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sabotage your productivity

8 Habits That Sabotage Your Productivity and Ways to Fix Them

Are You Doing These Habits That Sabotage Your Productivity?

We all have our own work habits and routines. Maybe you start work at 9 am with a cup of coffee, sit down at your workstation and check your emails. Or perhaps you read the news headlines from 9 am to 9:30, do emails from 9:30 to 10 am and then grab a morning coffee with your favourite work buddies.

The thing about habits is that we rarely consciously think about them – we just follow the same routine every day. Some habits are good for you, while others are not.

But what if your habits are sabotaging your productivity? You may not even realise it, but your negative habits could be why you feel unproductive at the end of a working day.

Today, we discuss 8 common habits that sabotage your productivity and how to avoid them.

Habit #1: Checking emails first

Ineffective email habits are a typical way to sabotage your productivity. In fact, one of the most common challenges we hear from our clients is email management.

In our PEP program, 37% of clients tell us that they spent more than 3 hours a day in their inbox, and 48% of clients use their inbox as their to-do list. Many of us start our workdays in our emails.

However, when we check emails first, it’s easy to become reactive and let our inbox determine our day. You end up doing what’s urgent rather than what’s important. When that happens, we can get to the end of the day and realise that we haven’t finished our work tasks.

sabotage your productivity

Instead, we recommend starting each day with your calendar. Look at what meetings are coming up and what tasks you need to get done that day.

This will help you focus on your own priorities instead of being driven by other people’s priorities. You can even set up Outlook to show you the calendar when you open it instead of opening your inbox as the default.

Another unproductive email habit is checking your emails too often. How frequently do you check your emails? Do you get notifications that prompt you to check every incoming email?

While you may feel like you need to monitor and respond to emails constantly, it is preventing you from getting work done.

To break this habit, limit email checking to set times of the day – this is the time-blocking technique where you divide your day into blocks or chunks and assign tasks for each block. Assign time for focussed work and time for checking emails so that you know when to look at your inbox and when to close it completely.

Habit #2: Not having a plan or planning too much

Do you often feel like you haven’t achieved much by the end of a workday? Or maybe you feel mentally tired and overwhelmed by your workload?

If you find time management a struggle, it could be because you don’t plan your day or week, or your plan is unrealistic. Not having a good plan is a sure way to sabotage your productivity.

Knowing how to plan your day or week is key to achieving your goals. We recommend planning ahead the afternoon before or the Friday before the working week begins. Pick your top 1-3 tasks for the day and block out time in your calendar to do them.

Don’t forget to build in buffer time in case a task takes longer. It’s also a good idea to build in buffer time between meetings, which you can use to prepare, write up notes, or complete any quick follow-up actions.

It’s also essential to plan for breaks – go for a walk or have lunch with a colleague. Breaks are good for focus and productivity.

Habit #3: Not setting up your work environment for productivity

Do you have notifications turned on for all your devices? Do you always keep your mobile phone in full view? If you work from home, do you have a dedicated workspace? A cluttered or distracting physical work environment could be sabotaging your productivity.

Creating a workspace that minimises breaks in concentration is key to improving your productivity. If you work in a noisy office, try noise-canceling earphones.

If you’re easily distracted by other tabs, close down anything you don’t need for your current task. Close your email and turn off notifications on your devices. Avoid negative habits and make it easier for yourself to focus on getting work done.

Habit #4: Not managing your to-do list

Do you find that you often fail to complete your to-do list by the end of the workday? It could be because you have too many to-do’s. Setting too many tasks means that you’re unlikely to finish them, which can make you feel unmotivated.

unproductive habits

Instead, prioritise and pick only the 3 most important tasks for the day. Start each day with the most challenging task – once that’s done, the rest of the day will feel easy! Keep your most productive parts of the day for focussed work and delay checking that inbox.

Keep your to-do list realistic by building in some buffers for unexpected tasks. Remember to regularly review your list and assess how well your to-do list is working. You might need to remove some tasks if they’re no longer a priority.

Habit #5: Not giving yourself strict deadlines

If you often struggle with finishing tasks, it could be because you’ve given yourself too much time for tasks. Perhaps surprisingly, the more time you give yourself to finish something, the less likely you’ll finish it. Try setting smaller tasks with shorter timeframes because having deadlines reduces procrastination.

If you find that you’re consistently underestimating or overestimating how long things take to finish, adjust your time blocking until your estimates get more accurate.

Habit #6: Scheduling too many meetings

Are your days filled with back-to-back meetings? Do you experience Zoom fatigue? Between team meetings, project meetings, and clients meetings, you may feel like you never have time to do actual work. Regardless of whether you work remotely or in the office, the chances are that you have too many meetings.

Before you agree to a meeting, ask yourself if you really need to meet.

  • What is the purpose of the meeting?
  • Can it be resolved via email or a quick chat instead?
  • Do you need a weekly status meeting, or can you use a shared project management tool instead?
  • What value will you personally be adding at the meeting?

If you’re not sure, you probably don’t need to meet.

Another strategy is to set meetings for 30 minutes instead of an hour – you will always use up the entire hour if it’s there, but you can most likely cover the same agenda in less time.

Habit #7: Trying to multitask

Do you check emails or work on your laptop during meetings? Do you always have multiple windows open and jump between tasks?

While it may be tempting to think that you can get more done by multitasking, research shows that multitasking doesn’t work. Every time we switch mentally from one task to another, we pay a tax on our time and attention. We only have a set amount of mental energy, and multitasking uses more energy than single-tasking.

To prevent switching between tasks too frequently, try batching similar tasks into time blocks, such as making calls. Batching tasks is more efficient because you can avoid switching mental gears between different activities. So, practice single-tasking by focusing on just one task at a time.

Habit #8: Not resting properly

Do you work late and eat lunch at your desk? Not taking breaks and looking after yourself is a sure way to sabotage your productivity.

Switching off mentally and looking after your physical needs is essential for your wellbeing. Regular breaks and regular exercise are great self-care strategies to avoid burnout. When we invest in self-care, we improve our energy and focus while increasing productivity.

So make sure you schedule breaks in your calendar. Try a variety of ways to break up your day, like taking a walk, meditating, or doing something creative to challenge your brain.

If any or all of the above ways to sabotage your productivity sound familiar, it’s time to make a change. With the right strategies and support, you can break unproductive habits and create good habits instead.

At PEPworldwide, we work with teams and individuals to change negative habits and increase productivity. Find out how we can help you and your team build productive workplace habits and improve wellbeing.



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