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16 Habits That Are Killing Your Productivity

16 Habits That Are Killing Your Productivity

Did you know that some of your current habits could be sabotaging your ability to get things done? You could be slowing down your productivity without even realizing it!

Here are 16 habits that can kill productivity levels each and every day.

1. You don’t automate processes.

Are you wasting time and energy doing things the old-fashioned way; that is, compiling your website’s email subscriber information by hand, or relying on your memory to pay the rent at the beginning of the month? It’s easier than ever to automate processes, so why not take advantage of this great opportunity to do so? Consider any and all regularly occurring processes in your daily work. What items could be converted or automated to allow you to get more done in a day? You might decide to collect queries from your business’s website, using Google Docs or a similar program, in order to collect information into a spreadsheet for easy reference. You might also decide to set up automatic errand reminders for each month in your calendar or favorite productivity app to remind you when it’s time to pay the bills. The sky’s the limit!

2. You say “yes” all the time.

Always saying “yes” to projects, people, tasks, accounts and the like can quickly take its toll on your productivity. If you always say “yes,” you’ll eventually find you’ve taken on more work you can physically accomplish in a given period of time. Sometimes it is necessary to say “no” and put your foot down for your own sake. The next time you’re thinking of volunteering your time or energy, consider whether the item at hand is directly related to your ongoing projects or personal work. Will this item take you one step closer towards your goals, or is it pushing you towards somewhere else entirely?

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3. You use ineffective tools.

There’s nothing more dangerous than cutting food with a dull knife and the same logic applies to your productivity. Granted, this isn’t so much an argument as to whether or not you should be using digital or paper tools, but whether they are actually helping you get things done. If you’re using a tool or system that is making you work harder, repeat yourself, or start work from the beginning each and every time, this is probably a sign you are using an ineffective tool. Make sure your productivity apps and programs are up to date and installed properly and regularly review work systems and processes to make sure they are providing you with the help or information you need.

4. You don’t have a system in place.

One of the most common productivity killers is not having a system in place for recurring processes. A system will make it easier for you to process and track incoming items, no matter your line of work. There’s probably something right now in your life you could turn into a system. For example, do you have a system in place for taking incoming phone calls and messages and referring back to them quickly and easily? Setting up a system doesn’t have to be complicated. Just take a look at the information you’ll need to refer to at a later date and find a way to “catch” it for easy future reference. In the example above you might decide to create a phone log in your calendar to keep track of who called you and when they called. Above all, make sure your system is easy for you to follow and suits your needs.

5. You always demand perfection.

You should always strive to produce quality work, but there are times when it’s okay to have less-than perfect results. Are you putting too much effort into something that really doesn’t demand utmost perfection? Does your first draft of a creative writing essay have to perfect? How about those preliminary sketches of a new clothing ensemble? Be choosy as to how you will extend and apply your energies towards your various activities. Think hard about where and when in your work should you bring out and apply your discerning eye.

6. You have too many meetings.

The purpose of a meeting is not to just sit there and waste time. I repeat, the purpose of a meeting is not to sit there and waste time! A meeting is meant to draw people together for a common goal, be it discussing new ideas, making upcoming plans of action, or reviewing a past event or situation. If you find yourself spending more time in meetings than actually getting the work you have to get done, well, done, it’s probably a sign you’re having too many meetings. Are you really accomplishing anything new in your meetings or are you simply rehashing old news? Does the meeting have to be held in the first place? Likewise, do you have to be present in the meeting yourself or should you be spending more time doing your work?

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7. You don’t delegate work.

While you might think you can get everything done by yourself in a group work setting (who me, delegate?), holding on to work can actually slow down your ability to work well. Not delegating work causes productivity issues on two ends: all of that excess work lies fallow as you are working, while someone else is twiddling their fingers and not being used to the best of their capacity. Instead of approaching work from a personal point of view, consider looking at it from the big picture. Are things getting done or are they not? Can someone who is more skilled in the work or task than you complete the job in a more timely fashion?

