My philosophy used to be, say yes to everything, give 110 percent, and you can’t go wrong.
As a young writer trying to make it in the marketplace, I found myself constantly looking for ways to increase my productivity and make a name for myself. I worked on projects at all hours of the night. “I’m done when it’s done,” I told myself.
At the same time, I kept wondering how I could be so tired.
When I started my content marketing internship at Palo Alto Software, I planned to bring this philosophy with me. Then I emailed my supervisor to request some days off, tempered with the promise that I could work remotely. She replied with the request that I use days off to be truly away from the office and recharge.
As I began the internship, I quickly let go of my philosophy that working to the point of burnout increased my productivity.
It still feels weird to know I have a deadline approaching, but not sit in front of my laptop tapping away until I finish the work. But because I do not work in my free time, when I come back to the office, I feel refreshed enough to fill those hours with productivity and meet deadlines without stress.
In my quest to discard unhelpful habits like working nonstop, I considered advice from the Young Entrepreneur Council about what things they stopped doing to improve their businesses and their lives.
So how can you increase your productivity while improving your quality of life? Here are the 14 habits they said goodbye to. Maybe quitting one of these will boost your business and your personal life.
1. Browsing social media constantly
Spending time on social media can feel like a necessary way to keep up on news. But the benefits fail to offset the mental clutter.
“I have intentionally cut the amount of time I spend on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn,” says Shawn Schulze of Names.org. “I used to feel pressure to keep up with industry people I was following or to stay up-to-speed with news on these outlets. However, the emotions and distraction far outweigh the benefits.”
Instead, Schulze tries to free up the time he would spend online to take care of to-dos. “I try to focus more on getting things done or step away from technology to clear my mind over browsing social media,” he says.
2. Working seven days a week
As I learned from my time cramming on projects, sometimes, less is more.
“I realized it didn’t actually help to work every day of the week,” says John Rampton of Calendar. “I switch off on weekends and take one of the two days completely off to do a weekend away with my wife or family, or to do things locally.”
It seems obvious that the more time you spend working, the more you’ll get done. But taking time off is just as valuable for increasing your productivity.
“I feel refreshed and ready to take work back on, whereas I started feeling burned out doing the non-stop work week,” says Rampton.
3. Receiving phone notifications
As important as notifications look when they pop up on your screen, they suck you out of what is happening at work and in life at the present moment.
“I was irked and also inspired from seeing others being pulled out of conversations and situations to blind messages and alerts,” says Fleisher. “I realized that my phone interrupting me minute-by-minute was effectively controlling me.”
Feel like you’re drowning in Slack, Twitter, Instagram, and random apps you installed like Duolingo? Turn them off to reduce stress. “Since the change, life has been measurably improved both socially and professionally. Just say ‘no’ to notifications,” says Fleisher.
4. Engaging in political discussions on social media
It’s tempting to chime in on a political debate online. However, it rarely improves the discussion.
“Social media can be a massive waste of time, especially if you’re engaged in highly charged political debate,” says Andy Karuza of FenSens. “Starting this year, I stopped posting and stopped engaging in any political discussions whatsoever.”
We’ve all seen even our best contributions to a political thread get lost in the name-calling and circular discussions that pop up in the comments on social media. Instead, Karuza recommends, “Use your time for something productive, something that will make your life and business better.” Maybe for reading some poetry?
5. Reading Reddit
“Reddit is not what it used to be. Once upon a time, it was a place of intelligent articles and thoughtful discussions, filled with a cornucopia of topics that would be excellent to bring up at a dinner party,” says Tao.
However, unless you’re in the mood for memes, Reddit may no longer provide you with the experience you need to refresh or brush up on some factoids. “These days, the quality of content and discourse has simply plummeted,” says Tao. “It’s almost all jokes and memes, and the jokes aren’t even funny.”
6. Maintaining a presence on every social media platform
As previously mentioned, browsing social media can zap your productivity and lower your quality of life. Of course, sometimes social media provides a necessary tool for customer engagement.
CPA Exam Guy’s Bryce Walker says, “After years of meager success on the handful of social media platforms I’ve used to attempt customer engagement, I’ve given up the scattershot approach. I’m at the point with my business that I have an acceptable level of engagement on a few key platforms, so I’ve given up trying to adopt new ones, and am simply focusing on these successful ventures.”
