5 habits that limit your productivity

This post is part of the series on Time Management in Youth Ministry. Most people are creatures of habit and us youth leaders aren’t any different. I’m betting most of us will have a fairly standard morning routine for instance. First a cup of coffee, then a quick shower, than the daily rush to get the kids to school on time or to beat the morning traffic. A lot of what we do both in our personal lives and in our work is based on routines, on habits. But how many habits do you have that actually limit your productivity? You may be surprised…Here are five habits that limit your productivity:

1. Check email constantly

It’s the big, fat number one: constantly checking your email. If you find yourself habitually checking your email a few times per hour, you are robbing yourself of valuable time because every time you check, you break your concentration on whatever you were working on. You work far more efficiently and effective when you group similar tasks (like handling email) and do them in one time slot. So make specific time slots for dealing with your email daily and stick to them. That means turning off your email notifications during the rest of the day!

We all have our habits and routines, like drinking a cup of coffee before we go to work. But how many of those habits are helping us and how many are limiting our productivity?

2. Engage in social media constantly

Social media like Twitter or Facebook are really great and especially in youth ministry you can even argue they’re part of your job. But having them accessible all day and constantly checking or posting updates will seriously affect your productivity. Make it a habit to ‘do social media’ in breaks or between two bigger tasks. It makes sure you are keeping a regular online presence, without hampering your work.

3. Keep a faulty to do list

I know many people who have a to do list, write down important things in their diary or calendar, stick post-its to their monitor with crucial things and still manage to forget to do stuff. To be productive and efficient, you need one central to do list with everything on it. You need to be able to trust your to do list in the sense that everything you need to do is actually on it. If not, redesign your to do list till it works.

4. Have a messy office

Okay, so I’m a bit of a neat freak when it comes to my workplace and desk. I simply can’t work in a mess, I’m not wired that way. But I’ll say this: I almost never lose valuable time by having to search for something, I never lose stuff (also thanks to Evernote!), I can have people over for coffee or a meeting at anytime without having to do an emergency clean up and when I do have to clean, I’m done in an hour because I don’t need to dig through piles of mess first. You may think that your messy office is part of your charm as a youth worker, but you might want to check and see how much time it’s actually costing you.

5. Working overtime

In youth ministry, our work is never done. Yet we can become so frustrated by our ever-growing to do list, that we make a serious effort in catching up by working overtime. We work on the evenings, we work on the weekends, we work at home. We figure that if we just get through this phase, we’ll be caught up and then things will slow down and we will have time off again. But when you think that, you’re fooling yourself.

When you have more things on your to do list than you can manage, you don’t need to work harder. You need to work smarter. You need to delegate, say no, decide to not do certain things, ask others to step up, or do whatever you can think of to lighten your load. And most importantly: you need rest, a Sabbath, something that will fill your tank again.

Working harder by working overtime a lot not only leads to burn out in the long run, but in the short run it seriously harms your productivity. When you’re tired you’re more likely to make mistakes, to forget things, to become emotionally instable, your concentration is less, you are far less creative and in all likelihood you’re not much fun to work with. Stop working overtime, work smarter, not harder.

Have a good look at your daily habits. How’s that working for you? What (other) habits do you have that negatively affect your productivity? What do you need to change?

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