Being productive isn't easy, regardless of how badly you'd like to be and how hard you think you're willing to work. But increasing your output at work and in life is a much more attainable goal if you're not sabotaging yourself with bad habits.
Here are 10 things you should stop doing right now:
1. Impulsive web browsing: Since most of us work with access to the internet, it's easy to get side-tracked looking up the answer to a random question that just popped into your head.
That's why Quora user Suresh Rathinam recommends writing down these thoughts or questions on a notepad. This way, you can look up the information you want later, when you're not trying to get work done.
2. Moral licensing: Whether it's a new diet, workout routine, or work schedule, one of the most difficult things about forming a new habit is the urge to cheat as a reward for sticking to a routine for a while. This idea that we "deserve" to splurge on fancy meal after being thrifty for a week is called "moral licensing," and it undermines a lot of people's plans for self-improvement
Instead, try making your goal part of your identity, such that you think of yourself as the kind of person who saves money or works out regularly, rather than as someone who is working against their own will to do something new.
3. Putting off your most important work until later in the day: People often start off their day by completing easy tasks to get themselves rolling and leave their more difficult work for later. This is a bad idea, and one that frequently leads to the important work not getting done at all.
As researchers have found, people have a limited amount of willpower that decreases throughout the day. That being the case, it's best to get your hardest, most important tasks done at the beginning of the day.
4. Taking many meetings: Nothing disrupts the flow of productivity like an unnecessary meeting. And with tools like email, instant messenger, and video chat at your fingertips, it's best to only use meetings for introductions and serious discussions that can only be held in person.
BlueGrace Logistics founder Bobby Harris recommends that people don't accept a meeting unless the person who requested it has put forth a clear agenda and stated exactly how much time they will need. And even then, Harris recommends giving the person half of the time they initially requested.
5. Multi-tasking: While many people believe they are great at doing two things at once, scientific research has found that just 2% of the population is capable of effectively multi-tasking.
For the rest of us, multi-tasking is a bad habit that decreases our attention spans and makes us less productive in the long run.
6. Hitting the snooze button: It might feel like pressing the snooze button in the morning gives you a little bit of extra rest to start your day, but the truth is that it does more harm than good.
That's because when you first wake up, your endocrine system begins to release alertness hormones to get you ready for the day. By going back to sleep, you're slowing down this process. Plus, nine minutes doesn't give your body time to get the restorative, deep sleep it needs.
7. Failing to prioritize: It's only natural for people to hedge against failure by keeping their options open and trying to pursue a bunch of different goals simultaneously. Take, for instance, the person who is five years into a career in marketing, but preparing themself for law school just in case. Unfortunately, this sort of wavering can be extremely unproductive.
Warren Buffett has the perfect antidote. Seeing that his personal pilot was not accomplishing his life goals, Buffett asked him to make a list of 25 things he wanted to get done before he died. But rather than taking little steps toward completing every one of them, Buffett advised the pilot to pick five things he thought were most important and ignore the rest.
8. Over-planning: Many ambitious and organized people try to maximize their productivity by meticulously planning out every hour of their day. Unfortunately, things don't always go as planned, and a sick child or unexpected assignment can throw a wrench into their entire day.
Instead, you might want to try planning just four or five hours of real work each day, that way you're able to be flexible later on.
9. Under-planning: With that being said, you should take time to strategize before attempting to achieve any long-term goal. Trying to come up with the endgame of a project you're doing midway through the process can be extremely frustrating and waste a huge amount of time.
Harvard lecturer Dr. Robert Pozen recommends that you first determine what you want your final outcome to be, then lay out a series of steps for yourself. Once you're halfway through, you can review your work to make sure you're on track and adjust accordingly.
10. Keeping your phone next to your bed: The LED screens of our smartphones, tablets, and laptops give off what is called blue light, which studies have shown can damage vision and suppress production of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate the sleep cycle.
Research also suggests that people with lower melatonin levels are more prone to depression.
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