Not staying productive can result in missed deadlines and workers being hurried and nagged. It is estimated that workplace stress costs businesses as much as $300 billion a year.

Some of the things that cause unproductivity are the very lifeblood of life as a designer, such as lack of supervision and perfectionism. Whether you work in the marketing department of a company and put in a 9 to 5 schedule, or you are a freelancer working within your own timeline, at some point, you’ll hit those unproductive moments that are hard to overcome.

Fortunately, there are some things you can do that will improve productivity. By studying these four unproductive traits, you can avoid the pitfalls of the unproductivity spiral and impress your employer or clients.

1. Giving Into Distractions

Distractions take place no matter if you work in an office, a local coffee shop, or in your own home. If you work in an office, impromptu meetings and co-workings taking your time can eat into your productivity. At home, things such as a load of laundry that needs started or your lonely next door neighbor can distract. Even if you leave and head to a local coffee shop to work, you may encounter a loud talker or other distractions.

Do you know one of the biggest distractions? 61% of employees in the United States state that a noisy co-worker is a big distraction. Grab a pair of ear buds to tune out that loud worker in the cubicle next to yours.

How can you counter distractions in general? In the office, find a quiet place in the conference room or come up with a standard response for co-workers. Example: “I’m sorry, I have to finish this right now, but I’ll talk to you about that later.” At home, turn off the phone, put a do-not-disturb sign on the door and avoid social media.

2. Multitasking

Many people believe that multitasking is efficient, but studies simply don’t support that thinking. Although humans can shift focus fast, in about 1/10th of a second, the brain can only do so much at one time. When you add just one other thing to driving, talking on the phone for example, your attention to driving decreases 37%.

Counter the habit of multitasking by creating a to-do list. Complete one item at a time on the list, crossing it off as you go. Larger tasks can be broken down into multiple parts.

3. Chattering Too Much

There are some topics that push our buttons. It is tempting to spend your day chatting about the things that bother you. If you work from home, you might do this on social media or by calling family and friends. If you are in an office, you and your co-workers may stand around the proverbial water cooler and talk about the issue at hand.

This can be particularly counter-productive when you are trying to work because it takes your focus away from what you’re trying to accomplish. There is a reason that your mother told you not to discuss religion or politics in polite company.

Not only is it distracting, but you could be offending co-workers without even realizing it. Between January 31, 2017 and February 2, 2017, 87% of workers were reading political social media posts during working hours. Last year’s election cycle was particularly divisive. You don’t want to carry that divisiveness into your work world.

The best way to counter the tendency to chatter about things that might not be productive to your work day is to be aware that some topics create a lot of drama. Good topics to avoid include politics, religion, abortion, and the second amendment. You should certainly talk about these topics in your free time, but they should be off limits when you are working. Even if the person you are speaking with agrees with your views, the person walking down the hall who overhears it might not.

4. Procrastinating

Design work is a creative endeavor in many ways. Creative types seem to be prone to procrastination. Although your procrastination issues might not be as bad as some people’s, around 20% of adults claim to have a chronic problem with procrastination. Some of the most famous artists and speech writers of all time procrastinated. There seems to be a connection to creativity and procrastination, at least for some people. The problem with procrastination is that work backs up and you may not have the time to do the work to the best of your ability.

Procrastination is a difficult issue to overcome. Try to find someone to be accountable to and tell them you want to overcome your procrastination tendencies. Next, make a weekly list of tasks that need to be completed by day. Share that list with your accountability partner. The person should check in with you to see if you are completing tasks on schedule.


Implementing some of the measures above, such as minimizing distractions, will help with some of the procrastination issues. The rest can be solved by consistently sticking to a regular schedule and staying accountable for completing work.

The factors listed above may be holding you back from taking your design career to the next level. Your competitors may not have these same issues and will pull ahead of you. By implementing the solutions listed above, you will be the one pulling ahead of the pack and finding success in your career.