Being more productive is about working smarter, not harder, and making the most of each day.
While this is no easy feat, getting more done in less time is a much more attainable goal if you're not sabotaging yourself with bad habits.
Here are 13 things you should stop doing right now to become more productive:
1. Impulsive web browsing
Since most of us have access to the internet at work, it's easy to get side-tracked looking up the answer to a random question that just popped into your head.
That's why Quora user Suresh Rathinam recommends writing down these thoughts or questions on a notepad. This way, you can look up the information you want later, when you're not trying to get work done.
While many people believe they are great at doing two things at once, scientific research has found that just 2% of the population is capable of effectively multi-tasking.
For the rest of us, multi-tasking is a bad habit that decreases our attention spans and makes us less productive in the long run.
3. Checking email throughout the day
Constant internet access can also lead people to check email throughout the day. Sadly, each time you do this, you lose up to 25 minutes of work time. What's more, the constant checking of email makes you dumber.
Instead, strategy consultant Ron Friedman suggests quitting Outlook, closing email tabs, and turning off your phone for 30-minute chunks of deep-diving work.
4. Moral licensing
Whether it's a new diet, workout routine, or work schedule, one of the most difficult things about forming a new habit is the urge to cheat as a reward for sticking to a routine for a while.
This idea that we "deserve" to splurge on fancy meal after being thrifty for a week is called "moral licensing," and it undermines a lot of people's plans for self-improvement
Business picture of the day
Business picture of the day
1/36 Apple to move London HQ to Battersea Power Station - Wednesday September 28
Apple is to establish a new London headquarters at Battersea Power Station, one of the city's most recognisable landmarks. The tech giant will occupy about 500,000 square feet of space across six floors of the central Boiler House from 2021, moving 1,400 employees there from eight offices around the capital. It will account for 40 per cent of the development’s total office space.
2/36 Yahoo hack: World's biggest data breach could compromise Verizon deal and cost hundreds of millions of dollars
Yahoo revealed it has been hit by what could be the biggest data breach in history, with half a billion user account details stolen. While its users are still digesting the news, the massive breach could also have bigger implications and compromise Yahoo’s recent agreement with Verizon, its future parent company, costing it hundreds of millions of dollars.
3/36 Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg to give $3 billion to ‘cure, prevent or manage all disease’ - Thursdsy September 22
Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan have pledged more than $3bn (£2.3bn) toward a plan to "cure, prevent or manage all disease within our children's lifetime". The couple pledged the money as the next big investment by their philanthropic company, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, which is also focused on education, poverty, and equality.
4/36 OECD halves UK growth forecast due to EU referendum vote - Wednesday September
The OECD has slashed its 2017 growth forecast for the UK in half as a result of the Brexit vote and warned of “very high” uncertainty ahead. The multilateral economics institution had projected UK GDP growth next year of 2 per cent in June, but today reduced that to just 1 per cent in its latest Interim Economic Outlook. ADVERTISING inRead invented by Teads That was easily the largest downgrade for any major advanced economy.
5/36 Sports Direct bows to pressure and announces independent review of working practices - Tuesday September 20
Never underestimate Mike Ashley’s capacity to spring a surprise. A matter of days after a tumultuous, and indeed historic, AGM at which the Sports Direct boss’s independent shareholders voted against the re-election of his chairman Keith Hellawell and backed a trade union motion calling for an independent review into governance and working practices at the business, he appears to have caved in. At least on the latter.
6/36 Kate Moss launches her own talent agency 'to create stars' - Monday September 19
One of the world's most iconic models of her generation, Kate Moss, has announced plans to start her own talent agency this month.In an interview with the Business of Fashion she revealed that her new venture – the Kate Moss Agency – won’t only look after emerging models but will also sign actors and singers. Her announcement coincided with London Fashion Week.
