17 Unproductive Habits to Let Go

Note: This is a guest post from Timo Kiander of TimoKiander.com
Our daily life is full of unproductive habits and rituals that we execute – whether on a conscious or unconscious level. This makes us less efficient and productive than we could potentially be.
Obviously, just listing some avoidable habits is not enough. Because of this, I encourage you to check out Donald’s article on how to break bad habits. It gives a good foundation on how to actually start changing your habits from bad to good.
Here are 17 unproductive habits that you should let go:
1. Consuming the information you don’t need
Unsubscribe from as many mailing lists as you can. This way you can cut down the amount of incoming e-mails and prevent distraction.
Also, stop watching news. If there is an event that is newsworthy, it will catch you anyway (mostly by other people).
2. Letting others to run your life
Steve Jobs said it right: “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”
You are the master of your life and it is a shame if you live your life by pleasing others.
Naturally, it is wise to listen for advice from other people every now and then. However, ignore those people who say you can’t reach your dreams, it is impossible to do something or that your vision is foolish.
In your heart you know that it is not true.
3. Reinventing the wheel
Before you start working on your task or project, prevent reinventing the wheel.
Spend some time on research to find out if there are already solutions that help you to complete your task faster.
4. Being perfect
Although striving for perfection may be a noble principle for some, it is still a huge time and energy waster.
Instead of spending too much time on tweaking something, create a checklist to go through on your finalization phase. When you realize that all the items on your list are checked, you can finish your work and move on.
Not only are you relieved of your accomplishment, you will also give room for your brain to focus on other things instead.
5. Letting television to overrun your passion
When television is preventing you to take action on your passion, maybe it is time to rethink your priorities.
Save your TV show to your digital set-top box for later viewing instead. If you do this operation a couple of times you will form a new success habit – working on your passion first and watching television second.
6. Multitasking
Stop working on multiple tasks at once. You are spreading your focus and effort on too many places at once. Although you might be able to proceed on many fronts at once, it is still a very slow and error-prone way of working.
Instead, when you focus solely on one task, you get all the work done much faster. You can put your mind fully to that task, complete it fully and move to the next task.
7. Neglecting your body
You should take utmost care of your body. Feed it nutritious food, keep it fit by exercising on a regular basis and give it enough sleep.
When doing these the quality of your life rises considerably, you feel good and in some cases you are able to prevent some diseases to break out. Also, your energy levels are higher and you are more productive.
8. Promising too much
Control your “yeses”. If you feel you have too much on your plate, be selfish and just say no! You have a right to decline from requests presented to you. Don’t feel bad about saying no.
If another person has a right to ask something from you, you have an equal right to say no.
9. Reacting to every distraction that comes along
The number of distractions has grown radically over the last few years. The main problem is that you are expected to be reachable all the time.
When you are distracted, it causes unnecessary stress and makes you procrastinate on your work.
Instead of being reachable, shut down the communication devices when you want to concentrate on your work. If this means shutting down your phone or even taking the network cable out of your computer, then do it. This way you can cut down your temptations to be distracted too easily.
10. Thinking that the more the better
More is not necessarily better. In fact, in many cases the quality beats the quantity.
Strive for mastering or focusing just the few, but not everything. For example, this could be focusing on just a subset of your clients that bring most of your results or mastering one skill well rather than trying to be good on 12 different things.
Focusing on the things that bring the biggest rewards is a good strategy to be used your in life.
11. Being late on appointments
Stop wasting time of other people. Not only are you giving a bad image out of yourself, you are also showing that you ignore the other person’s timetables completely.
Adjust your own schedule to, for example, 15 minutes earlier, so that you keep the appointment without any delay.
12. Staying quiet when you should ask
When you are stuck and you are not able to move forward with your task, speak up!
It’s not silly to ask a question if you don’t know – rather, the person who doesn’t ask for help is silly.
13. Starting a task but not finishing
Too many people start a task and never finish it. Understandably the task may get postponed sometimes because of the reasons that are not dependent of you. But in majority times this is not the case and it is your responsibility to finish the task.
Make a plan on how to tackle the task: Break it into smaller pieces and execute your plan on a daily basis. Eventually you realize that the task is done and you feel very good about yourself!
14. Working tired
When you work tired, you are not able to focus on your work as well as if you were fully refreshed.
If you feel tired, ponder yourself if you get enough sleep at night and adjust your sleeping time accordingly.
Also, you can take a quick 15-20 minute nap to refresh yourself. Powernap is a great way to restart your day.
15. Waiting others to take action
Sometimes the only way to get something done is to do it yourself. If you are waiting others to take action on your behalf, you get disappointed because most probably nothing gets done.
Take initiative, put your ideas into action and enjoy the fruits of your labor.
16. Failing to admit mistakes and learning from them
Everybody makes mistakes. However, some people learn from their mistakes, while other people complain and never see any positive sides in those situations.
Use mistakes as a feedback and learning mechanism to improve your action further.
17. Fixing the symptom instead of the root cause
When you have a flat tire on your bicycle, you have two options to handle the situation.
You can either pump air to the tire so that you can ride your bike for a while – until the tire is flat again. On the other hand, you can change the tire to an intact one once – and stop wasting time on pumping air to a flat one on a recurring basis.
Strive for fixing the root cause instead of just fixing the symptom. It may take more time, but fixing the symptoms will most likely to take even more time.
As you can see, there are lots of habits on our daily lives that could be improved or replaced with a better one.
If there is a one single area to focus on this list, it is definitely the item #7. When you make your body feel good on all three levels (nutrition, exercise and sleep), it is much easier to change other parts of your life too.
Just take one unproductive habit, crush it and then move on to the next one.
Timo Kiander is an online business productivity and time management enthusiast who blogs at http://www.timokiander.com. Visit his blog and grab the free e-book: “101 Tips For Becoming a Productivity Superstar”.
Photo by King


  1. Your list says it all, first of all I think most news is fiction and just depressing!!
    I like that you touched on reinventing the wheel, the wisest man who has ever live on earth, said there is nothing new under the sun…we need to find a way to better what is already there sometimes! Though some habits are hard to break…

  2. Absolutely brilliant article. I am shocked with the dept of the content. Thanks for freely blessing users with so much information and tips

  3. Great list here Timo! I have completely taken over my inbox, health, and mostly removed TV from my life. I still hav trouble with some things like striving for perfection (in my posts, designs, etc.) and promising too much. But, I really believe one day I’ll get them all down. 😀
    Great post!

