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“There is a light at the end of the tunnel, but the way out is through.” ? David Allen, Ready for Anything: 52 Productivity Principles for Getting Things Done

How many times does the clock strike five, and you think to yourself, “Where did my day go?” Time management is a skill that eludes even the best of us, typically because there are so many tempting, time-sucking activities to engage in throughout the day. But all action is not productive, and it can be difficult to separate “work” that helps us increase our productivity and bad habits that stand in our way.

These are the 12 most common habits that impede your ability to increase your productivity throughout the day…and how to break them.

One: Incessantly Checking Your Phone

Constantly checking to see what’s going on with your texts and alerts is one of the biggest time sucks of your day. It minimizes productivity and breaks your concentration.

Break your phone addiction by working in 50-minute phone-free increments. Turn your phone off and set a timer for 50 minutes. Focus on the task at hand, and only when the timer goes off, you can check your phone to see if you’ve missed any earth-shattering alerts.

Two: Incessantly Checking Email

Like checking your phone, checking email sucks productive hours right out of your day. You only need to check email at the start of the day, at lunchtime, and at the end of the day. If someone has an emergency, they will come find you. You should also unsubscribe to any emails that are of no value to you.

Three: You Don’t Set “Work Time” and “Me Time” Boundaries

Smart phones allow us to stay plugged in at all hours of the day and night, and it can be hard to resist the urge to “just answer one more email” when you are with family or trying to unwind at home. Conversely, it can be hard to resist calls and texts from your spouse or kids while you are at work.

Set clear boundaries for work and personal time. Unless something is an actual emergency, handle personal issues at home, and work issues at the office. Focusing on work during work hours will increase productivity, and focusing on family and leisure during your off hours will make that time more valuable and refreshing.

Four: Social Media

Social media can serve a very valuable business purpose. It can also be a black hole. You sign in to update your company page and before you know it an hour of your life is gone and you’re angry for no apparent reason. Social media inherently fosters a jealous, comparative lifestyle and takes valuable time away from your work.

Successful people do not waste hours on social media. If you must use social media for business, consider delegating it to someone else to help you resist the social quicksand.

Five: Winging It

You wouldn’t go on a road trip without a GPS or map to get you where you are going in the most efficient manner possible. Approaching your day or a project without a clear plan is just as terrible an idea. Having a step-by-step plan increases productivity and helps you reach your goals efficiently.

Six: Multitasking

Just don’t do it. Ever. Multitasking leads to overwhelm and it has been proven over and over again to decrease productivity. Focus on one task at a time and devote your full energy and attention to that project.

Seven: Keeping Long To-Do Lists

If your list of things to do is massive, you will feel overwhelmed and you are more inclined to just give up. Not to mention, you’ll never quite feel accomplished. Look at your list and identify the 5 most important things you must do each day, and tackle them head-on. Delegate tasks that don’t need your full attention to capable employees.

Eight: Indecision

Flip-flopping between the pros and cons of a decision is a bad habit. To increase productivity, use a 4-minute time clock to analyze a situation and make a choice. If the issue requires more time, write it down and finish your five most important tasks before thinking about it again.

Nine: Skimping on Sleep

We’ve all heard stories about hyper-successful people who can live on four hours of sleep. However, missing sleep is like doing work drunk. Your mind is not sharp, and you cannot focus well. Commit to seven to nine hours of sleep a night, and turn your bedroom into a haven for sleep. That means no TV or electronics.

Ten: Procrastinating

When we feel overwhelmed by a large project, we tend to procrastinate. But putting things off only exacerbates the feeling of overwhelm. Break large projects into small, bite-sized tasks and set short-term goals for accomplishing each step.

Eleven: Trying to be Productive All Day

Hyper-productivity is difficult to sustain over a long period of time. You must take breaks throughout the day in order to recharge your batteries and re-focus. Try using the Pomodoro Technique in which you work for 25 minutes and then take a 5-minute break, including a 15 to 20-minute break after four cycles.

Twelve: Working in a Negative State

When your mind just isn’t on work, when you are grouchy or you’ve got a personal problem on your mind, your motivation suffers. Without motivation, productivity is impossible. To get yourself back into the right frame of mind, fake it till you make it. Listen to a song that jazzes you up, place a quick call to a friend who makes you smile, do some exercises to get the blood flowing – whatever it takes to change your mindset.

You are only one person and you are only granted so many hours in a day to achieve your goals. That means you must focus on actions that increase productivity instead of sucking valuable hours out of your schedule. Ask yourself: Which of these 12 habits do I need to break?


Larry Hart

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