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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 January 6, 2021

14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

Everyone has heard the term productivity, and people talk about it in terms of how high it is and how to improve it. But fewer know how to measure productivity, or even what exactly we are talking about when using the term “productivity.”

In its simplest form, the productivity formula looks like this: Output ÷ Input = Productivity.

For example, you have two salespeople each making 10 calls to customers per week. The first one averages 2 sales per week and the second one averages 3 sales per week. By plugging in the numbers we get the following productivity levels for each sales person.

For salesperson one, the output is 2 sales and the input is 10 sales: 2 ÷ 10 = .2 or 20% productivity. For salesperson two, the output is 3 sales and the input is 10 sales: 3 ÷ 10 = .3 or 30% productivity.

Knowing how to measure and interpret productivity is an invaluable asset for any manager or business owner in today’s world. As an example, in the above scenario, salesperson #1 is clearly not doing as well as salesperson #2.

Knowing this information we can now better determine what course of action to take with salesperson #1.

Some possible outcomes might be to require more in-house training for that salesperson, or to have them accompany the more productive salesperson to learn a better technique. It might be that salesperson #1 just isn’t suited for sales and would do a better job in a different position.

How to Measure Productivity With Management Techniques

Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to fine tune your business by minimizing costs and maximizing profits:

1. Identify Long and Short-Term Goals

Having a good understanding of what you (or your company’s) goals are is key to measuring productivity.

For example, if your company’s goal is to maximize market share, you’ll want to measure your team’s productivity by their ability to acquire new customers, not necessarily on actual sales made.

2. Break Down Goals Into Smaller Weekly Objectives

Your long-term goal might be to get 1,000 new customers in a year. That’s going to be 20 new customers per week. If you have 5 people on your team, then each one needs to bring in 4 new customers per week.

Now that you’ve broken it down, you can track each person’s productivity week-by-week just by plugging in the numbers:

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Productivity = number of new customers ÷ number of sales calls made

3. Create a System

Have you ever noticed that whenever you walk into a McDonald’s, the French fry machine is always to your left? 

This is because McDonald’s created a system. They have determined that the most efficient way to set up a kitchen is to always have the French fry machine on the left when you walk in.

You can do the same thing and just adapt it to your business.

Let’s say that you know that your most productive salespeople are making the most sales between the hours of 3 and 7 pm. If the other salespeople are working from 9 am to 4 pm, you can potentially increase productivity through something as simple as adjusting the workday.

Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to set up, monitor, and fine tune systems to maximize output.

4. Evaluate, Evaluate, Evaluate!

We’ve already touched on using these productivity numbers to evaluate and monitor your employees, but don’t forget to evaluate yourself using these same measurements.

If you have set up a system to track and measure employees’ performance, but you’re still not meeting goals, it may be time to look at your management style. After all, your management is a big part of the input side of our equation.

Are you more of a carrot or a stick type of manager? Maybe you can try being more of the opposite type to see if that changes productivity. Are you managing your employees as a group? Perhaps taking a more one-on-one approach would be a better way to utilize each individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

Just remember that you and your management style contribute directly to your employees’ productivity.

5. Use a Ratings Scale

Having clear and concise objectives for individual employees is a crucial part of any attempt to increase workplace productivity. Once you have set the goals or objectives, it’s important that your employees are given regular feedback regarding their progress.

Using a ratings scale is a good way to provide a standardized visual representation of progress. Using a scale of 1-5 or 1-10 is a good way to give clear and concise feedback on an individual basis.

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It’s also a good way to track long-term progress and growth in areas that need improvement.

6. Hire “Mystery Shoppers”

This is especially helpful in retail operations where customer service is critical. A mystery shopper can give feedback based on what a typical customer is likely to experience.

You can hire your own shopper, or there are firms that will provide them for you. No matter which route you choose, it’s important that the mystery shoppers have a standardized checklist for their evaluation.

You can request evaluations for your employees friendliness, how long it took to greet the shopper, employees’ knowledge of the products or services, and just about anything else that’s important to a retail operation.

7. Offer Feedback Forms

Using a feedback form is a great way to get direct input from existing customers. There are just a couple of things to keep in mind when using feedback forms.

First, keep the form short, 2-3 questions max with a space for any additional comments. Asking people to fill out a long form with lots of questions will significantly reduce the amount of information you receive.

Secondly, be aware that customers are much more likely to submit feedback forms when they are unhappy or have a complaint than when they are satisfied.

