Bad Habits To Break To Be More Productive

Useful in and out of the office, bad habits to break to be more productive will help you work smarter and more efficiently.

They say it takes 21 days to break a habit. Three weeks to stop a behavior that you may have been doing your whole life. But if there's any time to break a habit, it's now. Habits to break to be more productive vary from putting down your phone, avoiding procrastinating and adjusting from a multi-tasking machine to a more focused person. Working smarter can help you accomplish more in a day, both inside and outside of the office. Stop sabotaging your work day and personal life with bad habits and 

Stop Multi-Tasking and Focus

Many of us think that we're great at multitasking. But the opposite might be true. When we multi-task, what we're commonly doing is merely switching between tasks. We're not doing both at the same time, because our brains get overloaded if we try to focus on more than one subject. This can ultimately leave us with several started, and not completed, tasks.

A study by the Institute of Psychiatry at the University of London found that in one instance of multi-tasking, it dropped the subject's IQ more than sleep deprivation or smoking weed. Another study concluded that only about 2 percent of people can multi-task successfully and effectively, leaving the rest of us (myself included) with the conclusion that we should break that habit immediately.

To be more productive, try focusing on one single task at a time. Eliminate distractions and put other work to the side. You might think that you're doing better by having multiple projects open at once, but don't let it fool you, multi-tasking is a major productivity pitfall.

Avoid Meeting Overload

Simply put, the more meetings you have, the more interruptions to your work flow. If you're in the zone and about to fix a massive problem, you don't necessarily want to quit. You'll be sucked into a new train of thought as well, since that meeting you're going to probably isn't about your current problem.

Meetings are known to be drawn out, with far too many uninvolved people invited. Instead of having a meeting, ask yourself if it would be more efficient to send an email. Or maybe it would be better to talk to one or two people, instead of a group. No matter what method you take, set firm goals for the meeting. Meetings without goals tend to wander.

Industry Week reported that 2,000 managers said 30 percent of meetings were a waste of time. Considering that, it'd be a good idea to cut down on those unnecessary meetings. 

Another alternative is to complete goals, assignments, and projects around the meeting. Don't begin a project that you know will take several hours if you have a meeting coming up in about 30 minutes. Prioritize your goals so you can complete them all effectively and to the best of their potential.

Learn to Say No Gracefully

Throughout your busy day, you're bound to be asked to do many things. Some of which, you might never have wanted to do, or had the time. Other people's problems might be diverting you away from your productive routines.

Do you know how to say no? If not, you could be swamping yourself in a sea of problems. You will be overwhelmed if you help everyone, and eventually, you'll need to help yourself and complete your own work. It's also common for co-workers to take advantage of someone who doesn't know how to say no. Learn how to say no gracefully, because if you're streamlining your work, you can't afford to be hampered by various distractions.

Good ways to say no are to offer another solution, explain where your focus is, or to let them know that you wish you could sincerely help. Of course, prioritization matters here. If it is in your job description to help another coworker or department, then proceed as you should. 

Stop Procrastinating

Putting off you're work until later in the day can leave you feeling stressed, overwhelmed and unaccomplished. As willpower fades throughout the day, so will your drive to complete assignments and projects.

It is recommended to begin and complete your most important and hardest tasks at the beginning of the day. Save those emails for after lunch. 

Additionally, by beginning your tasks as soon as you get into the office, you will save time incase you need assistance, have a meeting, or assigned a different project throughout the day. Also, the sense of accomplishment you feel after being able to check a task off your to-do list will encourage you to keep going. By avoiding procrastination and seriously tackling tasks early in the day, you set the tone for the rest of your work day and week. 

Avoid Impulsive Web Browsing

With so much work done digitally now a days, it is easy to get sidetracked by email, Facebook, and even online shopping (sorry boss!). Also, with so many answers at your fingertips, its easy to get side tracked during work to find an answer to a question that may have nothing to do with the task at hand.

Save your web browsing time for your lunch break or until you get home. Some experts recommend writing down the non work related inquiries and questions and revisit them at home or during lunch. This can help you determine how important the questions are, and how imperative the answers are to your life and well being. 

Put Down Your Phone

Even at work, you might be tempted to check your phone. It might be for work-related email, but if it's not relevant to what you're focused on, you can kiss your productivity goodbye. It is estimated that 33 percent of consumers check their email throughout the day.

What's even more worrying is that about 52 percent of smartphone owners check their phone a few times an hour or more. If you must look at your phone, don't check your phone until you've completed your task. Turn off the sounds or notifications. I swear your friend can wait an other hour to see if you like her shirt.

The urge to check your phone might be so strong you might have to turn it off. Or, there are apps like Flipd that will help you take back control of your productivity. Apps can help you limit time on certain websites visited, shut down specific programs, or even close out everything except for a Word document.

Get Physical

You might get stuck in one position for far too long, with your butt on your seat. In this technology-focused age, you're likely to spend a good deal of time not moving around much. And that's a shame, because exercise increases blood flow to the brainóit naturally helps us to focus.

Along with increasing focus, exercise decreases stress. Stress is a major productivity killer. It clouds our minds and distracts us. Moving around every day will also drive your energy levels up. I knew a successful businessman who didn't exercise to look good, but he exercised to be more productive. That's unusual, but something every business person could learn from.

It might be difficult to get any major exercise in. Short on time? Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Or see if you might be able to change to a standing desk or treadmill desk. Grab one of the unappealing parking spots further from the office so you start and end your day with some physical activity. Workers who can exercise, as simply as going for walks, will be motivated with greater energy.

Leila Parker
Leila Parker

Newly graduated Industrial-Organizational Psychologist. I'm a cyclist who works, thinks and writes about workplace culture, behavior and self-motivation.

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Bad Habits To Break To Be More Productive