7/36 Deutsche Bank shares plunge 8%after it refuses to pay £10.6bn fine - Friday September 16
Deutsche Bank shares slumped after receiving a $14 billion (£10.6 bn) claim from the US Justice Department to settle an investigation into the firm’s sale of residential mortgage-backed securities, a figure the German lender said it’s not willing to pay. “Deutsche Bank has no intent to settle these potential civil claims anywhere near the number cited,” the company said in a statement early Friday in Frankfurt. “The negotiations are only just beginning. The bank expects that they will lead to an outcome similar to those of peer banks which have settled at materially lower amounts.”
8/36 John Lewis posts 75% profits slump - Thursday September 15
John Lewis Partnership, the owner of John Lewis and Waitrose, has reported a 75 per cent drop in profits for the six months to July, citing "deep structural changes in the retail market". Half-year profits have sunk to £56.9m, down by £167.1m on last year. The profits slump includes an exceptional charge of £25m for the write-down of property assets it no longer plans to develop for Waitrose. But even excluding the exceptional charge, profits for the latest half year were down 14.7 per cent to £81.9m.
9/36 French prosecutor seeks 3 years' jail for ex-minister over foreign bank account - Wednesday September 14
France's financial prosecutor on Wednesday sought a three-year jail term for former budget minister Jerome Cahuzac, who was forced to quit government three years ago over the discovery that he owned a secret bank account abroad. Cahuzac, 64, a plastic surgeon by profession who was appointed budget minister when Socialist President Francois Hollande took power in 2012, stands accused of tax fraud and money laundering.
10/36 Bank of England first polymer banknote enters circulation - Tuesday September 13
Cash machines across the UK will start to dispense the Bank of England’s first plastic £5 note on Tuesday morning and it is designed to be safer and stronger.Each note is expected to last around five years - two and a half times longer than their paper counterparts - because of the durability of the polymer material.
11/36 Apple chief executive, Tim Cook lashes out at European Commission tax ruling - Thursday September 1
The ruling that Apple must pay the Irish government €13 billion Euros in back taxes over its "sweetheart" deal in the country ignited fury in the company's boss who called it "maddening" and "political".
12/36 ITV withdraws bid for Peppa Pig owner - Wednesday August 25
ITV withdrew its £1bn offer for Entertainment One, owner of the popular children’s television franchise “Peppa Pig,” the company said in a statement.
13/36 Scotland’s North Sea oil revenues collapse 97 per cent leaving £14.8bn budget hole - Wednesday August 24
Scotland’s revenues from North Sea oil have collapsed by 97 per cent in the past year as oil prices have plummeted, reigniting a fierce debate over whether an independent Scotland could finance itself. Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “The nationalists' case for independence has been swallowed up by a £14 billion black hole.” Taxes collected from oil production fell from £1.8 billion in 2015 to just £60 million in 2016. The gap between tax revenues and what Scotland spends is now 9.5 per cent, or £14.8 billion, compared to a 4 per cent deficit for the UK as a whole.
14/36 Swiss watch exports to UK rise as sterling falls -Tuesday August 23
Swiss watch exports to the UK rose by 13.4% in July as tourists exploited the drop in the value of the pound to snap up luxury goods. The Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry said watches worth 110.2m Swiss francs (£87m) were exported to the UK last month, the best figures since November 2015.
15/36 Public borrowing worse than expected in wake of referendum vote - Friday August 19
The public finances were weaker than expected in the wake of the Brexit vote, official figures showed today. July has traditionally been a month of surplus for the public finances as it is one of the four months when companies pay a share of their annual corporation tax dues over to HMRC. City of London analysts had expected a surplus of £1.6bn.
16/36 Surprise jump in retail sales in July after EU referendum vote - Thursday August 18
There was no sign of British shoppers reining in spending in the wake of the EU referendum result, one of the first "hard" post Brexit vote set of statistics has shown. Retail sales jumped 1.4 per cent in July, more than reversing the 0.9 per cent decline in June, according to the Office for National Statistics.
17/36 Unexpected fall in joblessness post Brexit vote - Wednesday August 17
The UK claimant count unexpectedly declined last month, suggesting the British labour market held up reasonably well in the wake of the Brexit vote.
