6 Ways You're Unknowingly Sabotaging Your Own Productivity At Work

by Asher Stephenson

Life hacks? You don't need them.

You're an efficiency pro. You finished your senior thesis an entire week before it was due. You only let the garbage get kind of overfilled before you take it out. You do your dishes every three days.

Alright. Let's face it: You're not nearly as efficient or disciplined as you'd like to be. It feels like there's always a to-do list looming over you. Chances are, you're committing at least a few of these efficiency failures:

1. Picking Social Media Over Work Emails

Checking Facebook is usually pretty high on everyone's to-do list. But when you want to get sh*t done, it can get in the way.

What is more important, listening to your aunt Sally bitch about the Easter fiasco from three years ago or responding immediately to that job offer you've been waiting for? While Sally is always interesting, paying the rent should probably come first.

The solution is a simple one: There are several Chrome extensions you can use to block yourself from using specific sites. With Block Site, you can redirect yourself to another, more productive website when you go to a certain URL. If typing in "" is just instinct now, this is a simple way to re-wire your habits.

2. Picking Play Over Work

Alright. Let's say you're smart enough to leave social media alone while you're working. How long will it take you to get to work? I don't know about you, but the biggest skill I developed in college wasn't procrastination: It was insomnia.

The fix? Guilt yourself into working.

There are several apps and websites built around the core concept of shame. Did you hit the snooze button? All of your friends on Facebook will know.

Didn't make it to the gym? Now, all of your not-quite-beach-ready photos are on the Internet. The urge to procrastinate becomes a lot less powerful when you know everyone is going to watch you do it.

3. Picking Location Over Discipline

If you're trying to save money by working from home rather than from a coffee shop, good for you: You're killing your efficiency by trying to write a novel in your bedroom.

Instead of working in a busy park or student center with your headphones on -- in order to drown out the noise around you -- try working somewhere with fewer distractions. If you're someone who needs periodic distractions so you don't start putting down roots in front of your computer, set a Pomodoro timer:Work 25 minutes, then dance for five minutes. Rinse and repeat. Do a few cycles of this, and your novel will write itself.

4. Picking Days Over Hours

When you do end up deciding to do something, you set aside the entire day to do the task, rather than just a couple of hours. So, how do you make yourself do it? Respect Parkinson's Law.

Parkinson's Law states that “work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” For the falsely efficient, that means the time set aside for working will be filled with a sense of working, and all other time will be devoted to lollygagging.

If you find that your days are being dominated by singular "big" tasks that keep you from sweeping up all the little things, sub-divide your time into shifts. Don't handle the one big thing on this one day. Try taking care of it during your morning shift.

5. Picking Comfort Over Productivity

Do you find yourself unable to work unless everything you might need is within arm's reach? Congratulations. If you answered "yes," you're a nester. You need to stop it.

How do you solve this one? Set up at least two workstations, and rotate between them. Every 45 minutes, get up.

Go to the other station and do a different kind of work. Do the research you've been putting off, or jot down ideas for the next article you'll write.

Yes, it's time-consuming and vaguely tedious. But it will keep you from getting too comfortable. After all, this is work, not fun.

6. Picking Ease Over Importance

You know what feels great? Winning. You know what feels really great? Bi-winning.

As studies show, verbalizing a goal is often enough to trigger the reward center in the brain. This means we end up never doing the thing we said we would because we already feel good about it. We allow ourselves to get off on the idea of "being productive," and don't realize that all we've done is a handful of busywork.

If you find yourself feeling productive without having much product to show for it, chances are, you need a lesson in prioritization. Break down tasks by urgency, difficulty and size before building your to-do list. Make yourself work through that list in the order it's been written.