13 Stupid Things Slowing You Down Every Day

Jason Weiland


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Are we our own worst enemy when it comes to damaging our productivity, or is something or someone else making us as ineffective as a garden hose at a 4-alarm fire?

What is going on during our day that is keeping us from being useful to others and fulfilled with what we are doing?

Imagine if this happened every day:

We roll out of bed at noon, scratch our eyes and wish we hadn’t drunk that last glass of wine or binge-watched The Witcher in one night. We work best in the mornings, but after the night we had there was no way we should expect to do anything this morning.

After an entire pot of coffee, we decide to look for something to eat because it is, after all, lunchtime. There was no food, so we grab a doughnut and head to the coffee table in the living room to open the laptop and try to work.

We grab the remote as soon as we sit on the soft cushions because we saw there were new episodes of The Good Place as we were turning off the TV last night.

We know we have three blog posts that need to be done by 5:00 pm, but first, we have to check our notifications and email in case we missed something when we scrolled through social media for an hour in bed this morning.

The dog walks into the living room and drops a deuce on the floor because we forgot to walk him this morning, so we spend the next 15 minutes cleaning poop from the shag.

We know we’ll never get all our work done in time, but we still tab over and try to finish editing our writing drafts sometime around 4:30 pm. Thirty minutes later we are napping on the couch, all thoughts of work gone like smoke.

So we think the above example is a bit extreme and sounds nothing like us? Without most of us knowing it, we are doing the same types of things — and it’s hurting our productivity.

If we are doing or letting happen any of the following thirteen things, we may be harming ourselves when we are working from home.

1. We Spend Too Much Time on Social Media

“If you don’t pay appropriate attention to what has your attention, it will take more of your attention than it deserves.” — David Allen

Social media is a problem because most of us have it open on our phones or in extra tabs in our browser. We check it first thing when we wake up and scroll all through breakfast. We stop working every so often and tab over to catch up, ruining our train of thought.

It’s always in the back of our minds when we should be focusing on the work at hand. We don’t let it get any more than arm's length from us because we know we will miss something.

On average, according to Global Web Index, internet users are spending 2 hours and 22 minutes a day on social media. How much of that falls during the hours we should be spending working?

2. We Don’t Get Dressed

“To be disciplined is to follow in a good way. To be self-disciplined is to follow in a better way.” — Corita Kent

If we work from home, everyone asks us if it is nice to work in pajamas. But just because we don’t have coworkers does not mean we shouldn’t shower and get dressed as if we were going to an office.

Yes, the occasional day in sweats is mandatory, but if we want to be productive, we need to be in the right mindset, and getting dressed does that.

3. We Multitask

“Multitasking is a lie” — Gary Keller

Instead of focusing on one thing and doing our best work, we try to do several things at once, all while having social media on standby. The gurus try to tell us that multitasking is the way to get more done in a shorter time, and we believe them.

All that multitasking will enable you to do is waste more time and produce poor work. Research shows that trying to do more than one thing at a time does indeed hurt our productivity.

4. We Have Bad Timing

We all have a time of day when we work best, when we are in the flow, so to speak.

For me, it’s the first thing in the morning.

The mistake I’ve made is either trying to do my toughest tasks at night, or I do a low-level task like checking email when I’m in the flow and should be writing or whatever high-value work I have to do.

“But while certain activities can induce flow states more easily than others, to truly achieve flow requires deliberate intention and effort.” — Ransom Patterson

We waste our most productive time doing things best left for after lunch when we are sleepy and unmotivated.

5. We Allow Too Many Interruptions

“Starve your distraction and feed your focus.” –Unknown

Most of us won’t have to put up with a dog pooping on the floor in front of us, but how often do we notice the barking coming from outside? How often does our partner ask us a question or tell us to do something unimportant? How many times a day do the kids interrupt what we are doing?

Interruptions are killing our productivity because it ruins flow, and nine times out of ten, it ties us up and keeps us from doing what we should be doing.

6. We Don’t Plan Our Day

It might seem to be going against your nature to plan our day if we are a pantser and not a plotter, but if we have no plan at all, not even in our head, our productivity is going to suffer.

If we take things as they come without rhyme or reason and do tasks on a whim, we will never be able to produce our best work. Planning our day allows us to create a clear-cut path for ourselves that provides a healthy balance of work and play.

7. We Don’t Give Ourselves Uninterrupted Time for Thinking

Maybe we do have a plan, but it’s so strict there’s no wiggle room. This is dangerous, especially for creatives, because we need time to ruminate and think freely and unfettered about the things we are trying to do.

Never underestimate the power of doing nothing. If we are always pushing and hustling, our minds will never find the will to be creative.

8. We Complain Too Much

How much time do we waste complaining about how much we have to do or how busy we are? Is it productive to spend time on a meaningless task that doesn’t make us feel better when we could be using our time fruitfully?

