It’s too often that we feel our lives moving forward as we stumble over every task on our to-do list to keep up. As you try to email a report to your boss, you’re also brainstorming ideas for your next meeting, texting your best friend about her break-up, cooking your week of meals, and attempting to schedule a nap in between this chaos.
To put it honestly, we’ve all experienced these frustrating moments where our responsibilities become overwhelming and our ability to accomplish them seems downright impossible. Although being busy is a natural part of life, our level of productivity determines if we drown under our obligations — or stay on top of them. Read further to see the seven habits that are making you unproductive.
1. Checking your phone
Of course, we had to mention the device that manages your color coded calendar and doubles as an alarm clock that wakes you up (regardless of the number of times you hit snooze). With the benefits of using your phone comes the downfall of always instinctively checking it. From trying to share your morning run in less than 140 characters to tagging your friend in every meme you see, your phone tends to go from a way to stay informed to a way to remain distracted.
- Turn your phone off while doing the task at hand
- Place your phone out of reach when having to focus
- Silence your notifications on apps and texts
- Use your phone during controlled breaks
2. Giving yourself too much work
If you’re stressed out over the three freelance projects you’ve committed to, agreeing to another one might not the best idea. And the 6am yoga class you’re planning to attend? That also might not be the greatest option if you hate the idea of waking up before 8am to begin with. Even though you feel the need to to do everything, you aren’t meant to — you’re a human, not a superhero.
Why is it that we tend to put more responsibilities on our plate than we can carry? Maybe it’s our way of proving something to ourselves or our unwillingness to say no — regardless of what the reason is, the reality is that our busy schedules are why we’re stressed and our productivity is what suffers because of this negative feeling.
- Check your to-do list before agreeing to take something on
- Be realistic in what you can handle
- Don’t feel ashamed for turning a task down
- Keep in mind that your self-care is most important and that you shouldn’t have to sacrifice it to finish your tasks
3. Napping for extended periods of time
Getting enough sleep is ideal — napping to make up for your loss of sleep is not. A 20 minute nap is harmless until you realize it’s been 3 hours and your entire apartment still needs to be cleaned before your parents come visit. The outcome of these long naps is not only the fact that you still have tasks to finish, but that you’ll either be groggy as you do them or cast them off entirely until tomorrow (or even the next day after that).
- Set up a sleeping schedule and stick to it
- Avoid laying or sitting in a comfortable area when trying to be productive
- Do something that wakes you up if you feel yourself dozing off (listen to your go-to song, drink a glass of water, call your friend)
- If you choose to nap, set your alarm and put it across the room
4. Being in a cluttered environment
You can only be as productive as your work environment feels. Don’t get us wrong — we aren’t saying that your desk has to be spotless and that your pens have to be lined up. Instead, recognize what your standard of “clutter” means and hone in on it so that you can avoid it and stay effective throughout the day. Overall, the place you decide to take on your to-do list should be one that inspires you to think of new ideas and empowers you to put them into action.
- Take 5-10 minutes at the beginning and end of your day to tidy up your space
- Avoid eating where you work
- Find different ways to store your extra items
5. Not having a set schedule
Behind every successful project is a person who stuck to a plan that helped him or her reach that finish point. The fact that you’re busy is unavoidable, but the feeling of discouragement you have from it is usually because you haven’t thought of a schedule (or weren’t able to follow one). By creating a schedule of what you’ll work on and for how long, you’ll be on the path to taking control of your tasks and finally putting an end to (most of) the long nights you’ve spent trying to finish them.
- Create the schedule in one place or device so you can easily pull it up
- Schedule your tasks based on priority/due date
- Award yourself with something you enjoy after each task is done on schedule
- Keep the schedule sensible to what you’re able to finish
- Attempt to stick to your plan as best as possible, but don’t panic if you have to make some tweaks every now and then
6. Your meal choices
We know how the routine goes — after starting your day with a yogurt parfait and blueberry smoothie, that burrito bowl with extra guac is all you (and your stomach) are asking for. The perfect side dish to go with this lunch idea? A much-needed nap.
Commence the midday slump, a popular term to describe the aftermath of a somewhat large lunch and the reason for low productivity afterwards. Obviously your meal isn’t always the only culprit for your drowsiness, but it’s one that can be controlled — and conquered.
- Bring your own lunch
- Indulge in healthy snacks throughout the day (such as fruit and nuts)
- Stay hydrated with water
7. Comparing yourself to others
Nothing will dim your moments of happiness like remembering how Lisa got a job promotion two months earlier than you did or that Andrea is planning her wedding as you try to survive your first date. Due to the fact that the lives of our peers are reachable at the opening of an app and reinforced by the double tap of a finger, it’s difficult to not use other’s milestones as determinations of how great our own lives are going.
The next time you find yourself in the predicament of scrolling through someone’s highlight reel, take the discouragement you feel and transform it into determination to keep your attitude positive and your mindset excited for what’s to come.
- Plan some time in your day to unplug from your phone
- Focus on your next goals and write down how you’ll accomplish them
- Discover new hobbies and continue learning
- Surround yourself by loved ones and best friends