Do you spend hours every day working on something yet never seem to get anything done? Does it take you too much time to complete any tasks, even simple ones? Do you find it more difficult to complete your work in a timely fashion?
Have you considered maybe you have bad habits that are sabotaging your productivity without you even realizing what’s happened?
Being productive is a habit.
Procrastinating is a habit as well.
When it comes to productivity, the habits you’ve created can have a positive effect or a negative effect. You can break bad habits and create new good ones in their place to become more productive and shape your days the way you really want them to be.
You might have been told the key to success was to hustle and work harder than everyone else. It’s not necessarily the truth, though. At least it’s not the whole truth. Sure, you need to work to succeed. But being busy is not the same as being productive.
Successful people work smarter to get more done. They’ve learned to identify and break bad productivity habits and to make the best use of their time. Successful and productive people create good habits to propel them to where they want to be. They utilize tools, resources, and time to their advantage.
How Habits Affect Your Productivity
Let’s look at two different people.…
One is a highly successful business owner who spends time with their family and enjoys hobbies and other activities regularly. This person has developed some basic good habits like being organized and developing routines they follow each day. They focus on one task and use available resources when needed.
The second is a struggling business owner who rarely sees their family, doesn’t have time for sports or other activities and rarely takes time off from work. This person multitasks by trying to fit all their projects and tasks into one day. They have messy, unorganized desks and often keep notes on sticky notes. They rarely do the same routine daily.
They both have the same amount of time. They have the same type of business. And the same opportunities to be productive each day.
So, what’s the difference? The first one has learned the benefits of using good productivity habits while the second one has developed bad productivity habits that keep them busy but unproductive.
Creating Good Productivity Habits Has Benefits
- Feeling less overwhelmed by everything in life. Your financial, social, personal and spiritual life all benefits when you are less stressed.
- Helping you reach your goals. Whether your goals are growing your business, writing a book, or buying a house, having good productivity habits helps you reach them.
- Becoming more effective and efficient in everything you do.
- Better quality of life in every area.
- More time to do things you want to do.
Once you identify the unproductive habits and distractions, you will be able to learn what is at the root cause of why you have them and, most importantly, you’ll discover how to fix those things and turn them around into being productive.
Identifying Unproductive Habits
Do you know what bad productivity habits you have that are keeping you from getting more done? Identifying bad productivity habits is key in the process of changing how productive you are. You most likely already know you have some or you wouldn’t be here, right. You just need to determine which ones are causing you to be unproductive.
Bad habits are one of three types: emotional, mindset habits or action habits.
Mindset habits consist of your thoughts and beliefs about yourself or others. It’s the phrases you repeat to yourself consistently. Bad mindset habits affect how you see yourself and how you act.
Action habits are those things you do repeatedly without noticing. Starting your day with a sweet, checking your social media repeatedly, procrastinating on projects until the last minute are all types of action habits.
Emotional bad habits are formed from how you feel about something. It can be stress based, fear-based or something as simple as boredom. Emotional bad habits are often seen when you procrastinate, feel overwhelmed or don’t make decisions instead of being productive.
Keep track of how you spend your time.
Begin by writing down what you do each day. Be specific and honest. Look at what you do throughout the entire day, even in your free time. Also consider the things that stress you and affect your physical, emotional and spiritual health. Are you present in the moment? Are you enjoying the day? Are you feeling fulfilled at the end of the day?
Here’s a downloadable PDF with pages for time tracking and some journal writing exercises to help you find and identify your habits:
Just writing it all down really brings a fresh perspective. I actually do this exercise again every once in a while. I always ‘think’ I know what I’m during the day, but then when I write it down and reflect back on the day I realize there are gaps and distractions all over the place that I was just ignoring and not protecting my time from.
Ask others. If you aren’t sure what bad productivity habits are keeping you from accomplishing more, you can ask others you work with, live with or who know you well what they are.
Identify the behavior or routine that’s causing the bad habit. Perhaps you aren’t getting stuff done because you are grabbing your phone and scrolling social media instead of doing what needs to be done.
Common examples of unproductive habits that many people struggle with:
- Wasting time in front of the television instead of working.
- Struggling with low energy or health issues because of poor eating habits.
- Taking too much time to complete simple tasks because of being distracted trying to multitask.
- Procrastinating on starting or finishing tasks because of boredom or feeling overwhelmed.
