July is productivity month here at Mindjet HQ, so to get things moving, we’re going to dive right in to some of the more typical stuff that paves the way for procrastination and causes major output headaches.

Because productivity is such an essential part of measuring the success of any business (and really, it always has been), you’d think we’d have figured out how to avoid these roadblocks by now. But the modern worker is only human, and despite unlimited access to advanced tools and unparalleled mobility, still tends to trip over these 5 common productivity hurdles — here’s how to avoid the proverbial crash and burn.

1. Meaningless Goals

It’s all well and good to assign obvious, high-level goals to projects and initiatives, but think of the anarchy if those were the only goals ever spelled out. Assessing the purpose of a project does not stop at the manager’s door. The entire team, as well as any internal or external stakeholders, needs to know what you’re up to and why, what resources are required, and who’s responsible for keeping things on track. Never underestimate the importance of clarity; there’s no quicker way to thwart progress than to set someone to a task lacking defined scope and expectations.

2. Becoming a Perfectionist

When someone has what they consider a productive day, it usually has quite a lot to do with how easy it felt to be productive, not just the fact that they got a lot done. That can be a hard high to part with, but productivity is the first thing to suffer when we sit around waiting to be “in the zone.” When a deadline is looming, sure, take advantage of those perfect mental states — but don’t put off tasks until you’re in one. Just because you don’t want to work on a particular assignment doesn’t mean you can’t. Grin and bear it, right?

3. Thinking Too Far Into the Future

The productivity rope gets knotted up especially fast when the mind starts taking on too many decisions at once. It’s important to understand desired outcomes, but end-goals are much more difficult to tie to individual project steps than they might appear. Keep it calm by making quick, short-term decisions; stuff you can live with even for just a few minutes. For example, if you’re getting caught up between mapping out resources and composing an email, drop everything and choose to do one or the other for three minutes. You’ll give yourself permission to move forward, and you’ll know that the obligation will pass quickly.

4. Focusing on What You Have, Not What You’re Creating

“[Productivity is] about producing the optimal, intended or desired result using the least amount of effort or resources,” says Mindjet’s Michael Deutch. Still, “The magic isn’t only about getting things done or doing more with less; it’s about getting things done well.” That’s an important distinction that, when embraced, can inspire motivation and in turn, productivity. Try to dwell a little bit less on the checklist, and a little more on the vision.

5. Letting Leaders Call All the Shots

“Most of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to get their work done,” said the late Peter Drucker, a renowned business management consultant and author. With the continued flattening-out of organizational hierarchies, this is less of an issue than it once was — but there are still those folks in leadership positions that demand incremental updates, multiple meetings, and hands-on involvement with team projects. This article makes an excellent point that’s hard to dismiss: because meetings are for discussion and not doing, they’re expensive, costing the combined pay of everyone in the room + a loss of productivity for the duration of the meeting. Yikes.

Want more? Join us July 11th at 12:00PM PST for our Lunch and Learn Webinar: How to Use Visual Project Management for Greater Productivity. Register here.