40% of our day is spent acting out of habit.  These habits can either support us in what we want to achieve or hold us back.  Just because we have a bad habit, it doesn’t mean we are stuck with it.  we can make a conscious effort to ditch our bad habits and cultivate new ones.  Once we get the positive habits in place we will work more effortlessly since we are automatically performing the acts that will support us without even thinking about it.

Here are a list of 5 bad habits that can be affecting your productivity at work and the more productive habits you can replace them with.

Productivity Draining Habits


1. Procrastination.

Pablo Picasso said “Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.”

While this may seem a bit extreme the essence of it is entirely true. If you keep putting things off until tomorrow, they often never get done.  How many times have you thought to yourself you’ll do something when you have more time, more money, or have the inspiration?

Only Put Off What You Are Happy To Die Having Left Undone

The problem with this of course is that life has way of constantly throwing more things at us, so we never have more time, unless we work on creating the inspiration it often doesn’t just strike by itself. Often the things that we put off that we really want to do never end up happening, simply because we don’t make them happen.

Also, we can sometimes because we’re not looking forward to them, the problem with this is that sometimes by not taking action there’s a knock-on effect of not dealing with these things straight away.  Also, you find that when you put things off, they are always there in the back of your mind, so that you don’t particularly enjoy not doing these things as they are always looming.

The solution to this is simply to do it.  It’s almost too obvious to write down, but just get on with it.  Now this may be easier said than done, but it really is the only alternative.

One habit you can cultivate, is whenever you find yourself about to put things off on small tasks count to 5 and then do it.  Counting to 5 then doing it works, because you don’t give your brain long enough to come up with excuses for not doing the thing you’re putting off.

Counting to 5 can work for everything from getting out of bed, doing boring paperwork, or making a phone call that you’re not looking forward to making.  The thing is, once you start doing small things you get a sense of achievement.  You start seeing results.  You build momentum.  It spurs you on to do more.  It helps get you out of the cycle of procrastination.  You will never regret doing something, although frequently you can regret not doing something.

Just do it

For the bigger tasks, try breaking them down into smaller chunks and any smaller tasks that you find yourself feeling tempted to put off, approach with the count to 5 rule.  Don’t break the count to 5 rule.

2. Distraction.

Allowing distractions to get the better of you means that you are never really in control of your day. You find yourself at the beck and call of your email, your social media, phone calls from anyone from clients to friends and family.

The problem with this is that you never really accomplish anything.  You’re constantly putting other people’s priorities before your own.

More than that, when you get distracted from a task that you should be quite involved in, it can actually take you about 20 minutes to get back into the zone of concentration.  At the end of the day, when you look back on what you’ve actually done you’ll find it’s very little compared to what you could have done.


The solution here is to focus.  Get in to the habit of eliminating your distractions.  For example, turn your email and social media alerts off.  Don’t answer your phone if you’re in the middle of an important task.

Try to preempt any people who may interrupt you and arrange a time to speak with them later, or if they interrupt you during a period of focused work tell them you are in the middle of something, but that you will speak to them later (and make sure you do).

Check your emails at particular times during the day, but on your terms, don’t just react when things come to you.

You’ll be amazed when you start doing this how much more you can achieve in half an hour of solid uninterrupted work.

3. Drifting.

Closely linked to distraction, drifting comes about when you find yourself moving between one task and another. Multitasking is a huge productivity killer (read my previous blog post on why multitasking is killing your productivity and what to do instead) and in fact any switching between activities loses time and focus throughout your working day.

Often this comes about when you haven’t really got a plan, you’re just going with the flow on the day.  The problem with going with the flow of course, it that you go wherever the flow takes you, not where you set out to go.  You could have been doing things all day but unless there’s proper organisation behind it you won’t be getting your important tasks done.

The solution to this is to plan.  Make a habit of approaching every day with a plan.  Make new habit that you spend the first few minutes of every day writing a plan.  This habit is super easy to enact.  Write a short plan of what you need to get through that particular day.  Make sure your most important task is first on the list.

Start every day with a plan

Find a planning system that works for you.  I tend to plan my day out in half hourly or hourly blocks, factoring in regular breaks.  If I give myself an hour to complete a particular task, I know that I have to work fast to get it done in that time, but that I can take a break afterwards.  I can see straight away from the plan what needs to get done.

Having a plan in place means that you always know what you need to do next.  No time is wasted deliberating over what to do and an effective plan can be written in a few short minutes.  To make your plan even more effective, spend 5 minutes at the end of every day writing tasks for tomorrow while the events of today are still clear in your mind.  This helps making your plan even quicker the following morning.

4. Negative Self Talk

The one habit that can really destroy your progress is self sabotaging self talk.

It’s all to easy when things are tough to tell yourself I can’t.  It’s too hard.  I won’t be as good as xyz person. I’m not clever enough to do this.  I don’t have enough resources.  I don’t have the right connections.  I don’t know how to do this.  What will other people think of me? It’s impossible.

If you’ve ever told yourself any of these things, you are certainly not alone.  Probably all of us have done this at some point from time to time.

The problem is, if you habitually do it, you look for a reason for things not to work and if you look for a reason for something to not work you will find it and if you focus on that, you will make it not work.

A lot of the time, these self sabotaging ideas stop us from even trying to do what we want to do.  They fill us with fear.  If your best friend told you that they were going to do something, would you start coming up with reasons why they can’t do it?  Of course not.  You would encourage and support them.  And that is the solution to this bad habit.

be your own best friend

You need to start talking to yourself as your own best friend, not your worst enemy.

Give yourself some encouragement.  Tell yourself the positives.  Come up with the reasons why you can do these things.  Of course you won’t have all the answers, all the skills and all the resources, but steer yourself to find the answers to how you can do things.  Instead of looking for a reason that something will not work, look for a reason that it will.

A lot of the time negative self talk comes from lack of confidence in a certain situation, perhaps because we’re new to that situation.  But the thing is, once we start achieving things and realising that we can do it, that builds our confidence.  When we’re feeling more confident we’re more likely to talk to ourselves positively and encourage ourselves more.

Practice encouraging yourself and note the results that you get.  As Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.”

5. Working without breaks.

We’ve all done it at some point, thinking we’re just too busy to take a break.

Particularly up against a deadline we pull out all the stops to get it completed.  We get our heads down, immerse ourselves in the task and tell ourselves we’re going to power through to the end.  We find ourselves in ‘the zone’, getting highly focused and we don’t want to lose that.  We want the creativity to keep flowing.

The problem is, our brains are not designed to work without break.  We can maximise our focus and work really hard, but after a while we get over tired.  We start zoning out, losing focus, perhaps even getting irritable.  The creative ideas just don’t flow as well because our brain starts losing the ability to make connections.

take regular break

The solution.  Very simple, get in the habit of taking breaks.  When you make your plan for the day factor in regular short breaks.

The method of planning your day in blocks of no more than an hour at a time allows you to take a short break at least every hour.  Taking a break allows your mind to rejuvenate.  If you get up and move around you’ll get the oxygen flowing around the body.  That creates more energy and helps your brain perform better.

Actually moving away from your workstation so that you have a proper break even for a short few minutes to move, drink some water and eat a healthy snack will be enough to refresh you, even after just 5 minutes, you’ll be able to work with more energy and creativity for the next hour if you’ve had that short rest.

Habit switching does take some work initially, but once the habit is ingrained it will continue to work to support us.  Try switching these bad habits for good ones and think of other habits that you have that you can replace with positive ones.

Need help on actually forming these habits?  Sign up for our free habit forming masterclass.

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Categories: Productivity

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