Ten Bad Habits of the Most Unproductive People

How I overcame them, doubled my income, and how you can too

Photo: Georgie Cobbs/Unsplash

A few years ago, I found myself unproductive, unmotivated, under earning, and committing all the productivity mistakes that you’ll find on this list.

Fortunately, I started reading and learning from really productive people like Brendon Burchard, Marie Forleo, and James Clear, who taught me about breaking bad habits, getting honest with myself, and putting in the hard work to work towards my dreams and goals.

While we often know what we SHOULD be doing, it can also be helpful to break our current bad habits, and if I can do it, you can too.

Here are 10 Habits You Should Stop Doing:

1. Hitting Snooze in the Morning

According to Sleep Review Magazine, 57% of Americans hit the snooze button in the morning. Now, if you’re in this majority, the few minutes in your cozy bed feel great in the moment. However, you’re really doing yourself a disservice for the rest of the day.

Dr. Reena Mehra, Director of Sleep at the Cleveland Clinic, shares that snoozing is not really restorative sleep.

Therefore, rather than hitting snooze, focus on getting 7–8 hours of sleep and then hopping out of bed as soon as the alarm goes off in the morning. This way, you’re more likely to feel refreshed and ready for the day.

For the first 31 years of my life, I HATED getting up in the morning. But, I realized that I could change this by doing something that I love first thing in the morning. Whether it’s a cup of coffee with a good book, writing time, or playing video games, try to have something to look forward to as soon as you wake up in the morning.

2. Multitasking (and mistakenly believing that you’re being productive)

Have you ever had someone brag to you about how they’re GREAT at multitasking? I’m sure we’ve all heard this.

Authors Dr. Paul Hammerness and Margaret Moore of the book Organize Your Mind, Organize Your Life, share that, “Multitasking increases the chances of making mistakes and missing important information and cues. Multitaskers are also less likely to retain information in working memory, which can hinder problem solving and creativity.”

I used to mistakenly believe that I was a great multitasker, and then I realized that in reality, I lacked focus and clarity.

If you find that you’re constantly multitasking, take it slow. Start by deciding on one task to focus on. Then, work on it for 10–30 minutes straight, or longer if you can.

You might even try turning off your wifi during focused periods of work or head outside or somewhere where wifi isn’t readily available. While it might seem painfully difficult at first, the more you persist through the uncomfortable moments when you want to check Instagram, the easier it becomes over time.

3. Saying Yes to Anything and Everything

In the moment, saying yes feels amazing! You make the other person happy and probably feel wanted and needed. Sadly, most of us say yes to a lot of things that we should be turning down. Here are a few things I’ve noticed about people that say yes to everything:

1. They underperform because they’re spread too thin.

2. They commit but don’t always follow through.

3. They put themselves last.

Now, people who always say yes often start out with the best intentions. If this is you, I bet you are a people pleaser and are truly a very kind human being. You probably love helping people.

Let’s take a look at what this might look like in real life. For instance, I have a wonderful friend that runs a local book club. She’s a great organizer and plans fantastic events. Each month (pre-quarantine), she would send out a FB invite to the monthly meetup, and of course, tons of people would RSVP that they were coming. However, as the date approached, she’d have people canceling last minute or even just not showing up. As the host, obviously, this was really frustrating for her.

It’s likely that when they RSVP’d, most people had the best intentions of going. However, the more things we commit to, the more challenging it becomes to follow through on everything.

Instead, it’s actually more considerate to say yes to fewer things, but actually follow through and show that we have personal integrity and will give 100% when we do say yes to something.

4. Using the Excuse “I’m too busy”

This is another phrase that we’ve all heard more time than we can count. Fortunately, I think that many of us are waking up to the idea that when people say, “I’m too busy,” what they’re really saying is that something isn’t important to them.

Be honest and committed to your priorities.

When you tell people that you’re too busy, it looks like you don’t have control or ownership over your life.

Instead, try the phrase, ‘that’s not a priority right now’ or ‘these are my current priorities.’

We all have the same 24 hours in a day, so let’s be intentional about how we use them.

5. Being Glued to a Smartphone

A few weeks ago, I was walking in the crosswalk and was nearly hit by an SUV. As I tried to sprint/move as far from the car as possible, the driver finally peeled their eyes away from their screen. Luckily, everything was fine. However, it’s frightening to think about how often situations like this probably happen.

