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6 Common Work Habits that Sabotage Your Productivity

6 Common Work Habits that Sabotage Your Productivity

    We all have our weekday morning routines. You roll into the office a little before 9 am (or a little after, if traffic was really bad), settle in at your desk, maybe grab a cup of coffee around 9:30 or 10, check Twitter and Facebook, and then dive in to your inbox.

    And while it’s obvious that your time playing Farmville or reading Kanye’s latest tweet is going to hamper your productivity, you might be surprised to learn what other common work habits can sabotage your productivity.

    1. Checking Your Email Constantly

    If you’re like most people, you check your email frequently. Like, 5 times an hour frequently…or “every time my phone dings” frequently. Maybe a better word than “frequently” would be “obsessively.”

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    But despite the urgings of your boss to “stay on top of everything”, it turns out that checking your email too frequently actually reduces your productivity.

    Now, of course the experts can’t seem to agree on when you should check your email. There are a few people who say that checking your email as soon as you get into the office is a no-no, among them Sid Savara and Oprah’s pal Julie Morgenstern, author of “Never Check Email in the Morning.”

    Savara argues that checking your email first thing when you sit down to work ruins whatever game plan you came into the day with. Instead, he advises, “Work on something important for 30-45 minutes, and only then check it. If you can stand it, wait even longer.  Some days I don’t check email at all until after lunch… As long as you’re ignorant of everything else that’s going on outside, you can concentrate on what you want to work on. You don’t know what fires need to be put out, you don’t know about that special sale that’s going on today and you don’t know about that funny video your buddy sent you.”

    Elizabeth Grace Saunders takes a slightly more moderate approach, telling her clients that all her emails will be answered within 24 hours so they don’t get on her back. She generally clears out her inbox during the first 1-2 hours of her day, and formulates her game plan for the rest of the day after that. After that, she doesn’t generally look at her email again for the rest of the day, allowing her to focus completely on business development and client projects.

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    2. Scheduling Weekly/Project Status Meetings

    Meetings are a time suck, but some would argue that they are a necessary evil. Still, losing hours every week to conversations that could just as easily have been handled over IM or email can be really frustrating.

    Instead, use a shared project management system with a progress bar or timeline or calendar. You might like Central Desktop, Basecamp, or a system you’ve cobbled together using Google Docs. With a detailed list of project milestones and deadlines mapped out in a shared workspace, any team member at any time can log in and get the status of a project, without having to ask you for it. And you get those hours previously lost to weekly status meetings back!

    3. Working Late

    Let me ask you something. How productive are you after 5 pm, really? Chances are that even when you do work late, you spend a good chunk of that time reading blog posts and figuring out what restaurant you want to order delivery from.

    And even if you do work your butt off after hours, you’re just going to get burned out, making you more likely to get sick and lose even more productive hours. Staying late is okay when it is really needed, but if you do it habitually in hopes of getting ahead, you’re likely doing yourself (and your company) a disservice.

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    4. Mismanaging Your To-Do List

    This is my own personal failing. I am a compulsive “to-do” list writer, and while I always have an easy time prioritizing my list, I don’t always tackle things in the right order.

    Say I have a list of 5 action items, all of which need to get done today. They are all the same priority, but they vary in terms of how much time it will take to complete them.

    So I might tackle the “easiest” things first, the two or three tasks I know will take just 5-10 minutes to do. And then I’ll be able to move on to “the big project”, and I’ll have already made a dent in my to-do list.

    Trouble is, by the time I’ve done everything on my list except the one big task I’ve been putting off, I’m tired and cranky and low on energy. In other words, I’m not even close to the right frame of mind for addressing the hardest part of my list.

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    The solution? Just bite the bullet, and do the big task on your to-do list first, no matter how tempting it is to scratch off the smaller tasks on your list first.

    5. Drinking Too Much Coffee

    Caffeine does not give you lasting energy; caffeine that’s loaded with sugar even less so. Especially if you live the desk jockey lifestyle, that sugar in your coffee is likely to make you hyper, spike your insulin levels, crash, and then get stored as fat. In other words, it’s not really the best thing for boosting productivity. Skip the morning Joe (and the mid-morning Joe, and the afternoon Joe) and eat a balanced breakfast instead to keep your energy up.

    6. Eating Lunch at Your Desk

    You might be perceived as more productive by your boss when you don’t take a full lunch break, but will you actually be more productive?

    Well, probably not. For one thing, what if you spill your soup on an important report, or your keyboard? If you are clumsy, eating near important work documents is a sure fire way to have your productivity plummet. And unless you have a spare shirt in your car, you might have to go to an important meeting with beef stew down your front.

    Plus, eating at your desk increases your odds of overeating, since you aren’t eating mindfully. You get chubbier, your heart gets weaker, and then your productivity really takes a nosedive.

    Do you sabotage your own productivity? Tell us in the comments below!

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    Tucker Cummings

    Writer and social media professional sharing productivity tips on Lifehack.

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    Last Updated on July 10, 2020

    The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

    The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, 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.

    More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

     

    Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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