Habits You Need to Lose in Order to be Productive

criticismIn a world so full of distractions – be it your phone, your laptop, your TV, or your games console – staying productive is more difficult than ever. It can be very easy to develop negative habits, some of which you are well aware of, some of which you may not be. But it is important to recognize them, and address them before these habits start to play havoc with your professional life.

In this article, we’ve compiled a list of some habits that range from short term time wasters, to true progress wreckers. If they apply to you, take heed of these warnings before it is too late!

Harnessing chaos

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First of all, the mentality of “Whenever I start working, I’ll be able to get everything done” is very flawed, if anything near perfect productivity is the goal. Living in the midst of chaos is never ideal for professional productivity, so your first job is to try and apply some structure to your work life.

A great way to do this is to introduce good old fashioned to-do lists. Breaking your day down into small sets of tasks can give you a sense of structure, as you are no longer looking a a large task as one big thing, but rather several smaller jobs.

With his sorted, you can then start to schedule blocks of time in which your sole goal is to start and finish these tasks. If you work at home, you have free range over when these blocks of time are, and as long as you stick to them, you’ll have successfully harnessed the chaos. Working for a company leaves your schedule a little less open to personalisation, but you should still try and structure your day appropriately.

Insta-Googling

Today’s hyper connected world has lead to the problem of “Insta-Googling”. Back before the internet, any question that popped into your brain was either noted down for exploration later, or answered on the spot, because we didn’t have Google to rely on to remember everything!

Google and other search engines are very useful, but they can tend to supplant our ability to remember information for ourselves. This reliance leads to the convenience problem of instantly asking Google whatever question pops into your head, work related or not. Having the occasional non-work related thought when you are working is fine, but try jotting it down on paper so you can look it up later, instead of halting any and all progress just to check what the weather is going to be like in Austin, Texas tomorrow.

Putting off important things

“I’ll do it later” is another sentence you should try and remove from your professional vocabulary. Putting off big, daunting tasks until later on during the day, and tackling easy jobs first, it actually a bad idea. Studies show that everyone has only a finite amount of willpower, that decreases over the course of the day.

So instead of putting it off, take down the hardest, the longest, or the most boring tasks first. This way, your day gets progressively easier, work wise, as your willpower starts to deplete. Instead of dreading a big task, you can “look forward” to easier tasks later on (as much as one can look forward to doing work).

Working in huge time blocks

So far, we’ve focussed on getting down to business whilst working. But the key to true productivity is balance. It might seem like a slackers mentality to say life’s too short to be working all the time, but the sentiment is true. In fact, working too much is actually bad for productivity.

After a certain point, even the most hardworking of people will yearn to do something else. you might think ignoring this urge is a good thing, and it is if it occurs every 10 minutes. But working for hours on end will make your work sloppier and rushed, as you desperately rush to be finished so you can indulge in something more enjoyable.

The best approach is to balance the two out. Try working for 25 minutes without interruption, then taking a 5 minute break. After doing this for three or four hours, take a longer break. This  way, you are neither being lazy, nor working yourself into the ground. This stands to improve both your quality of work, and your overall enjoyment of work life.

Premature rewarding

Putting all this into practice, you may feel pretty good about your much improved rates of productivity. You may even think “I’ve been so productive this week, I’m going to slack off a little on Friday”. This is called moral licensing, and is similar to people on a diet having a “cheat day”.

As harsh as this may sound, this type of rewarding isn’t advisable, as it can start to become a slippery slope. Maybe the first time, you slack off one day a month. Then it’s one day every two weeks. Before long, you are finding excuses to slack off every other day. You either have to master the rewarding to the point it has no effect on overall productivity (one day a month working at half speed isn’t the end of the world), or just be consistent throughout your work life, rewarding yourself in your free time.

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