8 Habits of The Unproductive Project Leader

Being an effective leader of a project is about getting the right things done in a timely manner.  You often have to wade through minutiae and determine the next best thing to do.  You have to be productive.  With a world filled with choices and distractions, all seemingly important, this can be difficult.  

Productive people have several habits in common. Likewise, unproductive people have habits in common. If you’re struggling with productivity, this is for you.  Please do not feel called out, I am preaching to myself.  

“We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”  – Aristotle  

We need a different set of habits if we want to be more productive and ultimately more effective at getting things done.  Instead of focusing on all the things that we should do.  Let’s focus on what we should not do.

For our best results, let’s avoid these habits of unsuccessful project leaders:

  1. Failing to learn. People fail to become more productive if they fail to learn and develop. Try to be the best at what you do. Learn something new each day.  No matter how small.  
    • Read a book, listen to a podcast, research articles on the internet, or watch a video. You’ll likely learn something new about improving your craft.
      Sometimes I take a break from my Beyonce and Kirk Franklin playlists and listen to an Audible or a podcast while I walk.  
    • Productive people are always learning things that will allow them to be more productive.
  2. Giving in to distractions. We have more distractions than ever before. There are a lot of distractions that are far more interesting than anything you need to do.  I truly struggle here.
    • Focus on what you’re supposed to be doing.  Consider turning alert notifications off.  Don’t worry; you will hear about the breaking news from someone without having to make a move.
    • Put your focused time on a timer.  I am not coming up for air until 30 minutes pass.
    • Plan time to engage in your distractions. It’s easier to avoid distractions if you know that you can engage in them at a later time.  Why not consider having your fun uninterrupted instead of fitting it into other activities.
  3. A lack of emphasis on action. I love to plan things out- my life, my vacation, my work day.  In the world of projects, planning is immensely important.  But, it is not the only thing;  at some point, you have to start doing.  It will not be perfect, but it will also never be done if you do not get started.  
  4. Failing to plan.   Fail to plan and plan to fail.  Plan your work and work your plan.  Earlier, I warned about being stuck in planning mode.  Here, I warn about not planning at all.   A common trait of the unproductive is that they don’t have a clear vision or a plan. They may avoid planning because they think things will settle down and there will be an optimal time for it.  No, go ahead and plan and expect that you will have to progressively elaborate.  I repeat, it will not be perfect, but you will accomplish something.  
  5. Majoring in minor things. Many unproductive project leaders are quite busy.  But, being busy and being productive aren’t the same thing.
    I easily get caught up in being busy.  My to-do list appears infinite because I detail ad-nauseam every little thing that I need to do.  When you are evaluating your actions, ask yourself, “Will this task contribute to a tangible output.”
    • What is the next most important thing to do?
    • Avoid any activities that don’t provide significant results for the amount of time required.
  6. Giving up. You can’t be a productive leader if you give up too soon. Productivity is about what you do, how well you do it, how fast you do it, and how much time you spend doing it. You can’t get a lot done if you don’t put in the time.   Things will get tough, and they won’t always go well. Dust yourself off and try again.
  7. Worrying.  It’s fine to have concern and then address those concerns. However, worrying is an unproductive habit. It wastes time and makes you less effective.  
    Disagree?  Please write down all the positive things you have accomplished by worrying.  No pressure – I’ll wait.  
  8. Procrastination. You can’t get anything accomplished if you never even get started. Procrastination is the ultimate productivity killer.
    • When I am struggling to get started, I put myself on a timer. (I like timers.) I give myself 12 minutes to do something.  Sometimes I keep going, and sometimes I do not.  But, I did something.  
    • If you must procrastinate, at least use the time to do something else that’s productive. Going for a run is a better way of procrastinating than eating a hot fudge sundae.

We all have the same amount of time each day. The most productive project leaders are also the most successful.  Which of these unhelpful habits are causing you the most pain.  Eliminate the habits that are reducing your productivity, and you’ll be in the best position to start getting the right things done. You’ll be surprised by how much you can accomplish!

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