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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

Blogger, Consultant, and Author

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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

Think of yourself as a cup. Each day, you wake up full. But as you go about your day—getting tasks done and interacting with people—the amount in your cup gradually gets lower. And as such, you get less and less effective at whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing. You’re running out of steam.

The solution is obvious: if you don’t have anything left to pour out, then you need to find a way to fill yourself up again. In work terms, that means you should take a break—an essential form of revitalizing your motivation and focus.

Taking a break may get a bad rap in hustle culture, but it’s an essential, science-based way to ensure you have the capacity to live your life the way you want to live it.

In the 1980s, when scientists began researching burnout, they described this inner capacity as “resources.” We all need to replenish our resources to cope with stress, work effectively, and avoid burnout.[1]

When the goal is to get things done, it may sound counterproductive to stop what you’re doing. But if you embrace the art of taking a break, you can be more efficient and effective at work.

Here are five ways on how you can take a break and boost your productivity.

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1. Break for the Right Amount of Time, at the Right Time

When I started my first job out of college, I was bent on pleasing my boss as most entry-level employees do. So, every day, I punched in at 9 AM on the dot, took a 60-minute lunch break at noon, and left no earlier than 5 PM.

As I’ve logged more hours in my career, I’ve realized the average, eight-hour workday with an hour lunch break simply isn’t realistic—especially if your goal is to put your best foot forward at work.

That’s why popular productivity techniques like the Pomodoro advocate for the “sprint” principle. Basically, you work for a short burst, then stop for a short, five-minute break. While the Pomodoro technique is a step forward, more recent research shows a shorter burst of working followed by a longer pause from work might actually be a more effective way to get the most out of stepping away from your desk.

The team at DeskTime analyzed more than 5 million records of how workers used their computers on the job. They found that the most productive people worked an average of 52 minutes, then took a 17-minute break afterward.[2]

What’s so special about those numbers? Leave it to neuroscience. According to researchers, the human brain naturally works in spurts of activity that last an hour. Then, it toggles to “low-activity mode.”[3]

Even so, keep in mind that whatever motivates you is the most effective method. It’s more about the premise—when you know you have a “finish line” approaching, you can stay focused on the task or project at hand.

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There are many applications and tools that can help you block distracting websites and apps (such as social media) for specific periods of the day. Similarly, you can also use some mailing apps like Mailbrew to receive all the social media content or newsletters you don’t want to miss in your inbox at a time you decide.

So, no matter how long you work, take a break when you sense you’re losing steam or getting bored with the task. Generally, a 10-15 minute break should reinvigorate you for whatever’s coming next.

2. Get a Change of Scenery—Ideally, Outdoors

When it comes to increasing a person’s overall mental health, there’s no better balm than nature. Research has found that simply being outside can restore a person’s mind from mental fatigue related to work or studying, ultimately contributing to improved work performance (and even improved work satisfaction).[4]

No lush forest around? Urban nature can be just as effective to get the most out of your break-taking. Scientists Stephen R. Kellert and Edward O. Wilson, in their book The Biophilia Hypothesis, claimed that even parks, outdoor paths, and building designs that embrace “urban nature” can lend a sense of calm and inspiration, encouraging learning and alertness for workers.

3. Move Your Body

A change of scenery can do wonders for your attention span and ability to focus, but it’s even more beneficial if you pair it with physical movement to pump up that adrenaline of yours. Simply put, your body wasn’t designed to be seated the entire day. In fact, scientists now believe that extended periods of sitting are just as dangerous to health as smoking.[5]

It’s not always feasible to enjoy the benefits of a 30-minute brisk walk during your workday, especially since you’ll most likely have less energy during workdays. But the good news is, for productivity purposes, you don’t have to. Researchers found that just 10 minutes of exercise can boost your memory and attention span throughout the entire day.[6]

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So, instead of using your break to sit and read the news or scroll your social media account, get out of your chair and move your body. Take a quick walk around the block. Do some jumping jacks in your home office. Whatever you choose, you’ll likely find yourself with a sharper focus—and more drive to get things done.

4. Connect With Another Person

Social connection is one of the most important factors for resilience. When we’re in a relationship with other people, it’s easier to cope with stress—and in my experience, getting social can also help to improve focus after a work break.

One of my favorite ways to break after a 30-or-so minute sprint is to hang out with my family. And once a week, I carve out time to Skype my relatives back in Turkey. It’s amazing how a bit of levity and emotional connection can rev me up for the next work sprint.

Now that most of us are working from home, getting some face-to-face time with a loved one isn’t as hard as it once was. So, take the time to chat with your partner. Take your kids outside to run around the backyard. If you live alone, call a friend or relative. Either way, coming up for air to chat with someone who knows and cares about you will leave you feeling invigorated and inspired.

5. Use Your Imagination

When you’re working with your head down, your brain has an ongoing agenda: get things done, and do it well. That can be an effective method for productivity, but it only lasts so long—especially because checking things off your to-do list isn’t the only ingredient to success at work. You also need innovation.

That’s why I prioritize a “brain break” every day. When I feel my “cup” getting empty, I usually choose another creative activity to exercise my brain, like a Crossword puzzle, Sudoku, or an unrelated, creative project in my house.

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And when I’m really struggling to focus, I don’t do anything at all. Instead, I let my brain roam free for a bit, following my thoughts down whatever trail they lead me. As it turns out, there’s a scientific benefit to daydreaming. It reinforces creativity and helps you feel more engaged with the world, which will only benefit you in your work.[7]

Whether you help your kids with their distance learning homework, read an inspiring book, or just sit quietly to enjoy some fresh air, your brain will benefit from an opportunity to think and feel without an agenda. And, if you’re anything like me, you might just come up with your next great idea when you aren’t even trying.

Final Thoughts

Most of us have to work hard for our families and ourselves. And the current world we live in demands the highest level of productivity that we can offer. However, we also have to take a break once in a while. We are humans, after all.

Learning the art of properly taking a break will not only give you the rest you need but also increase your productivity in the long run.

More on the Importance of Taking a Break

Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

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