8. You don’t track your results.

Your productivity levels don’t mean squat when you can’t accurately track where you’ve been before and where you are currently. Just how much of a change have you made in your ability to get things done? Relying solely on your memory can be a bit iffy, so consider actually writing down and recording your results from a project or task on which you’ve recently worked. You’ll have solid, quantitative and qualitative data at your fingertips. This information can also help you better organize and plot out your next plan of attack, be it how you should best spend your Tuesday evenings at home, or how you’ve been managing your time on emails at work.

9. You spend too much time fretting over your productivity.

One surefire way to kill your own productivity levels is to become super-obsessed with being super-productive! Of course it’s necessary to make plans and track your progress as you work, but if you are always concerning yourself with how productive you are being at any given point in time you may be doing more harm than good. There’s a time for planning and a time for action. Limit the amount of time you spend making plans for your work as well as researching new productivity techniques or skills. Sometimes the best thing you can do to be more productive is stop worrying about how productive you are and just get started working on something.

10. You don’t make changes in a timely fashion.

Ever heard of a TV station waiting five days to report breaking news? That’s not a very productive way of reporting the news, now is it? You can think of the need to make changes to plans or projects in a similar timely fashion. The more time you wait, the more time and energy you’ll have to apply to achieve just the simplest of results. The next time you receive time-sensitive information or instructions related to your work, don’t wait! Look to address the issue sooner rather than later. You may have to put other projects temporarily on the back burner, but you’ll be able to make changes with a minimum of effort, rather than having to clean up a giant problem down the road.

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11. You don’t work well with others.

How well do you work with your colleagues, co-workers and clients? This may be a time for some honest self-reflection. Are you treating others as you would want to be treated? Are your work habits helping or hindering the efforts of the group or of your own goals and projects? Consider taking stock of your most recent work review to see where you might focus your efforts. You might also want to consider taking a course or reading a book on relating and working with others to hone your people skills.

12. You take too long making simple decisions.

Taking the time to weigh the pros and cons of an important decision is one thing; taking extreme lengths of time to make a decision on a very simple matter is entirely another. Do you spend too much of your energy deciding on what pen you’re going to use to write with during a meeting or whether or not to have Thai or Italian food for lunch? Get into the habit of differentiating simple daily decisions from more complex ones. Ask yourself, “Will my decision really matter in a week, month or even a year?”

13. You constantly change productivity apps.

Frequently switching apps actually wastes your time and energy; you won’t fully make use of or experience an app’s true capabilities if you’re constantly switching programs. Take a moment to evaluate the apps you’ve already downloaded and/or currently use. Which apps and features do you enjoy the most? Which features would you like to have? Learn as much as you can about an app’s capabilities before you decide to put it by the wayside. Looking to test a new app? Simply choose a small, time-sensitive project to test it out on, such as making preparations to bake a cake over the weekend for your best friend’s birthday. Once you’ve taken the time to try out an app, you can decide whether or not to make the big switch with the rest of your projects and tasks.

14. You don’t properly define your work time or hours.

Do you answer emails from work as you are watching TV in the evening with your family, or jump on a conference call while you’re on vacation? If so, then you’ve definitely got a problem when it comes to setting the boundaries between work and play. These blurred boundaries can actually pull away from your ability to rest and relax. Take a close look at your schedule: what are your regular work hours? Do you find yourself working when you should be resting? Help yourself better visualize your time spent working by blocking out your work hours in your schedule and then blocking out your off-hours. Separating the two items into this black and white scenario can really help you see how you are actually spending your time.

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15. You don’t learn from your mistakes.

Mistakes are wonderful gifts in disguise: they provide you with hands-on knowledge and experience as to what you shouldn’t do in a given scenario. The worst mistake of all is to not learn from the mistakes you’ve made in past! Not learning from your mistakes actually wastes your time and energy because you’ll inevitably keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again. The next time something doesn’t turn out as expected at work or in your personal projects, ask yourself why you think things went askew. How can you learn from your mistake to help you better increase your productivity down the road? What can you do now to plan and prevent it from happening in the future? Can you check on an item’s status sooner rather than later? Can you use another program to track your work, back up your files or delegate work to someone else?

