25 daily habits that are killing your productivity

Habits killing your productivity

Some days it seems almost impossible to be productive.

There are beeps and buzzes coming from your phone and calendar notifications on your laptop for upcoming meetings. These are just a few of the distractions that small business owners and employees experience on a daily basis. To fight the distractions and stay on top of things we try different productivity hacks. Most of the time they’re ineffective.

In order to be more productive during the day, try removing these 25 daily habits that are killing your productivity.

1. Making too many to-do lists

Making a to-do list is a great idea. Making an overly detailed and itemised to-do list that is impossible to complete is self-defeating. If you spend a significant portion of your time planning instead of actually doing, or obsessing over the perfect calendar and task management app, you’ve gone over to the dark side and fallen into the grips of productivity porn.

When you spend more time on planning and thinking about how to be productive, you will never actually be productive.

2. Eating a lot of sugar

Weird, but true: the more sugar you consume, the more tired and foggy-headed you’ll feel. The same could be said for energy drinks and coffee. These things are not giving you more energy in the long run. Instead, they are robbing energy from the next hour for the moment.

You’re doing your body, your brain, and your productivity a disservice.

don't consume too much sugar

3. Not moving enough

The dangers of sitting too much have been well publicised by now. “Sitting is the new smoking” has become the modern mantra, and office workers everywhere are finally realising that not moving during the day is doing their health no favours.

This one is tough, because it naturally makes sense to be at your desk, working, if you want to be productive. Taking time off out of the day to move around seems counter-productive.

Just like the junk food, though, this is about energy and keeping the blood pumping. Move around. Wake up. Stretch. Walk. Go up and down the stairs. You’ll more than make up the time.

4. Excelling at multitasking

You cannot multitask. It doesn’t matter if you think you can. The truth is that you can’t. The truth is that multitasking reduces your productivity by 40 percent.

Multitasking is damaging to your brain, which struggles when you split your focus between tasks. It brings out the worst in you, both in cheating and the quality of your work. So if you have a habit of doing multiple things at once, you’re trashing your productivity.

5. Doing your most important work later

We’re not talking about procrastination — that’s clearly not productive. This is in reference to the time of day that you do your work. If you leave the most difficult work until later in the day, you’ll likely not get it done.

Mornings are the most productive time, when your head is clearer and your energy higher. Plus, as the day drags on, you will have lots of excuses as to why you shouldn’t start something complicated a few hours before work is over. Do the tough, important work right away in the morning.

6. Checking your phone

Our mobile phones have turned us into little more than glorified Pavlovian dogs. Every beep, wiggle, or flashing light has us stopping in the middle of everything to see what’s new. You don’t need to know what’s new, if you are trying to be productive.

Mute your phone — no vibrations, even — when you’ve blocked out specific times to work on specific things. Keep your phone away from your bed (see #10). Otherwise, your phone is turning you into a “multitasker” and you know where that gets you.

don't keep checking your phone

7. Turning on browser notifications

Turning off your browser and OS notifications is a must. Knowing that someone just tweeted to you might sound like great social media help, but unless your job is social media management, you don’t need to know immediately. Again, much like your phone, you must stop those little notifications that have the ability to pull you away and down a rabbit hole.

8. Attending too many meetings

How many meetings that you are asked to attend really require you to be there? Do you look forward to meetings so that you can avoid those onerous projects that you don’t want to do?

Pointless meetings, should be avoided at all costs. It’s tough to do this when the boss insists you be there, but make an attempt to bring her around to your view or, at the very least, reject meeting requests that you know are not necessary.

9. Ignoring the triage approach

Triage is an approach to work that identifies which things must be done, and which things can be put off for later. Being productive doesn’t mean doing everything. It means doing the most important things. In other words, you can’t build the walls of the house if you didn’t dig the foundation first.

Warren Buffett reportedly advocated a two-list approach to his pilot. Make a list of your goals. Circle the top five. You now have two lists: must-complete, and avoid-at-all-costs. The latter, even if they are good goals, will get in the way of your top goals.

10. Getting the wrong amount of sleep

Sleeping too little or too much can work against your productivity. Hitting the snooze button to get a few more minutes is tricking your body and actually working against you, slowing your ability to wake up. Not getting enough sleep is turning your brain into lumbering giant, slowing your ability to react and participate with what’s happening in the workplace. The right amount of sleep brings clear headedness and the energy to do the work.

11. A manual approach all the way

Technology can be your friend. Let it help you, by automating those tasks that you don’t need to waste time doing. Have your bills paid automatically. Schedule messages for your social media. Really think through the little black holes in your day’s time and find places where an automated system could do the same.

12. You never say no

The word “yes” is not your friend. Say no more than you say yes. Get back your time. Otherwise, after you’ve agreed to help and do everything everyone has brought you, you’ll be burnt out, bitter, and physically unable to handle it all.

Saying “no” is not about being cruel. It’s about understanding what you are capable of and refusing to do anything less than your best work at all times.


13. Perfection is a goal

In your pursuit of excellence, have you let perfection become a god? You cannot be perfect, and if perfection is a goal you’ll waste tons of time bemoaning and reliving those times when you “failed.”

Let doing your best, constant learning, and improvement be your goal. Not perfection.

14. Micromanaging all the way

As wonderful as you may think you are, the team members that you manage are equally capable. That’s why they were hired, isn’t it? If micromanaging is how you manage, you’re taking on not only your work, but everyone else’s.

Learn to delegate work that others could do, trusting them to do it. This fits nicely into the idea of triage: what skills are uniquely yours? That’s the work you do. Delegate the rest.

