When it comes to productivity, we’d all like more of it. More focus, more drive, and more getting $h!t done. However, if you’re anything like the rest of us, boosting your productivity can be an uphill battle. Sometimes, it’s difficult to know where to start. You might have read all the books, attended the odd seminar, curated yourself a killer TED playlist, and kept up with the Spike blog, but you’re still stuck in the same old routines, constantly struggling to focus and turn out quality work.
However, sometimes in life, it’s not about the things you do, but the things you don’t. And when it comes to bad habits, less is definitely more. Identifying those habits should be your priority, and once you’ve got those irritating little compulsions down, you can start to turn them into productive habits that boost your output and actually, you know, give you a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.
So, check out these bad behaviors and break the cycle of procrastination (or just plain laziness) to turn every day into a whirlwind of efficiency and productivity. As an added bonus, we’ve also given you a few habits of highly effective people to point you in the right direction. You can thank us later.
You Snooze, You Lose
Ah…the joy of snooze! It’s every night owl’s dream. Just ten more minutes? Or an hour? But the problem with snoozing away your mornings is that it messes up your entire sleep cycle and you receive very little benefit from those extra minutes. During the night, our bodies go through sleep cycles that, ideally, ensure you are in the lightest stage of sleep when you wake up. Hitting snooze might put you straight back into REM, the deepest stage of sleep, leaving you groggy and confused about that weird nightmare you had when the alarm sounds again.
Some highly productive people’s habits mean that they don’t sleep like the rest of us. Recently, research into biphasic sleep has shed light on how people used to spend the night time hours in the past. Most commonly, sleep was split into two, four-hour blocks. In between those blocks, there was time to work, eat, or pray.
The Tyranny of Multitasking
It’s among the most common “skills” that everyone possesses these days. Multitasking. You won’t often find someone who hasn’t listed their ability to multitask on their resume. However, and just bear with us here, what if it was all an illusion? What if all of those people would be better served by focusing on a single task? According to research done at Stanford University, multitaskers almost always performed worse in simple memory tests, and they often had difficulty organizing their thoughts and filtering information. Put simply, multitasking stretches your gray matter too thinly, leaving you unable to complete a single task to standard—let alone two!
One word. Flow. It’s a habit that productive people cite time and again as crucial to their success. Finding your flow while allows you to put all of your energy into the task at hand. It can make complex tasks seem simple, and it allows you to absorb information and be more creative than ever before.
Email, Email, Email (and Instant Messaging)
While we’re on the subject of multitasking, there’s one particularly good example of how we are constantly stretching our brains to breaking point. Email and instant messaging. If you’re checking your email every five minutes, then you’re doing it wrong. If you’re interrupting the task at hand to reply to an unrelated message, then the same is true. If you spend more time on your team chat than on the project, then you should already know you have a problem.
Most of our working days are now punctuated by constant notifications and irritating interruptions. Synchronous comms, that is, methods of communication that demand instant attention such as team messenger apps or even email (if you let it) are asking us to constantly switch our attention, causing us to lose concentration. In particular, if you are using multiple apps for your internal and external communications, constantly switching between them is also draining our time and energy.
Email and instant messaging should be a means to an end and not the bulk of your day. Learning to switch off that always-on mentality (and all the associated notifications) is a positive work habit that will reap huge rewards.
The always-on mentality is definitely not a good thing. True creativity and problem-solving needs mental space, and constant distractions detract from that. Highly effective people get into the habit of answering blocks of emails in one go. Email is, after all asynchronous, so you can afford to answer messages at a time that suits you best, allowing you to concentrate on the important stuff.
Compulsively Checking Social Media
We get it. In fact, everyone does. That little dopamine hit you get each time you log into Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter (just to check, of course) is addictive. The problem is, however, that it creates a feedback loop that is probably enough to drive you insane. You begin to crave those micro-social interactions, so you log in. Only each time you do, you are effectively rewarding your brain with a chemical release, reinforcing a cognitive process that sends you right back to where you started.
We’re not saying that you should never use social media again, but the habits of highly productive people tend to limit exposure. Schedule a specific time of day and blast out all your social interactions. You might treat it as a reward for when you’ve finished work or jump online first thing in the morning to get ahead of the rest of the world. Alternatively, and assuming your job doesn’t require them, simply turning of notifications is a great way to keep social media distractions at bay. However you do it, kick the habit today and you’ll find a whole new world of productivity is waiting for you.
Here at Spike, we know a thing or two about productivity and the habits of highly successful people. That’s why we’re big on asynchronous communication, and the Spike app is designed to balance the best of email and instant messaging to help you find your flow every day. Download Spike today and try it for yourself.