The reason I study productivity is because I’m an unproductive person. I truly am.
I sleep too much. I talk too much. I read too much. I listen to music all day. I watch movies. I buy gadgets that turn me into a zombie.
If it wasn’t for my productivity system, I wouldn’t get anything done. I wouldn’t even write this article. But if you browse social media, all you see is super productive, healthy, and wealthy people. Is that really the case?
I don’t know. I just know this: You can’t be productive 24/7. And a big part of being productive is about getting rid of unproductive habits we all have.
What follows is a list of eleven unproductive habits that I learned to do less, or eliminate. Do you have a few of these habits? Don’t worry, we’re all unproductive at times. But if you have five or more, it might be time to change.
Some days I can work 12 or 13 hours straight. I just take a break for exercising and eating. And I can keep that up for a few days. But after a few days, there always comes a crash. Big time. I struggle. I can’t get stuff done. I don’t even want to get stuff done. It’s not good. So I learned to be more calculated with how much I work. Like Ernest Hemingway, stop working at the height of your day.
What if I go broke? What if I lose my job? What if she doesn’t love me? What if I get cancer? What if this plane crashes? What if I lose my sight? What if I…? You got your head so far in the sand like an ostrich that you can’t see how self-absorbed that way of thinking is. Here’s the thing: YOU’RE NOT GOING TO DIE RIGHT THIS SECOND. Get over yourself. Stop worrying. And do something useful.
We deal with people all the time. Do you ever think: “Why should I listen to this guy?” Or: “What does she know?” I don’t know. Maybe more than you do? We just don’t know until we listen to others. When you’re always cynical and stubborn, you’re actually sabotaging yourself.
Ignoring your health
The way you feel determines the quality of your work. If you’re always tired and feel bad, how do you expect to do great work? When you’re in good shape and eat well, your work will reflect that.
What are you doing? We often say something like “I was just checking Instagram,” or something like that. But “checking” is not a useful activity. It might be a verb, but it’s not a real action. When I started blogging, I always checked my stats for no reason. Then I thought: What’s the outcome of checking? Nothing. So stop doing it.
Not having goals
Every time successful people say, “I don’t have goals,” I know they are full of shit. Who can be successful at anything without aiming for it. Don’t believe the stories. People just want to make you believe they became successful without effort. Set a goal, and then work towards it.
Most people are afraid to say no. Maybe you don’t want to let people down. Maybe you are uncomfortable with the word no. I don’t know. Doesn’t matter, really. What matters is this: If you keep saying yes, you’re living someone else’s life. Think about it. Deep down, we all know that it’s true. We’re not even in control of our own time. Want to be in full control of your life? Say no to a million things and yes to a few things that matter.
Relying on your memory
Not writing down your thoughts, ideas, tasks, etc, is insane. Why? Because you’re wasting a lot of brain power when you rely on your memory. When you write everything down, you can use your brainpower for other things. Like solving problems. That’s actually useful and advances your career.
Neglecting your personal education
“Woohoo! I finished college. Goodbye lame old books!” Who learns one thing and stops forever? I don’t even know why we have that idea planted in our brain. I always thought that learning stops when you get out of school. But the truth is: Your life stops when learning stops. Invest in yourself. Learn something. Read books. Get courses. Watch videos. Do it from home or go places. It doesn’t matter. Just learn new things. You’ll be more productive and more excited about life.
We all know, and yet, we all do it. Complaining is one of those habits we always try to quit. But it never lasts. I’m no different. That’s why I always remind myself that complaining is a waste of effort. Just the awareness of that will help you to stop.
Lack of focus
Many successful people say that the ability to focus is the number one reason they’ve made it big. And it’s no surprise. The people who are all over the place never seem to get anywhere.
Often, people don’t understand why I focus on what not to do. The reason is that I like to learn by inverting. It’s the same strategy Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger used to become the most well-known investors of the world.
When you want to become successful or productive, look at how you become the opposite. Turn things upside down. That’s what we’ve done in this article too.
By simply avoiding these unproductive habits, you’ll automatically become more productive. When you combine this with a handful of productivity tips (see here), you have a reliable system.
And I always rely on my system to work smarter, better, happier, and effectively. It took me years to figure out that having a system is a good thing, and a few more years to create one, but it was worth it.
Because now, I get to be a productive person.
Not bad for an unproductive person, right?