Some days, we just don’t work efficiently. We spend a little too much time on Facebook and Instagram, click into our email a few too many times, and get absolutely nothing done. But this lack of productivity might not have anything to do with your attention span — it might be the result of the way you’re working.
Little habits you’ve built over the years at work could be harming your productivity. And if you’ve fallen into a routine that includes a few bad habits, you could be your very own worst enemy.
If you’re finding yourself unfocused, sluggish, and unable to accomplish anything, it’s time to reassess the way you’re working. Here are 3 terrible habits that could be sucking your productivity and ruining your focus.
1. Checking Your Email Constantly
The key to staying on top of your workload is being on top of your emails — right? Actually, that’s horribly, horribly wrong.
Although it sounds incredibly efficient to be checking your inbox every few minutes throughout the day, this little habit can ruin your ability to get anything done. In order to check your email, you have to stop whatever task you’re working on, switch gears, and read through any new messages. And whether or not the emails you’re reading are important, this whole routine is pulling you in too many distracting directions.
When you check your email every few minutes (or every time your inbox pings), you’re losing focus and hampering yourself by trying to jump between different tasks. If an email is especially important, it’ll make you even less likely to complete the job you’re already halfway through.
Do This Instead
Instead of checking your email every time you get a new message notification, close your inbox. Get rid of the tab you have open to Gmail or close Outlook entirely.
Then, pick a few set times throughout the day to check your inbox — say, 9AM, 1PM, and 4PM. This will stop you from obsessively checking for new message and will give you the opportunity to immerse yourself wholly in other tasks. You’ll also eliminate the distraction of a pinging notification by keeping your email app closed.
2. Scheduling Your Entire Day
Creating a schedule seems really productive and efficient. And it’s a great idea to give yourself a routine and a timeline for the day.
It goes off the rails, however, when you schedule yourself down to the last minute. If your calendar is filled with meetings, tasks, and appointments, you’re going to overwhelm yourself. With no free time — or even any time to sit down and answer emails, complete presentations, or take a bathroom break — you’ll be so booked up that you lose all flexibility and adaptability.
Think of it this way: what’s going to happen if a problem arises? What if your attention is needed ASAP to handle a crisis? You simply won’t have time, and you’ll feel overwhelmed when you can’t accomplish everything on your schedule.
Do This Instead
It’s a good idea to include some flexibility and freedom in your daily schedule. Make a point to leave big blocks of “free time,” or unscheduled time, on each day. Lightening up your calendar will let you dive into whatever’s most important that day, and you’ll be better able to prioritize and adjust.
Those pockets of free time on your calendar will also be a huge blessing when you’re facing big issues or projects. You’ll be able to focus on whatever is needed most, with no worries or nagging thoughts about what’s on your schedule.
3. Sitting Through 1 Hour Meetings
Take a quick look at your calendar. You probably see a bunch of meetings — and every one of those meetings is probably scheduled for exactly one hour.
The one-hour meeting is an office standard, but is there actually any good reason for sticking to an hour? It turns out that one-hour meetings are actually a terrible and useless event.
Although we tend to default to one-hour meetings, there’s a lot of wasted time that happens in one hour. According to the Harvard Business Review, most meetings only include 30 minutes of actual productivity and valuable content. But when a meeting is scheduled to last a full hour, most people will fill the rest of the time with empty thoughts and waste it away.
Do This Instead
The solution is simple: schedule shorter meetings. Half an hour is a great timeframe for a meeting. You can even schedule 15, 20, and 45 minute meetings if you have less — or more — that needs to be discussed.
A shorter scheduled meeting means there’s more urgency and importance on everyone involved to stick to the agenda at hand. And this alone inspires efficiency. If you know you have the room’s attention for just 20 minutes, you’re going to be concise and to the point to get the job done in that timeframe.
Start Breaking Your Bad Habits Today
These terrible habits don’t have to continue destroying your productivity. It might take weeks to create a new habit, but you can begin breaking your old habits right now. All you need to do is recognize your actions and start to make small changes.
If you’re guilty of any of these habits, don’t worry. They’re common! And you can easily build better work habits for increased productivity in mere minutes. Put them into practice and you’ll see just how much more you’re able to get done.