Once you’ve identified the routine or behavior then you need to identify what reward you are getting from that routine. Is it the gossip you get from social media, the funny videos or the updates from from friends that draws you away from your work?
Finally, learn the cues that trigger you to do the bad habit. Is it a certain place, time, emotion, activity, or person that triggers it? Track your activity for at least three days until you see a pattern.
What is the trigger? Is is emotional or a person? Is it a certain time of day or a certain place that triggers the habit?
Once you identify the trigger behind the habit, you can begin brainstorming activities to replace the habit. For example, you have friends who always want you to go to events while you are working. They beg, plead and somehow guilt you into going. Instead limit your contact with people or events that cause the bad habit, learning to say no, especially during times when you need to be productive when working toward your goal.
Naming the Root Cause of Unproductive Habits
Okay. You’ve identified those bad habits but what is causing you to have them in the first place? Every habit, whether good or bad, comes from some sort of root cause. Many productivity bad habits are caused by two things: Stress and boredom.
Bad habits are often a way of dealing with stress and boredom. Everything that turns into a bad habit, from biting your nails to spending wasteful time on the internet can be a response to being stressed or bored.
The stress or boredom is caused by deeper issues that can be difficult to think about. If you’re serious about changing your bad productivity habits, though, you will have to be honest with yourself and deal with the problem that is causing the boredom or stress.
Ask yourself if certain beliefs or reasons are behind the bad habit?
For example, maybe you were taught to always complete the work yourself, on time. So, you spend many hours at your desk, forsaking family and social life to get it done. You beat yourself up when you can’t finish a project when it was due or needed. It might be because of something out of your control but you still feel the guilt of not completing.
This belief that you have to complete the work yourself keeps you in the habit of not asking for help. The solution then, is to delegate small parts of your tasks until you become comfortable delegating more.
Is there something deeper, maybe a fear or limiting belief that’s causing you to continue doing the bad habit?
For example, let’s say first thing every day you open your social media stream as soon you get started at work. It makes you feel connected and not as alone. But instead of helping you get work done, it distracts you, destroys your productivity and overwhelms you with stress. The solution would be instead to limit the time you are on social media to a specific time of day and certain length of time, say at 4:00 PM for 30 minutes. Another option is if you are wanting to feel connected is to join friends or coworkers outside of work to catch up with.
Recognizing the causes of your unproductive habits is crucial if you want to change them. Let’s take a closer look at some examples….
Indecisiveness. Being indecisive is often worse than making the wrong decision. When you fail to make a choice, your left in limbo. It keeps you from moving on and being productive.
To overcome this habit, set a realistic deadline of when to make the decision. Share your deadline with friends, colleagues, your coach or mentor, or others to hold you accountable. Trust your instincts, cut back on the number of options to consider and prioritize what is demanded of you so the decision making is easier.
Doing the easy tasks first. Delaying the hard tasks by doing the easy stuff first takes up your time. You end up not having the time to do the hard tasks. This leads to low productivity and very little success.
Beat this habit by using the “Eat The Frog First” strategy. This means doing the worst and hardest tasks first. Schedule your most important tasks for the beginning of the day. Once the hard tasks are finished you free your time, your mind, and your energy to easily do the other stuff.
Checking and responding to email and social media throughout the day. You lose valuable time reading and responding to messages. Each time you open your email or social media feeds, you taking time away from the important tasks that help you reach your goals.
Beat this habit by setting a specific time and length of time during the day to check and respond to messages. Turn off push notifications and close your email browser completely.
Procrastinating on doing the tasks. Procrastination comes from being bored with the task, not sure of what you need to do or from fear that you can’t do the task. You find things to do like straightening your files or cleaning the toilet instead of doing the task.
When faced with tasks you don’t want to do for whatever reason, ask yourself why you don’t want to do it. Is it fear because you don’t know how to do it? Then ask for help or search online for the answer. If it’s because it’s boring, maybe it’s something you can delegate or outsource to someone else. If it’s because you’re overwhelmed with the scope of the task, such as a big project you need to do for your business or wanting to get in shape, break it down into microtasks.
There are a lot of habits that can keep you from being productive. Everything from working too long to bad eating habits can affect your productivity.
Turning Things Around and Changing Your Work Habits Into Productivity Habits
Now that you’ve identified your bad productivity habit and know the root reason you do them, it’s time to begin fixing them. Charles Duhigg reports in his book, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What WE Do in Life and Business, “that 40% of the actions people performed each day weren’t actual decisions, but habits.”
