4 Common Mental Traps that Affect Your Productivity

Psychologist Shivani Misri Sadhoo shares methods to Deal with them

Count the number of times you have blamed yourself for not meeting deadlines. There are times when things don’t work the way you want them to. Our minds are clouded with negative thoughts. These cognitive distortions or negative thoughts that hold us back from achieving our desired goal thereby affecting productivity are called ‘Mental Traps’. So, how do we get rid of these ‘mental traps’? Shivani Misri Sadhoo, an eminent psychologist and marriage counsellor in Delhi has the answer to this problem. Let’s take a look at the various mental traps and ways to deal with them.

-> The Mere-Urgency Effect: The human tendency to prioritize urgent work over work that’s really important is called the ‘mere-urgency effect’. In today’s competitive workplace, it is easy to get caught up in time-sensitive tasks over non-time-sensitive tasks even when the latter will reap rich rewards in the long run.

Solution: The Eisenhower Matrix is a powerful tool that will help you prioritize your task based on whether it is:

  1. Urgent and Important i.e. tasks to be completed immediately like meeting a project deadline.
  2. Not Urgent and Important i.e. tasks to be scheduled on your calendar like upskilling yourself for job promotion
  3. Urgent and Unimportant i.e. tasks to be delegated to someone else like replying to emails
  4. Not Urgent and Unimportant i.e. tasks to be deleted like taking frequent coffee breaks.

-> The Planning Fallacy: Is your boss angry because you miss deadlines frequently? This happens when you think that you can finish a certain project within the given timeframe despite knowing from your past experience that it is not possible.

Solution: Break up bigger tasks into smaller ones and set a deadline for each of those smaller tasks. This will help you stay focused and improve your productivity. Make more realistic predictions based on your past experience. Be smarter than your cognitive bias.

-> The Zeigarnik effect: Zeigarnik’s effect refers to the tendency to remember incomplete tasks better than completed ones. While finishing something you started sounds good, studies show that it actually hampers productivity. No matter where you are, unfinished tasks seem to follow you like shadows, making it difficult for you to focus on your current job.

Solution: Maintain a to-do list of the tasks that need to be done in order of importance. Review it at the end of the day to check how far you have reached your target. This will make you systematic and definitely increase your productivity.

-> Sunk cost fallacy occurs when you continue with an endeavour where you have invested time, effort, and money despite knowing that you won’t be able to recover it like a project that is doomed to fail.

Solution: According to the Japanese concept of Shikita ga nai you need to let go of what you cannot change. Invest your energy and time in a better alternative that will pay off in the long run.

Shivani Sadhoo says Once you have recognized your mental traps, it will be easier to tackle them and help you take better decisions.