation for high productivity that we can then utilize as we learn the method of simplifying every part of our lives.

As we prepare to introduce to you our method of simplifying, it's crucial to understand where you're headed. You definitely will need to wrap your head around your goals, so in part 2 of this productivity series, we'll visit those goals and discuss the importance of owning them, of always keeping them in mind as we journey towards a more simpler life.

For Howse to House,

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