17 After-Work Habits Killing Your Productivity
Don't let your evening routine sabotage your nine-to-five.
In a perfect world, you'd get home from work, cook up a nutritious meal, have quality time with your family, settle in with a good book, and fall asleep by 10 p.m. But since the real world is far from perfect, evenings tend to be a little bit messier. And if you're not careful, you'll fall into a rut in which your poor evening habits spill over into the next day, setting in motion a vicious cycle in which you get less done during your peak hours.
But here's the thing: If you organize your after-work hours well, they can actually bolster your productivity during the daily grind. So before you spend another night melting into the couch and binging an entire season of TV on Netflix, check out these 17 after-work habits that are killing your productivity.
You don't give yourself a transition period.
One of the first after-work productivity killers takes place before you even leave the office. "Most people go from finishing work and it's straight onto the train and into their own world," Steve Magness, running coach and author of the book Peak Performance, tells The Cut. "That's not helpful."
Instead, take a moment for what Magness calls "social recovery," or decompressing with friends. It can be as simple as chatting with a coworker in the elevator about something non-work related or meeting up with your sister for an after-work drink.
"If you don't have that, what happens is that high cortisol level, that slight anxiety, it'll just stay there," he says. "And that's why a lot of people get in that grind and they'll do the same thing: Go home, flip on the TV or scroll through Twitter and not actually give themselves a chance to come down off that stress."
You try to multitask.
While it may seem like balancing as many after-work tasks as possible will allow you to make the most out of your time, it can often backfire and leave you having to redo tasks that could have been handled quickly and correctly the first time. MIT neuroscientist Earl Miller says, "People can't do multitasking very well, and when they say they can, they're deluding themselves." So instead of trying to build that PowerPoint while you cook dinner, save yourself the time and energy and get it right the first time around—at the office tomorrow morning.
You don't make a plan for the following day.
It can be easy to get home and fall into the couch without a care in the world. But if you're really serious about productivity, you'll want to make a plan for the next day. In one study, participants were asked to write a report after Christmas about how they spent their holidays. One group had to specify where, when, and how they were going to write the report, while another didn't create a plan at all. Of the participants who made a plan, 71 percent sent the report back on time. Of those who hadn't, just 32 percent sent one back.
Your plan could be as simple as a tentative schedule for the following day so you know what your goals are and how you'll go about attacking them.
You take happy hour a bit too far.
Catching up with a coworker over a pint or two is one thing. But shutting down the bar on a Wednesday is another—and it could have some serious effects on your productivity the next day. The American Journal of Psychiatry found that the higher your blood alcohol level, the more likely you'll show signs of impairment more than 12 hours later. That means if you stay out until 11 pm, you could be feeling down until lunchtime the next day.
You put in overtime.
Whether you stay at the office late or put in a few extra hours after dinner, working longer doesn't mean you'll be more productive. In fact, one Stanford University study found that "employee output falls sharply after a 50-hour workweek, and falls off a cliff after 55 hours." That means people who put in 70 hours have very little to show for their last 15 hours.
You spend your entire evening on social media.
Though you're technically off the clock as soon as you leave the office, the habits you build at home will follow you to the workplace. And after a recent study found that employees spend more than 32 percent of their workday on social media, this might be a habit you want to kick. Try reading a book or watching a film instead, and you'll help retrain your brain to stop checking your cell.
You watch too much television.
Your mother was right: Too much TV will rot your brain—especially if you let the time get away from you. "If you watch in a dark room with a lack of sunlight it can screw up your circadian rhythm and disrupt sleep-wake cycles," John P. Higgins, MD, associate professor of cardiology at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, tells Health.com. And if there's one thing we can tell you for certain, it's that messing with your sleep will mess with your productivity.
You finish your evening with a nightcap.
