7 Habits That Kill Your Productivity
So many distractions, so many goals and so little… time.
Doesn’t it sometimes seem like the more you try to focus on getting things done, the less productive you end up being? Take creating a schedule or a to-do list, for example. I am a notorious list-maker and I swear that some days I spend more time creating my schedule or a to-do list, than I actually do on completing those tasks. Or, I’m working on something important, and the next thing I know I’m compulsively browsing the Internet looking at cat videos. I mean, cats ARE the unofficial mascot of the Internet, some will argue that the sole purpose of inventing the Internet was to share cat videos, and despite my fear of them (childhood trauma, don’t ask) I still find them cute.
The point is, productivity has always been a work-in-progress kind of a thing for me, and I’m guessing that some of you share this experience. Life happens, things change, and when they do, you have to work around that stress or other life events, to stay productive. Busy doesn’t always equal productive and the important thing is to focus on working smarter, not harder. Step one: replacing habits that kill your productivity.
7 HABITS THAT KILL YOUR PRODUCTIVITY
1. LACK OF ROUTINE
Building positive and productive habits and sticking to a routine helped me tremendously in improving my productivity. When I injured my back in the car accident last year and wasn’t able to stick to my daily routine, my productivity pretty much went out the window. Before, I’d get up early each morning, prepare for the day ahead, I’d do my workout right after coming home from work, then proceed to do either housework like cooking, cleaning, or spend the rest of the day working on my blog. I didn’t have too much stress in my life and things were going great (until they weren’t). Once one habit stopped (which was working out, for obvious reasons) the rest followed and my routine fell apart. My productivity depended on those daily habits. It was my routine that kept me in check because I never had to question myself: “okay, what do I focus on next?” or “what tasks do I work on today?”
Once I took a step back and created a new routine and adjusted it to my current circumstances, my productivity improved. Having a routine that is customized to your schedule helps you have a focused way of doing things. It doesn’t mean that your life has to be boring or predictable- it just helps keep your life organized.
2. NOT GETTING ENOUGH SLEEP
Ever feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day? Yup. There always seems to be something else that you want to get done before it’s time to go to bed. Some days we even forgo sleep or put off going to bed to do something else. Other times we toss and turn for the first hour or so because our anxious mind just won’t quit thinking about the tasks we didn’t get to that day, or it’s lost worrying about things that will have to get done tomorrow. In both cases, the quality and quantity of your sleep decline.
Not getting enough sleep can affect your memory consolidation, cognitive performance, and it impairs your ability to concentrate and make decisions. If this is something that you struggle with, work on developing better bedtime habits. Go to bed at the same time every night, keep your bedroom cool and dark.
3. THE TO-DO LIST THAT NEVER ENDS
Yup. I’m mentioning it again. The never-ending to-do list is one of those productivity-killing habits that I’m often very guilty of. I tend to spend more time writing my to-do list than I do on completing it. That obviously does nothing to improve my productivity. The thing is, It’s very easy to get overly excited, wanting to get a lot of things done and out of the way. The key is to keep your expectations realistic. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how late you stay at the office, or how long you work on something- you can’t always get everything done in one day. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself and remember that there’s only so much you can do in those 24 hours.
4. DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY
It’s meant to make our lives easier and more productive, but very often it does quite the opposite. Checking your email every time your phone chimes, getting distracted by having multiple tabs opened on your laptop, checking your social media accounts at random times- these are just a few of the habits that kill your productivity where digital technology is to blame. Every digital distraction breaks your productivity flow, even if you only pick up your phone for a minute or two. Once your productivity or work “flow” has been interrupted, it can take up to 23 minutes for your brain to re-focus on the task at hand (unless the distraction matches or is related to your task- in that case, the distraction can be beneficial).
If you struggle with perfectionism chances are that you also have that “all or nothing” attitude. It’s when you’re never happy with 80% or even 90%- there is no between, everything you do has to be done absolutely perfectly. There’s also a lot of fear of failure and anxiety involved. All of this combined can affect your productivity in a big way. The key is to focus on your goals and tasks, rather than that fear of making a mistake. Perfectionism is hard to overcome, but you can start by changing your perspective and realizing just how often you use it as an excuse to not complete your goals.
6. LACK OF STRESS MANAGEMENT
Stressful events and situations- both big and small- can easily throw you off track. When your mind is filled with worry and anxiety, your productivity drops. In addition to affecting other areas of your life, increased stress levels reduce your productivity. This is why it’s so important to know how to manage your stress and deal with it in a healthy way. Yoga, journaling, meditation, physical activity, and taking care of yourself, in general, will help you cope with sudden stress better.
7. FAILURE TO PRIORITIZE + LACK OF DISCIPLINE
When it comes down to it, lack of discipline is one of the key habits that kill your productivity. There will be days when you won’t feel like getting things done, days when working on something that’s important to you is the last thing you feel like doing. Motivation usually comes and goes in waves, and you can’t rely on it to always be there. When you lose motivation, you sometimes also lose your willpower to be productive. Focus on building habits that will help you become more disciplined- learning to prioritize your tasks is one of them. Use your willpower to build more habits that will improve your productivity, rather than depending on motivation.
One of the things that helped me the most with building positive habits was the realization that you can’t simply “stop” or “get rid of” those bad and unproductive habits. Instead, focus on replacing them with good, positive and productive patterns. If replacing some of those habits that kill your productivity is something you want to work on, I highly recommend these books that I found very helpful:
- The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
- The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson
- The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz
- Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill