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7 People On The Small Habits That Kill Their Productivity

I am not a procrastinator. Not because I’m ~so responsible~ that I absolutely love doing my work the second it is assigned to me, but because I’ve learned over time that I am the type of person to either do the work immediately, or not do it at all. I’m apparently not competent enough to procrastinate; if I let the work wait even a little bit, it most likely will just not happen. Procrastination is my #1 productivity killer — and that is okay! It is one of those “know thyself” things that actually makes me a better, stronger, more efficient worker.  

In fact, knowing your “weak” spots is step one to addressing them, and actually making a change for the better. I wouldn’t have ever realized that being proactive about immediately getting work done is the only way I’d actually ever accomplish anything if I didn’t get brutally honest with myself and acknowledge the facts: I’m kind of sucky with plans, and if I plan to do something tomorrow instead of tackling it now, the chance it will be accomplished at all significantly lowers.

I decided it would be interesting to find out what weak spots plague other people, and ask around to see what small, seemingly insignificant habits negatively impact their productivity most. Some people are pro-procrastinators, and some (*raises hand*) kill a weeks worth of possible productivity by putting off one small task. Some people simply can’t multitask, and some rule at it, citing their background-noise-Netflix as the #1 reason why they get so much work done in a day.

So, I asked seven people (okay, really I asked more, but a lot of them said the same things, so what can you do) what small bad habits kill their productivity. This is what they had to say.

1. “My worst habit as of late is not sleeping, only because when I started my first ‘grown-up’ job, I was shocked by how little free time it felt like I had and it turned into just go to work, come home, eat, sleep, then go to work again. I felt like I had to turn in so early every night to get adequate sleep for work. But then something switched and I was like fuck, I will have to spend the rest of my life from now on just enjoying nothing because I need to sleep so much. So I started just saying screw it, going out and having fun and sleeping just enough to function the next day. Not every night, but often, especially this time of year since more friends are around and there are so many holiday parties and things like that going on. But I do notice on the days I’ve gone out the night before, I am truly exhausted and definitely not my best. The days when I’ve gotten a full night of sleep are the ones I get the most done and feel the most on my game.” — Sara

2. “My boyfriend and I love to have a beer at the end of the night, which is a totally harmless habit in my opinion, except I’ve noticed lately that a) it makes my sleep a little less deep and more interrupted and b) it just makes me feel more sluggish during the day when I drink the night before, even if I don’t drink excessively.” — Evie

3. “I work from home a few days a week, and on those days, I’m 100% guilty of giving myself a few too many breaks. I know they are important to maintain sanity and productivity, whether you’re in-office or at home, but in any case, I get soooo distracted so easily and I totally let it happen.” — Danielle

4. “I’m the type to never keep my phone more than a few inches away from my hand, and although I don’t have any restrictions on cell phone use at work, I definitely should because I am the queen of accomplishing one tiny task, then rewarding myself by scrolling through Instagram for 45 minutes. I go down the rabbit hole real quick and then realize that I shouldn’t be mindlessly Googling or texting considering the fact that I’m literally at work.” — Kristin

5. “I work remotely and I schedule my own day entirely for the most part, but my biggest problem more recently is that I leave a lot of work to do at night, which is fine if you’re good at actually being productive at night, but I’m very much not. I always think I am and find fun things to do to distract myself from working during the day, but by the time I buckle down in the evening to get things done my brain is essentially turned off and I’m too tired to focus on actually doing what I need to do.” — Annabel 

6. “I’ve never been a naturally ‘Type-A’ person, so when I was in grad school and was so busy working and doing school at the same time, I had to start manufacturing that type of personality so I’d actually stay on track with everything I needed to. Since I really had to teach myself the behavior of scheduling tasks, making lists, keeping calendars, etc. I have fallen victim to really overscheduling myself. And I’m no longer a student, I have a great job that offers a lot of flexibility and great work/life balance, but I somehow am finding myself still so anal about everything getting done on a rigid schedule at exactly the time I planned, and it is getting harder to keep up with. When you are that tough on yourself it is easy for the stress to kind of take hold and end up distracting you entirely from all the things you’re killing yourself trying to get done in a tight timeline.” — Brendan

7. “So obvious, but Internet kills me. I’ve gone as far as putting parental locks on my computer to block me from certain websites (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) but even online shopping kills me, checking my email a zillion times per hour even though my job really doesn’t require that many email checks, and other things like that. I’ll essentially do anything on my computer to avoid doing my work.” — Arianne 

Mary writes every day for TFD, and tweets every day for her own personal fulfillment. Talk to her about money and life at!

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  • HL

    4. “…I am the queen of accomplishing one tiny task, then rewarding myself by scrolling through Instagram for 45 minutes.”

    This could have been written by me. After spurts of productivity where I get a ton of stuff done, I definitely feel like I “deserve” a little mindlessness break. And sometimes, I do….but it’s all too easy to let 5 minutes of scrolling turn into 20.

  • Maddog

    How to be productive

    First set a productivity goal as in productive hours of work per day, and number of productive work days per week. One might set a goal of 8 productive hours of work per day, five productive days per week.

    Then you need to define productive, I would suggest, it should mean the amount of time at wage an average businessman would pay you for the work you are performing.

    Then create a billing sheet with space for the date, a description of the work, and the hours worked.

    Then begin working, tracking your work by the tenth of an hour, meaning in six-minute increments. Yale has a nice post about what this means generally. The Truth about the Billable Hour – Yale Law School

    The real trick here is to not cheat and accept work as billable for which neither you nor any businessman would pay. Bill only actually billable hours. Do this for a year; you are now a senior apprentice. Do this for two years, successfully, and you can consider yourself an associate. In two more years, you can consider yourself a journeyman. After ten years, you can consider yourself a master.

    I guarantee if you do this you will be at least 100% more productive than all but about 5% of the people you work around.

    The paradox of the work world is only a tiny fraction of the people are marginally productive. The average full-time worker in America today is paid for 8 hours but only works productively for 5 hours. Highly productive people are extremely valuable assets who are commonly highly paid and highly respected. Or you can continue to slack, and pray the RIF ax falls elsewhere.

    Mark Sherman