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Have you ever had “one of those days” where you just can’t seem to finish anything? You’re constantly distracted, and end it feeling your productivity has been bad and you’ve a longer to-do list than when you started?

Have you also noticed that smart people often seem to be the underperformers. Perhaps this applies to you, too… After all, most entrepreneurs and company executives are considered smart.

So, why is it that smart people are frequently less productive and can anything be done to change this?

Well-known author, Robin Sharma, says, it’s “less about what you do with your time. And more about how you run your mind.” Although this might sound counter-intuitive, as time well spent = productivity, it does actually make sense.

We live in a hyper-connected world. You might even say that technology has advanced far quicker than our ability to cope with it. Hence the study showing the human concentration span, at eight seconds is below that of a goldfish at nine seconds…

We’re bombarded with information, notifications, and interruptions that constantly divert our attention from our work. And, as I’ve written about before, when we’re working on a task and get distracted it can take 20-25 minutes to get back to where we were, while trying to multitask means all tasks take, on average, 80% longer. Research in this article, for example, suggests that work interruptions can cost a person as much as 6 hours per day!

And smart people are more easily distracted than most, simply because their minds work more quickly, they crave mental stimulation and they become bored more easily, especially with mundane or repetitive tasks. As a result, they also tend to try to multitask more and, as we know, this is counter-productive – people just cannot effectively multitask.

Entrepreneur, coach, speaker and author, Marie Forleo, interviewed Dr Ned Hallowell, a leading authority in the field of ADHD on productivity and underperformance at work and he gave some great advice:

  • Limit the amount of goals to no more than three daily (short-term) goals, three weekly (medium-term) goals, three longer-term (6-12 month) goals and three lifetime goals. This is more than enough to force you to prioritise and let you focus on what’s most important now.
  • Limit your time online. Dr Hallowell coined a phrase, “screen sucking” to describe what happens when we’re sitting in front of a screen interactively connected to the internet – it triggers that dopamine response found with addiction and we get “sucked into” our screens. He suggests setting strict time blocks for internet activity and switching the programs off outside those times so you can focus on your other tasks.
  • Limit your “yes” responses. When somebody asks us to do things, we tend to default to wanting to please and say yes. Rather make your default something along the lines of “Let me think about it and get back to you.” This takes the pressure off and allows you to really see whether you can, or should, take the task on. Often, the person asking will forget, or move on, but at worst you can respond later and say why you just don’t have the time to do justice to whatever it is they want you to do.

By adopting these three limits, we can greatly reduce the level of distractions and productivity will rise.

Have a look through some of the articles referenced below on time management, too – there’s great advice on increasing your productivity from a range of people.

With small changes to our behaviour we can get a lot more done, and feel less stressed as a result.



Following a career spanning >50 years in the technology industry across three continents, with three decades in CxO roles leading significant, sustained growth in revenue and profitability, I now work with successful owner-led businesses to further enhance their growth, profitability and business value.

If you’d like to discuss your business strategy, trends, culture, goals, or anything else related to your business, book a confidential, free 30-minute call with me here.

I’d be delighted to talk with you.


These related posts provide further information on this topic:


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