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16 Habits That Are Killing Your Productivity

16 Habits That Are Killing Your Productivity
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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 July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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