Not all tasks are equally important
They say that you have the same number of hours in the day as Beyonce — so why does it feel like you’re never able to get caught up on your business to-do list?
Apart from not having your own team of personal assistants, stylists and other hangers-on, it could be your habits that are keeping you from achieving your business goals. Fortunately, habits can be broken.
Here are 10 habits you should ditch right away to improve your productivity:
1. Checking email constantly
Let’s face it: We’re all guilty of wasting precious time and mental focus by over-checking email. The impact of this habit is serious, though, as checking email too frequently has been linked to lower memory function, anxiety, depression and lower performance.
The best way to overcome this bad habit is to only check email at certain times. If necessary, you can create an auto-reply email saying “I check my emails at 10 a.m., 12 p.m. and 3 p.m. I’ll respond to you as soon as possible.”
2. Scheduling weekly status meetings
Most of us have the sneaking suspicion that meetings are a huge time-waster, yet we keep scheduling them anyway. One of the biggest culprits is the weekly status meeting. Even if nothing has changed, everyone has to stop what they’re doing and attend a face-to-face meeting. Instead, try using a shared project management system,internal chat tool or Google Docs to track milestones and note what has been accomplished so far.
3. Working long hours
Studies have shown that those who work more than eight hours a day have lower productivity and higher burnout rates than those who don’t. Clocking these hours might look good, but you aren’t getting anything extra accomplished. Instead, work on being more focused during your work hours by using techniques such as time blocking. Your results will speak for themselves.
4. Waiting on the big project
When you look at your to-do list in the morning, what do you tackle first? If you tend to do the easier things first and wait on the big projects, you’ve got a bad habit. By the time you get to the important work — if you ever do — you’ll be tired, cranky and far less productive. By starting on the big project right away, you give it your best energy while saving the easy work for later in the day when you naturally have less focus and motivation.
5. Having coffee for breakfast
Almost everyone uses caffeine to wake up, but is that all you’re using? If you’re not eating breakfast, you’re missing out on important fuel for your day. After sleeping, your body is dehydrated and hungry. If you have coffee for breakfast, you’re not giving yourself the nutrients and liquids you need, which will undoubtedly have a big impact on your productivity and mood throughout the day.
6. Not getting eight hours of sleep
Speaking of sleep, do you get your full eight hours? Most American business owners don’t, and it’s killing their productivity. Research has shown that getting five hours or less of sleep several nights in a row affects you in the same way that having a 0.10 blood alcohol level does. In addition, you’ll be more prone to mistakes, have more headaches and be more easily distracted if you don’t get enough sleep.
7. Eating lunch at your desk
You may think that you’re being more productive by skipping your lunch hour, but what happens if you spill food or a drink on a key report — or your keyboard? You could ruin your productivity for the afternoon with a simple slip-up. In addition, you’re more likely to make poor food choices and overeat if you’re eating at your desk. Do your productivity a favor and get lunch away from your desk.
8. Not taking breaks
You may think you’re more productive if you keep plugging away, but studies show that people need breaks to maintain maximum productivity. Think of a break as a way to rest, allow your brain to make new creative connections, and refocus on what’s most important. Breaks also help prevent mistakes and keep us engaged with our work.
9. Giving every task equal importance
According to the 80/20 rule, 20 percent of our tasks will produce 80 percent of our results. So why are you treating all tasks as if they’re equally important? By focusing on the most important 20 percent — which may not be your most urgent work — you’ll be significantly more productive. There’s nothing more frustrating than spending a day “fighting fires” only to realize that you didn’t accomplish your most important work.
You may think you’re being more productive when you try to do two things at once, but you’re fooling yourself. Your brain may be good at switching quickly between tasks, but it still causes a loss of focus, creativity and productivity. By focusing on one task at a time, you’ll get more done overall.
Having bad habits is common, but they can be overcome. By focusing on breaking these 10 productivity-killing habits, you’ll dramatically improve your effectiveness, making it possible to accomplish whatever business goals you’ve set for yourself.
This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com.