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Do you often find yourself unable to resist the allure of social media when working?
Is getting yourself psyched up for long stretches of work impossible to do?
Is staying on task when you’re working just not possible for you?
You’re not alone, both engaging and maintaining productivity is hard for most, especially with our worst distractions being just a mouse click away.
But it doesn't have to be this way, because it only takes a little awareness and some quick action to make things better again.
Your bad habits kill productivity.
Humans are creatures of habit, plain and simple. And it's these habits that define how effective – and ineffective – we are at life.
The problems arise when we don't realize that our bad habits are interfering with our effectiveness, and a major part of our effectiveness lies within our productivity.
You haven’t figured what your bad habits are.
This makes sense when you think about it; if something’s a habit then usually it happens automatically and bypasses the thinking process (which can a gift or a curse, depending on the habit involved).
The solution is to find and eliminate those bad habits.
The first step in fixing a problem is to find out the cause, and the second step is to fix it. Unfortunately, self-examination can be a little tough for a situation like this, so instead, I gathered a list of 14 common bad habits for you to check out
Thumb through this list and find all the habits that apply to you. Sometimes we don’t realize our bad habits till others point out and describe them to us.
Of all the bad habits, multitasking is among the worst and most common.
By giving the illusion of hard work, multitasking tricks countless people into producing subpar, incomplete work on a daily basis.
When you multitask you’re not actually doing multiple tasks at the same time. Rather, your temporarily giving partial focus to a single task while giving majority focus to the act of switching tasks.
In other words, most of your energy is being devoted to switching tasks, not completing them.
In addition, the cost of constantly “switching gears” (i.e. changing thought processes to handle different tasks) is a further drain on mental resources.
But what can you do to stop this?
Watch the video below to learn about the about 7 simple habits to stay focused at work while avoiding stress and burnout.
Here are a few tips to help you out:
Be a “completionist”
Each time you start a new task, don’t stop working on it till it’s finished. This means you can’t switch tasks, no matter how much you want to. It might be hard at first, but eventually your focus and work quality will improve because of it.
Batch similar tasks
If you prefer to ease your way out of multitasking, start batching your work. Group 2-3 similar tasks together, and feel free to multitask those tasks (and only those tasks).
Since there’s a lower “mental fee” for multitasking similar tasks, you can preserve your energy better.
2. Not Removing Distractions/Time-Wasters
The worst offenders to good productivity are definitely fun websites and social media/texting, so it's important that you take steps ensuring you aren’t distracted by them.
Other distractions include:
How can you deal with these?
Here are a few tips to help keep you on track.
Use site blockers
All the popular web browsers have a site blocker, add them to your main web browser immediately and start blacklisting the worst time-stealers.
Turn off all notifications
Social media is constantly being updated, so if you have notifications enabled then you’re setting yourself up for a stream of distractions. Turn off all notifications when working, including text messaging.
Unplug the television/video game system
Make it extra hard for the TV to be a viable distraction. I'd go so far as putting the remote control batteries somewhere annoying to reach as well. Besides, there are other productive things you can do rather than watching TV.
Work where others can't bother you
Getting away from family and friends is as simple as working at the library or coffee shop. For co-workers though, skip to bad habit #9 for advice.
3. Big-Picture Thinking
Keeping the big picture in mind is good… if you limit it to when you’re not actually working.
The reason is this: the big picture is, well, big. It’s a ton of steps into the future, and it’s easy to become overwhelmed with how much work you need to accomplish before reaching it.
Here’s a couple of ways to mediate this problem.
Limit big picture thoughts to non-work times
By doing this, you prevent the big picture from interfering with your productivity.
Focus on progress made
Focusing on the distance you’ve covered can be very motivating because it focuses on what you’ve done, rather than where you’d like to be.
Focus on the small-picture
Another good focus is on what you can do now, rather than where you'd like to be. Focusing on small steps is not overwhelming and leads to action, so this mindset is complementary to good productivity.
4. Not Having a Work Routine
If you’re in the habit of just working whenever you feel like it, you’re setting yourself up for disaster.
A work routine is essential to getting your mind into productive gear. Without one, your always going into work mode cold, which makes getting in the zone that much harder.
Furthermore, doing things only when you feel like it gives too much control to your state of mind. And let’s be honest, most of the time none of us “feel” like working. Giving control of our productivity to our fickle – and lazy – emotions is a recipe for failure.
Here’s what you should do about it:
Work in the same place at the same time
This is a great habit as it sets the mind up to naturally flow into productivity mode. Of all the productivity habits you could have, this might be the best one of all.
5. Being a Perfectionist
Another common offender to productivity is perfectionism. Perfectionism can manifest itself in many ways, but the most common are:
- Having unrealistically high work standards
- Being thrown off balance when things don’t go exactly as you’d like
How do these ruin productivity?
First, when you have unrealistic work standards you work on your tasks to death. This leads to falling behind schedule and causes a mountain of tasks to build in its wake.
Second, it’s easy to mentally “quit” when things don’t go as well as you’d like. You might still work after that, but you’ll be half-assing it because things didn’t go “perfectly.”
Here’s how you can fix this problem:
Focus on finishing, not on perfecting
Having a strong focus on simply completing your work (i.e. doing the “barebones”) will have a drastically positive effect on your productivity. Once you actually finish your work, then you can go back and start perfecting things.
Become friends with failure
Accepting your mistakes is a crucial part of defeating perfectionism. If you can do this, then you can stop being constrained by the need to over-examine every detail and finally make some progress.
6. Being Overloaded with Info/Options
Sometimes when we’re working we find ourselves bombarded with too much info and too many options.
What does this do to us? It makes us short-circuit.
Your mind goes blank and/or you become overwhelmed, killing your productivity.
What should you do about this?
