11 Things You Think Are Productive, But Are Actually A Waste Of Time

Everyone has their productivity rituals that they bust out when they're feeling good and motivated. Emails get answered on the spot, desks get tidied, to-do lists are penned — all of these are meant to bring us to 100 percent productivity. But it turns out that a lot of things you think are productive, are actually a waste of time.

While spending an hour doing house keeping tasks like getting your inbox to zero or tidying the filing that's been neglected might make you feel like you're getting a lot accomplished, you might not actually be. It turns out that a lot of what we do is unnecessary, and so it just gives us busy work and distracts us from our core projects and tasks. Rather than spending all of our mental energy on a project that will get clients and results through the door, our attention is split on office rituals that could be neglected or ignored altogether.

On top of that, breaking our focus to perform some of these tasks (like answering emails) make it hard to go back to what we were doing. Some time wasters can be surprising, so I've broken it down for you. Below are 11 things you think are productive, but are actually office time wasters.

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1. Using Productivity Apps

While pulling up your phone to document to-do lists and jot down ideas might seem like a step in the right direction, quickly using pen and paper is so much faster. Business writer Mikey Rox from financial site Wise Bread confirmed, "Tablets and smartphones can be excellent productivity tools. But when it comes to taking notes or quickly writing down ideas, you may be better off with the much simpler pen and paper." Just stick to the sticky notes.

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2. Checking Emails As They Come In

You might think you're doing it n order to put out any small fires, but constantly checking your messages is super unproductive. Business writer Jessica Stillman from entrepreneur site Inc. explained, "Sure, you can answer that new message super quick, but each time you do, you're costing yourself the time it'll take to refocus on what you were doing before." Instead, delegate times for checking emails and just leave all messages till then.

3. Polishing It To Perfection

While you might think you're giving you project 110 percent with your perfectionism, you're actually killing time. Business writer Gwen Moran for Fast Company explained, "It can be tough to complete or hand off your project or task because you never feel it’s good enough. When you let go of trying to be perfect, you feel prepared to meet the challenge and know when the work is good enough to move on to the next phase." Rather than wasting time unnecessarily buffing aspects of the process, finish it to the best of your abilities and move on.

4. You Do Housekeeping Tasks First

It always seems like a good idea to get all your monotonous house keeping tasks out of the way, but that actually impedes your productivity. Business writer Larry Alton from Entrepreneur asked, "Are you burying yourself in unimportant tasks or ones outside your wheelhouse, only to realize at the end of the day that you still have your biggest, most important projects to take care of?" While it's perfectly okay to start off with a few autopilot tasks, make sure they don't take up a good chunk of the day. They're not that necessary.

5. Putting Off Tasks Not On The To-Do List

If you're one of those people that feel most productive when they're following their block to block schedule, you might put aside small tasks that aren't scheduled in yet. While that might seem like good time keeping, it's actually a time suck mistake. Business writer Jane Porter from Entrepreneur advised, "If you can pay a bill or schedule an appointment in a couple of minutes, do it immediately." You'll already be in the correct train of though in order to get it done and it'll save you the hassel for later.

6. Tidying For Tidying Sake

If you're the type of person that needs zero clutter in order to focus, by all means, get to cleaning. But if you don't care about the state of your desk or inbox, why waste time putting it back together? Moran put it to light, "If having a lot of email in your inbox doesn’t bother you, then why spend hours each week trying to get to inbox zero?" Your time could be much better spent somewhere else — don't do it just because you think you have to.

7. Temporaryly Fixing Hiccups

Sometimes when something breaks or goes awry, you might finding yourself scurrying to put a bandaid on it until you can fix it. Having it bandaged up is better then leaving it broken, right? According to Stillman, wrong. She provided, "You're not saving time with that temporary solution that's just going to break down in a week. Put in the time to fix it." Either give it your full attention or wait till you can give it a 100 percent.

8. Not Taking Breaks

It might seem like chugging along without a break all day means you're deep in the zone, but that kind of over-working actually takes a negative impact on your productivity. Rox reported, "However, numerous studies have shown that taking a break, or even a short nap, can actually boost your productivity and increase the quality of your work output." You'll need a breather and a chance to reset in order to come up with new ideas and fresh takes, so make sure to take those breaks.

9. Falling Into A Cycle

While you might have a routine down pat that lets you fly through your tasks, if you constantly find yourself doing the same to-dos over and over again and don't have a template or get it automated, you're wasting time. Porter recommended, "Rather than starting from scratch each time, Sexton recommends creating a template for such routine tasks as email responses to common queries, invoices, client letters and meeting agendas." You'll save even more time if these things already had responses or automated schedules to them.

10. Saying 'Yes' Easily

While agreeing to take on projects and to-dos might make you look like you're a team player, all it does is saddle you with too much work, making you coast through your tasks just so you finish them on time. Business writer Vivian Giang from Inc. pointed out, "You might think that saying 'yes' to everything makes you an easier person to work with, but doing so also makes you an unproductive person to work with." Stay focused with your most important tasks and learn to tactfully decline.

11. Putting Your Biggest Project At The Top

It seems like it would be common sense to put your most important project of the day at the top of you to-do list, but it's actually terribly unproductive. Giang explained, "Most people will put the most important thing at the top of their list, but this will actually make you not want to do it, especially if you’re a procrastinator." Seeing that big task will only fill you with dread and make you nervous about all the upcoming work, so bump it down a couple of numbers. It'll be more productive to do it fourth rather than first.

As you can see, there are a lot of surprising ones on this list! Now that you're aware of them, nip them in the bed, and coast so much more easily through your day.

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