Changing those bad habits isn’t just going to make you feel better. It can help you succeed in your goals. So how do you change your bad productivity habits if you’re running on autopilot every day? You want to create new habits that will become routine.
Start by changing one single habit at a time.
You might feel like if you change this one thing then you have to change that one and that one too. For example, maybe you constantly check your email throughout the day, because you over plan schedule.
First, you are multitasking. This is a big no-no, when it comes to effectively focusing and being productive. Next instead of trying to change each of these habits, start with the one that is causing the worst problem. It could be over planning your schedule. Instead, plan out just a few things to accomplish and attend to for the week. Leave room for down time, social time, and for actually working.
Don’t try to stop immediately.
Instead notice the number of times you do something and cut back gradually.
For example, how many times a day do you find yourself browsing the web? Of those times, how often have you clicked on a link that takes you to something totally unrelated to what you were researching? You follow the links and an hour later, you can’t remember what you were searching for to begin with.
This bad habit kills your productivity quickly because you have to refocus and start over. Instead, each time you open your web browser set a limit to the number of sites you can visit and a time limit, say 10 minutes, to find what you are searching for.
Don’t change your behavior if it’s a trigger that needs to be changed.
Get rid of the Facebook app that draws you in on your phone. It’s a pain to uninstall and reinstall the app each time you want use it. Maybe it’s a person or situation that is causing your bad productivity habit.
Remove the triggers or make them more difficult to get to. This helps you get rid of the habit. If it’s a person or situation, find ways to avoid them whenever possible. Change the situation if you need to.
Treat it like a goal or an action plan.
If you want to overcome a bad habit, come up with a plan or a good strategy to follow. And then follow it.
Maybe you want to get in shape but instead of getting up early to exercise, you plop on the sofa with a cup of coffee and a doughnut. You tell yourself you’ll start tomorrow, but never do. Instead, create a plan on how you can get more exercise into your day. Add 10-minute walks to your daily calendar. Build in healthier ways to eat.
Replace the unproductive habit with a productive habit.
The brain finds it easier to do something new instead of stopping something you habitually do. This is difficult for some people, but if you have the motivation to change you can succeed in replacing the bad habit.
For example, you have a bad habit of hitting the snooze button repeatedly. This makes you late and running behind all day. Replace this habit with a new one of setting your alarm for 10 minutes earlier and only hit the button once or turn it off immediately and get up. This will take willpower and will feel odd at first but with time and commitment can become your new norm.
Changing and fixing your bad habits can be challenging but it can be done with motivation, perseverance and some planning.
Habits can work for you or against you. Good habits can make you work faster, smarter and be more efficient. Bad productivity habits rob you of the success you desire. They derail you of time and efficiency.
Many people get stopped in their quest for success because they let bad habits beat them. They don’t take control over them by replacing them with good productivity habits.
The sooner you recognize your unproductive habits, the quicker you can fix them. Is the bad habit a common one many people have? If so, it’s easy to recognize and find ways to change.
Is the habit emotional based, action based or mindset based?
Emotionally based bad habits are often the root cause of poor productivity. You’re stressed, fearful or bored. The trick is to figure out what is causing the emotion and fix that.
Action based bad habits are more about poor planning, not using resources available or things you do without thinking about them. These habits might be easier to change. Find what resources such as apps or tools are available to make productivity easier, for example.
The mindset-based habits will take time and extra practice to change. Use affirmations to change how you perceive things. Spend time meditating, doing yoga or spending time alone building your positive mindset habits.
With all types of productivity habits, fixing them takes time, mindfulness and sometimes, help. Once you’ve recognized them it’s time to move to the next steps.
- This might be finding a new good productivity habit to replace the old one.
- You might need to enlist help to stay accountable if the you find your motivation lacking some days.
- Create a plan to change the habit. Choose the time, place and way you are going to tackle the habit.
- Finally begin with one habit, master it and move on to another one.
Before long, you will begin getting more productive and your new good habits will have become second nature. Once you’ve mastered changing your work habits, it’s time to start prioritizing, build a support team that can help boost your productivity, and create new focused to-do lists and checklists to be more productive.
Recommended Reading for Improving Productivity Habits:
I love this book 🙂 No crazy complicated plans or unrealistic expectations here, just super simple ways to create good habits exponentially.
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