As we wind down 2019 and head into 2020, most clients want to know how to be more productive and get rid of “time wasters”. I always have them make a list of their bad habits, and we go from there. Nothing sabotages your productivity quite like bad habits. They are insidious, creeping up on you slowly until you don’t even notice the damage they’re causing.
Bad habits slow you down, decrease your accuracy, make you less creative, and stifle your performance. Getting control of your bad habits is critical, and not just for productivity’s sake. A University of Minnesota study found that people who exercise a high degree of self-control tend to be much happier than those who don’t, both in the moment and in the long run.
Some bad habits cause more trouble than others, and the ones I’ve listed are the worst offenders. Shedding these habits will increase your productivity and allow you to enjoy the positive mood that comes with increased self-control. Read on to see what you can shed.
Meetings. Meetings gobble up your precious time like no other. Ultra-productive people avoid meetings as much as humanly possible. They know that a meeting will drag on forever if they let it, so when they must have a meeting they inform everyone at the onset that they’ll stick to the intended schedule. This sets a clear limit that motivates everyone to be more focused and efficient.
Responding to e-mails as they arrive. Productive people don’t allow their e-mail to be a constant interruption. In addition to checking their e-mail on a schedule, they take advantage of features that prioritize messages by sender. They set alerts for their most important vendors and their best customers, and they save the rest until they reach a stopping point in their work. Some people even set up an autoresponder that lets senders know when they’ll be checking their e-mail again.
Hitting the snooze button. When you sleep, your brain moves through an elaborate series of cycles, the last of which prepares you to be alert at your wake up time. This is why you’ll sometimes wake up right before your alarm clock goes off—your brain knows it’s time to wake up and it’s ready to do so. When you hit the snooze button and fall back asleep, you lose this alertness and wake up later, tired and groggy. Worst of all, this grogginess can take hours to wear off. So no matter how tired you think you are when your alarm clock goes off, force yourself out of bed if you want to have a productive morning.
Multitasking. Multitasking is a real productivity killer. Research conducted at Stanford University confirms that multitasking is less productive than doing a single thing at a time. The researchers found that people who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information cannot pay attention, recall information, or switch from one job to another as well as those who complete one task at a time. When you try to do two things at once, your brain lacks the capacity to perform both tasks successfully.
But what if some people have a special gift for multitasking? The Stanford researchers compared groups of people, based on their tendency to multitask and their belief that it helps their performance. They found that heavy multitaskers—those who multitasked a lot and felt that it boosted their performance—were actually worse at multitasking than those who liked to do a single thing at a time. The frequent multitaskers performed worse because they had more trouble organizing their thoughts and filtering out irrelevant information, and they were slower at switching from one task to another. Ouch!
Putting off tough tasks. We have a limited amount of mental energy, and as we exhaust this energy, our decision-making and productivity decline rapidly. This is called decision fatigue. When you put off tough tasks till late in the day because they’re intimidating, you save them for when you’re at your worst. To beat decision fatigue, you must tackle complex tasks in the morning when your mind is fresh.
Eating too much sugar. Glucose functions as the “gas pedal” for energy in the brain. You need glucose to concentrate on challenging tasks. With too little glucose, you feel tired, unfocused, and slow; too much glucose leaves you jittery and unable to concentrate. Research has shown that the sweet spot is about 25 grams of glucose. The tricky thing is that you can get these 25 grams of glucose any way you want, and you’ll feel the same—at least initially. The difference lies in how long the productivity lasts. Donuts, soda, and other forms of refined sugar lead to an energy boost that lasts a mere 20 minutes, while oatmeal, brown rice, and other foods containing complex carbohydrates release their energy slowly, which enables you to sustain your focus. Remember, you are what you eat!
If you see yourself in any of these bad habits, try taking one step at a time and getting rid of them. You can thank me later!
Make it a great day!