5 Subconscious Habits 99% Of Unproductive People Do Daily (That Productive People Don't)

In a recent survey, I asked 10,000+ people to rate their productivity (over their previous seven days) on a scale from 1 to 10.

The average score was 5.2.

This shows how many of us struggle when it comes to getting things done.

Most of these struggles come from subconscious habits holding you back without even realizing it.

When you eliminate these subconscious habits, you'll quickly notice a powerful boost in your productivity.

Habit #1: Short-Term Thinking

Many of our problems come from short-term thinking. It's a constant battle between what we want now versus what we want most.

In many cases, what you want now conflicts with what you want most. What we want now is usually less healthy, productive, or meaningful than what we want most.

For example, what I want now is to chill on the couch and play video games. But what I want most is to build a thriving business, so I'm writing this article.

Our tendency to choose immediate rewards over more meaningful long-term rewards is what psychologists call the instant gratification bias.

The instant gratification bias is deeply rooted in human evolution.

According to neuroscientist Dr. Daniel Levitin, "Our brains are wired to prioritize immediate rewards because, in the ancestral environment, immediate rewards were often linked to survival."

In a world where resources were scarce and survival uncertain, it was better to choose immediate rewards over uncertain future rewards.

But in today's modern world, this cognitive bias is less useful when it comes to our health, productivity, and decision-making.

Because of the instant gratification bias, we might:

  • ​Hit snooze instead of going for a morning run
  • ​Play video games instead of writing an important paper
  • ​Scroll through social media for hours instead of going to bed early

As Dr. Kelly McGonigal, psychologist and author of The Willpower Instinct, writes, "The instant gratification bias (…) can lead to impulsive behavior and poor long-term decision-making."

To rewire the instant gratification bias, I recommend reviewing your long-term goals every morning and evening. This primes your mind to focus on what you want most versus what's most pleasurable now.

Habit #2: Neglecting Your Health & Energy

Productivity is about 80% biology. That's why sacrificing your health for the sake of productivity is one of the worst things you can do.

Studies show that when you're fatigued, you'll be more prone to distractions, experience more brain fog, and have less self-control.

I always say that the habits you practice in your free time determine how well you'll perform during your work.

  • If you stay up until 2 am watching Netflix or playing video games, you'll experience brain fog the next day due to lack of sleep
  • ​If you eat crappy food for breakfast, you'll get an energy crash a few hours later, which kills your productivity
  • ​If you drink too much alcohol, you'll be hungover the next day and have no willpower to work on your goals

But when you prioritize healthy habits such as exercise, high-quality nutrition, and good sleep, you'll be in a much better mental and physical state, which allows for peak performance.

When you're energized and healthy, getting things done simply feels a lot more effortless. But when you're fatigued, it feels like an endless uphill battle.

I've experienced this firsthand when I struggled with a bone infection for over a year. The constant pain messed up my sleep and stopped me from exercising. As I was in a continuous state of fatigue, getting things done felt like climbing Mount Everest.

Again, productivity is at least 80% biology. When you prioritize your health and energy, going through your to-do list will feel much more 'effortless.'

Habit #3: Not Making A Plan For The Day

Making a daily plan is one of the most powerful productivity habits. One study found that people who planned their days were 94% more productive than others.

Although planning might seem like common sense, experience shows that common sense isn't always common action.

That's why I recommend spending a few minutes each morning to plan the day ahead:

  • Identify your top three priorities for the day
  • ​Schedule your three priorities in your calendar
  • ​Identify other tasks you want to complete that day
  • ​Schedule these remaining tasks in your calendar

If you're serious about your goals and habits, plan them in your daily schedule. Once it's in your schedule, it's much more likely to get done.

Most people don't do this, leaving their productivity up to chance. As Benjamin Franklin once said, "If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail."

Since daily planning is such an essential productivity habit, I developed my own Peak Productivity Planner. Click the button below if you want to learn more about this productivity tool.

Habit #4: Addiction To Cheap Dopamine

Most people are addicted to cheap sources of dopamine, which has destroyed their willpower, focus, and motivation.

In today's society, almost everything is on-demand. An endless world of stimulation is always just one click or swipe away.

Bored? Scroll through social media.

Hungry? Order junk food with Uber Eats.

Horny? Watch some porn.

Stressed? Watch Netflix for distraction.

Most of these distractions have been purposefully designed to hijack your brain's dopamine system to get you addicted. This sets people up for a life of laziness, instant gratification, and staying stuck in their comfort zone.

But the most meaningful things in life require effort, pushing yourself, and overcoming challenges:

  • Building a business requires lots of willpower
  • ​Dating amazing people requires leaving your comfort zone
  • ​Improving your fitness requires self-discipline
  • ​Making great money requires hard work

Don't let constant exposure to cheap dopamine mess up your brain's motivational circuits.

If you want an above-average life, train yourself to do hard things.

Habit #5: Wasting Peak Productivity Hours

Recent neuroscience shows that, on average, mental performance is at its best in the first four hours after waking up.

As Dr. Michael Breus, clinical psychologist and author of The Power of When, wrote, "On average, the peak time for cognitive functioning is about two to four hours after we wake up."

During these hours, it's peak performance time for our brain.

That's when we have better focus, mental clarity, problem-solving capabilities, and self-control.

In other words, getting things done (especially complex tasks) will be much easier in the first four hours after waking up compared to the afternoon.

Most people are completely unaware of these daily fluctuations in productivity - and waste their peak performance hours on low-value tasks, meetings, or distractions.

Highly effective people, on the other hand, treat their most productive hours differently than 'ordinary' work hours:

  • They block it off in their calendar
  • ​They don't waste it on low-value work or meetings
  • ​They don't allow distractions to creep in (smartphone away, notifications off, quiet work spot, etc.)

By scheduling high-priority, complex tasks during those hours when your brain performs at its best, you'll work smarter and maximize productivity.

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Hi, I'm Jari Roomer

Founder Personal Growth Lab

At PGL, we share science-based tools and routines to optimize your health, cognitive performance, and productivity.

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