15. You’re oblivious to how you’re doing

It pays to analyse and track your own progress once in a while. If you don’t, you won’t become aware of places where your workflow and productivity techniques need change. Do you have a way to measure your time and how long it takes to complete various projects? You should. How else will you know where you need improvement?

toggle dashboard

16. You fret over every decision

Most decisions are simple ones, completely  unimportant in the scheme of things. Should you have the mocha or the chai latte? It doesn’t really matter, does it?

Practice the art of decision by making decisions without over-thinking. Learn to let decisions be something you can live with, even if there might have been a better one down the road. Practice is the only way you can learn to identify what decisions to make.

17. You’ve given yourself too many choices

One reason you might be struggling to make a decision is because you have too many choices. Simplify your life so that you have less to decide in a given day. You don’t want to burn out your decision-making ability before you get to the office, do you?

Steve Jobs, like many other successful people, had a very basic wardrobe. Why waste energy every day deciding what to wear when you know you’ll need that energy for bigger things? Remove the excess choices you’ve allowed into your life, whether it be your wardrobe, your transportation, or what you eat for breakfast. Simplify your life.

Steve Jobs

18. You work longer hours

Surely working more will make you more productive, right?

Nope. Working longer hours is the same as never moving away from your desk: you bring about fatigue. And fatigue always always always works against your productivity. Instead of working a 50+ hour workweek, break up your work week into blocks and focus on specific projects during specific blocks of time. In a way, it’s like fighting multitasking on a large scale. These large blocks of time, stretched over a workweek, force you to really zoom in and focus on something specific.

How much of that 50+ hour workweek would be spent hunched over coffee or surfing the web to relieve boredom and fatigue?

19. You don’t leave on your “breaks”

If it’s lunch break, eat away from your desk. If it’s your 15 minute break during the afternoon, get out of the office. The whole point of a break isn’t that you merely switch what you are doing, but that you also take a break from the geography of the work and switch the where, too.

Eat your lunch in the break room or outside on a park bench. Anywhere but at your desk. You spend the whole day at your desk. It’s numbing your mind. And, if you think skipping breaks throughout the day helps you get more done, think again: breaks wake you up and help you form new thought patterns. Get a glass of water. Go for a walk. Get away from the desk and you’ll be productive.

lunch away from desk

20. Lacking a system or routine

A system that waits around for the perfect moment — when the stars all align — before taking action is no system at all. You need to create a system or routine that you naturally fall back on that helps you chug along and work. Whether through the tools you use or how you use them, or the way you break up your day and manage your time, find a routine that is built solidly on good habits.

This personal system won’t just magically create itself. You must create it and turn it into a habit. That takes work.

21. Using the wrong tools

When you are at work, you might not have much say in the kinds of tools you need to use. In fact, you might get stuck using a productivity tool that you don’t like, or have a boss who jumps from one tool to the next, enamored more with what’s new than really being productive.

In this situation, you can control what you use. Can you find a tool that lets you attack the work assigned to you? Can you use integrations (such as Zapier) between apps to connect your preferred tool to the others?

Find the tool that works for you. Integrate the others to cut down on excessive logins and tools that don’t communicate.

22. Working with the TV on

If you work from home, the TV is not your friend. Even listening to music can be distracting, particularly if the music has words. The extraneous noise of a television show plot, the story found in a song, or the conversation and gossip overheard in an open office are all the enemy of productivity.

While we can’t all have a private corner office, do what you can to cut down the extra noise. It seems into your consciousness and can waylay your productivity ever so gradually. Headphones that cancel noise, white noise, or soft wordless music can help if you are in an open office setting.

headphones in open plan office

23. Not starting with a plan

While an overactive to-do list is a bad thing, you should at least head into the week (and even the day) with a plan of attack. You’ll need to know what makes up your triage lists. You’ll need to know how your time has been portioned out between meetings and such so that you know how you can block it out.

Starting the day and the week without a plan on how it looks and should look is how you accomplish nothing.

24. You don’t want to learn anything new

Learning something new doesn’t mean you’ll always be saddled with new responsibilities. Yet that fear keeps some people from pursuing new knowledge, happily slopping around in what they’ve always known and done.

With new knowledge comes the opportunity to do things differently and to make connections you would have been unable to before. For example, the more you read and learn, the more productive blogger you’ll become because you have a ready library of knowledge to tap into instead of firing up the search engine every time you need to write.

25. You are a self-punisher

Lastly, you waste a lot of energy punishing yourself for a lack of productivity.

If you missed the productivity boat one day, you can start over tomorrow. Berating yourself and starting a new day behind the curve and with personal guilt will only keep you behind perpetually.


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About the author

Chad Halvorson is the CEO of When I Work, an employee scheduling app that nearly half a million people in over 50 countries rely on for employee scheduling, time clock, and communication. When I Work uses an innovative blend of collaborative communication technologies, including the web, mobile apps, text messaging, social media, and email, to make teams more efficient, more accountable, and better prepared. Most traditional workforce management software is clunky, cumbersome and difficult to install and maintain. When I Work is a simple, intuitive, mobile-first solution that owners and managers can implement and start using in five minutes, not five months—no IT required. More blog posts by Chad Halvorson ››
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  • Thomas Bielenberg

    sensible. thanks

  • Asmaa Abdul Hameed

    Very detailed, will need more than one reading from me to see how much I have actually improved. I will go through this article again by the end of this week and see if anything changed in my routine at all. Thank you Chad :)

    • Gemma Falconer

      Glad you liked the post! Thanks for letting us know

  • Ria Sheridan

    Some great pointers – will definitely take time to introduce them into my working day. Starting with my never ending to do list!


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