3 Habits Surprisingly Killing Your Productivity

By CA Newberry

December 3, 2014   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

Team Working

Yesterday about 6:30 p.m. a gaping sense of panic set in. Did I send that article? Wait, did I finish that article? Hey, did I eat today? Why are the lights off? Did everyone leave? How did this happen to me, again?

I was content with my accomplishments that day, never leaving my workstation. At one point, I responded to twenty emails, while answering the phone. In addition, I scheduled five meetings, created a beautiful report with splashy graphics and squeezed in assisting a teammate.

Turns out my leg muscles were cramped, two of those meetings were scheduled at the same time and a bewildered client called to inquire why I emailed her regarding my cat, Mr. Whiskers. By the way, I missed the crucial deadline, never having forwarded the article.

Sound familiar? I’m positive I’m not the only one that thinks I’m helping myself, yet in reality, has developed destructive habits that have directly affected my level of productivity.

Take a look at these three top offenders and recommendations on how to counteract these habits.

For Goodness Sake Don’t Skip The Break

We spend our lives wishing for more time. Convinced the only way to add time to the clock is to skip our breaks. Should we honestly wonder why our brains are feeling fuzzy and we are severely unfocused?
Set a reminder on your calendar, don’t ignore it. When it goes off, stand up, stroll around the room. Better yet, wander outside, breathe in fresh air. It’s a fact, brains require oxygen. Don’t be opposed to a quick set of jumping jacks just to ensure the blood begins to flow. Consider taking that lunch or break and consuming one of these superfoods that help support an active, productive, and healthy brain.

Provided you followed the above advice, the fog in your head is now clear, allowing your brain to return to creative problem solving. Built up stress between your shoulder blades has finally let go of it’s tight clutch. You’re coherent and ready to pounce on that massive project you have been ignoring.

In addition, a quick meditation break also can lower your stress, giving you back a sense of peace and purpose creating a joyful attitude. Come on, cheerful people are so much nicer to be around. Right?

Meet the Zen Master of Multitasking

For years we have all been proudly adding the title “King of the Multitaskers” to our resumes. Delighted we can type 80 wpm, send off a bunch of emails and call fifteen clients, simultaneously!

Turns out, this could be the most destructive habit that numerous people are still guilty of developing. Multitasking typically equals mediocre work, including a high percentage of mistakes. Studies have shown that if you are splitting your focal point between tasks, fragments of focus are pointing toward each of the tasks you are trying to accomplish. However, most of the attention is pointed towards the actual act of switching tasks potentially losing up to 40% of your productivity.

This explained why yesterday I dialed the wrong number five times before connecting with the right customer and why my best client received a lengthy email detailing Mr. Whisker’s infatuation with his new cat toy.

Desperate for a recommendation on how to break this loathsome routine? After wasted hours surfing the net (another habit to break), I stumbled on the Pomodoro Technique® . Surprisingly, this not only helped break me of the dreaded multitasking habit. It also aided with time management, forcing myself into those much needed breaks that were being ignored.

The Pomodoro Technique®, created by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980’s, focuses on utilizing twenty-five minute blocks of time to focus on a single activity, taking a mini break after each block and a larger break after completing four blocks of time. For me the key was prioritizing tasks, placing the most vital on the list into the early morning portion of the day. I began feeling exceptionally focused, completing two extra assignments per day.


A co-worker once gifted me a magnet, thinking it captured my attitude perfectly. It reads: “No, No I’m sorry I can’t, No….OK, I will be there Friday at 8:00.” So many of us can be categorized as people pleasers, never wanting to be heard saying no. We also like being viewed as willing to help and first to volunteer. Besides, some of us are under the impression that by being seen as the Yes Man for our supervisors, we are ensuring ourselves an opportunity to get ahead.

However, with today’s packed schedules, that behavior results in becoming bogged down. Trying to juggle tasks and complete assignments leads to sacrificing quality for quantity. We run the risk of pushing our calendars to maximum capacity as pleas for our assistance or requests for meetings flood into our inbox. In addition, with today’s economy, we are fearful that we will be out of a job if we use the dreaded “no” word.

Why are we afraid to say no? It could easily be traced to the fact that when most of us are learning how to talk one of our first words is “NO”. Soon after, our toddler selves learn this powerful word, our parents quickly reverse the knowledge insisting we don’t say it. We learn it can be rude, borderline impolite.

Consider this, saying yes can have negative consequences. Potentially sacrificing our own deadlines, turning assignments in late and completing less than superior work. Thusly, appearing incapable.

By trial and error I finally learned “no” is an acceptable response. I always try to include a reason and a possible alternative suggestion. It’s justifiable to state: I am up against a deadline. I have time available to assist you tomorrow.

If your boss asks you to take on an additional project, state your concerns. Share that you value the attention to detailed, quality work and you would feel it’s best to wrap up the current task you are working on before diving into this new assignment. Be prepared that his answer might also be no. If so, ask him to sit down with you and re-evaluate the order of priorities.

CA Newberry

C.A. Newberry is a retired event coordinator with passion for continued learning and sharing life experiences. You can connect with her on Twitter.

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