messy desk illustrating unproductive habits

Unproductive Habits You Should Change Today

***Updated on 18 February, 2021

Is your endless to-do list stressing you out? Do you feel like your colleagues are more productive than you? Do you consistently bring work home because you can’t finish it within “normal” hours? Whether you’re working remotely, or in the office, unproductive habits could be stopping you from getting stuff done.

Here at PEPworldwide, we have been helping people increase their productivity for over 30 years. In this blog, we’re sharing the five most unproductive habits we commonly see and how to change them.

Habit #1: Starting your day with emails.

Do you start your day with checking your inbox? Do you feel like you need to read and reply to your emails before you can move on to your actual work? Letting your inbox rule your day is a sure way to decrease your productivity. You end up getting side-tracked by what seems urgent, rather than what’s important.

Instead, we recommend that you start each day by reviewing your calendar. Plan out your day in advance, ideally the afternoon before. This way you can set aside time to focus on essential tasks first.

how to increase productivity

Habit #2: Not prioritising

Do you have a seemingly endless to-do list? Do you tend to check off the easier tasks first?

People often start their day with easy tasks and put off the hard jobs. Because the hard but necessary tasks can feel overwhelming, it’s tempting to procrastinate. So we keep delaying these tasks to the end of the day or the day after. This procrastination builds stress and pressure, decreasing our productivity.

A simple way to tackle procrastination is to start each day with the most challenging task. Once that task is completed, the rest of the day will feel much more manageable. Making progress will help you feel accomplished, and increase your motivation.

Prioritise the hardest task for your most productive time of day. Mornings are generally best because your mind is rested and clear. This simple technique will help you stay focused and be more productive. Try it out for yourself tomorrow!

Habit #3: Not making time for important tasks

Are you ‘busy’ all the time, but feel like you haven’t accomplished anything by the end of the day? The problem is likely to be not planning ahead and making time for priority tasks.

To increase your productivity, block off time in your calendar for important tasks. This is called time-blocking. Time-blocking is much more effective than a to-do list because it forces you to be proactive and prioritise your tasks. It helps you to focus on what’s essential for you, not what’s important for other people.

Set aside a few minutes at the end of each day to decide which tasks you will finish the following day, no matter what. Then block off time in your calendar for those tasks. Time-blocking helps you stay on track with your goals.

Lastly, don’t forget to block out “me-time”. Looking after your physical and mental health is the best thing you can do for your productivity.

It takes practice and discipline to adjust your habits, especially when aligning to the changes in our current working environment. We believe in the importance of changing and building productive habits, not just quick-fixes – which is fundamental to the success of our programs.

``It takes practice and discipline to adjust your habits, especially when aligning to the changes in our current working environment.``

Habit #4: Unrealistic to-do lists

Do you have a to-do list that never seems to get any shorter? The problem could be an unrealistic list.

Setting too many goals means that you’re unlikely to achieve them, which makes you feel unmotivated. Instead, review your goals and pick 1-3 important tasks that you can realistically finish that day. Check them off, repeat the next day. Be realistic about what you can achieve. You’ll feel better finishing a smaller list. Remember: quality over quantity.

unproductive habits

Another useful technique is to group individual tasks into “batches” – such as making phone calls. Batching makes it quicker and easier to choose what to do with a spare 20 minutes, which saves you time and mental energy.

Habit #5: Multitasking

Do you always have multiple tabs open in your browser? Are you consistently switching between tasks?

While you might think you’re more productive by doing multiple things at once, multitasking is actually bad for your productivity.

It turns out that dividing your attention can lead to lower productivity and higher stress. We only have a set amount of mental energy, and multitasking uses more mental energy than single-tasking.

So, to become more productive, try focusing on one task at a time. Start with just 5 minutes of focussed work, and then stretch it out to 25 minutes. Then reward yourself with a short break. Here are some more tips on how to get better at single-tasking.

It takes conscious effort to change your unproductive habits. The key is to get started and keep practising.

PEPworldwide has developed a Remote Program to help you and your team build productive workplace habits. Learn how PEP can help you to change your unproductive habits and increase your output.

By Simon Nicholls

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