unproductive things

12 Things That Make You Unproductive and How to Fix Them

By Christina Attrah

Whether we mean to or not, our daily lives are filled with unproductive habits. Said habits make us feel less efficient when trying to achieve our business goals and can cause us to miss out on opportunities.

Running your own business is fantastic. You choose which clients you work with, and you can shape your business in a way that suits you. However – this also means you don’t have a boss looming over you and checking on your progress. It’s all on you, so you need to keep your productivity in tip top shape.

Managing time is a struggle, but there are things you can do and unproductive things you can avoid to increase your productivity levels – keep reading to find out how.

1. Not Setting Goals (or Setting Too Many Goals)

Not knowing what you want to achieve can make things appear hazy and create a lack of direction. On the flip side – setting too many goals can become overwhelming.

Really think about the main goals you wish to achieve over a set period without burning yourself out.

2. Not Tracking Finances

Utilities, office rent, supplies…sometimes our bills can get on top of us and bog us down.

Commit a certain time each day, or a day in the week, to really knuckle down on your finances and plan. Let’s face it, you’ll never “be in the mood” to work out your budgets for the month, but that’s even more of a reason to nip it in the bud and get on with it.

3. Not Writing Things Down

A spur of the moment idea can really help you get things set in motion, but what if you can’t recall that idea an hour later?

Write things down, no matter how ridiculous they might sound later, you never know when that thought could come in handy. Writing ideas down also helps rid you of the thoughts in your head and focus on the task at hand.

4. Not Taking Breaks

It’s tempting to bash out plans there and then, but when you have a lot on your plate this can lead to unproductive multitasking and you’ll begin to feel restless.

Take five and partake in something relaxing, such as going for a walk or mindfulness meditation.

5. Juggling Too Many Tasks

There are many articles on why dividing your time between numerous tasks is counter-productive. It can lead to low quality work and increased stress.

Download a time tracker tool and focus on one task at a time. It will also give you a better sense of achievement knowing you’ve completed a task to a high standard.

6. Saying Yes to Too Many Things

Showing keenness and generally being a helpful person can lead to saying yes too often, leading to too many responsibilities you must take care of. Don’t be afraid to say no so you have time to focus on your priorities.

7. Neglecting Physical and Mental Health

Not looking after your physical and mental health can have detrimental effects on your work, let alone your body. This can cause you to become lethargic at work and put off difficult tasks.

Ensure you’re focusing on creating healthy habits by getting enough sleep, eating healthy meals regularly and exercising as a part of your daily routine.

8. Not Automating Alerts

Do you really need to check your project management tools on the clock?

Set up alerts so that you receive a daily (or weekly) roundup. This way it’s a load off your mind and you won’t need to keep checking your emails. Speaking of…

9. Checking Email Non-Stop

You shouldn’t have to keep clicking the refresh button on your email. Email is a reactive task, so really, you should be focusing on the more important tasks and only reacting to email messages as they come in.

We get it, you’re probably signed up to lots of resources that are genuinely useful, but checking your inbox for these can hinder your productivity. Create a new folder and add the sender of these emails as a rule to only go through to an assigned inbox you can check later.

10. Avoiding Hard Tasks

It can become easy to think of excuses not to tackle a difficult task, such as working on a piece of copy about an industry you know nothing about. So instead you do every other possible task except the hardest of them all.

Productive people tackle the hardest tasks head on, so they don’t sweat the small stuff.

11. Not Using Time Wisely

If you want to take your business to the next level, but need your evenings to focus on up-skilling yourself, then you may need to learn to say no more than ever.

It’s important to pick and choose between recreational activities and ones that will progress your career. Dedicate one night a week to social activities and use the rest to work on your own endeavors.

12. Having Constant Self Doubt

There’s nothing wrong with being a perfectionist, however too much perfectionism can mean minor mistakes can seriously throw you off and you’ll feel less inclined to finish tasks because they aren’t your level of perfect.

Get second opinions and collaborate with others. This way you can get different viewpoints and make only the necessary changes to your work as opposed to beating yourself up on the small stuff.

Featured photo credit: Depositphotos
Subscribe to the Small Business Bonfire Newsletter
And get your free one-page marketing plan template.
Christina Attrah
Christina is a Copywriter for Virtual HQ – a provider of Virtual Office spaces in major cities across the UK.


Get RSS Feed
  1. Christina, Thank you for this list. I know I am guilty of a few of these things. I have also heard that using a timer to allot a specific amount of time for tasks also helps with accomplishing tasks.

  2. I often find myself checking emails too often, and havent even realized that this could make me unproductive, but you are right! It does! I enjoyed reading your list.

  3. I’m laughing at myself as I read this. I’m so guilty of checking and checking my email over and over again as if there’s a specific information I’m looking for.

    Thank you so much, Christina for this amazing piece here.


  4. I’m definitely guilty of a few of these. One thing that’s really helped me is by having a coach. I’ve found being accountable for all the things you get done (and don’t get done) extremely motivating.

  5. Productivity! This is something I’m always working on. In my view, the habits on this list can be broken into two categories. Category one is self-sabotage/procrastination. Category two is all about just bad habits.

    I have always been able to focus on one big goal, so it drives me crazy when the organizations I have worked for have piled on goal after goal after goal. They don’t realize how much it’s diluting their work and effectiveness.

  6. Wow these are all such great points. I’ve noticed that I HAVE to write things down in order to be productive. And also it’s not good leave a long or a hard task for last, because most of the time it will keep getting skipped.

    I also make sure my phone’s notifications (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) are turned off so I don’t have the compulsion to check it whenever someone comments on something.

  7. I find that I have to make a list of a bunch of different tasks and tackle them one by one. Having so many open tabs or an unclear purpose on how I want to structure my night ends up getting me distracted and wasting time.

  8. I’ve been the biggest culprit of so many of these over the years- the king of distraction and task juggling. This all resulted low productivity which created poor results and a lack of progress and success. Managing your time effectively is the key for all business owners and entrepreneurs.

    I’ve now adopted a simple ‘get-done list’ which I get done the evening before which is ranked by priority. Not rocket science but it certainly helps me.

    Doing tasks like this the night before also allows your subconscious mind to play it’s part with any problem solving tasks that you need fulfill the following day.

    As the late great Jim Rohn said:

    “Don’t start the day until you have it finished. Don’t start the week until you have it finished. Don’t start the month until you have it finished. Plan your day.”

  9. I have found that setting three goals you want to get done for the day, every day, is a key metric for keeping focused and successful. Setting daily, weekly, monthly goals helps you keep on track more than almost anything else I’ve found. This is probably a very popular article due to the number of people who probably struggle with this!

  10. I have always been a fan of goal setting, almost to a point that I was wasting time building goal lists. In the past few years I found that I am much more productive by setting only 1 or two goals and staying focused on those until they are complete until I set another goal.

  11. This is great advice on time management! I struggle with #5…so many tasks with too little time. So many great take-a-ways to be more productive. Thank you for writing this blog.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *