Productivity / Performance

9 bad habits that are destroying your productivity

Bad habits in business really take a toll on our productivity. Today Vanessa Emilio shares nine bad habits we all need to put a stop to in order to get our workdays back on track.

5 January 2017 by

When you’re busy, taking the path of least resistance seems like the easiest way to boost productivity. Unfortunately, that particular path is more likely to lead to bad habits … habits that see us spending all our time on the wrong side of busy.

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So  how do we get back on the ‘productive’ side of the ledger? Here are nine bad habits you might need to put a stop to:

1. Stop doing email first thing.

And while you’re there, stop responding immediately to emails, especially at night or first thing in the morning. It sets a precedent that will end up killing your productivity. Oh, and you might want to stop keeping your email open and constantly checking it too.

2. Stop wasted phone call time.

People will call you on the phone when it suits them to spend your time while they go on about their It is distracting and interrupts your workflow. Say no to energy vampires – allow phone calls to go through to messages so you can call people back when it works best for you.

3. Stop spending enormous amounts of time on …

… with, and responding to low-value, low-profit customers who are high maintenance. Be smart and apply the 80/20 rule here.

"Stop setting goals. Never thought I would say that!"

4. Stop doing the smaller, less important things first.

Always start your day with an ‘eat the frog’ type job, or one from the Important/Not Urgent These are the business building type jobs that never get done when you’re consumed with unproductive busy-work.

5. Stop agreeing to meetings or conference calls without a clear agenda.

When you’re better prepared you’re able to guide the meeting to an outcome and be done sooner.

6. Stop working straight through the day.

Break up your day. Try following the Pomodoro Technique: work 25 mins on one task and then take a 5 min break. Frequent breaks mean you refresh and re-charge. Did you know that different environments have different impacts in your day? Sometimes a change of scenery can make you more productive. Try working from the coffee shop/library/another room on occasion.

7. Stop putting off tough tasks.

This takes more energy and stress than actually doing them. And most of the time, the tough tasks end up being the important ones. Do them when you are alert and fresh in the morning, then they are out of the way. Then pat yourself on the back and go for more!

8. Stop setting goals.

Never thought I would say that but I have found that by concentrating on creating systems and processes that will lead to the goal, you end up getting much further ahead. For example, don’t just set a goal to sell two projects per day. Commit to calling at least two clients and sending two proposals per day. This will lead to your goal of increasing business rather than just randomly trying to reach the goal. Focus on what you need to do to make the goal ‘happen’.

9. Stop trying to do everything yourself.

Do the things you are good at and the things that need to be done to create results. If you need help to get the rest done, consider getting help. While it does take time to write a brief/train someone else/advertise, interview and find help, it will be worth it in the end.

Now, it’s highly likely you’ve read through the above and are feeling a little overwhelmed. I get that! Here’s the thing – you don’t need to try and break all of the nine habits above in one fell swoop.

Just pick two or three to start with. If you’re anything like me, the positive impact breaking those three bad habits has will see you scrambling to tackle the remaining six in no time at all!

Vanessa Emilio

is a Practice Director, Lawyer, Founder and CEO of, a legal website business with easy-to-use, inexpensive legal templates, forms and agreements for everyday Australians as well as lots of useful information.


  • Dani Beck

    Great, thanks for the article. I struggle with the phone call one. I agree with not getting distracted by calls etc however if I take the call then I can deal with it there and then that is a call I don’t need to make later. Would love more thoughts on that bc it is a real dilema for me. My preference is for the call to go to vm.

    • I try to ask clients who wish to speak to set up a time and give me an idea of the subject matter and questions they wish to have addressed. If they are going on for too long, I often ensure I have a backup meeting or conference call to attend to. It works wonders for getting through calls quicker, particularly if they have to put their thoughts, queries or issues in writing!

  • Really helpful tips, thanks Vanessa. Tip 1 is an important one, but one I struggle with. Your article will help prompt me to do it! Along these lines, I’ve found it helpful to remove that tempting little alert number that tells me how many new emails I have.

    • Thanks Paul-agree. I am guilty of looking at my emails before I post a blog article or do an important piece of work I left from last night and getting caught up. Even if you start by doing it twice a week, you will be amazed at how much that changes your productivity level for the day. Love to hear how you go….!

  • I would agree with most, but would add the following disclaimers, mostly related to customer service:
    – most people get sick of not being able to reach you for urgent reasons and always being put thru to voicemail… in my experience this suggestion would actually lose you clients after a while.
    – checking email any longer than every couple of hours would have the same effect. My clients often haven’t got time to wait around… I’d rather they not go elsewhere due to my personal productivity goals!

    • Hi Emma-good point. But if you try to respond to every email the minute it comes in and work early to late, as well as weekends, you may find you create an expectation that is difficult to keep up. Burn out may happen faster than you think!

  • Vanessa, these are brilliant tips! I especially agree with not checking email and ‘eating the frog’ first thing in the morning. I’ve also been using the Pomodoro Technique over the past few years, and it’s boosted my productivity immensely. When trying to get more done I try to remove distractions as much as possible, but this isn’t always easy … I mean, I can’t fire my dog! (And I don’t want to, she’s the best workplace therapy). Thank you for a great article. 🙂

    • Thanks Lucinda! I struggle with not checking email first thing in the morning but if I had a dog, would happily be out running him in the morning instead-great way to start the day!

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