8 horrible habits that are ruining your productivity (And What You Can Do To Fix Them)

No better time to start than right now!

If there is one thing in life people underestimate, it is the impact of their daily habits.

Whether you want to admit it or not, the truth is that just about everything in life can be directed back to your habits. Long-term success is the result of good habits. Positive relationships are the result of good habits. Improvement and growth are the result of good habits. Even personal health and wellness can be traced back to the foundation set by your daily habits.

That said, if you are guilty of any of these habits, you need to eliminate them immediately. Because even if they don't seem like a glaring issue right now, they will be.

1. Constantly Checking Your Phone

Let's skip the clich here.

The real reason you need to stop constantly checking your phone is because it instills probably the worst habit you could possibly acquire: distraction. People don't realize that 99% of the time they check their phone because they want to avoid thinking. They get confronted with some sort of task, or obstacle, and out of impulse they check their phone instead. It's a distraction.

Instead, try to catch yourself when your impulse is to reach into your pocket to refresh your e-mail again. There's nothing new there--and even if there is, it can wait.

2. Not Really Listening

There are two kinds of listeners.

The first is the person who sits opposite of you, quiet, and is intently following every word you say. They are connected to the conversation, and diligently following your thoughts along with you.

The second is the person who sits opposite of you, quiet, and who isn't really listening at all. What they're doing is rambling on and on in their head with their own inner dialogue. They are thinking about something else. They are wondering what they're going to say next. They are absent from the moment.

Don't be that second person. Listening is an art--and in order to do so, you need to keep your head clear and be focused on the conversation at hand. Why? Because nothing kills productivity faster than having to say, "I'm sorry, I zoned out for a second--what did you say?"

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You keep your mouth shut

You keep your head down. You don't speak out. You don't get out of line.

Your aversion to putting yourself out there professionally may seem like a good protective measure, but it's holding you back.

If you feel like your current work environment actively discourages people from sticking their necks out for fear of reprisal, you may be dealing with a toxic work environment. If you're just psyching yourself out, though, you've fallen into a terrible habit. 

Photo credit: Getty

You fidget

Fidgeting might actually be good for you, in certain cases.

Still, try to limit the squirming around other people. It makes you look anxious and antsy, which in turn might make your colleagues nervous and uncomfortable. It's a bad habit that might drive others away. 

Photo credit: Getty

You're always tardy 

We all have that one friend who is constantly late. Or maybe you're that friend who is constantly late (I know I am). 

In your career, though, tardiness can't be excused by a few desperate, emoji-ridden messages to your friends' group text. Showing up late makes you look careless and unreliable. 

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You hold grudges 

I'm not telling you that you need to walk around singing kumbaya. It's fine and normal to dislike and distrust certain people. 

But holding intense grudges is just a waste of your valuable time and energy. Also, if you express these feelings to other people, you run the risk of sounding vengeful and kind of scary. Learn to let things go. 

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You conform

Conforming was a survival tactic in middle school, but you're an adult with a career now. Stop caring intently about what others think. Do what works for you. 

If you devote all your time to blending in, you won't stand out.

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You overspend

If money's always burning a hole in your pocket, you're setting yourself up for long-term financial woes. Saving money is crucial for your financial future. 

Beat this habit by learning to identify psychological triggers for overspending

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You procrastinate 

I'll tell you all about the downsides of procrastination later.

Just kidding. Seriously, though, indecisiveness could lose you time, money, and even the respect of those around you.

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You lie 

This one's pretty simple. Be honest. It's easy to fall into the trap of weaving small untruths that stretch into bigger and bigger lies. Break that habit.

Yeah, there are horror stories about cheats and liars who schemed their way to the top. But that doesn't mean you should develop a dishonest, Machiavellian streak (although, in fairness, Niccolò Machiavelli's bad rep is not entirely fair). 

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You speak without thinking 

It's important to be authentic. That doesn't mean you should be spouting off without thinking, though. 

Don't be the person that blurts out whatever's on your mind. It's an annoying habit that can make you seem rude, awkward, and uninformed. 

Photo credit: Getty

You gossip 

Gossip's a mixed bag. Sometimes it's necessary; some employers even encourage it

Most of the time, though it's a nasty and distracting habit. If you've basically become the Littlefinger of your office, you need to chill. Your empire of rumors could come crashing down around you at any moment — or, at the very least, you might seriously alienate your coworkers and bosses.

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You complain

Complaining is like a competitive sport for some people. Everyone has gripes. Plus, bottling things up isn't a good thing. Sometimes, it's good to air your grievances and make yourself heard. Just don't be the person who never stops grumbling about trivial matters. 

