7. black hole browsing
You know the feeling when you search for something on the internet, then click on a “related article” or other link … and before you know it, you’ve charted the entire Russian Revolution?
Yeah … I’ll be the first to admit it: I do this a lot. It’s a dangerous side effect of having a job that requires internet research. It’s one thing to mindlessly browse the web outside of work or when you’re on a break. (In fact, I have a great list of the best sites for wasting time on the internet for times like those.) But it’s another entirely when you’re supposed to be doing actual work.
That’s what Tousley likes to call “black hole browsing,” and it’s become one of the most productivity-sucking psychological addictions out there.
You might feel like getting lost in the black hole is inevitable, but there are tools out there that can help you prevent it from happening. For example, StayFocusd is a Google Chrome extension that breaks the black hole browsing cycle by blocking distracting websites after a set amount of time. You have a set amount of time to browse a certain website per day, and after that time expires, you’ll get this message in your browser:
8. working through your lunch break
Eating at your desk doesn’t just make you antisocial. According to NPR, it’s also “bad for thinking, bad for creativity, bad for productivity, [and] bad for your body.” Sadly, though,only one in five people actually leave their desks or the office for a lunch break.
To be fair, if you’re among those people who take lunch at your desk instead of taking a break, it may not be your fault. Perhaps it’s not built into your office culture, or maybe you have a deadline that’s pressuring you to squeeze every waking moment out of your day.
But research shows taking the midday break can be mentally rejuvenating — and, in many ways, more productive than plugging away at your desk between mouthfuls. The best way to take a lunch break is to remove yourself from your desk or workspace and eat somewhere else — like a cafeteria, restaurant, or public park. Better yet, build your network at work by eating with a colleague. (Here are some more ideas for what to do during your lunch break. My favorite is probably “build a helicopter obstacle course.”)
9. not listening. (like, really listening.)
One of the sad consequences of being constantly distracted is the epidemic of only halfpaying attention — and thinking that’s OK. You might think that any time someone else is talking and you’re not, that means you’re listening.
That, or you’re reading that email that just came in. Or checking to see why your phone buzzed. When you’re in a meeting, how much can you really be paying attention when your laptop is open?
Not only can not listening carefully cost you relationships, it can also cost you in the time it takes to make up for whatever information you missed. Becoming an active listener is a critical part of becoming more emotionally intelligent. This mean really, truly paying attention to what people are saying — and it’s a skill that’ll set you apart in both your professional and personal life.
10. saying “yes” to every meeting
Being “in the zone” is when you lose yourself in whatever you’re doing — so much so that you lose track of time. It’s one of the keys to both happiness and productivity at work.
… And nothing disrupts that flow like a meeting. Especially an unnecessary one. It turns out that the average person wastes 31 hours in meetings per month. These unnecessary meetings are ones where you or the organizer isn’t prepared, you didn’t really need to be there, and so on.
Want to get those 31 hours back? Here are a few suggestions:
- Be sure you’re only attending meetings you actually need to attend. If you don’t see yourself actively contributing to the group, politely let the meeting requester know that you won’t be able to attend.
- If you’re the one calling the meeting, send invitees a note, description, or some sort of heads up along with your calendar invitations. This’ll give them an idea of why they were invited or need to be there. Try an app like Do or Solid to help keep your meetings organized and actionable.
- Schedule meetings in bulk if you can. This is a strategic way to ensure the time youdo have outside of meetings is spent as productively as possible, since it takes peoplean average of 25 minutes to refocus after switching tasks.
Speaking of which …
Multitasking can seem inevitable in our modern, ever-connected lifestyles. But research shows it can make us less effective, increase mistakes and stress, and costs the global economy.
Think you’re an exception? Consider this: Only 2% of the population is capable of effectively multitasking. For the other 98%, all it does is cause us to be 40% less productive and make 50% more mistakes than non-multitaskers.
Remember that bad habit of not listening? People do that a lot during meetings when they try to multitask — whether it’s reading and responding to emails and messages, scrolling through their Twitter feeds, or something else. In fact, 92% of professionals admit to multitasking during meetings, and 41% admitted to doing it often or all the time.
Getting out of the habit of multitasking is difficult, but certainly doable. Removing notifications from your work computer (see #5) and putting away your cell phone (see #6) are two great ways to start. Other ideas include establishing a no-laptop rule for meetings, using the Pomodoro Technique (where you work in sprints in a way that complements the body’s natural ultradian rhythm), and planning your day in blocks that include built-in breaks.
12. playing with your phone before bed
Have you ever lay in bed with the lights off and spent a few minutes scrolling through your phone to respond to last-minute texts and emails, check your Twitter feed, or scroll through Instagram? Now, raise your hand if those few minutes have ever turned into half an hour, forty-five minutes, or even an hour.
Imagine how much more sleep you could’ve gotten that night if you’d simply gone to bed when you first turned the lights off.
But it’s not just about the amount of sleep — it’s also about quality of sleep. Studies have shown that people who gaze at a backlit screen right before bed actually report having lower-quality sleep — even when they get just as much sleep as someone who didn’t look at their electronics before bed. This is because presence and absence of light tell our brains whether or not they should release the sleep hormone melatonin that makes you tired. Because the LED lighting emitted by the screens on our electronic devices is so similar to daylight, it can trick our brains into thinking it’s daytime, causing us to stay awake for longer.
The best way to break this habit? Buy an alarm clock that’s not your phone, and charge your phone in a separate room so you avoid the temptation of checking it altogether. If you’re worried about missing an emergency call, then try sending those last-minute texts 30-60 minutes before you hit the hay. It’ll mean you get more sleep and higher quality sleep, leading you to operate at peak productivity the following day.