The 15 Habits That Kill Your Productivity At Work

Some of your every day, “normal” habits could be killing your productivity.

It’s true.

Actions you take every day could be keeping you from being the productive and successful person you want to be.

What are those habits? Read on to find out. We have for you 15 habits that could be hurting your productivity (and success).

1. You decide your tasks on the fly

If you spend your day deciding what tasks you will do as you go throughout the day without any form of guideline or plan, you are in danger of being very unproductive. While spontaneity has its place, without a general plan or guideline to follow, you risk wasting time on tasks that aren’t important.

You can easily waste hours of time “figuring out” what you need to do instead of getting to work. And, often when we are figuring it out as we go, it is a lot harder to see the big picture when making choices.

Planning beforehand helps you stay focused on your goals, priorities, and most important tasks. It helps you align the tasks you do with the big picture and with what is truly important. Without it, it can be easy to get caught up in the “urgent”, doing tasks that seem important but waste your time in the long run.

It also helps keep you from wasting time sitting around trying to figure out what to do next, flipping to your phone to check “just for a minute”, and so on.

2. You constantly check your email and notifications

Distractions are a killer of productivity. If you are constantly checking your email and every notification that pops up, you are wasting time. Not only does switching between tasks slow you down, but the notifications themselves and the checking of them can make you lose your “flow” and focus.

It also can be easy to get hooked on the “urgency” of those emails or messages and focus on them instead of the more important task that you were working on.

3. You piddle around when you get to work

If you want to be productive, work while you are at work. That habit by itself could make you much more productive and set you apart from many of your coworkers. However, a big part of that includes when you get to work.

Many people, when they get to work, piddle around and waste time. They check their email and their socials, they may have a few idle conversations, they may hang around the coffee pot, and so on.  Don’t be like that. When you get to work, start working. Don’t waste a good portion of your morning doing nothing of importance.

4. You have your to-dos and tasks written in multiple places

This is a habit that I must work on sometimes. It’s easy to write down your tasks or ideas on whatever is in front of you. However, if you’re not careful, you will have a bunch of to-dos on multiple pieces of paper in different spots. When you are trying to find what to do or a certain task, you have to look through multiple pieces of paper or spend time searching for one.  Or worse yet, you misplace it and forget about it completely.

Have one spot where you write down all your to-dos. Having a spot to record all your ideas and thoughts is a good idea, too.

5. You live off caffeine instead of real sleep

Your energy, both physical and mental, is important when it comes to your level of productivity. If you constantly do not get enough sleep and/or live off caffeine, you are hurting yourself. You have less physical and mental energy and less focus and clarity to put toward your tasks.

If you want to be more productive, make sure that you get plenty of rest so that you wake up refreshed, full of energy, and ready to go.

6. You constantly eat junk food

Just as the amount of sleep we get affects our energy and productivity, so does what we put into our bodies. If you constantly eat junk food, it’s going to negatively affect your health and energy levels, which, in turn, affects your productivity. Try to eat healthy as much as possible.

7. You constantly take on other people’s problems

Taking on other people’s problems shifts your attention from doing your tasks to doing someone else’s. It’s not that you can’t help people, but when you take over their problems for them constantly, it’s very easy for you to get overwhelmed.

It also keeps you from doing your important tasks that need to be done, and it shows a lack of trust in those whom you took the problem from.

Instead, as much as possible, help guide people in their problems, but don’t solve or do it for them. If they come to you with a problem, ask them to come to you with possible solutions as well (for most cases).

8. You have a problem saying “no”

One of the biggest causes of wasted time is our inability to tell people “no”. When you constantly say “yes” to people, you are often saying “yes” to the unimportant tasks (to you and your work) they put before you (often taking on other people’s problems, as mentioned above) and saying “no” to your important tasks.

Remember, your time is limited. When you say “yes” to something unimportant or something that is someone else’s task or problem, you are saying “no” to one of your important tasks.

9. You use your task list as a mood enhancer

Tasks lists, used correctly, can be useful in helping us be productive. However, if you use your task list as a mood enhancer, you are doing it wrong and wasting time. This is what I mean by using it as a mood enhancer: you feel good when you scratch something out, so you focus on doing tasks that you can finish quickly so that you can scratch them out versus making sure what you are doing is the most important.

There’s nothing wrong with the feeling of accomplishment that comes with scratching out a task, just make sure you are scratching out the right tasks.

10. You consistently multitask

Multitasking has been shown over and over to be less productive than if you single-handed each task one at a time. When you multitask, each switch between tasks hurts you. It wastes time. And, depending on the tasks, you lose the flow and focus you had when working on that task. You also must figure out where you were on that task when you start back.

As much as possible, work on one task at a time and finish it before moving on to the next.

11. You keep your work area disorganized

While it’s true that what’s organized to one person is unorganized to another, there is a limit to that. It’s best to have a spot for everything so you know where it is. If you are constantly having to dig through things to search for something, that is hurting your productivity.

12. You never take breaks

Taking breaks is important. It refreshes your mind and can help you hit the problems you are facing with a new perspective. When you work non-stop and never take a break, your efficiency dwindles.

It’s a good idea to take breaks in general. Stand up, stretch, walk around, or something of that nature. If you are stuck on a problem, take a break as well. Get your mind off the problem for a few minutes and let your subconscious work on it while you do something else. When you get back, you are likely to have a new perspective.

13. You hang around negative, unproductive people

There’s a saying that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. If you are constantly hanging around negative and unproductive people, guess what? It’s going to affect your attitude and your productivity.

Instead, hang around productive and positive people. Spend time around people that pull you forward, not down. This can help motivate you and push you toward greater productivity.

14. You put off the harder tasks for later

It’s easy to put off the hard tasks for later and focus on the easy tasks. Unfortunately, that’s usually not very effective. Often, the harder tasks are the more important tasks, and we end up wasting time doing less important tasks instead of what is more important.

Also, when you wait to do the harder tasks, it stays in the back of your mind all day. You are dreading having to do it. If you do it first thing, you remove that dread and can go through the rest of your day knowing you have the hardest part for that day completed.

15. You try to remember everything instead of writing it down

You have a powerful and beautiful brain; however, when you clutter it, it makes it less efficient. You may think you can remember everything that you need to do and all the ideas that come to you. The chances are, however, that you will forget at least some of them.

Also, trying to remember everything uses brain power. Instead of focusing completely on the main task at hand, you are using some of your brain power to remember your ideas or tasks.

A notebook or app can be your second brain. Write everything down and clear your mind so you can focus completely on the tasks at hand.


Do you see yourself doing any of these habits? If so, don’t beat yourself up about it, just work to change it.

Start taking steps to do it differently, and over time, those small steps will make a big difference in your productivity and your life.

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