16. You compare yourself to other people.

If there’s one thing that will zap your productivity, it’s comparing your productivity levels to somebody else’s productivity levels. Each of us has our own ways of doing work and getting things done. Just because someone does something faster than you doesn’t necessarily mean they are more productive. Besides, why worry about someone else when you can directly control your own actions! Switch your focus from outside to inside and set productivity goals for yourself. Only compare your current productivity levels to past ones and make adjustments as necessary. You can become more productive: it’s all about knowing how you work and knowing the best ways to utilize your skills to get things done.

Which of the above habits do you suspect is slowing down your productivity at work or at play? Leave a comment below.

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Rashelle Isip

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Last Updated on October 21, 2019

How to Be a Good Leader and Lead Effectively

How to Be a Good Leader and Lead Effectively

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a contender for the 2020 Democratic nomination, is a reminder of why I am so drawn to leadership as a topic. Whenever I think it is impossible for me to be more impressed with her, she proves me wrong.

Earlier this week, a former marine suggested that he had been in a long-term sexual relationship with the Senator. She flipped the narrative and used the term “Cougar,” a term used to describe older women who date younger men, to reference her alma mater.

Rather than calling the young man a liar, or responding to the accusations in kind, she re-focused the conversation back to her message of college affordability and lifted up that “Cougar” was the mascot for her alma mater. She went on to note that tuition at her school was just $50 per semester when she was a student. Class act.

But by the end of the week, news broke that U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, another contender for the presidency, had a heart attack. Warren not only wished Sanders a speedy recovery but her campaign sent a meal to his staff. She knew that the hopes of staff, donors and supporters were with the Senator from Vermont and showed genuine compassion and empathy.

To me, she has proven time and time again that she is more than a presidential candidate: she belongs in a leadership hall of fame.

What makes some people excel as leaders is fascinating. You can read about leadership, research it and talk about it, yet the interest in leadership alone will not make you a better leader.

You will have more information than the average person, but becoming a good leader is lifelong work. It requires experience – and lots of it. Most importantly, it requires observation and a commitment to action. Warren observed what was happening with Sen. Sanders, empathized with his team and then took action. Regardless of the outcome of this election, Sanders’ staff will likely never forget her gesture.

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You would have had to work on a political campaign in order to appreciate the stress and anxiety that comes with it. In this moment, staff may not remember everything that Warren said throughout the lengthy campaign, but they will remember what she did during an unforgettable time during the campaign.

If this model of leadership is appealing, and if you are searching for how to up your own leadership game, read on for six characteristics that good leaders share:

1. Good leaders are devoted to the success of the people around them.

Good leaders are not self-interested. Sure, they want to succeed, but they also want others to succeed.

Good leaders see investing in others just as important as they see investing in themselves. They understand that their success is closely tied to the people around them, and they work to ensure that their peers, employees, friends and family have paths for growth and development.

While the leaders may be the people in the spotlight, they are quick to point to the people around them who helped them (the leaders) enter that spotlight. Their willingness to lift others inspires their colleagues’ and friends’ devotion and loyalty.

2. Good leaders are not overly dependent on others’ approval.

It is important for managers to express their support for their teams; good leaders must be independent of the approval of others. I explained in an article for The Chronicle of Philanthropy, that:[1]

“While a desire to be loved is natural, managers who prioritize approval from subordinates will become ineffective supervisors who may do employees harm. For example, a manager driven by a need for approval may shy away from delivering constructive feedback that could help an employee improve. A manager fearful of upsetting someone may tolerate behavior that degrades the work environment and culture.”

In yet another example, a manager who is dependent on the approval of others may not make decisions that could be deemed unpopular in the short run but necessary in the long run.

Think of the coaches who integrated their sporting teams. Their decision to do so, may have seemed odd, and even wrong, in the moment, but time has proven that those leaders were on the right side of history.