Don’t we know that “Complaining affects our brains and our physical health negatively. A sense of sadness or melancholy is increased, along with real dissatisfaction with our daily lives.”Katherine Eion

9. We Don’t Take Breaks

“Don’t worry about breaks every 20 minutes ruining your focus on a task. Contrary to what I might have guessed, taking regular breaks from mental tasks actually improves your creativity and productivity. Skipping breaks, on the other hand, leads to stress and fatigue.” — Tom Rath

Do we work so hard or keep ourselves so busy that we don’t take care of our personal needs and wants? Do we not even stop to eat, or just stand and stretch our sore muscles because we feel we should always be hustling?

Most times, we know there is a better way, but we get so focused and preoccupied with what we are doing that we don’t even take the time to find it.

10. We Have Obsessive Habits and Behaviors

“Simplicity boils down to two steps: Identify the essential. Eliminate the rest.” — Leo Babauta

This one is simple: how much time do we spend standing outside smoking or sitting at our desks eating something unhealthy? How much of our focus and attention goes to us thinking of the next time we can do these things?

11. We Have Poor Health and Lack of Sleep

Many of us don’t take care of our physical or mental health because we are so busy. Sometimes we push ourselves so hard that we fail to see the stress it causes until something more serious surfaces, like anxiety or depression.

There is also the issue of skipping exercise for work, even if it’s only a quick stretch or a walk around the block. Poor health habits hurt our productivity.

“If we are healthy, we are more productive. We take fewer absences, meaning that there are fewer chances of work piling up after taking time to rest. Being healthy also means that we are more motivated to work, recover faster from sickness and less prone to long-term ailments.” PeopleDynamics.co

12. We Don’t Pay Attention to Where We Work

Most want to work from home because we can work from wherever we want. But if we don’t pay attention to our environment, sit improperly, work in an untidy mess, or have constant interruptions, our work will inevitably suffer.

The benefit of working in an office is we have an assigned place to work and our employer will generally see to it that we are comfortable and safe. But when we work from home, there are no such protections, and our focus suffers. Even our health can be at risk.

13. We Are Negative

Dammit, we can be such grouchy people! How much does our work suffer when we have a negative attitude, and we are constantly complaining or throwing a pity party in our honor?

“We all know we are capable of portraying a bad or good attitude. No one chooses our attitude for us, the choice is ours. When working from home, we need to pick the right attitude that we wear just as if we were picking our wardrobe for work.” — HudsonManagementServices.net

A negative attitude will not only make it hard for us to stay motivated but will make us hate the very thing we wished for all along — to work from home in the first place.

How Can We Be Productive When We Are Working From Home?

If we find one of our habits or some other factor is harmful to our productivity then either we need to change the habit and do the opposite or change the circumstance. If you find yourself having a problem with any other of the thirteen things on this list, try the following:

  1. Stop using social media when you should be working. Except in the case where you need to be on social media to complete a task, keep it for times when you are not in flow or when your motivation fails us and you feel it’s time to take a short break. You don’t have to give it up completely, just be smarter in our use of it.
  2. Get dressed. Get up every day, shower, brush your teeth, and put on some clothes, just like you’re going to an office. This practice will get us in the right mindset and help us get into flow.
  3. Don’t multitask. Again, multitasking is a lie. Do one thing at a time and do it well.
  4. Work during peak time. Don’t do low-value tasks when you are optimally motivated and focused. Save them for when you are tired and unmotivated.
  5. Cut the interruptions. Lock the door to your room. Put up a “do not disturb” sign. Let your family and your dogs know that you are working. And also ask nicely if they can keep the noise down.
  6. Plan your day even if you only make a mental checklist to follow.
  7. Set aside time every day to do nothing but think and be creative. This is especially important if we work in a creative field.
  8. Stop complaining all the time. It’s amazing how much you’ll smile when you’re not always belly-aching.
  9. Take a break. Set a timer. Stop every hour and stretch. If you’re staring at a screen for a long time, tilt your head back and look up at the ceiling for 30 seconds every so often. Resting your body and mind will do great things for your physical and mental health.
  10. Stop obsessive habits. You know smoking is bad for you, but what about constant snacking while sitting at your desk? Stop and focus. Don’t always be going hand to mouth.
  11. Take care of your health. Exercise, eat right, and get plenty of sleep. Don’t let being busy keep you from taking care of yourself.
  12. Pay attention to our environment. Clean your desk — if you don’t have a desk, get one. Standing desks are great too.
  13. Be positive.

When we remove any of these harmful things from our workday, our productivity is bound to skyrocket and our boss, clients, or our work-in-progress will be happier with us in the long run.

Consider everything an experiment and always be trying new things to keep ourselves focused and fulfilled with our work.

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Writer and advocate interested in mental health, health, family, culture, creativity, and success.

Los Angeles, CA

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