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9 Mistakes That Make You Unproductive

9 Mistakes That Make You Unproductive

Everyone has bad working days, but if you feel like you’ve gotten into the habit of being unproductive, it may be time to reevaluate your behavior. Here are 9 of the worst mistakes people make that lead to unproductive behavior.

1. Having a cluttered workspace.

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If your desk is overrun with knickknacks, various pieces of paper, stacks of books, or anything other than what is absolutely necessary, it can be really hard to get things done. Try filing things away in a cabinet or storage box, or even throwing some of those unnecessary items away. Keeping only what’s vital on your desk can really save you time and stress.

2. Social networking.

It can be tempting to leave Facebook, Twitter, or any other social network open in a tab on your computer. Unfortunately this can really cut down on how much work you’re really getting done. Checking these sites, even for only a couple of minutes at a time, can add up and cause seriously unproductive behavior. What’s more, it’s very hard to go to these sites and not get pulled in for more time than what you had originally planned on. Leave them be and wait until later to update your status.

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3. Not getting enough sleep.

People who sleep 7-9 hours a night wake up feeling more energetic and focused, which makes getting things done much easier. If you’re suffering from sleepiness during the day, your productivity can slow down and your work can become careless. If you’re not getting at least 7 hours of sleep at night, try getting to bed earlier. Productivity increases when you are well-rested.

4. Not napping.

If you do get enough sleep at night, but it still isn’t sufficient to get you through the day, taking a power nap could do you a world of good. Keep the nap under twenty minutes to ensure that you wake up refreshed, but don’t have trouble going to sleep when it’s time for bed later that night.

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5. Not eating healthy.

Food is what we use to fuel our bodies. Without proper nutrition, we can start to feel sluggish. Make sure to eat breakfast before going to work, as this is what will really get you going at the start of the day. Make sure to listen to your body and eat a snack if you need to. Packing your lunch is another great way to ensure that your body is getting the nutrients it needs.

6. Not prioritizing. 

Without priorities, it can be hard to decide what to work on at what time. By ranking your assignments in order of most to least important, you can save time on mulling over what to work on next. Take some time at the start of each work day and determine what is the most important task of that day. Sorting out your priorities before you start working can make the day go a lot smoother.

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7. Not making a “to do” list.

It may sound like a no-brainer, but lists can really help you stay on track. By making a list of things that need to be done, you’re ensuring that those things get done on time. Writing tasks down can also help hold you accountable, thus making it more likely that you will complete them.

8. Procrastinating.

Once you put something off, you’re more likely to continue putting it off. Break the habit now and get things done when they need to get done, not when you feel like doing them (which, when you procrastinate, is never!).

9. Not asking for help.

There is no shame in needing help with something. Sometimes we put off getting a task done because there is some confusion, or something we aren’t sure how to do. If you’re not sure how to do something, or need clarification, you can save yourself a lot of wasted time and effort by simply asking someone for help.

Featured photo credit: Lars Plougmann via photopin.com

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Maggie Heath

Maggie is a passionate writer who blogs about communication and lifestyle on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

Think of yourself as a cup. Each day, you wake up full. But as you go about your day—getting tasks done and interacting with people—the amount in your cup gradually gets lower. And as such, you get less and less effective at whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing. You’re running out of steam.

The solution is obvious: if you don’t have anything left to pour out, then you need to find a way to fill yourself up again. In work terms, that means you should take a break—an essential form of revitalizing your motivation and focus.

Taking a break may get a bad rap in hustle culture, but it’s an essential, science-based way to ensure you have the capacity to live your life the way you want to live it.

In the 1980s, when scientists began researching burnout, they described this inner capacity as “resources.” We all need to replenish our resources to cope with stress, work effectively, and avoid burnout.[1]

When the goal is to get things done, it may sound counterproductive to stop what you’re doing. But if you embrace the art of taking a break, you can be more efficient and effective at work.

Here are five ways on how you can take a break and boost your productivity.

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1. Break for the Right Amount of Time, at the Right Time

When I started my first job out of college, I was bent on pleasing my boss as most entry-level employees do. So, every day, I punched in at 9 AM on the dot, took a 60-minute lunch break at noon, and left no earlier than 5 PM.

As I’ve logged more hours in my career, I’ve realized the average, eight-hour workday with an hour lunch break simply isn’t realistic—especially if your goal is to put your best foot forward at work.

That’s why popular productivity techniques like the Pomodoro advocate for the “sprint” principle. Basically, you work for a short burst, then stop for a short, five-minute break. While the Pomodoro technique is a step forward, more recent research shows a shorter burst of working followed by a longer pause from work might actually be a more effective way to get the most out of stepping away from your desk.

