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5 Common Habits of Nonprofit Professionals That Are Sabotaging Your Productivity

Nonprofit professionals are often under a lot of pressure to be productive. Whether you’re dealing with urgent requests or simply trying to cross items off your to-do list, it may feel like there’s not enough time in the day to accomplish everything. And when you’re balancing work with distractions at home, productivity can feel like a distant memory. 

Instead of trying to do more when you’re feeling drained, productivity expert Dave Crenshaw offers an alternative: doing less. In his LinkedIn Learning class Finding Your Productive Mindset, Dave explains why a “Not-to-Do List” can be a powerful tool for reclaiming your focus. By being more conscious of the habits that are zapping your energy, you can take steps to eliminate them and put time back into your week.

To help you adopt this approach, here are five tasks Dave recommends adding to your “Not-To-Do List” right away.

1. Trying to multitask

Juggling several tasks at once may feel productive in the moment, but it can actually deplete your ability to concentrate as the day goes on. Psychologists have been studying multitasking for decades and have found that it comes at a high price. In fact, one psychologist, David Myer, found that switching tasks can cost a person up to 40% of their productive time. 

Why does this happen? When you start a new task, you have to shift goals and activate new rules in your brain, leading to brief mental blocks. These mental blocks add up, costing you valuable minutes that could’ve been used to wrap up that newsletter you’ve been working on or get started on that grant proposal. 

To conserve your ability to focus, resist the urge to split your attention between multiple tasks and projects at once. Minimize your browser tabs during meetings, check your emails every hour, rather than every five minutes, and reserve that much-needed lunch break for just what it’s intended: eating lunch. 

2. Overcommitting yourself 

Interruptions from children, pets, roommates—there’s no shortage of unexpected circumstances that can pop up when working from home. When those surprises inevitably arise, they’ll be a lot easier to handle if your schedule isn’t jam-packed. 

“Because interruptions happen frequently and changes occur regularly,” Dave says, “we cannot have our schedule on a razor's edge with no room for error.”

According to Crenshaw, you can ease the stress of dealing with work-from-home surprises (or issues like commuting delays when you return to the office) simply by building some leeway into your calendar. Adding buffer time around meetings, in particular, can make a big difference, helping you stay calm, focused, and flexible if circumstances change. 

3. Acting on ideas immediately 

You’ve finally settled down to write that big report—but just as you find your flow, you suddenly remember something you meant to tell your coworker earlier, so you stop what you’re doing to shoot them a message. Sound familiar? It should—because we’re all guilty of this from time to time.

The average person has over 6,000 thoughts per day, and acting on too many of these is incredibly counterproductive. It’s normal to get distracted while trying to focus, but immediately executing every idea that comes into your head is detrimental to your productivity. What’s more, it can result in more interruptions for your coworkers and direct reports.

To break this habit, try to be more mindful of random thoughts that arise throughout the day. When you recognize an urge to do something else, make a conscious decision about whether it’s absolutely urgent or can wait until you finish the task at hand. Writing down reminders for later can also help you manage these thoughts without derailing your schedule and focus.

4. Being constantly plugged in 

An image of a man in headphones sitting at a computer while looking at his phone.

In the same way that a constant stream of thoughts can throw off your momentum, social media can wreak havoc on your ability to focus. Throw negative news headlines into the mix and it’s no wonder that concentrating is so difficult. Social media is a necessary tool and it’s important to know what’s going on in the world, but it can quickly steal your precious time if you let it. 

To significantly boost your productivity and peace of mind, schedule short windows throughout the day to check in on the news and social media. To avoid the urge to look, shut off notifications outside of those windows so you can dedicate your full attention to whatever you’re working on. 

5. Wasting energy on things you can’t control 

An unexpected setback or argument at work can quickly make your day take a turn for the worse—if you let it. As challenging as it can be to move on, if it’s not something you have the power to change, dwelling on it will only drain your energy and motivation.

“A lot of people's negative emotions result from the frustration of trying to change things that they cannot control,” Dave explains. Instead of dwelling, he recommends focusing on things you can control, like taking steps to make a situation better. By letting things go, you’ll find yourself a lot less depleted at the end of the day—and ready to start on the right foot tomorrow.

Build a more productive team

Whether you’re looking to help your team improve focus, reduce stress, or learn a new skill, you’ll find thousands of expert-led courses on LinkedIn Learning. Since these resources are available on-demand, staff won’t have to drop everything to take a course, but can learn when it’s most convenient for them.

To find out more about Nonprofit Learning Solutions from LinkedIn, contact us today.

This post was inspired by the LinkedIn Learning article “Finding it Hard to Focus? Meet Your 'Not-to-Do' List,” written by Rachel Parnes.