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The new world of work offers more choice than ever – and with choice, comes pressure. Many workers are overstretched and overwhelmed, finding there aren’t enough hours in the day to deliver on commitments. Before taking on more responsibilities, it may be time to simplify our lives by saying “no” to things that do not serve us. Liane Davey, author of The Good Fight, highlights 30 productivity drains you can start saying “no” to over the month of No-vember, perfect timing before the holiday rush adds to our stress. Below are the first 10, though you can find the rest here.

1. Resentment

It has been said that resentment is akin to “swallowing poison hoping someone else will die.”

Harbouring resentment is toxic and unproductive, but most of us have experienced this emotion, which is mostly triggered by someone else’s behaviour. You can’t control others’ behaviour but you can control your response: let them know or let it go.

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2. Notifications

In our “always on” society, there is constant fear of missing out (FOMO). Notifications (such as sounds or little numbers, indicating new activity – e-mails, likes, comments) were the clever tactic invented to make sure our FOMO is mitigated. However, notifications are highly distracting and they interrupt our thought and work flow. Turning off notifications allows us to take control of our day and achieve what we’ve set out to accomplish.

3. Procrastination

Ms. Davey suggests that it’s not workload that’s overwhelming us as much as thought load is. Avoiding procrastination allows us to feel good about getting things off our plates and out of our thought load. Try using a calendar for everything – work meetings, family commitments, workouts and working and thinking time. Once it is in the calendar, there is a sense of commitment and you can immediately gauge whether there is enough time to complete everything.

4. Dumping

If priorities need to shift, make time to explain context before dumping additional work on a team member’s plate. Without proper context and alignment on priorities, colleagues on the receiving end will spin their wheels and feel overwhelmed, causing stress instead of productive work.

5. CCs on e-mails

If you must use a cc, be clear on its purpose. For example, put in a simple one-liner saying “FYI only so you have context for the meeting tomorrow.” Be careful about using cc as a form of dumping, which causes confusion and takes colleagues out of their flow.

6. Smoothing things over

The key to an inclusive environment is creating psychological safety where everyone feels comfortable speaking up and recognizes that conflicting opinions are okay and, in fact, necessary for speed and innovation.

7. Taking unsolicited advice

Mulling over someone’s off-the-cuff comments takes you off your game and causes self-doubt. However, do seek counsel from those who can provide meaningful, constructive feedback – waiting until midyear or year-end reduces your ability to improve and increase productivity.

8. Doing other people’s work

Being a team player is important; however, blindly being a “yes” person actually makes you less of a team player – it takes you out of your flow and delays your commitments. Instead, ask what specific piece you can help with and establish the boundaries of how much time you can invest. This way, you are more likely to contribute in a way that adds value, while keeping on track with your priorities.

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9. Perfection

Don’t let perfect get in the way of “good enough.” How many times have we reformatted and revised materials that are ultimately never used? This is not only frustrating and demoralizing, but it is a waste of company resources. Perfection gets in the way of relevance – being quick to market with “good enough” is critical in today’s competitive business environment vs. slow and perfect.

10. Dehydration

Well-being in the workplace is critical to productivity – and it includes taking care of our physical bodies. If you are experiencing headaches or lack of focus, skip the second cup of coffee and drink a glass of water instead.

I am looking forward to following these simple tips and to a more productive December and start to 2020!

Naomi Titleman Colla is founder of Collaborativity Leadership Advisory, a Toronto-based consultancy focused on driving progressive talent strategy in this new world of work.

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