Working smarter, not harder, is a common expression in the business world related to productivity. Since so many business owners and employees in the small to medium business world wear many hats, this idea can be more of a necessity than a simple saying.

While there are plenty of ways to be more productive, there are also many sneaky things that derail your productivity. These habits may even seem helpful at first, but in reality, they prevent you from staying on track and being effective. Here are four common workplace habits that actually sabotage your company’s productivity. See how many you recognize from your own workplace.

Bad habits with productivity

Being productive isn’t always just about getting more done, it’s about being efficient with the time you have. We naturally look for ways to streamline tasks, especially as our to-do list grows, but not every habit you have makes you more productive and efficient. Here are four common bad habits that can derail your day and your ability to get work done.

Over reliance on processes

Processes are great. In fact, they are necessary tools that allow companies to move ideas from concepts into the marketplace. Processes are also the backbone of general business functions, like processing payroll, onboarding new staff and handling invoices. Sometimes, however, a strict adherence to process can actually kill your ability to be innovative and productive. If you’re on a roll with a project, and you happen to be skipping or changing the order of your workflow, go with it! Don’t allow processes and procedures to inhibit ideas, creativity or progress.

Falling into routines

Routines can be helpful, especially on mundane tasks that just need to get done. Sometimes, however, leaning on routines leads to a lack of innovation and reduced output. If you ever hear the phrase “this is just how we’ve always done it,” you’re already allowing routines to limit you! To get out of this habit, ask yourself “is there a better way” on everything you do, even those smaller, seemingly insignificant tasks. Can you save time, produce more, or automate tasks to free up your day?  It doesn’t matter if it’s timekeeping or just managing your inbox, how every task you do is up for revaluation.


The ability to multitask became a bit of a superpower in business circles. The idea that one person should be able to easily and effectively do multiple tasks was pervasive. The idea of “multitasking” even became a standard talking point for resumes and interviews. In reality, science has proven what most of us felt – multitasking is not always a good thing. In fact, it can damage your productivity and even your mental health! Multitasking may also be costing your company real dollars. You can reclaim your time by embracing the concept of focus and execution. Pick a task and work on it for a dedicated amount of time. Train yourself to stay on target without jumping to additional tasks, checking email or allowing other distractions to derail you.

To-do lists

Making lists is a cornerstone of productivity. Most of us use lists to manage our day, both at work and at home. The problem isn’t making lists, it’s making unrealistic lists. You’re more likely to feel overwhelmed when your daily to-do list has a week’s worth of tasks on it. This can create a morale problem as well. After all, marking things off your list is satisfying. It’s disappointing to reach the end of the day and not feel like you’ve made progress. To counter this, simply make sure your daily work list only has things you can complete, or make progress on, over the course of a day.  Put larger tasks on a list of overall goals and use this to guide your daily to-do lists.

Breaking these habits and creating a more balanced and productive workplace is easier than you may think. Even if you work in a large company, where there are many teams and processes to consider, you can take charge of how you work as an individual. For instance, simply changing how you make to-do lists can reduce stress and improve productivity. In time, you may find that the changes you make inspire others to rethink how they work as well.

The material presented here is educational in nature and is not intended to be, nor should be relied upon, as legal or financial advice. Please consult with an attorney or financial professional for advice.