18/36 Inflation rises in wake of Brexit vote - Tuesday August 16
Consumer price inflation picked up in the wake of the UK’s Brexit vote, hitting its highest rate since November 2014. The Office for National Statistics said the annual rate of CPI inflation was 0.6 per cent, up from 0.5 per cent in June and slightly higher than City of London analysts had been expecting.
19/36 Sports Direct warehouse staff who were underpaid could receive £1m back pay - Monday August 15
Thousands of workers at British retailing group Sports Direct’s warehouse are set to receive back pay totalling an estimated £1 million for non-payment of the minimum wage, Britain’s largest union confirmed. The back pay follows an admission by Mike Ashley, the founder of Sports Direct, that his company has broken the law by falling to pay the national minimum wage at a hearing of the House of Commons Business, Innovation and Skills (BiS) select committee in June.
20/36 Eurozone GDP growth rate halves in second quarter - Friday August 12
Eurozone growth slipped back in the second quarter of the year and dried up entirely in Italy, the bloc’s most troubled large economy. Eurostat reported that the single currency’s aggregate GDP expanded by 0.3 per cent in the three months to June, down from the 0.6 per cent rate in the first quarter. This was in line with the statistics agency’s “flash” estimate from 29 July.
21/36 Arianna Huffington steps down as Huffington Post editor-in-chief - Thursday August 11
Arianna Huffington is stepping down as Editor-in-Chief of Huffington Post. The business woman has said she is leaving the post to concentrate on her new health and wellbeing venture, Thrive Global. Announcing the move on Twitter, Ms Huffington said she is "filled with gratitude" for her colleagues at the media outlet.
22/36 Bank of England to face 'real trial' to implement monetary stimulus - Wednesday August 10
It could be a “real trial” for the Bank of England to implement its £60bn government bond-buying programme to stimulate the economy in the wake of the Brexit vote, market analysts have predicted. The Bank sought to buy £1.17bn of long-dated government bonds, or Gilts, on Tuesday but unexpectedly missed this target by £52m, raising doubts about whether Threadneedle Street will be successful in implementing its latest round of money-printing stimulus known was quantitative easing.
23/36 UK economy contracted after Brexit vote according to leading economists - Tuesday August 9
The UK economy contracted by 0.2 per cent in the month following the Brexit vote giving Britain an “evens” chance of slipping into recession, according to the latest forecast from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR). NIESR, which uses a respected economic model to produce its monthly activity estimates, says output in July dropped by 0.2 per cent as the economy took a hit in the wake of the shock vote by a majority of the British public on 23 June to leave the European Union.
24/36 Mexico's richest man Carlos Slim pushes for three-day work week - Friday August 5
Carlos Slim, the richest man in Mexico, has said he wants to introduce a three-day work week and a later retirement age to counterbalance changes in the way that civilisation is living and working
25/36 Bank of England cuts interest rates to 0.25% - Thursday August 4
Interest rates were slashed to a new historic low of 0.25 per cent and the Bank of England has pushed the button on another £170 billion of monetary stimulus to stop the economy sliding back into recession in the wake of the UK’s Brexit vote
26/36 McDonald's shares down after disappointing US sales - Tuesday July 26
Shares in Maccy D's have fallen nearly 4% on Wall Street after reporting disappointing earnings. The company reported lower than expected sales growth at its established US restaurants, despite the popularity of its All Day Breakfast. The fast-food chain added that it faced "a challenging environment in several key markets."
27/36 Verizon confirms Yahoo buyout worth $4.83bn - Monday July 25
Verizon has confirmed that it will buyout Yahoo for $4.83 billion in cash, marking the end of the six-month sale process and the end of an era for a company that once defined the internet. Marissa Mayer, Yahoo CEO, described the deal as "an important step in unlocking shareholder value for Yahoo". The deal marks the end of the six-month sale process and the end of an era for a company that once defined the internet
28/36 Brexit shock pushes UK services and manufacturing into contraction says new survey - Friday July 22
The Brexit shock has given the economy "a good kicking" according to a special set of surveys of businesses taken in the wake of the European Union referendum vote, which suggest the UK economy is now contracting at its steepest pace since the last recession in early 2009. The “dramatic deterioration” will significantly increase the odds of a major monetary stimulus from the Bank of England next month to support the economy.
