17 Bad Behaviors Stopping You from Being Productive at Work

You may have some bad habits you need to break if you want to become more efficient at work.
Updated April 3, 2023
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Whether you work from home or in an office, there are many things that can distract you from getting your tasks done.

Maybe you reply to texts from friends and family throughout the day while you’re working. Or perhaps you get bored and take some time to check out the news or social media online.

You can avoid financial stress by checking to see if any of these bad behaviors are slowing you down at work.

Surfing the internet

MclittleStock/Adobe man surfing internet

It’s easy to get distracted if you need a break from work and end up spending too much time aimlessly surfing through websites or message boards. While it may give your brain a little bit of a break, it could also distract you too much from your tasks.

If you do want a little time to surf the web, set a timer to limit how much time you’re away from your work tasks.

Social media

Aleksei/Adobe Apple iPhone 7 and iPad pro with icons of social media

Another way to easily get distracted is through social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Consider limiting these interactions while you’re at work to help you be more efficient.

Some companies also have social-media policies, so what you post on your personal accounts could have an effect on your employment status.


terovesalainen/Adobe man sending text message and sms with smartphone

Is your phone constantly pinging throughout the day with personal texts? It could be a distraction every time you get an alert or if you’re constantly being bothered by family members and friends throughout the day.

Consider turning off alerts while you’re at your desk or sending an automated response to let texters know that you’re working and will get back to them later.

Socializing with co-workers

Rawpixel.com/Adobe group of business people chatting balcony concept

You may be one of those workers who are glad to be back in the office and able to talk to your colleagues face to face again. But there is a point where socializing with co-workers could prevent you from getting your work done.

Be aware of how much time you may be spending socializing in the office and find ways to focus at your desk without these distractions.

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Andrey Popov/Adobe businesswoman doing multitasking work in office

You may have multiple projects you’re trying to balance at any given time in your office, but that could also mean you’re not giving your all to each task.

Multitasking could be a good thing or it could be overwhelming if you take on too much, which could make all of your projects suffer. Instead, try to prioritize projects or ask around to see if your teammates can help with some of your tasks.

Finishing easy stuff first

Cozine/Adobe handwritten to do list plan in small note book

You may be surprised to realize that taking those little easy tasks off your plate first could actually be a bad habit if you’re trying to get your work done.

If you have big projects, try to break them up into smaller steps. Keep yourself interested in your work by mixing up different things throughout the day rather than dismissing the easy stuff only to get stuck dragging on the big projects.


JenkoAtaman/Adobe mother working online on laptop with kid son at home

It can be tough to balance being a parent with being a worker, particularly if you’ve been working from home lately.

Consider getting some additional help even if it means hiring a babysitter for a few hours as a way to keep the kids occupied while you’re working from home.

Constantly checking emails

NicoElNino/Adobe business person reading emails on smartphone and laptop

You may be focused on getting a task done but keep getting distracted by notices about this email or that email. Try to set aside your inbox for a certain amount of time to focus on getting a goal completed and then answer emails as a batch.

You may also want to send out some quick email replies before taking a break and stepping away from your computer.

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Nattakorn/Adobe video conference meeting with colleagues

Meetings can be helpful if you’re working on a team trying to pull a project together. But too many meetings can be counterproductive. In fact, a recent Harvard Business Review study found that 92% of employees consider most meetings costly and ineffective.

Instead, help out your team members by limiting the number of meetings you add to the schedule and consider less time-consuming options.

Household activities

Valerii/Adobe woman in protective gloves wiping dust

Working from home has become popular due to the pandemic, and employees continue to embrace working from home or having flexible schedules that balance at-home hours with in-person hours.

While working from home may be convenient, it also could become too convenient. Sure, you can throw in a load of laundry between meetings, but remember to not let your household activities overwhelm your work responsibilities.

Not enough breaks

nyul/Adobe reading at home

You may think being a workaholic and staying at your desk for hours on end is good behavior. But a lack of breaks during the day could be making you less productive.

Studies have shown that it’s actually a good idea to take breaks every 60 to 90 minutes to stay sharp and not get fatigued as you work through your day.


qunica.com/Adobe happy man looking at his phone

It doesn’t matter what you do to distract yourself from getting a task done. Eventually, you’ll have to do it. But it could be harder to do if you continue to put it off until you’re facing a deadline that’s much closer than you expected.

Consider using a timer to keep yourself on task and work in small chunks to help you get things done on task or even ahead of schedule.

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Lack of goals

samrit/Adobe small goals words on wood table close to pen and glasses

Do you feel like you’re just grinding away day after day with no end in sight? It might be a good idea to try setting goals for yourself so you have a plan for what you’re working to accomplish.

Perhaps you want to carve out a little time on Monday morning to make a list of what you need to achieve during the week. You could also make a checklist each morning of the tasks that have to be finished before you leave for the day.

Disorganized workspace

thodonal/Adobe overworked businessman sitting at a messy desk

Clutter may be preventing you from seeing your end goals or helping you stay focused on your tasks. Take some time to get rid of distractions on your desk by organizing your workspace and tossing out any papers and random work items that are in your way.

You could also consider decluttering your virtual desktop on your computer by organizing and deleting files so it’s easier to find what you need.

Using your phone before bed

reewungjunerr/Adobe woman play smartphone in the bed at night

You may be surprised to know that your phone could act as a stimulus even when you’re lying in bed thinking you’re winding down at night. Screen time at home could be eating into the amount of deep sleep you get in a night and affect your performance at work.

Instead, find another way to wind down, like reading a book, to settle your brain activity. And remember to make sure you stick to a nightly routine to get yourself ready to sleep.

Being negative

fizkes/Adobe millennial girl sitting alone at cafe table after conflict ignoring friends

It can be easy to choose the more negative outlook on work if it’s something you don’t like or a project that’s become more of a challenge than you expected. But constant negativity could also be dragging down your work productivity.

Try to have a more positive attitude about completing tasks or find something you enjoy about each task to boost your confidence about getting it done efficiently.

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Skipping meals

Jo Panuwat D/Adobe hands holding knife and fork above white plate

It can be easy to get so wrapped up in your work that you forget to eat lunch. Or maybe you’re so stressed to get out the door in the morning that you don’t have breakfast before you leave.

Food is part of the energy that keeps your work engine running. Skipping a meal may save you time, but it could also slow you down as you drag through the day without any nutrition to keep you going.

Bottom line

Prostock-studio/Adobe afro man working on laptop in modern office

Whether you’re back at the office or still working from home, knowing what’s stopping you from being productive can help you reduce money stress if you’re worried about losing your job.

Ending bad behaviors could also get you extra notice from co-workers or your superiors and lead to better job opportunities.

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Author Details

Jenny Cohen Jenny Cohen is a freelance writer who has covered a bit of everything, from finance to sports to her favorite TV shows. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and FoxSports.com.

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