Pick one thing and remove the rest from your sight
Information overload occurs because your mind is overloaded with info, but you can fix this by only allowing a single piece of info in at a time
Disconnect from the world
Just get away from it all. Get away from the internet, the emails, the phone calls, and just take a break. When you come back, pick the tiniest/easiest thing to do and do it. Once that's done, just do it again until things become manageable again.
7. Having a Giant To-Do List
When you’re planning your day, it’s easy to get overzealous and fill a to-do list with a dozen or more tasks.
Unfortunately, you’ll most likely be unable to complete them all. And when the day nears its end you see you’ve barely checked off half of them, you're going to feel overwhelmed.
And once the overwhelm starts to kick in, you’re in for some trouble.
Here’s what you should do:
Keep to-do lists between 1-5 tasks
Doing this will ensure that you don’t become overwhelmed, and will help make sure you complete your to-do list as well (which will be great for keeping productive momentum and building motivation).
8. Using Too Many Tools
Tools are extremely helpful for maintaining productivity and there’s certainly plenty to choose from.
But when you start having an excess of tools to use (more than say, 4) just to do basic work every day, you’re actually hurting yourself. By having too many tools, you’re basically just multitasking with tools instead of tasks.
Here’s what you should do:
Find tools that cover multiple bases
Consolidate your work to all-encompassing tools like Evernote.
Use tools that sync up with others easily
At the very least make sure the tools you use easily link up with each other. For instance, if you use a calendar app on your laptop then make sure it can sync up with your smartphone's calendar as well.
Too many tools are bad. Don't get tied up in dozen's, but here are a few great productivity habit tools.
9. Saying Yes All the Time
You might think saying yes to every little thing people ask of you is a good thing, but it’s not. You’re doing yourself a great disservice by doing this and are ultimately hurting yourself.
So let it be known that your time is valuable because nobody will respect it if you don't say it loud and clear.
Here's how you can do that:
Be honest and tell them no
Being honest is hard sometimes, but sometimes it's all you need to get people to respect your time.
Tell people to come back later
If you want to be nicer, just tell people to come back when you're less busy.
Watch the video below to learn why you should say no more often and the five strategies you can use to take action on this idea (including using Warren Buffett's 5-24 rule.)
10. Not Automating Recurring Tasks
A lot of the tasks we do are repeat tasks, meaning we do the same tasks pretty regularly.
Most of these recurring tasks can be automated in some way, meaning:
- They can be done automatically
- They can be done more quickly
But what tasks can be automated? Here's a couple of examples:
- Sending emails
- Brewing coffee
- Writing articles
Lots of people send emails and brew coffee every day, while others – such as myself – write articles pretty regularly.
Instead of manually brewing your coffee when you wake up or get to work, set a timer to go off at the optimal time instead.
If you send the same types of emails all the time, make up some templates so all you have to do is fill in the blanks. That’ll save you some time and your mental resources will thank you for it.
11. Being Indecisive
Indecision can bring a good, productive work session to screeching halt if it goes on for too long.
When you don’t know what to decide on, you sift through all the information you have and mentally rehearse the pros and cons until you make a decision. It ends up eating a lot of willpower and energy in the process, derailing your work session.
For some it’s a major issue, so here’s what you can do about it:
Use the 2-minute rule
Most decisions we make don’t really warrant an extensive decision process, so it’s fine to give a short timeline.
Use a “decision” list
If it’s really an important decision, then give yourself the time to think about it. Put it on a “decision” list that you can answer later, that way it won’t interfere with your work and you can give it the attention it deserves.
12. Waiting for the “Optimal” Work Time
It’s not even funny how many of us do this, and it almost seems logical as well.
But waiting till you’re: less tired, not hungry, have more information, and so on, is a bad idea and simply amounts to procrastination.
Here’s what you should about it:
Establish a work routine
Yep, this one again. A routine like this primes the body for work, so you won’t be tricked into thinking you need to wait until the “optimum” time arrives.
13. Scheduling Too Many Tasks Into Your Calendar
Like with your task lists, it’s easy to get caught up in the idea of accomplishing a ton of work in a small amount of time.
But squeezing work into every time slot available in your calendar is certain failure.
Doing this makes it hard to be flexible. Imagine how much work it is to rearrange 10 tasks just because a new one popped up at the last second, it’s more work than it’s worth!
Here’s what you should do:
Only add essential tasks
Don’t try and fill up your calendar, just ask yourself what would actually make a difference if you did it, then add it.
14. Not Punishing Yourself for Bad Habits
Although it’s not as desirable to do as positive reinforcement, punishing yourself for bad habits can work.
You might’ve seen swear jars before, where you put any loose change you have in a jar anytime you swear.
Well, it works just as good for productivity.
Pick a punishment that you find the most motivating and use it whenever you are tempted to procrastinate.
Find yourself about to read social media? 20 squats now! About to flip on the television? $5 bucks in the jar. See what works for you, and then start applying it right away
Final Thoughts on Bad Productivity Habits
Remember, breaking bad habits takes time and patience. Change is a process, not an event. Be gentle with yourself as you work to eliminate these habits from your life.
The first step to improvement is awareness, and you've already taken that by identifying these productivity killers. Now, you can begin to replace them with positive, productivity-boosting habits.
As you start making positive changes, you'll likely notice a significant improvement in your productivity and time management. Focus on progress, not perfection, and celebrate every small victory along the way.
Now, if you're looking for more resources to get you in the right mindset for productivity, read these articles:
- 11 Benefits of Developing a Growth Mindset in Life
- 36 Examples of Personal Development Goals for Your Career & Life
- Efficient VS Effective: 5 Core Differences
Finally, if you want to level up your productivity and time management skills, then watch this free video about the 9 productivity habits you can build at work.