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Top Mistakes Really Smart People Make Without Realizing

Mar 31, 2015
Ideas

Why do smart people make stupid mistakes?

No, this isn’t about the time you “accidentally” watched seven straight hours of Keeping Up With The Kardashians.

It’s about the mistakes we make at work. The ones we don’t even realize, but ultimately hurt our productivity and career paths.

In this week’s TL;DR, we’ll discuss:

  • Why being highly competent can be a curse
  • Why planning your goals can actually keep you from accomplishing them
  • How multitasking can hurt your productivity and how to avoid it

Author: Greg McKeown

TL;DR: If you’re an overachiever, your career likely follows three steps:

  1. You enter a new job eager to impress
  2. You take on many different projects and somehow juggle them successfully
  3. You earn the reputation as a “go-to” person and get more projects

Then something funny happens. You take on so many projects that you feel overworked and underutilized.

To use a camping metaphor — you’re adding poles of the same height to your career tent, hoping it’ll go higher. But it doesn’t. Instead, ask yourself: are you rejecting enough projects? And when you pursue one, does that project raise an existing tent pole?

Changing this means having honest conversations with ourselves as well as our managers. It means having the guts to turn down good opportunities to focus on great ones.

Author: James Clear

TL;DR: Smart people often confuse motion and action. Motion is when you’re preparing; action is when you’re producing. For example,

  • If I research 10 potential sales leads, that’s motion. If I contact and convert them into customers, that’s action.
  • If I outline 20 ideas for articles I want to write, that’s motion. If I actually write and publish an article, that’s action.

If motion doesn’t yield results, why do we do it? Sometimes we need to plan or learn more. But more often, motion makes us feel like we’re progressing without risking failure.

  • Yes, I’d like more clients. But, if I ask for the sale, I might get turned down. So maybe I should just research 10 more leads instead.
  • Yes, I’d like to write more. But I worry about what people will say. So I’ll just brainstorm article ideas instead.

That’s the danger: preparation becomes your procrastination. Except unlike watching The Kardashians (but seriously, when are Khloe and Lamar getting back together?), you don’t realize you’re procrastinating. You tell yourself you’re being productive when you’re not.

Author: Jacquelyn Smith

TL;DR: Make no mistake about it — multitasking is a myth. In reality, we switch-task, interrupting ourselves and lowering our productivity. Instead, here’s how to unitask:

  1. Schedule meetings for projects, not just people. Plan time in your calendar. This helps protect yourself from others grabbing your time. Your pals Fred Sheets, Ward Dox, and Powell Point will thank you.
  2. Empty your desk. If your desk looks like mine (read: tornado of Post-It notes), then it’s time to wipe it clean. The sight of unfinished paperwork can distract even the most focused people.
  3. Find your special spot. Maybe your desk is too messy. Or your colleagues are too social. If so, step away, find another spot, and block all distractions. Soon enough, you’ll condition yourself to get more work done when stepping inside that space.

This article originally appeared on Every Vowel. Brett Kopin is the co-author.


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