Did you know that many Americans believe they are more productive than they actually are?
It’s true. And, even so, while you may be happy with your productivity, you know all it takes is one huge project or new set of responsibilities that can have it all come tumbling down.
If you have a hard time staying on task, are easily distracted, or struggle with maximizing your team’s output, here are 10 bad habits you should take a cold, hard look at and figure out the best strategies to kick them to the curb:
Multitasking seems like an efficient way to kill multiple birds with one stone. But, it may be a lot more damaging than you think. Working on several tasks at once requires our brains to switch gears, resulting in a reduction in the quality of work.
A 2009 study from Stanford University found that multitasking is less productive than focusing on one thing at a time. Not only that, but juggling big projects with email and phone notifications may damage your cognitive control over time, making it more difficult to recall details later on, and separate useful information from the irrelevant.
There are some exceptions to the rule. For example, if you have several related tasks—you can combine them and work on the project as a whole. If you’re in charge of managing a project, it may be worthwhile to consider “bundling” tasks together to make things easier for employees, rather than assigning several unrelated tasks.
The modern human is easily distracted. We’re used to multitasking, and as such, many of us feel we can bounce between tasks and the occasional clickbait article, all while tackling the whole to-do list. However, one too many, and you may end up spending more time in your inbox than actually completing anything. Here are a couple habit-breakers that will ease your notification burden:
Set Times for Email
Each time you break your focus to answer emails, you lose up to 25 minutes of time better used getting stuff done. Instead, make a point of responding to emails every few hours in batches, rather than as they come in.
Apps like Freedom and SelfControl can block your access to certain sites for a predetermined amount of time. If the temptation is too great, set one of these apps and stay off Facebook, Twitter, and whatever else is calling your name for as long as you need to stay focused.
Turn Off the Alerts
Blocking web distractions extends to your phone as well. Put the phone on silent and turn off the notifications that light up your screen as they come in. This way, you won’t be distracted by the unread messages and social pings. Within a team setting, constant alerts from Slack channels, Google Hangouts, and the like may have a damaging effect on productivity. According to a study from PLoS One, push notifications are more welcome when the user has control over when and if they receive them.
This bad habit may be most applicable to the remote worker, but there are some takeaways for everyone. A routine is really important for productivity as it gives our lives a sense of structure and logical sequence. Your schedule ties in to your to-do list, meetings, and teamwork.
Often, having no routine in place means you find yourself running out of time or postponing projects until the next day. Which, let’s face it, causes stress levels to rise. Instead, try to stick to working durinag the same times each day. The “sameness” will help you combat bad habits, indecision, and ultimately, help you reach your goals.
The basics: sleep and nutrition plays a major role in your mental and physical state. Here is a look at a few of the things you can do to improve energy levels to become a more efficient, less stressed worker:
Your Sleep Cycle
According to Sleep.org, establishing a sleep routine can help you recover from distractions faster, remember more, and make fewer mistakes and better decisions. For the record, you should be going to bed at the same time each night and getting up at the same time each day.
A study by the Harvard Business Review revealed that what we eat has a lot to do with how our brains work. So putting forth some effort when it comes to getting the correct amount of nutrients can pay off. Skip the donuts if you’d like to make the most out of your day, as poor nutrition can have a negative effect on your cognitive function. Foods like salmon, blueberries, avocados, and oatmeal can help boost concentration, so if you’re tasked with buying snacks for the office (or just yourself) swap out the chips and candy for healthier fare.
Every January, millions of Americans start a new gym membership and by February 9th most have stopped going. So, it’s not surprising to learn that finding time to exercise is challenging year round. If you find you feel perpetually exhausted, it may be time to get moving. In a 2008 study, University of Georgia researchers found that people can increase their energy levels by adding just 20 minutes of exercise to their day three times a week.
Knowing that, make it your goal to move every day. This could mean taking a walk, doing yoga, or jogging on the treadmill for 20 minutes a few times a week. At work, that might mean taking a break to do a couple of laps around the block or even just standing from time to time.
Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri found that groups working on a collaborative project while standing were more likely to be engaged and creative than groups that worked together while seated. That extra energy boost can help you increase both the quality of your work and your output. And, as an added bonus, you’ll probably feel happier and less stressed.
Having an actual to-do list is great,but this document can spiral out of control if you’re not careful. Without a better strategy in place, you may find yourself stressing about yesterday’s unfinished items. And, if you’re always playing catch up, you’ll find yourself staying up late, worrying about what needs to be done.
(Note: put this data into an image)
- 41% of to-do items were never completed.
- 50% of completed to-do items are done within a day.
