10 Dumb Little Productivity Killers You Need to Stop Doing Today

By Damian Davila on 24 October 2014 3 comments

Are you reading this article during your third coffee break or on your smartphone during a meeting?

If so, then you are part of the 69% of workers that say that they waste time at work every day.

How else are you wasting time — and getting less done? Here are 10 dumb little productivity killers you need to stop doing today, and how to fix them.

1. Reading Email Too Often

Smartphones are great tools and let us keep connected with each other. Maybe a bit too connected. Turns out that the average person spends around 13 hours every week reading and replying to emails. Checking email is a productivity trap. While you may think that replying and forwarding emails is actual work, you may not get any real work done.

Some of the busiest (and successful!) business executives suggest that you should only check your email twice a day.

2. Taking Too Long to Set Up Meetings

How many emails do you see go back and forth between groups of co-workers that are trying to set up a meeting day and time? There are two easy ways to stop those email marathons:

  • Pick up the phone. Setting up meeting times over the phone is often faster and allows you to skip email altogether.
     
  • Make digital calendars public. By allowing everybody within your company to check the availability of co-workers, you're cutting down the time spent figuring out blocks of time in which everybody is free. Both Outlook and Google Calendar are great tools to make calendars public within an organization.

3. Attending Too Many Meetings

A Harvard Business School study shows that people within large organizations can spend 300,000 hours a year supporting an ongoing weekly meeting.

When thinking about meetings, don't just stop with your hours. Before scheduling a meeting, keep in mind the number of:

  • Persons necessary for meeting;
  • Hours required in preparation for meeting; and
  • Meetings with subordinates and/or supervisors to complete action times.

There are two useful rules of thumb to start eliminating and shortening meetings. First, if the meeting lacks a decision-maker, nix the meeting. Second, always have a list of action items. Aggressively go through each one of the action items. If you're done with the list, finish the meeting.

4. Taking Personal Calls and Texts at Work

A survey of 2,138 U.S. employers puts personal cell phone calls and texts at the top of the list of workplace disruptions ruining employee productivity. Half of employers put this problem at the top of the list of productivity killers and they're absolutely right. Almost a quarter of workers admit spending at least one hour per day on personal calls or texts.

The fix is simple: Keep your personal life, personal. If you were to spend one less hour on personal stuff, you would complete your work one hour faster. Ask your friends and relatives not to contact you during work hours, except in case of emergencies.

5. Gossiping Too Much

On the same survey, the second top productivity killer from the list is gossip. While not all gossip at the office is necessarily bad, negative gossip kills productivity because it encourages CYA behavior, creates distrust among employees and supervisors, and, in the worst case, causes "malicious harassment" lawsuits.

Don't waste time talking trash behind people's backs and avoid those that do. Not only will you keep focused on your work, but also you will avoid involvement in messy situations.

6. Saying "Yes" to Everything

Everything needs to be taken in moderation, including assignments from your supervisor. In theory, being a "Yes Man" may sound like a surefire way to get ahead. However, it may actually hurt your performance by keeping you stressed, late on projects, and compromised with mediocre results.

Start analyzing projects before committing to blindly committing to them. Your supervisor will appreciate your critical thinking and commitment to superior results. Plus, your coworkers will be happy that you're not a ball of stress all the time. (See also: How to Say "No" at Work and Still Get Ahead)

7. Not Sleeping Enough Every Day

A common consequence of taking on too many tasks is that you are not able to sleep as well as before. By burning the midnight oil too often, you're burning your daytime productivity. Studies have shown that most healthy adults need seven to eight hours of daily sleep to be fully rested.

Build a better sleep routine and start catching more z's. (See also: 5 Effective Sleep Tips You Haven't Tried Yet)

8. Wasting Time on Social Media

All those tweets, Facebook posts, and Instagram pics are eating an average of 3.2 hours of your day.

The easiest ways to curb your social media consumption are:

  • Blocking social media sites during work hours using the Cold Turkey app or others like it;
     
  • Uninstalling social media apps from your smartphone;
     
  • Forcing yourself to crowdsource questions by asking people in person; and
     
  • Using a desk clock or wearing a wristwatch so you don't take out your phone to check the time.

9. Getting Distracted by Interruptions

Going "squirrel!" too often at work is a major productivity killer.

The average office worker spends only 11 minutes on a task before being interrupted by a phone call, email, or "urgent" meeting. To make matters worse, it takes an average of 25 minutes for the same worker to get back to the original task after each interruption.

To minimize your number of interruptions:

  • Protect your most productive hours by making yourself unavailable for meetings;
     
  • Let all calls go to voicemail;
     
  • Set your smartphone to "airplane" mode; and
     
  • Use a service to pause email arriving to your inbox, such as Inbox Pause for Gmail.

10. Lacking S.M.A.R.T Goals

The best way to increase your productivity is to develop goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-focused, and Time-bound.

  • Don't say: increase car sales.
  • Do say: By October 31st, increase the number of sales of Model A by 2% using the guidelines from last quarter's training program so my supervisor can more competently evaluate my performance.

By developing S.M.A.R.T. goals you will have a clear set of guidelines to attain your objectives more effectively and be evaluate more efficiently.

What are the worst dumb little productivity killers? Please share in comments, and then get back on task!

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Guest's picture

Wow, social media is on average 3.2 hours a day for everyone. That's crazy! I find that I do a few of these things. Thank you for sharing. Knowing our pitfalls is the way to help!

Damian Davila's picture

I know! Imagine: if we were to work out that much every day, we would all be ripped!

Guest's picture
Cassie

Hi, I just discovered your blog and am very much enjoying it. I used to make my living as a freelance writer and sometimes think that if the internet had been a little further along then, I'd probably still be doing it...or would I, given all the electronic distractions that showed up in its wake?! But at the time, having both energy and discipline ;'), I got a lot done. Somewhere I'd read that people in office jobs waste about 4 hours a day, so I made it my goal to work 4 to 6 'good' hours a day and...did ok! And I'm hoping your blog will help me find that place again.