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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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Last Updated on June 18, 2019

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Making Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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