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20 Unproductive Habits You Should Let Go of

20 Unproductive Habits You Should Let Go of

Do you feel like everyone around you is getting stuff done, and you’re, well, not? It’s likely you’ve got one (or several) unproductive habits that aren’t helping matters. Below is a round-up of 20 common unproductive habits you should let go of, stat.

1. Allowing distractions.

Distractions are something we all face–but there’s no law saying you have to cater to them. Just because someone calls, texts, or knocks on your door doesn’t mean you have to drop what you’re doing right that second. You can get back to them during your next break.

2. Not setting goals.

Until you turn what you want into concrete goals to achieve, it’s likely they’ll remain a vague generalization you’ll sigh about from time to time.

3. Setting too many goals.

On the flip side, you don’t want to set so many goals you’re unable to focus a solid amount of time on them–this sorta defeats the purpose. Quality over quantity always wins out.

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4. Procrastinating.

The more you put something off, the less you’re going to feel like doing it. Trust me: the relief you feel once it’s done is well worth the temporary torture.

5. Watching too much television.

If you feel more connected to the characters on your shows than your real friends, it might be time to switch things up a bit.

6. Skipping meals.

There were days I’d get so into what I was writing, I’d forget to eat! (Gasp! I know, right?) Without proper nutrition you send your adrenal glands into overdrive, which depletes your energy and eventually leads to burn-out.

7. Spending recklessly.

When your finances are in disarray, you don’t stand a chance. Keeping your finances organized should be as much a priority as your health.

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8. Dropping everything for other people.

You are in complete control of your life. Respect your time–it’s your most valuable commodity.

9. Not writing anything down.

Writing things down helps you remember what you need (and want) to accomplish. Plus, it’s the best way to keep your mind clear to focus on what you’re doing in the moment.

10. Not having structure.

You don’t need to set a rigid schedule for yourself, Sergeant Crazy! Creating a general morning and evening routine will give you creative pillars to depend on so you can take more risks throughout the day.

11. Not taking breaks.

Your mind and body need a chance to rest, no matter how brief. When you start feeling restless, take a small breather to regroup instead of burning out entirely.

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12. Multitasking.

Again and again, studies show dividing your focus leads to lower quality work, and not to mention, loads of mental stress. Single-tasking not only gives your noggin a rest, it also gives you a greater sense of accomplishment.

13. Making time for personal tasks.

What’s the point of working hard if you’re not reaping the rewards in your personal life? During busier times, at least make sure the bare minimum is taken care of–bill paying, dish cleaning, laundry doing–so your home doesn’t represent your stress level.

14. Over-committing.

Ambition or excitement can too easily get the best of you, causing you to say, “Yes!” to every idea thrown at you. Instead, say “I’ll get back to you.” This will give you time to look over your obligations to see if you really do have the time.

15. Trying to be perfect.

Ah, the dreaded unicorn: perfection. We know it doesn’t exist, yet we still agonize over every little detail, wasting time that should be spent on more important tasks. We should really just stop it.

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16. Avoiding decisions.

Tough decisions are,you know, tough. But if you don’t make them, someone or something will make the decision for you.

17. Consuming unnecessary information.

I find mental clutter to be more overwhelming than physical clutter. Learn the power of one: one email address, one checking account, one savings account. Cut back on the mailing lists you subscribe to so you can focus on what’s really important.

18. Neglecting your health.

Your ambition’s useless when you’re exhausted. Eat healthy foods, exercise regularly, and most importantly, do everything you can to create a consistent sleep pattern.

19. Starting something and not finishing it.

Break every project you’re working on into such small pieces you’re not intimidated by the process of finishing the task. The last 10 percent of the task will always take 90 percent of your energy, so make it count!

20. Failing to admit your mistakes.

Denying your mistakes or blaming others for your problems will do nothing to improve your life or help you reach your goals. Acknowledge your mistakes so that you can learn from them and move on.

What’s your strategy for kicking unproductive habits to the curb?

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Krissy Brady

A women's health & wellness writer with a short-term goal to leave women feeling a little more empowered and a little less verklempt.

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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