Productivity Plan: Expectations vs. Reality

Have you created a productivity plan that was unrealistic? Here is a reality check on what productivity really looks like.

At the start of the pandemic, many of us productivity hackers thought, “working from home I can be efficient and effective on my own timeline without the time wasting formalities of the office.” People made Pinterest-worthy to do lists and color coded calendars thinking that these were the keys to productivity. We had high hopes of being able to make healthy breakfasts and take virtual pilates before our Monday morning meetings. The goal was to fit in grocery runs during lunch or be uber focused from 12-3 finishing projects so that we could get off an hour early. But for many of us these expectations of remote work did not become a reality.  Instead we found it hard to stay in focus-mode past lunch, snacking throughout the day just because we were bored in the house, and juggling household chores during working hours resulting in everything taking longer to get done. Now that we have come out on the other side, it is time to get back on track and get rid of the procrastination monster.  Here is Hardly’s guide to creating a productivity plan that works in reality so that you can meet your expectations:

Do what feels natural

Productivity plan, Hardly

Expectation: You are going to up your productivity by suddenly becoming a morning person. 5am is your new wake-up time and you will accomplish two or three personal tasks before work even begins. Your new productivity plan also includes taking a break every hour for 10 minutes even though you typically are the type of person who works best when they are on a roll. 


Reality: While we are all for making healthy changes, one of the pitfalls many encounter when trying to increase productivity is wasting time trying to do things that are unnatural for them. In reality, if you have been a night owl for 30 years and it’s because you get a boost of energy later in the day, you will be working against the grain for minimal gains. You will take your scheduled breaks but find that they are actually interrupting your productivity, not helping it. Instead, your productivity plan should include understanding your natural patterns. What already makes you productive and how can you capitalize on that? Retraining yourself is time consuming and not always necessary.

Plan for the present, not the future

Productivity plan, Hardly

Expectation: You set a goal for the end of the month. You think the bigger the goal, the better. You will rise to the occasion and get more done by reminding yourself of the overall objective. You try to stay motivated by thinking about what you can accomplish next month if you stick to your plan for this month.


Reality: You overwhelm yourself and it paralyzes you. The big goal was a good idea but you don’t know what is required of you right now to get the job done. Instead, your productivity plan should be rooted in the present. What do you plan to accomplish in the next hour? How are you going to do that successfully? Focusing on the step in front of you will help you be more productive in the moment and will make you feel accomplished more frequently.  

Slowly build habits

Productivity plan, Hardly

Expectation: Tomorrow is the end of procrastination. You have downloaded all the productivity apps you need to block distractions and read up on the best practices to stay on task for longer periods of time. You expect results immediately and think you will transform yourself into a productivity hacker overnight!


Reality: Two weeks later you are still struggling to stick to your plan and end up working later into the evening despite your efforts to get more done before 3pm. In addition, your way of regaining time is skipping your lunch break which makes it hard to focus later in the day. Giving  yourself grace is super important in your productivity plan. Consistency is the name of the game and slow and steady wins the race. In order for your productivity plan to be sustainable, your changes should take place incrementally and you shouldn’t be surprised if you have to establish your new habits for at least one month before seeing results.

It includes redos

Productivity plan, Hardly

Expectation: You believe being productive means getting it right on the first try. If you don’t make any mistakes then you are your most productive self. Mistakes cost time, and more time is the antithesis of efficiency. 


Reality: Mistakes happen because we are all human. Your productivity plan should be centered around making progress, not being perfect. The best thing you can do is learn to recover as fast as possible. You will inevitably do something wrong and need to redo it because our work evolves and grows just like we do. We recommend learning how to dive in so that you can receive feedback quickly. If something goes wrong, don’t ruminate on the time lost. Bounce back and think about how learning this lesson will save you time in the future!

Out of place is okay

Productivity plan, Hardly

Expectation: Everything will be organized to a T, always. My planner will have sticky notes that correspond with my calendar. My desk will be orderly at all times. My emails will be categorized by topic and I will increase my productivity by never having to search for anything.

Reality: Organization is great, but in reality we can let the organization become a distraction. Have you ever finished cleaning your office and feeling great until you look up at the clock and three hours have past? While I do believe it is easier to focus with less clutter, accepting a little disorganization could do wonders for your productivity. Working on the actual projects you need to complete will become the main task and organizing will become secondary rather than vice versa.  In fact, some of the best brainstorming or laser focused writing result in a mess of papers and pens strewed about. 


Let us know what is realistic about your productivity plan and what is wishful thinking! For more on productivity, check out the 5 Best Apps you can download to get work done a whole lot faster.

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