29/36 Euro rises after Mario Draghi relaxed statement on Brexit impact - Thursday July 21
The president of the European Central Bank Mario Draghi struck a sanguine tone on the aftermath of the UK’s Brexit vote, but moved equity markets by urging a "public backstop" for the eurozone's struggling lenders. The ECB kept its main interest rates on hold and in his press conference Mr Draghi stressed markets had responded in an orderly fashion to the UK’s shock plebiscite result on 23 June.
30/36 Italy eyes private deal to bail out bank - Wednesday July 20
Italy is eyeing a “private sector” solution to rescue Monte dei Paschi di Siena, the world's oldest bank, in an attempt to sidestep tough EU rules on bailouts, the Financial Times reports. However, Rome’s main options to prop up the heavily indebted bank involve using funds from a state-backed Italian bank. That raises the risk of running foul of EU curbs on state bailouts. On Tuesday the European Court of Justice backed EU guidelines designed to prevent taxpayers from footing the bill for bailing out stricken lenders.
31/36 IMF slashes UK growth outlook in wake of Brexit vote - Tuesday July 19
The International Monetary Fund has slashed its forecasts for UK growth, becoming the first official economics body to revise its growth estimates heavily downward in the wake of the shock Brexit vote last month. The IMF now says it expects the UK GDP to grow by 1.7 per cent this year, down from the 1.9 per cent it forecast in April, and the forecast for 2017 is just 1.3 per cent, down from 2.2 per cent previously.
32/36 ARM Holdings chipmaker to be bought by Japan’s Softbank for £24bn - Monday July 18
British Finance Minister Philip Hammond (L) greets Masayoshi Son, CEO of Japanese mobile giant SoftBank, outside 11 Downing street in central London on July 18, 2016. Japanese mobile giant SoftBank has agreed a cash takeover of iPhone chip designer ARM Holdings for around £24.3 billion, the pair said Monday, in a major investment boost for post-Brexit Britain.
Getty Images / AFP / NIKLAS HALLE'N
33/36 Pokemon Go craze sees Nintendo share price increase 86% in a week adding £15bn to company value - Friday July 15
nvestors are still catching some of the global success of Pokémon Go global success, which has Nintendo shares hit a six-year high. The Japanese game company’s shares have climbed 86 per cent since last Thursday on the back of Pokémon Go’s popularity. That’s almost $15 billion (£11.1 billion) added to the company market value in a week.
34/36 Bank of England holds interest rates at 0.5% - Thursday July14
The Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee has decided to keep interest rates on hold, despite heightened market expectations that it would cut the cost of borrowing to a new historic low of 0.25 per cent to cushion the economy in the wake of the shock Brexit referendum result. But the Bank has also heavily hinted that a rate cut will come in August to support a weakening economy.
35/36 Brexit will plunge the UK into a recession in the next year, BlackRock says - Wednesday July 13
Britain will be plunged into a recession this year and be plagued with lower economic growth for another five because of the shock decision for the UK to leave the EU, BlackRock analysts have said. BlackRock is the largest asset manager in the world with $4.6 trillion under management as of 2015. Richard Turnill, chief investment strategist, has said that firm's "base case" is recession, meaning at a minimum, it expects the UK GDP to fall for two successive quarters in a row.
36/36 Nintendo shares soar on Pokemon Go success - Monday July 11
Shares in Japan's Nintendo = soared again on Monday, bringing market-value gains to $7.5 billion (£5.78 billion) in just two days as investors cheered the runaway success of Pokemon GO - its first long-awaited venture in mobile. The game, which marries a classic 20-year old franchise with augmented reality, allows players to walk around real-life neighborhoods while seeking virtual Pokemon game characters on their smartphone screens - a scavenger hunt that has earned enthusiastic early reviews.
