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8 Habits Hurting Your Productivity

Everyone knows that productive habits make for a productive life. Do something every day for 30 days, and it becomes ingrained, gradually getting easier each time because of the hours you have invested.

But what about negative habits? They may be so easy to continue that you’re not even aware of them, hiding under the surface and slowly sucking away at your life, possibly even affecting your job performance or keeping you from getting that promotion.

Removing negative habits is a great way to boost your creativity and output when you’re running out of positive habits to add to your day. Here are 8 negative habits that may be hurting your productivity.

1. Multitasking

Multitasking is the death of productivity. Countless people claim on their resumes that they’re “excellent at multitasking,” but in truth, multitasking is actually less efficient than just doing tasks one at a time.

According to one study, only about 2% of the population is good at multitasking. Psychology professor David Strayer conducted tests where subjects had to use a driving simulator, solve complicated math problems, and practice memory drills all at the same time, and 98% ended up crashing their simulated vehicles or failing the math and memory challenges.

Simply put, what many people call multitasking is mainly an inability or lack of desire to focus. Entrepreneur Adam Toren said it best: “To me, multitasking is synonymous with ADD at best, and multiple-personality disorder at its worst. Don’t multitask. Your staff can tell when you aren’t listening. Your work can suffer when you aren’t focused on it.”

2. Not Getting Enough Sleep


In the 21st century, being productive without putting in long hours is close to impossible. In the trinity of work, free time, and sleep, many people choose to sacrifice sleep in order to have more time for the other two. Studies have proved this to be detrimental to productivity, however.

Harvard’s Healthy Sleep study concluded some powerful results in this arena: “In the short term, a lack of adequate sleep can affect judgment, mood, ability to learn and retain information, and may increase the risk of serious accidents and injury. In the long term, chronic sleep deprivation may lead to a host of health problems including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even early mortality.”

It’s easy to read about getting enough sleep, but another thing entirely to put it into practice frequently enough to break the bad habit. Being sleep-deprived is not a state anyone wants to be in, but sometimes sleep gets the short end of the stick when the to-do list begins to grow.

The best solution is to establish a time when you will absolutely, no questions asked, call it a night. Scheduling a full night’s sleep for yourself may be exactly what you need to boost your performance.

3. Procrastination

Procrastination is a deadly sin when it comes to productivity. Saving those memos for later can turn into a habit of waiting until the last moment for everything.

While some people would argue that they work better under pressure, the creative mind needs time to get ideas out there and then revamp and revise. If you wait until the last minute for everything, the virtue of refining your work will never grace your efforts.

Steven Pressfield, author of The War of Art , makes the case that procrastination is one of several forms of “resistance,” which is the term he uses to describe the forces that keep you from doing what you’re born to do. It can be laziness, but really procrastination boils down to fear – you can’t fail at something you’ve never started.

Bite the bullet and start tackling those tasks you’ve been avoiding. The best way to do this – other than by just doing it – is to cut out the simple distractions that derail your productivity.

One big time waster is what Business Insider calls “Impulsive web browsing.” It doesn’t mean just zoning out on social media; this form of procrastination may sneak up on you under the guise of “looking up the answer to a random question” or checking your email.

4. Not Delegating

Many times the opposite of delegation may seem like a good quality. Working hard and getting in the trenches with your employees, especially if you’re trying to lead a small business, creates rapport with your team, and familiarizes you with the ins and outs of the job.

However, if you’re trying to do everything yourself, this can be a nasty habit that will eventually drain you of energy and negatively impact your goals.

People know abstractly that they are putting too much on their plate. In fact, when polled by Small Business Trends, most people said that “taking on too many roles and responsibilities” was the bad business habit they would most like to overcome.

Willingness to delegate certain tasks to others on your team is important for three reasons. First, it instills confidence in your team. Toren says, “Trust your staff or don’t have them at all.”

Second, delegation is the best allocation of your funds. If you’re the CEO of your business, don’t spend time doing what you pay your secretary to do. You’re already paying a salary for someone else to do those tasks. Focus on what only you have the ability and authority to do.

Third, delegation ensures that the best talent performs specific tasks. You may be ok with computers, but if you’re not going to let your IT guy do the job he went to college to do, you’re probably not getting the best results.

5. Rationalizing

Rationalizing is simply being successful at lying to yourself. It’s self-talk that enables you to shy away from hard things, do morally questionable things, or pat yourself on the back for not giving 100% all the time.

It’s a dirty habit, because once you’re comfortable lying to yourself, there’s no motivation to stop. Business Insider writer Drake Baer points out that this is the psychological phenomenon of “moral licensing,” or giving yourself permission to do something you know you shouldn’t. It wrecks diets and sinks long-term plans, sabotaging your results by rewarding hard work with the very thing you were working against.

If you’re struggling with something and can feel yourself rationalizing your way out of it, sit down and try to come up with reasons to quit. If you can think of a multitude of reasons, chances are any after the first reason are simply rationalizations you’re coming up with to talk yourself out of something hard.

6. Saving the Hardest For Last

While some may find it easiest to knock out little tasks first, there is an overall flaw with this idea, making it a bad habit to avoid. As you go through your day, your drive to take on tasks slowly diminishes. This means that towards the end of the day, you have less of the discipline you need to do the hardest task, making it actually more difficult to accomplish your goals.

Self-control researcher Roy Baumeister puts it like this: “The longer people have been awake, the more self-control problems happen. Most things go bad in the evening. Diets are broken at the evening snack, not at breakfast or in the middle of the morning. Impulsive crimes are mostly committed after midnight.”

7. Hitting “Snooze”

Hitting the “snooze” button is another bad habit to avoid, but maybe not for the reason you think. While it’s true that delaying that wakeup another ten minutes could be considered procrastination or laziness, there is scientific data which suggests it’s actually harder to get up after hitting snooze than it is to jump out of bed right when the alarm goes off.

Fast Company’s article on the topic lays out the chemical processes the snooze button thwarts. When your alarm goes off, “adrenaline and cortisol shoot through your body, triggering a stress response that makes you feel immediately alert. But if you lazily lay your head back down rather than wrestling it out of bed, you'll be left disoriented and groggy, leaving you in a state of drunken sleepinertia, potentially for hours.”

8. Not Having a Routine

Some feel smothered by a routine, while others crave its structure. No matter which category you fall into, having a routine will ensure you are the most productive you can be. If you let your environment dictate when you work, relying on the whims of your feelings to be productive, chances are you aren’t tapping into all your creativity.

Habit writer S. J. Scott weighs in on the matter, saying, “Doing things only when you feel like it gives too much control over your state of mind.” You are in control of your productivity. As novelist William Faulkner allegedly once said, “I only write when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes at nine every morning.”

What other productivity-killing habits have you observed? Let us know in the comments below:

Images: Pixabay, Pixabay

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