You can offset this tendency by asking everyone to take the survey at the end of their interaction. This will increase compliance and give you a broader range of customer experiences, which will help as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

8. Track Cost Effectiveness

This is a great metric to have, especially if your employees have some discretion over their budgets. You can track how much each person spends and how they spend it against their productivity.

Again, this one is easy to plug into the equation: Productivity = amount of money brought in ÷ amount of money spent.

Having this information is very useful in forecasting expenses and estimating budgets.

9. Use Self-Evaluations

Asking your staff to do self evaluations can be a win-win for everyone. Studies have shown that when employees feel that they are involved and their input is taken seriously, morale improves. And as we all know, high employee morale translates into higher productivity.

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Using self-evaluations is also a good way to make sure that the employees and employers goals are in alignment.

10. Monitor Time Management

This is the number one killer of productivity in the workplace. Time spent browsing the internet, playing games, checking email, and making personal calls all contribute to lower productivity[1].

Time Management Tips to Improve Productivity

    The trick is to limit these activities without becoming overbearing and affecting morale. Studies have shown that most people will adhere to rules that they feel are fair and applied to everyone equally.

    While ideally, we may think that none of these activities should be done on company time, employees will almost certainly have a different opinion. From a productivity standpoint, it is best to have policies and rules that are seen as fair to both sides as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

    11. Analyze New Customer Acquisition

    We’ve all heard the phrase that “It’s more expensive to get a new customer than it is to keep an existing one.” And while that is very true, in order for your business to keep growing, you will need to continually add new customers.

    Knowing how to measure productivity via new customer acquisition will make sure that your marketing dollars are being spent in the most efficient way possible. This is another metric that’s easy to plug into the formula: Productivity = number of new customers ÷ amount of money spent to acquire those customers.

    For example, if you run any kind of advertising campaign, you can compare results and base your future spending accordingly.

    Let’s say that your total advertising budget is $3,000. You put $2,000 into television ads, $700 into radio ads, and $300 into print ads. When you track the results, you find that your television ad produced 50 new customers, your radio ad produced 15 new customers, and your print ad produced 9 new customers.

    Let’s plug those numbers into our equation. Television produced 50 new customers at a cost of $2,000 (50 ÷ 2000 = .025, or a productivity rate of 2.5%). The radio ads produced 15 new customers and cost $700 (15 ÷ 700 = .022, or a 2.2% productivity rate). Print ads brought in 9 new customers and cost $300 (9 ÷ 300 = .03, or a 3% return on productivity).

    From this analysis, it is clear that you would be getting the biggest bang for your advertising dollar using print ads.

    12. Utilize Peer Feedback

    This is especially useful when people who work in teams or groups. While self-assessments can be very useful, the average person is notoriously bad at assessing their own abilities.

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    Just ask a room full of people how many consider themselves to be an above average driver and you’ll see 70% of the hands go up[2]! Now we clearly know that in reality about 25% of drivers are below average, 25% are above average, and 50% are average.

    Are all these people lying? No, they just don’t have an accurate assessment of their own abilities.

    It’s the same in the workplace. Using peer feedback will often provide a more accurate assessment of a person’s ability than a self-assessment would.

    13. Encourage Innovation and Don’t Penalize Failure

    When it comes to productivity, encouraging employee input and adopting their ideas can be a great way to boost productivity. Just make sure that any changes you adopt translate into higher productivity.

    Let’s say that someone comes to you requesting an entertainment budget so that they can take potential customers golfing or out to dinner. By utilizing simple productivity metrics, you can easily produce a cost benefit analysis and either expand the program to the rest of the sales team, or terminate it completely.

    Either way, you have gained valuable knowledge and boosted morale by including employees in the decision-making process.

    14. Use an External Evaluator

    Using an external evaluator is the pinnacle of objective evaluations. Firms that provide professional evaluations use highly trained personnel that even specialize in specific industries.

    They will design a complete analysis of your business’ productivity level. In their final report, they will offer suggestions and recommendations on how to improve productivity.

    While the benefits of a professional evaluation are many, their costs make them prohibitive for most businesses.

    Final Thoughts

    These are just a few of the things you can do when learning how to measure productivity. Some may work for your particular situation, and some may not.

    The most important thing to remember when deciding how to track productivity is to choose a method consistent with your goals. Once you’ve decided on that, it’s just a matter of continuously monitoring your progress, making minor adjustments, and analyzing the results of those adjustments.

    The business world is changing fast, and having the right tools to track and monitor your productivity can give you the edge over your competition.

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    Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

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