Chewing with your mouth open. Speaking before you think. Biting your nails. These are the kind of stuff we usually think about when we think of ‘bad habits’.
But what about the bad habits hurting your performance at work? There is a whole host of things many of us are guilty of doing every single day that research shows ends up really hurting our productivity. And the more aware you are of how these things are affecting your productivity, the more proactive you can be at taking responsibility for your choices.
So, ask yourself if you are guilty of any of these bad habits. If so, it may be time to cut them out.
1. Rushing in the morning:
We all have those mornings where you’re rushing your morning routine and barely have time to brush your teeth before running out the door to make it to the office on time. It’s when the morning rush becomes a habit that there can be negative consequences to your sense of well-being and your overall productivity.
When you start off your day in a frenzied state of mind, you’re not giving your brain any time to decompress, reset, and prepare for the day. Instead, you’re pumping it with adrenaline first thing in the morning, which can cause you to crash later on.
If your mornings lack time and space to breathe, try waking up 10–30 minutes earlier and starting off with a quick meditation session. According to a 2012 study, people who mediated “stayed on tasks longer and made fewer task switches, as well as reporting less negative feedback after task performance.”
2. Skipping breakfast:
I’ve never been able to skip breakfast, but I know plenty of people who do. Whether you blame it on being too rushed (see #1) or just not feeling hungry, eating a well-rounded breakfast just isn’t a priority for a lot of people.
But it should be. Why? Because, technically, when you’re sleeping, you’re fasting – meaning you wake up with low blood sugar. That low blood sugar is exactly why many of us feel tired, apathetic, and even a little irritable first thing in the morning. It’s not you; it’s your inherent need for the sustenance that, you know, keeps you up and running as a human.
What about replacing food with coffee? Sure, the caffeine rush from your morning coffee can help hide the symptoms of low blood sugar – but it won’t satisfy your need for food. In fact, it’ll likely cause you to crash later in the day, which can really harm your productivity.
Prioritizing a healthy breakfast is a key to boosting productivity for the rest of your day. Try healthy breakfast foods that have the fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals that’ll give you energy. Foods rich in vitamin B – like oatmeal, bananas, pineapple, and avocados – can help improve your concentration. Avoid breakfast foods with added sugar like sugary cereal and doughnuts.
If you stay far from work, another advice is to try taking your breakfast to work in a Print Magic designed food flask. Something about the quality of print and the fact that your meal is accessible will leave you with a lot of peace of mind.
3. Tackling the easy stuff first:
It can be very tempting to get all the easy tasks out of the way first before tackling the tough stuff. This is especially true when you’re dreading that challenging task. You push it further and further down your to-do list until you’ve left it untouched for days or even weeks.
If you work in a company like Print Magic where productivity is the order of the day, it could be very tempting to do the easy stuff first and gradually ascend to doing actual work. But tackling the most difficult tasks on your to-do list early on in the day is actually better for your overall productivity. Researchers have found that willpower is a finite resource that steadily decreases throughout the day, so your brain is much better at handling the hardest tasks at the beginning of the day when you’re more focused. Mornings also tend to lend fewer distractions, making it easier for you to get things done.
Creating a to-do list is the easiest way to prioritize tasks effectively. Everyone has their own to-do list style, so stick to yours and it will work for you.
4. Checking and responding to emails as they come in:
Email is supposed to help us do our work, not distract us from our work. So why does it always feel like a productivity suck?
In an effort to stay on top of a constantly overflowing inbox, it can be tempting to check and respond to every email as soon as it comes in. Receiving email notifications in real time certainly doesn’t help. But constantly switching tasks between work and email can really hurt your productivity.
To help you focus in chunks of time, turn off those pesky email alerts and limit checking your email to specified breaks. If you’re worried about missing an important email, like a notification for a Print Magic merchandise ready to be delivered, try selecting “Important mail notifications on” and Gmail will notify you for emails it thinks are important to you based on past activity.
5. Keeping your phone with you at work:
Raise your hand if you have a small panic attack when you realize you don’t have your phone with you – whether you’re sitting at your desk, attending a meeting, grabbing coffee … heck, even going to the bathroom.
There’s a reason Blackberries were nicknamed “Crackberries” back when they were popular: It’s because smartphones are probably the easiest distraction on the planet. And when you keep your phone with you at work, you’re putting your productivity levels at risk.
A 2015 study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance found that when people who were performing a task that required intense focus received a text or call on their phone, they had more incorrect answers and were more likely to make quick guesses. People who received notification of a call – even if they didn’t pick it up – were 3X more likely to make mistakes. In fact, error rates were about the same whether or not people answered that call or text.
Why does receiving that text or call hurt our productivity so much? Researchers from that study say that, although the actually moment of interruption is short-lived; our thoughts are disrupted for a considerably longer period, making it tough to refocus.
There are a lot of different ways to curb your phone addiction. The simplest is to turn your phone on silent and put it away while you’re at work.