In the same way that a visit to the pub can leave you in a state that's not exactly top-form, indulging in a nightcap could be one of the key after-work habits killing your productivity. Why? Alcohol seriously affects how you sleep, messing up your natural rhythm and blocking REM, as well as waking you up in the night to hit the restroom. You might feel sleepy when your head hits the pillow, but you're going to pay for it later.
You take a nap.
If you zone out while your partner cooks dinner, you're not doing yourself any favors. "If you require eight hours of sleep to feel rested and you sleep for two hours in the afternoon or evening, you may get less sleep overnight because your body may not require the additional sleep," according to verywellhealth.com. "Your sleep will become more fragmented with more frequent awakenings and prolonged periods awake in the night." The National Sleep Foundation also warns against post-work naps. If you feel the need to a get some rest during the day, it's best to stick to 15- to 20-minute naps no later than early afternoon.
You stay too late at the gym.
"For the best night's sleep, most people should avoid strenuous workouts in the late evening or right before bed," writes the National Sleep Foundation. And for even more of a productivity boost, switch your workout from the evening to the morning. According to a study conducted by the University of North Carolina, exercising in the morning is a great way to boost cortisol, which, in turn, gives you the energy to remain productive throughout the day.
You stay up past your bedtime.
If you're a night owl, you know how hard it can be to change your ways. But even if you naturally thrive between 8 pm and 8 am, the rest of the world isn't willing to accommodate your preferred schedule. That's why, as hard as it is, you need to make sure you get the sleep you need to remain productive. Science says the sweet spot is between six and nine hours.
You eat an unhealthy dinner.
A healthy diet promotes healthy (and productive!) decision-making all day long. To keep your productivity on point, a study conducted by Carnegie Mellon University suggests planning out what you'll eat for dinner in advance, as you're more likely to make better decisions before you get hungry. Numerous studies laid out by the Harvard Business Review also suggest that snacking throughout the day can increase your productivity—rather than succumbing to a hazy hunger between your three allotted meals a day.
You binge on junk food.
Eating is one of the great joys in life, but downing a bag or two of candy can have a number of negative results. Along with having unfortunate effects on your body, junk food can zap your energy instead of providing you with the fuel that nutritious food does. According to Business Insider, Lisa DeFazio, RD, says that "high-fat, high-sugar food makes us sleepy" which is why "it's important to go heavy on the protein and healthy fats and easy on the carbs" if you're looking to keep your energy up.
You try to do everything yourself.
Some people feel like it's easier to do things themselves and others don't know how to delegate what needs to be done. But in most cases, it's not necessary—nor wise—to try to do to everything on your own. Whether it's hiring an accountant so you don't have to spend extra time on your finances or hiring a cleaning service to scrub the floors, sometimes delegating can be the secret to productivity.
You don't have a set routine.
There are particular situations where it's best to let your spontaneous side take the lead. But if your day-to-day aim is to be as productive as possible, it's best to set (and stick to) a routine that will make the most of your time, even after work hours.
Life Hack notes that "the most successful people have structured routines—and for good reason. Structured routines make you more productive and effective. Instead of running around with a vague idea of what you want to accomplish, the right lifestyle routine can turn you into a productivity monster." That's especially crucial during the limited evening hours.
You skip your family dinner.
Taking an hour out of your night to eat a healthy dinner with the people you love has been shown to lower anxiety levels in yourself and your children, according to a study published in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology. And when you're feeling more zen, you're much more inclined to power through your to-do list the next day.
You try to do too much in too little time.
While you may relish in the thought of becoming a more well-rounded individual outside of the workplace, an overwhelming amount of research actually suggests that your productivity and creativity are increased with more frequent mental breaks.
In fact, dozens of studies have been conducted to support the theory that rest and relaxation are essential to keeping your brain alert and operating on all cylinders throughout the day. So rather than take on a plethora of demanding after-work activities, try meditation, yoga, or just old-fashioned sleep to give your brain a much-needed boost. If you're looking to boost your productivity even more, you'll also want to know the 10 Morning Habits Destroying Your Productivity.
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