Nothing can sabotage productivity like a bad habit. You may be stuck in a routine where you get up every day at 8:00 a.m. right before you go to work, but you know full well if you were to get up at 6 a.m you might be able to get some extra reading in or work on a personal hobby.
So often many of us continue indulging our bad habits until they slowly creep up on us and cause unforeseen damage.
Bad habits can slow you down, make you less creative, decrease your accuracy and hinder your performance. Getting control of your bad habits is vital and not just for the sake of productivity. A study conducted at the University of Michigan found that people who had more self-control tend to be much happier than those who have less – this was in the short and long term.
There are a lot of bad habits that a person can form, but here are some of the most common that can hinder productivity
1. Surfing the Web. With the internet being readily available at our fingertips on and on every device we have it is hard not to take times throughout the day to surf the web. Studies have shown that it takes approximately 15 consecutive minutes of focus before a person can become fully engaged in a task. Once someone has focused on that test for that amount of time they enter an increased productivity state that is often referred to as the flow. Research shows that people who are in a flow state are nearly five times more productive than usual.
When you get out of the flow state, whether it be by checking the news or your social media account you reset the flow state process and have to go through another 15 minutes of continuous focus to re-enter.
If you continually click in and out of your work enough times, you can waste the entire day and not experience the flow state at all. This drastically decreases the amount of high-quality work that you can get done within any given time.
Training your brain to break a bad habit is difficult, but one of the best steps you can take is merely becoming aware of the bad habit. Once you are aware of how often you check the internet or step away from your work to deal with other things, you will begin to realize how much it impacts your productivity.
2. Perfectionism. Perfectionism is the enemy of everything. Some people spend hours upon hours revising their work because they don’t believe it has reached a state of perfection. For example, some writers spend countless hours brainstorming certain aspects of their book only to end up tossing their ideas aside because they know in the end they won’t be included in the book. The truth of the matter is is that no one and no piece of work is perfect. Rather than worrying about achieving perfection, you should try to set a limit as to how many times you will revise or review a piece of work. Be realistic with your expectations. Rather than focusing on all that is wrong, focus on what is right.
Changing your thought process and patterns will not come overnight, so be patient with yourself and remember that you are only human who is prone to making errors, but it is how we deal with those errors that will define us and our productivity.
3. Using a phone, computer or tablet in bed. This is perhaps one of the most significant bad habits that can hinder sleep and productivity. Short wavelength blue light plays a huge role in your energy levels your mood, and your sleep quality. The sun emits high concentrations of this blue light, and when you are exposed to it, your body stops producing the sleep hormone melatonin and makes you feel more awake and alert. As the Sun starts to go down, so does the amount of blue light you will be subjected to. This allows your body to produce more melatonin to make you start feeling sleepy.
As the night draws near, your brain doesn’t expect any blue light exposure and thus becomes very sensitive to it. Many of the devices that we turn to if the evening such as a phone, laptop, tablet, television, and computer all emit short wavelength blue light. Most of these devices also emit the short wavelength blue light quite brightly and directly at your face. The exposure of this blue light will Ben impair your melatonin production and can significantly impact your ability to fall asleep and the quality of sleep you get.
As you have probably experienced yourself, a restless night of sleep can have devastating effects on your productivity. One of the most beneficial things you can do to avoid this issue is by putting devices that emit the short wavelength blue light away. Now, of course, it is unreasonable to say not to use any of those devices, but again once you become mindful of how often you do use them you will realize how much of an impact they have on your overall productivity.
4. Hitting the snooze button. While you sleep, your brain goes through many different elaborate stages – the last of which prepares you to wake up and start your day. Have you ever woken up right before your alarm clock goes off? You do this because your brain knows it’s time to wake up. When you smack the snooze button and go back asleep instead of getting up when your brain is ready, you dampen your alertness and wake up more tired and groggy. The worst part is that tiredness and grogginess can take hours to wear off.
Even though you may feel exhausted and want to just hit that snooze button and go back to sleep, getting up when your brain says its time will result in a more productive day.
5. Meetings. Regular meetings can eat up your already limited time very quickly. Productive people understand that a meeting will drag on forever if allowed, so they do their best to avoid them at all costs. To help combat never-ending meetings, it is helpful to inform everyone of the start and end time of the meeting and to stick to the intended schedule. This sets clear limits for everyone and helps them to be more focused and efficient during that time.
6. Delaying hard tasks. Everyone has a limited amount of physical and mental energy, and we often exhaust that energy leading to a rapid decline in decision-making and productivity. This is often referred to as decision fatigue.
When you continually put off hard tasks until later in the day because they are overwhelming, you end up saving them for a time when you are at your worst. The best way to beat decision fatigue is by tackling difficult tasks in the morning when your mind is fresh and the most active.
7. Multitasking. Multitasking can have a huge on your productivity. Studies conducted at Stanford University confirm that multitasking is far less productive than doing a single task at a time. Researchers found that people who were continually bombarded with multiple streams of information were not able to dedicate their full attention, recall important information or switch from one job to another as well as those who were only focusing on one task. Essentially, when you try to do more than one thing at once, your brain lacks the mental capacity to perform both tasks successfully.
We all know someone who is especially great at multitasking – so why aren’t they impacted? Stanford researchers compared several groups of people who were above average at multitasking and believed that it helped their performance. They found that people who multitasked a lot and genuinely felt that it helped their performance were worse at multitasking than those who liked to work on one task at a time. The self-proclaimed good multitaskers performed worse because they had difficulty organizing their thoughts and filtering out irrelevant information. They were also slower at switching from one task to another!
8. Responding to emails ASAP. As mentioned earlier, people who are interrupted and taken out of their flow, have lower productivity levels. Productive people don’t allow emails to be a form of constant interruption. Productive people check their email on a schedule and take advantage of features such as prioritizing messages by sender. They set alerts whenever they receive a message from a vendor or their most important clients, and they save the more unimportant emails until a lull in their day. Many times, people set up an autoresponder to let senders know when they’ll be checking their email.
While some of the habits mentioned above may seem minor, they add up very quickly. Do your best to recognize the bad habits and how they impact your daily life – whether personal or professional. Once you do that, fixing the problem seems a whole lot easier!