Stealing successful people’s habits seems to be one of the hottest trends today. Whether it’s top CEOs’ morning rituals or accomplished executives’ email routines, we copy these habits in hopes that we can be just as accomplished one day. Hey, if they also have only 24 hours in a day, then they must be doing something better than we are, right?

Right. But I’ll be the first to admit that I spend way too much time stealing these good habits, and not enough time recognizing—and banishing—the bad habits that hurt my productivity.

So, in honor of ditching everything that’s slowing me down, here are five common bad habits you also probably need to cut out. And, because we know breaking habits is easier said than done, we’ve included useful strategies and apps that will help you replace them with something more productive.


1. Overloading Your To-Do List (and Underestimating Your Tasks)

I hate that feeling of excitedly downloading a new to-do list app, believing that it’s the key to becoming the most organized person alive, then, three weeks later, never using it again because the number of uncompleted tasks on there is simply too frightening.

If you’ve also mastered the art of organizing assignments into a to-do list, but lack the ability (or perhaps the willpower) to complete these assignments, you’re not alone. But you’re also not maximizing your productivity by constantly underestimating your tasks.

To create more realistic to-do lists that organize instead of overwhelm, Muse writer Lily Herman recommends strategies ranging from following the 1-3-5 rule to crafting an Anti-To-Do-List. In addition, author and productivity specialist Cal Newport suggests blocking time in your schedule for all of your to-dos in an effort to avoid overbooking yourself.


2. Constantly Checking Social Media Accounts

As someone who lives online, I will confess that nothing wastes more of my time than aimlessly scrolling through my social media feeds. While there’s nothing wrong with staying connected, obsessively checking for updates seriously reduces time spent on real tasks. (After all, the Instagram hearts will still be there when your work is done.)

The good news is that plenty of site-blocking tools exist to make your battle against social media distractions easier. I’ve found SelfControl extremely useful in disabling accounts for designated chunks of time. Also, the Chrome extension StayFocusd is another tool that makes sure you’re completing work when you sit down to do it.


3. Working With Multiple Browser Tabs Open

Having too many open tabs will not only slow down your workflow, but it’ll also slow down your browser, which often leads to your internet crashing—the very last thing you want when you’re in the middle of something. And, as much as you believe that multitasking will help you get things done faster, operating with more than five tabs open actually reduces the quality of your processing.

That’s why tools like Chrome extension OneTab and Safari extension PanicButton exist—they hide your open tabs and arrange them into a single, manageable list. Pocket is another great way to reduce tab clutter—you can save anything you want to read or watch for later and view it when you’re ready.


4. Obsessively Checking Email

Ah, the eternal struggle of keeping our inboxes from taking over our lives. I know I’m guilty of never closing my Gmail tab and clicking on it as soon as a new message arrives. And while there’s nothing wrong with sending quick responses to my contacts, there’s definitely something wrong with dropping everything—important tasks included—to read an incoming email.

Thankfully, INBOX PAUSE for Gmail has brought me closer to ending this email-checking obsession. With this app, you can control exactly when your messages will appear. If that doesn’t work, Herman suggests blocking out time for answering email without interruption—and not opening your inbox any other time.


5. Sacrificing Sleep

You’ve probably heard the advice, “You can sleep when you’re dead!” As appealing as that may sound, I probably don’t have to tell you that ongoing sleep deprivation actually makes you less productive over time. That’s why successful people don’t sacrifice their somewhere-between-7-and-9 hours of shut-eye.

There’s no app (yet) that forcefully puts you to bed. I do, however, recommend using Sleep Cycle to track the quality of your sleep. By looking at Sleep Cycle’s graphs, you can figure out how much rest is enough for you. I’ve been using this app for three years, so trust me when I say that even though it can’t assign you a bedtime, it does help you sleep better.



Ditching a habit is difficult. But with today’s large selection of productivity tools—and, yes, a little willpower—abandoning bad habits becomes so much easier. With these five habits gone, you’ll become much more efficient at not just staying on top of your goals, but at completing them on time.

Have other time-wasting habits you wish to break? Share them with me on Twitter!


Photo of man on phone courtesy of Shutterstock.