I know a bad tech habit when I see one. After working so many years as a knowledge worker (you know--someone who processes email, types up documents, and rarely goes outside to see the real world), I've developed a few routines during my workday. They can be hard to break, but they are also interfering with my productivity, damaging my health, and making me a curmudgeon when it comes to my daily social interactions. Here are the ones I'm dealing with the most. Do you have a hard time with these bad habits as well?

1. Clicking refresh on your email constantly

Here's one I have yet to conquer, but I'm working on it. There are times when I'm waiting for an important email, and that's OK. Usually, I'm just wanting my email to dictate to me what I should work on next. By clicking the Inbox link in Gmail and refreshing my inbox, I'm wasting time. You know what? My email will arrive eventually. It's better to keep working on other tasks and check email at regular intervals. Then, process email in one fell swoop.

2. Sitting too close to the screen

As I've been getting older, I've noticed a tendency to sit too close to the screen. I'm leaning in to read text that's starting to look smaller and smaller these days. The problem is that I'm not using my ergonomic chair the way it was intended: ergonomically. It's best to sit straight during the day with good posture. Thankfully, there's a simple fix. Modern computers use incredibly high-resolution screens, but it's OK to bump the resolution down and make the text bigger. Or, in most browsers, look for a menu setting to zoom in on the page. (In Chrome, it's CTRL  to zoom.) Problem solved.

3. Eating as you work on a computer

I'm a productivity workhorse, whisking through my emails with lightning precision. Why break that momentum for something so trivial as a sandwich? Well, apart from any concerns about cleanliness at my desk or the bad posture I use to shovel that takeout food into my mouth with (ahem) lightning precision, the most detrimental effect is that I'm not eating with other people. It's OK to take a 15-minute break and go to the "break" room (named that way for a reason). Go ahead and meet someone and chat about the weather. Then, get back at it. The time you spend eating a real meal will promote better productivity the rest of the day and give you a proper boost.

4. Posting on social networks only about yourself

I will ask that you hold me accountable on this bad habit. I tend to see social networks as a tool for promoting my own work, but I forget that they are called "social" networks for a reason. One of my bad habits is to only post about my own work. I need to break this habit and comment on the achievements of others, promote their efforts, and have more one-on-one chats. It will deepen those relationships rather than making them so one-sided.

5. Letting the clutter win

I've written before about how the clutter on your desk can interfere with your productivity. One bad habit is letting this clutter build up because you are working too intently on a project. The clutter tends to overwhelm your desk, which then leads to distraction and a feeling of disorganization. Don't wipe the desk completely free of knickknacks, but develop a habit of removing things when they pile up too often. It promotes clearer thinking.

6. Listening to music too loud

Hitting too close to home? I feel your pain--literally. Those earbuds were never meant to play Radiohead or Bruce Springsteen that loud. I've developed a bad habit over the years by slowing increasing the volume day to day and month to month to block out distractions, but my ears are not happy about it. You can get by at a lower volume, especially if you use noise-canceling headphones that reduce background noise.

7. Running your display at the highest brightness level

I like to run my laptop and tablet (not to mention my phone) at the highest brightness level, which makes it easier to read the text. The problem is that having this glaring bright screen shining on your face all day is killing the battery life on your devices. By adjusting the brightness down even a quarter, you can save a little juice and even get more work done. If every knowledge worker did this daily, we'd save a chunk of the planet.

8. Checking email one last time at night

Speaking of screen brightness: that's also causing problems if you work at night. I tend to check email one last time before bed, but the light from the screen is like a Vegas light show. Our brains don't quite understand what's going on, so we stay awake. Lately, I've tried to retire the gadgets long before bed and just enjoy time with family.

Published on: Nov 4, 2014
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.