Overcoming Barriers to Productivity

By Pamela Wong

Pamela is a Trained Professional Organizer based in Oakville, Ontario and is the owner of Zen N Organized. She helps homeowners and small business owners transform their homes and home offices into organized spaces. She has a practical, non-judgemental approach to organizing. Her objective is to create functional and harmonious spaces for her clients.

Female holding her head with both hands, looking at a laptop on a desk.

Do you feel overwhelmed with too many deadlines?

Are you procrastinating because you are not motivated?

Are you stressed out and way behind schedule?

If your answer is yes to any of these questions, you are not alone.  Many of us can relate.

Whether you own your own business or are employed by a company, you’ve made a step in the right direction by recognizing that you are anxious and that you are looking for strategies to help with the looming deadlines.

Once you identify the obstacles that are in the way, using the appropriate strategies will help overcome these barriers to productivity.

Barriers to Productivity

Let’s talk about the most common barriers that are causing low productivity:

1. Procrastination

Others may perceive it as laziness, but procrastination is often your brain saying, “I need something in order to complete the task”. What is that something?  Is it that you don’t know how to do it, not sure where to start, the fear that you won’t do a good job or believe that it is a useless task and don’t want to do it?

2. Inefficient Communication

Poor communication causes information to be misconstrued.  Tasks are unclear and projects are not clearly defined.  In addition, negative communication (pointing fingers and blaming others) cause workers to be afraid to ask for clarification.  As a result, employees waste extra time to research what they are supposed to do, they are discouraged and tasks are incomplete.

3. Low morale, no motivation

The company culture nurtures the work environment. If the company is surrounded by negativity, the morale will be low.  This brings forth the lack of motivation to complete tasks by their deadline dates.

4. Not collaborating efficiently

Whether a project is between yourself and an outside consultant or between 2 coworkers, they need to be collaborative and efficient. All those involved should work together efficiently.  Meetings that are “all talk”, with no clear goals and objectives become time wasters.

5. Lack of training/skills and development/growth opportunities

A task performed by an untrained employee will take a lot longer to finish.  As a result, they may not be motivated to complete the task in the future.

There is also a lack of growth opportunities when there is little or no training available within the company.

6. Multitasking

Multitasking impedes the brain, making it harder to complete a task at an optimal level and lowers your overall productivity.

7. Poor Time Management

A task that you thought would take an hour ended up taking you 2 hours to finish.  You feel stressed that your performance may be perceived to be worse and your productivity goes down.

8. Leadership and management issues

Leadership may have been too stressed with too many deadlines and fail to recognize good performance or address poor performance in a timely manner.

Workers may be working too much or do not have proper guidance to complete their work.

A negative company culture prevents staff members from approaching management and asking for help.

9. Technology and equipment

Having the proper technology and equipment can make life simpler.   Imagine how difficult it would be to have soup if you only have a fork.   Having the resources and access (to a spoon) would be great, but sometimes, you may have to find alternative solutions (drink out of the bowl).

10. Health and wellness and personal factors

Productivity can be significantly reduced when you didn’t have a good night sleep or if you are worried about a sick family member.  Recognize that you or your employee may be going through issues relating to their physical or mental health, or personal factors such as taking care of a sick family member or going through a divorce.


Strategies to Improved Productivity

Now that the reasons for decreased productivity are identified, you can use the appropriate strategies to overcome them.

1. Procrastination

If procrastination is the main obstacle, then figure out what is the “something” that you need to get the work done.  Do you need more clarity from management about the task?   Do you need more training before completing the work?

Also, be sure to plan your day in advance and stick to the schedule.

2. Inefficient Communication

Have concise messages and clearly defined tasks in simple language.

Listen to what is being ask of you and clarify by asking the right questions.

Stay calm when things don’t go your way.  Own up to your mistakes and address other people’s mistakes in a polite way.

3. Low morale, no motivation

Make the office a safe space for workers to share information.  Be sure management is approachable so that workers are not afraid to ask for help.  Create a recognition program so that good work is being commended.

4. Not collaborating efficiently

Ensure the workspace is a collaborative environment and have open discussions.  Apply active listening skills.  Understand and be respectful of everyone’s point of view.

5. Lack of training and opportunities

Acknowledge that you or your employee are experiencing difficulties with a certain task.  Provide or get appropriate training for the specific task.  Knowing that proper training will lead to improved productivity down the road.

6. Multitasking

Give your full attention to one task at a time.  Avoid distractions. Create simple rules (e.g. only check emails a few times a day, turn off notifications).

7. Poor at estimating time

If you are the worker, consult with leadership whether your estimated time is reasonable.

If you are in management, meet with your worker and come up with a reasonable timing for the task.

8. Leadership and management issues

Provide regular informal meetings with your employees.  Make sure it is a positive environment that your worker feels safe to share their concerns.

9. Technology and equipment

Once the shortcomings are identified, research for the appropriate equipment or the best alternate solutions.

10. Health and wellness and personal factors

Foster healthy employees with proper training and positivity/nourishing working environments. A little kindness goes a long way.  Provide support whenever possible.


By removing the barriers to productivity, you and your employees will feel less stress and be more productive.  The working environment will feel more positive and the overall morale will also increase.

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