Habits that steal your productivity

The clock strikes 3pm and panic sets in. You realise you’re not nearly as far down on your to-do list as you planned to be. You think: Who’s stealing all my time? It is in fact you. Look at the statistics:

On average we spend 44 per cent of the day web surfing, 23.4 per cent socialising with co-workers, 3.9 per cent spacing out and 1.3 per cent applying for other jobs (don’t pretend you don’t do that).

Social media sites like YouTube and Facebook have most traffic between 9am and 5pm when people are presumably at work. These stats tell us that we get into routines where you mindlessly waste the minutes of your day.

You are not a procrastinator; you have a habit of procrastinating. Which means you can beat that habit. So if you’re serious about upping your productivity game, it’s time to ditch these patterns and replace them with ones that work:

Deciding what to do first

This is the most counter-intuitive time waster of all. Taking some time at the start of each day to prioritise your to-do list. If you are a habitual list-maker, this is for you. It may sound like a productivity enhancer, but it’s a time and energy-sapping exercise.

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If you are like most people, you have more energy, focus, and discipline in the mornings than at other times of the day. Spending the first bit of time at work figuring out your priorities for the day means you waste this energy deciding rather than executing.

Instead, flip the script. Figure out one thing you can make progress on the next morning before you leave work for the day. Then, do that first before diving into the firestorm of email, requests, meetings or emergencies.

Over-scheduling with no buffer time

It’s a no brainer, failure to allow sufficient time to get things done will severely hamper your productivity and your business’ success.

No other habit ruins your day and time management faster than not planning enough time between appointments. It produces a dominoes effect on your day that can’t stop.

If you wake up 20 minutes later than intended and you miss the train, then you get late for your dentist appointment you become late for everything for the rest of the day. Life will happen, so stay prepared and plan your days better to stay in control and keep your stress levels low.

Start scheduling buffer time before and after each meeting or activity, allowing 30 minutes before and after appointments. This will help with unforeseen circumstances like meetings running over, traffic jams or computers not working.

You can also stack your tasks by checking of the list cloud-based tasks like checking your email or login to accounting or project management software and update tasks.

Slow-motion Mornings

I have been accused of walking around with cucumber water all morning instead of working. When you arrive at work first thing in the morning, head straight for the snack pantry, stop by your friend’s desk to discuss the latest episode of Power, and then plop down in your chair to sort through your inbox, you might think that you’re just easing your way into the work day.

But with that routine, you might not find your flow until an hour in or longer, probably till lunch time and that’s not a productive way to get your day going.

Stop stalling and get working. Delay your morning coffee chat. If you struggle to get down to business right away, try putting your phone out of reach, or batching your to-do activities, or seeing if listening to ambient noise helps you.

Hitting the snooze button

“Sleeping in short increments is the worst of all worlds,” says Vanderkam, bestselling author of Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done. It’s tempting to want those ten more minutes of sleep in the morning: That’s why the snooze button was invented, after all.

However, most sleep experts agree that this approach to easing out of bed does more harm than good, arguing that those in need of the snooze button would actually be better off setting the alarm an hour later and getting more rest.

In terms of productivity, it’s also an opportunity cost that’s mounting every morning of your working life. It is more useful to set your alarm for the time you actually intend to get out of bed and enjoy every last minute of it.

Monday meetings

Mondays have become the universal day to have meetings. Most people dread Mondays for this reason; their first day back from a weekend is filled with meetings and spent answering emails instead of getting work done. What we don’t realise is that Mondays are actually our best day to be productive.

After a weekend, we have fresh motivation for our work and come to our challenges with a fresh set of eyes.

The fix is simple, try making Mondays no meeting days. How much could you accomplish if you were left alone? Try hosting that typical Monday meeting at the end of business on Friday so that everyone can hit the ground running Monday morning.

If a seemingly non-essential invite comes through, there’s nothing wrong with politely asking the organiser if you need to be there or letting her know that you need to tackle some other urgent items instead.  

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