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If you want to achieve better results in life and advance in your career you need to be focused and productive. The trouble is, there are some sneaky habits that can hold you back and keep you from succeeding. These habits could be sabotaging your efforts to foster self-discipline, however insignificant they may seem.
Later, we’ll look at different habits that might be slowing you down and cover some of the most common productivity-killing habits. First, though, let’s define what a habit is and why we acquire them.
As soon as you eradicate or change bad habits, you will be well on your way to becoming more productive and making the most out of life by working smarter, not harder.
Let’s dive in.
What are habits?
Habits are behaviours formed in response to a given cue. When the behaviour we engage in feels good, we respond the same way when we next encounter that cue. The more often you respond in the same way, the less you must think about your actions, and over time, you create a habit.
Why are bad habits so easy to create?
Problems arise with habit formation because the process is far more efficient when we engage in unhealthy or ‘bad’ behaviours which give us immediate gratification, like making a beeline for the fridge after work, or waking up and reaching for your phone.
Now it’s time to explore some bad habits you best try to break if you want to be more productive and effective.
Bad habits to break to increase your productivity
Breaking any of the following habits is a sure-fire way to boost your productivity, power through your work, and make more time to do what you love.
Keeping unused tabs open on your desktop
This is easily done. Having too many unnecessary tabs open on your computer is bound to cause distraction. The temptation you’ll feel to click on that small icon indicating you have a message on Facebook or that a new message just hit your inbox will likely prove overwhelming. Your attention will be divided, and your focus compromised. A quick check may easily devolve into wasting 30 minutes of wasted time that you could have spent breaking the back of a more critical task.
Added to this, when you start going down a rabbit hole by clicking on an unrelated tab, you’ll end up scrolling on autopilot and responding to other people’s messages instead of guarding your time and getting your own work done.
You can cut down on potential distractions by making sure only the tabs you need to use to complete your task are open. Even if you think you can resist the lure of those notifications, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Remember, our brains are wired for distraction so give yourself the best chance you can to be more productive and close those pesky tabs.
Surfing the web
With the internet at our fingertips on almost any device we use, it’s more difficult than ever to stay on task. It is estimated that it takes 23 minutes to regain your concentration after only a single distraction.
It follows, then, that when we don’t fall prey to distractions, we can get more done and enter a flow state more easily. People in a state of flow can be as much as 5 times more productive than those not in that state. If something interrupts your focus, you will have to direct your attention to the task at hand for a solid 15 minutes before you can again benefit from entering a flow state.
The more often you click away from your work, to check messages, skim a web page or write a quick tweet, the more likely you are to jerk yourself out of the super-productive flow state and waste time. You may even become distracted so often that you never enter a flow state at all. This has a massively detrimental effect on your efficiency.
Breaking a bad habit can be hard but identifying which you are prone to is the first step to doing something about them. By being aware of how often you surf the net or deal with messages when engaged in another task, you will start to see how much it affects your productivity and can then take steps to tackle the issue.
Too much snoozing
It’s tempting to smash that snooze button when you wake and get a few more precious minutes of sleep in the morning, but how often do you wake slightly before it’s due to go off? That’s because your body knows it’s morning and time to wake, and your body has been preparing to wake for a while and has stopped sending signals to your brain to produce melatonin.
This means that when you hit the snooze button and doze for a few minutes instead of rising, you will dampen your sense of alertness and be groggy when you next wake. If you resist the temptation to snuggle down under the covers for just a little longer, you can set yourself up for a more productive day.
Putting off difficult tasks
We all have limited energy mental and physical energy and when we use it up, our ability to make decisions is impaired and our productivity decreases. This is known as decision fatigue.
We tend to convince ourselves it’s better to get small manageable tasks out of the way and build up to taking on more difficult tasks. But the truth is that if you have a habit of putting off the things you find most taxing, you’ll end up having to deal with them when your stores of energy are already depleted which makes what we must do still more difficult. Plus, if you believe something will be hard, it will seem hard, even if it’s not.
Replying to emails and messages as soon as they hit your inbox
Just as stopping work to surf the web for a minute can take you out of a state of flow and hinder your productivity, so can pausing to check messages as soon as they arrive in your inbox.
If you want to improve your productivity, it’s best to set a time to check your email and only check it then. It is also wise to use the features of your email to prioritise messages by the sender so that you can deal with your most urgent, important emails first and leave the rest for later when there is a lull in activity. You may even consider setting up an automatic response to let people know when you’ll check your messages and roughly when they can expect a reply. That way you can work on a task uninterrupted until you’re ready, which is bound to make you more productive.
Using your phone or watching TV before you sleep
This is one of the worse habits on the list. If you use your phone, surf the web on your tablet, or even watch TV immediately before sleep, the quality of your sleep will suffer because the blue light you are exposed to inhibits the production of melatonin. This impacts your mood and energy levels, as well as the quality of your sleep because blue light is what the sun emits; it wakes you up and makes you more alert.
As the day goes on, the amount of natural blue light you are exposed to decreases. As evening draws nigh, your body becomes more sensitive to blue light because it is not prepared to be exposed to much of it at all. The devices you use, including your TV, computer, phone, and tablet all shine blue light into your face. This will prevent or slow the production of melatonin and make it harder for you to fall asleep. You no doubt know from experience what a disastrous impact even a single restless night can have on both your work performance and productivity.
So, if you want to make sure you get a great night’s rest so you can wake ready to face whatever the day has in store for you, put away all your devices at a certain point in the evening so you can get some good quality shut-eye. It’s unreasonable to expect yourself not to use any devices at all in the evening, but merely cutting down the amount of blue light you’re exposed to can make a huge difference. Just becoming more aware of how much you use your devices will help you begin to break the habit and replace it with a more beneficial one, like keeping a favourite novel by the bed instead of your phone.
Watching TV, YouTube videos, or Netflix when you first wake
Watching TV for an hour first thing in the morning may well be enjoyable, but it won’t do much for your productivity because you are priming your brain for distraction. Your brain will only want another hit of dopamine and it will be tricky for you to focus.
You could use that first hour of your morning, to prepare for your day, meditate and read something you enjoy to make it more likely that you will accomplish all you wish to that day.
Not staying hydrated
One way you can give your brain a boost and set yourself up for a productive day is to make sure you drink enough water. If you don’t stay hydrated, you are sure to feel sluggish and find it harder to concentrate and enter a flow state.
So, drink enough water throughout the day so that you can function well and be as efficient as possible.
Not keeping your workspace tidy
Being disorganised is a huge productivity killer because it makes it harder to get your hands on what you need to complete your work. Having a cluttered desk can also slow your thought process and have negative psychological effects.
To avoid this, devote 5 minutes of your day to tidying up your workspace. That way, you can find things in a second and get through your work more efficiently and effectively.
Now you’re aware of some of the most common productivity-killing habits out there, it’s over to you. If you want to boost your productivity, you’ll need to put in some effort to replace these bad habits with more beneficial ones, but it will be worth it.
You will be able to get more out of life and work and have a better chance of meeting the goals you set for yourself. These habits may seem like trivial things, but even tackling one or two of these can make a real difference to what you can achieve. So, whether you are disorganised, can’t resist surfing the web, or are compelled to check what that message is this instant, identify your own bad habits now so you can start to deal with them. If you have a bad habit we haven’t talked about, drop us a comment to let us know!