Photo credit: Getty

You zone out 

I'm definitely guilty of this one. Spacing out can actually be a gift, especially when you want to tune out the world and dive into a good book.

But this habit can also really hurt you in the workplace. Listening's an important skill. No one trusts the competence of anyone who's constantly zoned out. Save the daydreaming for after work. 

Photo credit: Getty


3. Multi-tasking

I don't care how amazing you think you are at multi-tasking. It's not a thing.

If you don't believe me, try taking a sip of water out of a glass with one hand while typing with the other. You'll catch yourself taking a tiny sip and then typing. Or typing and then taking a sip. Multi-tasking is not "doing two things at once." It's "trying to do two things really close to each other." And it is never as effective. Ever.

People that multi-task lack any clear focus on the task at hand. Their attention is divided. So even if they get two things "done," neither one of them will be of much quality.

Instead, do one thing at a time--or, even better, "clump" similar tasks together. Look for things that share common elements, find your flow, and crank them out. For example: Look at all the e-mails you have to respond to, and devote an hour to checking e-mails. But do not respond to an e-mail, then try to work on a proposal, and then call your friend back, and then go back to e-mails, etc. It will exhaust you.

4. Working With The Television On

I realize certain things work for certain people, but I have never found a secondary input to be very productive.

Having noise on (or even a visual distraction) in the background does your productivity no good. Really good work happens when you find your flow--and in order to get in that zone, you have to be quiet (shhh...). It's almost like a meditation. This is where you lose track of time, pick your head up and realize four hours has gone by. And if you notice, when you get in that zone you forget the television was even on at all. So why have it on in the first place?

Turn off all distractions. Find your flow.

5. Working In Unproductive Environments

One of the places I work at frequently here in Chicago is Soho House--and when I travel, I tend to prefer working out of their spaces.

However, I'll be the first to admit that there are certain rooms (and times of day) when productivity is absolutely not happening. Like Sunday brunch. Sounds great in theory, right? Open up your laptop. Grab a table nearby. But when you've got a house packed full of people, that energy can mean death to your productivity.

Too many times, people think they can be productive in environments that are not built for getting things done. But they try! They want to feel like they're "being productive" while at the same time "being social." Rarely do the two go hand-in-hand.

Find a quiet space of your own and get to work. When you're done, you can go hang out.

6. Working With Unproductive People

Another huge mistake people make is thinking that getting together with a bunch of friends for a "work session" is going to be remotely productive.

Let me preface by saying: There are times when this works. However, the only times I have found this to work effectively are when everyone is working together on something. For example: Maybe you're all working on a short film together. Or all brainstorming on design ideas for a website. Great! Everybody is engaged, and that's productive.

But at a certain point, the project will require "grind time." The fun stuff (brainstorming) is a very small piece to the larger puzzle. Everyone is going to have tasks, or things they need to get done, and the truth is everyone just needs to crank. In silence.

When you have a lot to work through, you need your own space. You can be in the same room with other people, but everyone has to understand it's work time. It's not "hey let's all hang out and sort of do stuff" time. There is a difference.

So, round up your friends. Tell everyone to bring headphones. Sit around a table and grind together. And after two hours, take a little break.

7. Lack Of Preparation

I love when people say, "This Sunday I am going to be so productive," when they haven't put in any time or effort into the thing they need to get done for days, or weeks, or even months.

Realize that if you do not sit down prepared, you won't be productive. If you haven't touched your project in weeks, it's going to take you a bit to remember where you are and what you need to get done. Or maybe you've forgotten how to use a certain program. Or your skills have gotten dull--and it takes you some time to sharpen them again.

Productivity isn't just about the moment. It's about all the moments that lead up to that moment. Your productivity increases over time through consistency. So, even if it's just ten or fifteen minutes a day, make that time so your skills don't get dull and whatever you're working on stays top of mind.

8. Notifications... OFF!

And of course, the famed but so-casually-ignored culprit known as "notifications."

It's astounding to me how many people say (as if announcing to the world), "Time to grind!" and then before the sentence has even left their mouth, their eyes are darting to the top right-hand corner of their laptop because two texts, a tweet, a calendar invite, and an alert from Facebook all popped up at the same time.

If you want to get anything of value done, turn of your notifications.

Turn. Off. Your. Notifications.

Why do you think people enjoy vacationing to the middle of nowhere?

Why do you think everyone travels across the world to seek peace and quiet?

Because they think the only time they can afford to turn off the notifications of their life is when they retreat to a foreign beach, or a forest, or a prized vacation spot.

Guess what...?

You can find that peace and quiet anytime, anywhere.

All you have to do is turn off your notifications--and nobody can disturb you!

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