    • Alex,
      Thank you!
      You are on a good path already 🙂
      There are lots of habits to let go for sure … just take care of them one at a time.

  4. Clement,
    Thank you very much!
    Anytime 🙂 I’m happy to hear you found these tips valuable.

  5. I agree wholeheartedy about number 7.
    I’ve tried it every other way and that is the one that finally changes everything.
    Great list!!!

    • Teresa,
      Thank you!
      Yes, if there is one thing on the list to focus on, that would be your body.
      Keeping yourself healthy will improve other areas of your life too.

  6. Parvinder Singh wazir
    Parvinder Singh wazir

    Unnecessary Distractions – are productions of our own laziness, and free execution of dirty thoughts. Self esteem & Self control and Sense of wrong things are the main key factors which can lead our life on a good path.
    Nice Article. As Tim said “it takes some practice to see the best options “

  7. Talk about a spot-on and useful post. These tips are practical and thought provoking. I love the way they squeeze you for a bit of accountability. They should teach this stuff in school.

  8. Your ideas are great and clearly explained! Well done. Most people find it hard to care about themselves. It’s true that if they focussed more about what they really need they would be a lot happier.

    • Sylvia,
      Thank you! Great to hear that you liked my post 🙂
      I agree. Happiness starts from within and with proper focus to yourself, you can make a positive change in your life.

  9. I both agree and disagree with #6. Multitasking as it is today is completely useless. But multitasking as it once was can be a valuable tool for anybody. When multitasking first became a popular concept it was in reference to housewives. The idea was that a woman would line up several chores that need to been done while in town, and then do them in the same trip rather than making multiple trips, saving both gas and time. Or lineup several chores that are similar and do them one after another, while they are “in the zone” for doing that kind of thing. On laundry day, a woman might make a casserole or put something into a crockpot and let it cook while she attended to the laundry. Multitasking even extended to allowing clothes or dishes to soak while they saw to another task, so that the cleaning would be easier. That idea of multitasking I see as being extremely valuable. Trying to do three things at once is ridiculous.

    • In certain scenarios multitasking works (like what you described) and it some it doesn’t.
      Sometimes you can make a dull task more appealing by doing something else at the same time, like a data entry job which really doesn’t require any further thinking. You do that task, while say, you listen to music to make the task more enjoyable.

  10. There is good reason why mosts lists stop at ten.
    It would seem that “10” is the universal absolute limit.
    17 is a nice number, it reminds that “lists” are flexible but NOT endless.
    So…when you make your OWN list of things….remember that “10” is a guideline, not a barrier.
    THNAK YOU Timo. I really like your list and I’m going to use it.
    Hope you had a Merry Xmas and I wish you a good 2012

  11. All these tips are what used to be called ‘common sense’. You don’t need a blog tip to do any of the above. People really should know this stuff, and If anyone doesn’t know it they should be locked up for their own protection, or taken from the workplace until they do. The only way to be truly exceptional is to use the power of the right brain to work smarter, and plan your day to unfold how YOU want it to, not how someone else planned it.
    Too many blogs saying 10 ways to do this, 7 ways to do that, 156 ways to read a blog………….. I started my blog recently and I have found myself drawn to the easy route like so many others, but I saw where I was going and changed. I’m going to be experimental, bold, silly, scary and new. There has to be something fresh, and there has to be more than 17 ways to do it…..Watch this space.
    Be ultra positive, plan ahead, (in detail) crack on, and be very grateful for the results.

    • Stewart,
      Yes, they *should* know this stuff …
      Unfortunately too many people do these things anyway (and yes, I’m not perfect either in this sense :).

  12. Flordeliza Reyes
    Flordeliza Reyes

    It seems that my day is not complete without reading your articles. At the office I felt better and better everyday . Hope to receive more. Can you be my bestfriend? Happy New Year !

  13. What a great list! However, I need to add to your # 7 item because you failed to list drinking water. It is SO important to stay hydrated. It amazes me how little importance we put on drinking water.

  14. You have some really great points here! I like that you stress the importance of food exercise and sleep. A Shaolin Monk once said that to be a master you have to master the basics. I think that when it comes to habits we have to master the most basic habits first. I call them the physiological habits like sleep, exercise, diet and cleansing.

    • Erik,
      That is true, those are basic habits that should be mastered.
      When you do that, they affect positively to every other area of your life.

  15. Kamalani Hurley
    Kamalani Hurley

    This list is really good, Tim. But it’s missing my #1 unproductive habit: spending too much time getting ready and not enough time actually doing. I find myself doing just about everything but the actual work — reading, writing and rewriting, shuffling papers, more reading. I need to just do it already. I’m working on it for the new year. Now, where is that article on keeping new years resolutions? 😉

  16. Timo, amazing article! I always get surprised when I read one of your articles in terms how much your writing exploded since I started reading you.
    Big kudos to you!
    Love those tips, I shared them around, because they are really brining a lot of value.

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