The 3 Biggest Productivity Problems

decisions_arrowsI was recently interviewed by leadership expert Bob Dragone for a podcast.


Bob asked me the following question:  What do you think are the biggest problems companies have that affect productivity?


I’m ashamed to say that I rarely sit down and think about productivity on such broad terms.  And, I should.  I spend so much time in the nuances and details of productivity systems to tailor to my clients’ needs, that I sometimes miss the proverbial forest for the trees.


So, let’s correct that oversight – at least for today.


To answer Bob’s question, I thought about the (almost) ten years that I have been in the productivity business.  And, there were three big-picture problems that came quickly to my mind.


1.)  Overly Complex Productivity Tools

If your planner or app or productivity system of any kind requires a flow chart and a user conference to be able to use it, it is too complex.  I am a fan of simple solutions coupled with good habits.


Not that I am critiquing any particular approach.  I did that several years ago and still hear from haters in the YouTube comments.


If you are keeping a centralized, comprehensive to-do list and maintaining one (and only one) calendar, the specific tool is not critical to your success.


Yes, I like Outlook.  It’s because it’s often there and it has drag-and-drop functionality.  So, call me a hypocrite if you want.  Contrary to the YouTube trolls, I am not a compensated hypocrite.  Although, I would not turn down a project with Microsoft.  No sir.


So, keep it simple.  The harder your productivity tool is to use, the more likely you are to abandon it.


2.)  Productivity Tools that Work for Heather-Down-the-Hall

Well-intentioned people who are very productive on their own will often assume that what they do should work for everyone else.

Here’s the reality:  Heather-down-the-hall’s task management app likely works for her because of her personality, work habits, background, and job duties.  If your personality, habits, etc. differ from hers, then Heather’s favorite tool may fail miserably when applied to your situation.


Yes, it’s a great idea to learn from your colleagues, friends, and fellow convention-goers.  But, rather than asking them what tool they use, ask them how they use it.  Get insights on how they developed and maintain their good habits.


So, find productivity tools that will apply to you and your situation.  When you’re unsure, cough-cough, ask your friendly productivity specialist.  That’s what I do every day.



3.)  Perfectionism

If you are a brain surgeon, go ahead and skip this section.  You have my blessing to be perfect, and I thank you for your efforts.


For the rest of us, striving for perfection leads to overthinking and over-engineering our tasks, projects, and processes.  We keep working past the point of diminishing returns.


What is the point of diminishing returns?  It is the invisible, but important, point where further effort toward a task yields no increase in quality…or even makes things worse.


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…Perfection is not productive.


I’m so glad that Bob decided to interview me for his podcast. You can listen to it here.  It will take about a half hour.


If you have the opportunity to be interviewed for something, say yes.  Having someone else ask the questions for a while is a great opportunity to look at your work from a different angle.



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Dr. Melissa GratiasMelissa Gratias (pronounced “Gracious”) used to think that productivity was a result of working long hours. And, she worked a lot of hours. Then, she learned that productivity is a skill set, not a personality trait. Now, Melissa is a productivity expert who coaches and trains other businesspeople to be more focused, balanced, and effective. She is a prolific writer and speaker who travels the world helping people change how they work and improve how they live. Contact her at or 912-417-2505. Sign up to receive her productivity tips via email.




  1. Kip Soteres

    Meetings… too many and the ones that exist are too often poorly structured for productivity. This goes for everything from 1×1 meetings to all hands corporate events.

  2. Mercedes Garcia

    Completely agree Melissa, meetings or reading emails that shouldn’t be there are part of the list of tasks that should be reviewed or improved. It is true that we don’t spend enough time re thinking how we could improve. Anyway, thanks for sharing, fantastic podcast!


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