3. Good leaders have the capacity to share the spotlight.

Attention is nice, but it is not the prime motivator for good leaders. Doing a good job is.

For this reason, good leaders are willing to share the spotlight. They aren’t threatened by a lack of attention, and they do not need credit for every accomplishment. They are too focused on their goal and too focused on the urgency of their work.

4. Good leaders are students.

In the same way that human beings are constantly evolving, so too are leaders. As long as you are living, you have the potential to learn. It doesn’t matter how much knowledge you think you have; you can always learn something new.

I have the experience of thinking I was doing everything right as a manager, only to receive conflicting feedback from my team. Perhaps my approach was not working for my team, and I had to be willing to hear their feedback to improve.

Good leaders understand that their secret sauce is their willingness to keep receiving information and keep learning. They aren’t intimidated by what they do not know: As long as they maintain a willingness to keep growing, they believe they can overcome any obstacle they face.

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As both masters and students, good leaders read, listen and study to grow. They consume content for information, not just entertainment purposes. They aren’t impressed with their knowledge; they are impressed with the learning journey.

5. Good leaders view vulnerability as a superpower.

It means “replacing ‘professional distance and cool,’ with uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure,” said Emma Sappala in a Dec. 11, 2014, article, “What Bosses Gain by being Vulnerable” for Harvard Business Journal.[2] She went on to note the importance of human connection, which she asserts is often missing at work.

“As leaders and employees, we are often taught to keep a distance and project a certain image. An image of confidence, competence and authority. We may disclose our vulnerability to a spouse or close friend behind closed doors at night but we would never show it elsewhere during the day, let alone at work.”

This rings so true for me as a woman leader. I was raised believing that any show of emotion in the workplace could be used against me. I was raised believing that it was best for women leaders to be stoic and to “never let ‘em see you sweat.” This may have prevented me from connecting with employees and colleagues on a deeper, more personal level.

6. Good leaders understand themselves.

I am a huge fan of life coach and spiritual teacher Iyanla Vanzant. In addition to her hit show on the OWN network, Vanzant has authored dozens of books. In her books and teachings, she underscores the importance of knowing ourselves fully. She argues that we must know what makes us tick, what makes us happy and what makes us angry.

Self-awareness enables us to put ourselves in situations where we can thrive, and it also enables us to have compassion when we fall short of the goals and expectations we have for ourselves. Relatedly, understanding ourselves will allow us to know our strength. When we know our strengths, we will be able to put people around us who compliment our strengths and fill the gaps in our leadership.

Final Thoughts

Being a good leader, first and foremost, is an inside job. You must focus on growing as a person regardless of the leadership title that you hold. You cannot take others where you yourself have not been. So focusing on yourself, regardless of your time or where you are in your career will have long term benefits for you and the people around you.

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Further, if you want to become a good leader, you should start by setting the intention to do so. What you focus on grows. If you focus on becoming a better leader, you will research and invest in things that help you to fulfill this intention. You will also view the good and bad leadership experiences as steppingstones that hone your character and help you improve.

After you set the intention, get really clear on what a good leader looks like to you. Each of us has a different understanding of leadership. Is a good leader someone who takes risk? Is a good leader, in your estimation, someone who develops other leaders? Whatever it is, know what you’re shooting for. Once you define what it means to be a good leader, look for people who exemplify your vision. Watch and engage with them if you can.

Finally, understand that becoming a good leader doesn’t happen overnight. You must continually work at improving, investing in yourself and reflecting on what is going well and what you must improve. In this way, every experience is an opportunity to grow and a chance to ask: ‘What is this experience trying to teach me?’ or ‘what action is necessary based on this situation?’

If you are committed to questioning, evaluating and acting, you are that much closer to becoming a better leader.

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Featured photo credit: Sam Power via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] The Chronicle of Philanthropy: Why Good Managers Overcome the Desire to Be Liked
[2] Harvard Business Journal: What Bosses Gain by being Vulnerable

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