If you want to be a productive human, it’s important to let your brain wander, roam, and relax in order to be creative.

This is especially true first thing in the morning and right before bed. For example, try carving out 1 hour as soon as you wake up and 1 hour before bed for “phone-free” space. You might be surprised by what creative ideas come about.

In order to actually follow through on this, it’s important to have a specific activity in mind to do during these times. Here’s an example,

Morning Hour:

  1. Morning run for 30 minutes
  2. Breakfast and coffee for 20 minutes
  3. Gratitude and meditation for 10 minutes

When we have a specific idea of what we want to do, we’re less likely to instinctively reach for the phone.

6. Having a “To-Do List” With 100+ Items

The older I get, the shorter my lists seem to become. This doesn’t necessarily mean that I have fewer responsibilities or action items; rather, I’m better at prioritizing.

The more we have to do, the more we feel overwhelmed and resistant to start. When we have 50 action items to complete by 5:00 pm, we’re really just setting ourselves up for failure.

Instead, take that list of 50 things, and locate the 3–5 things that are most important. If you are able to accomplish those 3–5, you can always do more as a bonus.

Remember that it’s not the number of things that we achieve in a day or week that matters but the quality and importance of the items that we choose to do.

7. Using Breaks and Lunch Time to Browse Online

Keep in mind that being “productive” or “in hustle mode” doesn’t mean that you’re superhuman. We all need breaks, and in fact, the more I take necessary breaks during the day, the more I seem to get done.

If you want to become a more productive person, take breaks that are ‘device free’ and let your mind and body recharge.

You Could Try:

  1. Going for a walk.
  2. Reading a book.
  3. Getting a healthy snack.
  4. Drinking a glass of water.
  5. Spending a few minutes journaling.

Whenever we find ourselves doing the same simple task over and over, it’s a signal that we need to step away from the phone or computer and take a 5–15-minute break.

Most likely, you will return to your work feeling refreshed and ready to focus.

8. Lacking Clear Priorities and Goals

When I started following really productive people like Benjamin Hardy, I realized that they are very focused and clear on what is most important to them.

In fact, this dramatically changed my life. Once I got clear on what income streams I wanted to focus on, I zeroed in on a few things and was able to get so much more done.

Before, I had been unfocused and ready to try anything that came my way. Once I started to focus and get clear, I started making more money and having a lot more fun.

There will always be a million things that you could do, but it doesn’t and shouldn’t mean that you need to do it all.

As Stephen Covey succinctly said, “When you have too many top priorities, you effectively have no top priorities.”

Consider your own life. What are your top 1–4 priorities, and what goals will help you to get there? Remember, it’s better to excel at a few things, rather than being mediocre at a dozen things.

9. Considering Your Walk to Your Home Office as “Daily Exercise”

Exercise is often one of the most important things that people fail to do, especially people that think they are “too busy.”

If you know you aren’t exercising at all, or enough, make this a priority. Think of it as an investment in your productivity.

You can even start small by taking phone calls or conference calls while walking.

Or, try watching your shows or listening to a podcast while running on a treadmill or cycling on a stationary bike.

Whatever you choose, start with a few minutes a day and make it a regular habit.

10. Working Overtime Rather Than Spending Time With Family or Friends

A few years ago, a woman named Bronnie Ware wrote an extremely popular book titled, The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying.

Chronicling her experiences as a health worker, Ware shared the wisdom she gained from working with people in their last days or months of life.

One of the regrets is that people often wish that they had not worked so hard.

And, to build on that, another regret is that people wish they had stayed in touch with friends.

While it’s certainly important to work hard in your career and side projects, remember that you don’t need to work hard at the expense of those you love most.

If this is a struggle, try setting specific work hours and ONLY work. Don’t allow yourself to scroll on Facebook or spend hours on email if you don’t need to. Then, once you put in your focused work time, you can feel confident about taking time for friends and family.

Remember that the way to change your life is to create positive momentum. Changing a single bad habit into a positive one just might be what you need to create the forward momentum that will change your life. Regardless of how many bad habits you have, pick one single habit to start with, do the opposite, and take action right now.

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