The team at DeskTime analyzed more than 5 million records of how workers used their computers on the job. They found that the most productive people worked an average of 52 minutes, then took a 17-minute break afterward.[2]

What’s so special about those numbers? Leave it to neuroscience. According to researchers, the human brain naturally works in spurts of activity that last an hour. Then, it toggles to “low-activity mode.”[3]

Even so, keep in mind that whatever motivates you is the most effective method. It’s more about the premise—when you know you have a “finish line” approaching, you can stay focused on the task or project at hand.

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There are many applications and tools that can help you block distracting websites and apps (such as social media) for specific periods of the day. Similarly, you can also use some mailing apps like Mailbrew to receive all the social media content or newsletters you don’t want to miss in your inbox at a time you decide.

So, no matter how long you work, take a break when you sense you’re losing steam or getting bored with the task. Generally, a 10-15 minute break should reinvigorate you for whatever’s coming next.

2. Get a Change of Scenery—Ideally, Outdoors

When it comes to increasing a person’s overall mental health, there’s no better balm than nature. Research has found that simply being outside can restore a person’s mind from mental fatigue related to work or studying, ultimately contributing to improved work performance (and even improved work satisfaction).[4]

No lush forest around? Urban nature can be just as effective to get the most out of your break-taking. Scientists Stephen R. Kellert and Edward O. Wilson, in their book The Biophilia Hypothesis, claimed that even parks, outdoor paths, and building designs that embrace “urban nature” can lend a sense of calm and inspiration, encouraging learning and alertness for workers.

3. Move Your Body

A change of scenery can do wonders for your attention span and ability to focus, but it’s even more beneficial if you pair it with physical movement to pump up that adrenaline of yours. Simply put, your body wasn’t designed to be seated the entire day. In fact, scientists now believe that extended periods of sitting are just as dangerous to health as smoking.[5]

It’s not always feasible to enjoy the benefits of a 30-minute brisk walk during your workday, especially since you’ll most likely have less energy during workdays. But the good news is, for productivity purposes, you don’t have to. Researchers found that just 10 minutes of exercise can boost your memory and attention span throughout the entire day.[6]

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So, instead of using your break to sit and read the news or scroll your social media account, get out of your chair and move your body. Take a quick walk around the block. Do some jumping jacks in your home office. Whatever you choose, you’ll likely find yourself with a sharper focus—and more drive to get things done.

4. Connect With Another Person

Social connection is one of the most important factors for resilience. When we’re in a relationship with other people, it’s easier to cope with stress—and in my experience, getting social can also help to improve focus after a work break.

One of my favorite ways to break after a 30-or-so minute sprint is to hang out with my family. And once a week, I carve out time to Skype my relatives back in Turkey. It’s amazing how a bit of levity and emotional connection can rev me up for the next work sprint.

Now that most of us are working from home, getting some face-to-face time with a loved one isn’t as hard as it once was. So, take the time to chat with your partner. Take your kids outside to run around the backyard. If you live alone, call a friend or relative. Either way, coming up for air to chat with someone who knows and cares about you will leave you feeling invigorated and inspired.

5. Use Your Imagination

When you’re working with your head down, your brain has an ongoing agenda: get things done, and do it well. That can be an effective method for productivity, but it only lasts so long—especially because checking things off your to-do list isn’t the only ingredient to success at work. You also need innovation.

That’s why I prioritize a “brain break” every day. When I feel my “cup” getting empty, I usually choose another creative activity to exercise my brain, like a Crossword puzzle, Sudoku, or an unrelated, creative project in my house.

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And when I’m really struggling to focus, I don’t do anything at all. Instead, I let my brain roam free for a bit, following my thoughts down whatever trail they lead me. As it turns out, there’s a scientific benefit to daydreaming. It reinforces creativity and helps you feel more engaged with the world, which will only benefit you in your work.[7]

Whether you help your kids with their distance learning homework, read an inspiring book, or just sit quietly to enjoy some fresh air, your brain will benefit from an opportunity to think and feel without an agenda. And, if you’re anything like me, you might just come up with your next great idea when you aren’t even trying.

Final Thoughts

Most of us have to work hard for our families and ourselves. And the current world we live in demands the highest level of productivity that we can offer. However, we also have to take a break once in a while. We are humans, after all.

Learning the art of properly taking a break will not only give you the rest you need but also increase your productivity in the long run.

More on the Importance of Taking a Break

Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

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