In order to manage your time and energy, cultivate the platforms that have the best following for you. Let the others go. “It saves money—and also time.”
7. Wearing a Fitbit
“For years, I thought my Fitbit was helping me be more in tune with my exercise and sleep habits,” says Hodak. “It wasn’t until I went a few days without it that I realized it had been doing more harm than good.”
Even devices that seem like they increase your productivity and help you reach your goals can stress you out by making you feel like you need to quantify everything. “Now I have less to stress out over, and I’ve re-learned to listen to my body instead of depending on a device to tell me how I’m feeling,” she says.
8. Allowing meetings to run long
Once again, more time spent does not always equal increased productivity. “Far too often, meetings have a tendency to run long or to not be focused or on point,” says Nicole Munoz of Start Ranking Now. “It’s unfortunate when the meeting agendas are not accurately addressed because there wasn’t enough pressure to get the right work done.”
“We’ve started to enforce hard stops on our meetings,” says Munoz. Letting meetings run long shows a lack of focus rather than a drive to accomplish more. Stay on task and keep it short.
9. Dwelling on anxious thoughts
Avoid soaking in anxious thoughts, because they tend to be misleading. “Anxiety is caused by our minds trying to convince us that whatever our problem is, it’s permanent (‘I will always feel this way’), pervasive (‘This will affect every area of my life’) or personal (‘No one has ever dealt with this issue’),” says Rachel Beider of Massage Greenpoint.
Remember that anxious thoughts fail to reflect how manageable or temporary some problems truly are. “In reality, these are entirely unoriginal thoughts that people have been having for years,” says Beider. “When I notice this kind of anxious thought, I let it go.”
10. Comparing yourself to others
Likewise, comparisons motivate you to pursue objectives that do not match your true goals.
“It’s so easy to compare oneself to everyone else, and thus, to always find those who are doing something “better” than you,” says Darrah Brustein of Network Under 40. “On the one hand, a comparison can act as a motivating tool, but for me, it generally acts as something that results in my making decisions that are out of alignment with what I actually want.”
11. Seeking validation on your dreams
Validation makes you feel comforted. However, it can limit you, too.
“Visions are difficult to describe, and not everyone will subscribe to your vision of a future that you see for yourself,” says Martin Ekechukwu of WHTWRKS Inc. “The difficulty lies in being unwavering in that vision and attacking barriers to bring that vision to life.”
You cannot always communicate a vision or convince others to buy into it. So you must stick to it regardless of what kind of validation it inspires. “It’s easier to get talked out of a vision, and much harder to sit in your truth and recognize that no one else is going to validate this dream for you,” says Ekechukwu.
12. Checking email constantly
Less is more when it comes to increasing your productivity. Using email productively is a constant balancing act. I often joke that if I had a penny for every email I received, I could afford to hire someone to answer my email for me.
“I’ve finally learned to stop checking email 30 times a day and only limit it once in the morning, once in the afternoon and once in the evening,” says Kristin Marquet of Creative Development Agency, LLC.
Establish expectations about how others should contact you with something urgent. “If someone needs an immediate response to something, they know to call me on the phone,” says Marquet. “Limiting email checking to three times a day has enabled me to become more productive.”
Be honest with yourself about what is within your power. And when something is outside of your power, don’t worry about it when you can’t control it anyway.
“This year I have intentionally stopped trying to control and micromanage everything. I have made it a goal to delegate more and worry less,” says Mike A. Podesto of Find My Profession. “In years past, I would constantly worry about the status of each and every thing being worked on.”
“What I have found is that there is very little I can control,” says Podesto. “My time is better spent working on things I can control.”
14. Saying “yes” to everything
“This year, I vowed to dismiss thoughts and plans that no longer serve me,” says Klyn Elsbury of Landmark Makers. “ Last year, I felt like the majority of my life was focused on always saying ‘yes’ and pleasing others, for my own sacrifice.”
Be selective with your energy. When you do this, you increase your productivity at work and improve your quality of life at home.
“This year, I set very clear vision statements and for every action, I pause to reflect if that action is taking me closer to my goals or further from them,” she says.