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16 Habits That Are Killing Your Productivity

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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 October 21, 2021

How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

 

Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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