5 Bad Habits You Must Change to Be More Productive

No. 3 was killing my business in 2016 and still has an effect in 2017.

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By Ahmed Safwan


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Productivity is very important in today's fast-moving world. Most people try to add to their routine to get more done, but that approach takes a while before it yields good, measurable results.

Most of the time, all you need to triple your productivity is to stop doing a few things. Almost immediately, you'll see and feel a huge difference. Cutting out tasks that drag you down leaves space for the things that really matter. It might seem counterintuitive, but it makes sense to pare down first -- and then begin integrating new systems into your life.

If you're looking for a place to start, consider how you're spending your time and concentrate on eliminating these five bad habits. Take action, and use this free cheat sheet to help keep you accountable.

1. Scheduling every second of your day (with no free time).

This may come as a surprise, but if you want to start improving your productivity, you need to stop scheduling every second of your day. People enjoy the process of setting their calendar and the fleeting feeling of accomplishment it brings. But if you schedule too much, you'll end up hating your work days.

Not only that, but when an emergency pops up or you don't have the energy to finish the remaining work, you'll lose track of your day. It will be a mess, and you won't achieve nearly as much as you'd set out to complete.

Related: 10 Productivity Tools for the Sole Proprietor

The solution? Opt for a simpler method, such as picking six important tasks you want to finish before you go to sleep. When you wake up, create a simple outline for the things you want to accomplish, but don't stick to too rigidly to the schedule.

Listen to what your body is telling you. Keep your sights on the most important tasks -- and don't forget to eat breakfast in the morning.

2. Trying to succeed at multiple things at once.

This is where most people tend to lose focus. We all want to be successful in many aspects of life: build businesses for multiple markets, be an athlete, travel the world and so on.

If you follow too many opportunities at the same time, you're setting yourself up to fall short in more ways than one. Or, if you do achieve success, the law of distribution means you'll have little celebrations that don't bring as much satisfaction as one or two big wins.

It's better to identify one thing that will help you achieve other goals and focus all your energy on that catalyst for change. When you succeed, reduce the time you devote to that pursuit and redirect those hours or even minutes to other avenues.

The best part? You can leverage your initial success to help you reach other milestones. For example, if you build that business you've been thinking about and turn a consistent profit, you can use that success and capital to fuel other endeavors -- making them successful twice as quickly as your first company. Or use your net proceeds to travel the world without worrying about cash flow or needing to spend time taking care of your business.

Related: How to Stay Focused: Train Your Brain

3. Aiming for perfection.

You know the feeling that nags you when you try to launch a new project? The twinge when you go live with a new website and then find a few small details that aren't quite perfect?

If you're like me, you're willing to spend hours or even days chasing the idea of perfection. But I've noticed a comical snowball effect, and it happens every time: When I start fixing one thing, I find a bunch of other things that need to be perfect, too. The loop keeps going long after I've run out of energy to do my best work. And that can lead to indefinite delays.

The bittersweet truth is no one will notice your imperfections the way you do. Even if a few people do pick up on a detail here and there, your losses won't be as severe as they will if you don't try at all. Even if you fail, you'll learn something.

Instead, aim to get your project to 90 percent -- and then launch. You can iterate and make tweaks as you go.

Related: Perfection Is the Greatest Obstacle to Productivity

4. Skipping breaks to get more done.

When you work more, you get more done, right? (Trick question. It's 100 percent wrong.)

As Cal Newport demonstrates in his book "Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World," the things you get done are equal to the time spent, minus the intensity of the work.

So if you spend 10 hours doing things at an intensity of 2, you'll achieve the same result as if you spend 2 hours doing things at an intensity of 10. It's an amazing concept. In one-quarter of the time, you achieved the same thing. The key to accomplishing more is increasing your intensity.

To get in the habit, you can follow the Pomodoro technique. Work uninterruptedly on a single task for 25 minutes and then take a 5-minute break. After four cycles, you can take a longer break. This is one of the three steps that helped me build my business while studying dentistry.

Related: 6 Tips to Combat Time Poverty

5. Not rewarding yourself.

How does rewarding yourself increase productivity? It inspires you to sustain that level of intensity. And if you want to get more done, you need to build in more rewards.

When you've accomplished two hours of high-intensity work, reward yourself with something simple -- like a chocolate. You can even schedule free time in your calendar to enjoy these rewards. A longer burst of intense work might earn you a new movie, for example.

I know it sounds unbelievable, but trust me when I say it's very important to take time for these moments. If you don't, you'll get burned out quickly. Scheduling rewards in advance not only prevents you from reaching that critical point but also helps you focus intently on the task at hand. You know you've allotted yourself time to do the work, and you know you'll soon be enjoying a hard-won reward. Savor it.

Related: Why Every Entrepreneur Should Define a Good Day

Ahmed Safwan

Entrepreneur while still 20

Ahmed Safwan is building a freelancing business while studying to be a dentist but still finds time to enjoy with friends.

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