Instead, try making your goal part of your identity, such that you think of yourself as the kind of person who saves money or works out regularly, rather than as someone who is working against their own will to do something new.
5. Putting off your most important work until later in the day
People often start off their day by completing easy tasks to get themselves rolling and leave their more difficult work for later. This is a bad idea, and one that frequently leads to the important work not getting done at all.
As researchers have found, people have a limited amount of willpower that decreases throughout the day. That being the case, it's best to get your hardest, most important tasks done at the beginning of the day.
6. Taking too many meetings
Nothing disrupts the flow of productivity like an unnecessary meeting. And with tools like email, instant messenger, and video chat at your fingertips, it's best to only use meetings for introductions and serious discussions that can only be held in person.
BlueGrace Logistics founder Bobby Harris recommends that people don't accept a meeting unless the person who requested it has put forth a clear agenda and stated exactly how much time they will need. And even then, Harris recommends giving the person half of the time they initially requested.
7. Sitting all day
Business consultant and author of "The New How: Creating Business Solutions Through Collaborative Strategy Paperback" Nilofer Merchant shares with TED audiences how she's helped numerous major companies develop successful new ideas: walking meetings.
She recommends forgoing coffee or fluorescent-lit conference room meetings in favor of walking and talking 20 to 30 miles a week.
"You'll be surprised at how fresh air drives fresh thinking, and in the way that you do, you'll bring into your life an entirely new set of ideas," she says.
8. Hitting the snooze button
It might feel like pressing the snooze button in the morning gives you a little bit of extra rest to start your day, but the truth is that it does more harm than good.
That's because when you first wake up, your endocrine system begins to release alertness hormones to get you ready for the day. By going back to sleep, you're slowing down this process. Plus, nine minutes doesn't give your body time to get the restorative, deep sleep it needs.
This isn't to say you should cut back on sleep. As Arianna Huffington discusses in her TED talk, a good night's sleep has the power to increase productivity, happiness, smarter decision-making, and unlock bigger ideas. The trick for getting enough sleep is planning ahead and powering down at a reasonable time.
9. Failing to prioritize
Some people think having lots of goals is the best way to ensure success — if one idea fails, at least there are plenty more in reserve to turn to.
Unfortunately, this sort of wavering can be extremely unproductive.
Warren Buffett has the perfect antidote. Seeing that his personal pilot was not accomplishing his life goals, Buffett asked him to make a list of 25 things he wanted to get done before he died. But rather than taking little steps toward completing every one of them, Buffett advised the pilot to pick five things he thought were most important and ignore the rest.
Many ambitious and organized people try to maximize their productivity by meticulously planning out every hour of their day. Unfortunately, things don't always go as planned, and a sick child or unexpected assignment can throw a wrench into their entire day.
Instead, you might want to try planning just four or five hours of real work each day, that way you're able to be flexible later on.
With that being said, you should take time to strategize before attempting to achieve any long-term goals. Trying to come up with the endgame of a project you're doing midway through the process can be extremely frustrating and waste a huge amount of time.
Harvard lecturer Dr. Robert Pozen recommends that you first determine what you want your final outcome to be, then lay out a series of steps for yourself. Once you're halfway through, you can review your work to make sure you're on track and adjust accordingly.
12. Keeping your phone next to your bed
The LED screens of our smartphones, tablets, and laptops give off what is called blue light, which studies have shown can damage vision and suppress production of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate the sleep cycle.
Research also suggests that people with lower melatonin levels are more prone to depression.
More often than laziness the root of procrastination is the fear of noting doing a good job, says British philosopher and author Alain de Botton on his website, The Book of Life.
"We begin to work only when the fear of doing nothing at all exceeds the fear of not doing it very well … And that can take time," he writes.
The only way to overcome procrastination is to abandon perfectionism and not fuss over details as you move forward. Pretending the task doesn't matter and that it's OK to mess up could help you get started faster.
Aaron Taube contributed to an earlier version of this article.