- 18% of completed to-do items are done within an hour.
- 10% of completed to-do items are done within a minute.
- 15% of dones started as to-do items.
First of all, stop overstuffing your list! At the core of this is better understanding how to-do lists should work. The to-do list shouldn’t be a simple memory aid, it should have clear, actionable steps. Not items that still need planning. Otherwise, you’ll spend most of your task figuring out how to get it done instead of actually doing it.
Research also shows that shorter to-do lists are easier to take on. If you’re responsible for assigning tasks to colleagues, it may be more efficient to assign a small set of tasks each day in your project management tool, rather than opting to list the whole month’s action items at once.
Are you a people pleaser? If so, you may be taking on too many tasks at once. Over time, this can hurt YOU. The previous point we made about a too long to do list—well, that’s where that one comes into play. You get off track when you want to say yes to bosses, coworkers, clients, or friends and family.
This can be a challenging habit to overcome. Why? Everyone wants to be seen as a team player, a go-to person. However, when you say yes to too much you are not only hurting your own productivity but you could be hurting the whole company.
Stick to the plan you set for the day, and save those other requests (if you want) for later in the week if you’ve got some free time on the schedule. Too many items and you may end up feeling burnt out and unable to maintain quality standards because you’re overextended. If you’re approached, be kind but firm or negotiate if other priorities can be shifted.
For managers, you need to be aware of how your team runs and if an employee might be taking on too much especially if they feel pressured to see the project done. These individuals might feel overwhelmed, but won’t speak up. Check in with your employees and colleagues and see where you can balance the workload more fairly.
All of us are guilty of the stopping and starting process. Whether you pause momentarily to check your email, read an article or pour yourself another cup of coffee, hitting pause on your work prevents you from getting into the high-level thinking you need to access to do your best work. Oftentimes this habit may be reflected beyond your work life if you find yourself generally not finishing projects you start.
Yes, if you find reorganizing your closet challenging that may be connected to why you haven’t hit the deliverables for a client! The fact is, when you have a task or project to complete: commit to it.
Perfectionists might as well be the biggest procrastinators. Why? Because perfectionists fear failure. As a result, those seeking perfection may find their to-do list getting longer, ultimately hurting long-term productivity.
If you’re worried something may go wrong, be sure to focus on what you need to accomplish. Write down the steps necessary to get things done. Breaking tasks down into digestible pieces and getting an early start will help eliminate some of the base urges to spend too much time on a task. Psychology Today recommends incorporating strategies like meditation and the Pomodoro technique into your process to help you overcome your productivity roadblock.
There are thousands of project management tools out there aimed at transforming the way you work. Between the spreadsheets and color-coding, the various calendars, messaging apps, cloud drives, you might find yourself spending more time navigating between applications than actually working. (Again, this is the worst part of multitasking! Spending more time trying to figure out a task, rather than performing it).
Our advice? Choose an all-in-one project management software that can easily adapt to projects, workflows, and your unique team. Apps like Trello and Asana are popular, and make it easy to view project progress, as well as keep tabs on your own to-dos. However, their limits in functionality have made users look to app integrations to fill the gaps.
The Gryffin app works to manage your emails, calendars, create new projects, assign task to multiple people, set deadlines, chat with teams, control team permissions, and more–all in one platform. This helps you cut down on distractions by virtue of eliminating the need to check various platforms. On top of the automated tasks and visibility controls, the Gryffin app allows you to fully customize the platform to your team without needing to know a single code!
Last, but not least, you need to make space for your personal life. Schedule your available time accordingly and stick to it. According to a 2009 study from the Corporate Executive Board, people who feel they have good work-life balance work over 20% harder than those who do not.
Why? Even if you love your work, spending too much time at the office or working overtime will leave you burnt out and frustrated. In fact, the top three reasons for employee burnout are…
- Unfair compensation (41%)
- Unreasonable workload (32%)
- Too much overtime/ after hours (32%)
With this in mind, it’s clear that you can feel more stressed or be easily overwhelmed if your time isn’t reasonably valued or you are stretched too thin. Make time for the stress relievers, and you’ll come back to work feeling refreshed and inspired.
For managers, make sure you’re respecting boundaries. There’s nothing wrong with knocking out some emails during your free time, but sending messages at all hours puts undue stress on the people you work with.
It takes time to create new habits—a specific breakfast routine that gets you on the move, starting work at the same time each day, or portioning out to-do items so employees don’t get bogged down with too much at once. In the end, it’s about nailing down what works for you from small, everyday changes to implementing new tech that can help the whole team, to figuring out a better strategy for your to-do list–make the most out of your day, every day by kicking these bad habits.