When it comes to bad work habits, there’s plenty to talk about.
Some affect our productivity, others impact our mood and impose an additional dose of stress on our lives.
When reflecting on my professional life, the last few years, I immediately notice one thing—I’ve developed a few work habits that have been helping me procrastinate my work or seriously affect other areas of my life.
Awareness is the first step toward breaking these habits.
These are five bad work habits, that I’ve decided to stop.
1. Lack of organization.
This is a habit that can negatively impact our work place. Working at a messy desk, we have literally no idea how to find things we need—that’s something I’ve been battling with for a while.
What I discovered is that good organization is not about cleanliness, but practicality—rather than maintaining a spotless desk, we should focus on setting up order that allows us to quickly find things we need for our daily work.
How to instantly get more organized at work?
Keep your desk clean of stuff that distracts you (mind you, this doesn’t mean pristinely clean), develop smart habits like using the last 10 minutes of the day to tidy up and file away your papers. It’s also a good idea to set auto-filters for your e-mail inbox, to correctly prioritize your correspondence.
Most importantly, set yourself realistic goals for your organization. Nobody is perfect and you don’t want to put additional layers of stress on yourself if you’re aiming too high when it comes to organization.
2. Responding to each and every message.
When caught in a whirlwind of my daily tasks, I always found the time to respond to people. Be it a text, an e-mail or a call. I was ready to drop everything or rush my tasks in order to write or call back.
This turned out to be a habit, that not only affected my concentration, but also resulted in more daily stress. Once I stopped obsessively checking my e-mail and phone, I regained my focus and became much more effective at completing my tasks.
That’s also how I was able to block the anxiety, driven by the constantly beeping objects, trying to catch my attention.
Make a rule for yourself to turn to tasks, like e-mails, only once every hour or every few hours—answer them all in bulk. Instead of constantly interrupting your work to respond to your e-mails, use the last five minutes of every hour to do that.
At the same time, you’ll be dropping your multitasking habit—the first step towards a smart time management.
Multitasking doesn’t work and there’s lots of research to prove that. One of the most important studies was brought by Stanford University, which showed how unproductive multitasking really was.
Still, many workers, including me, believed in multitasking and how it creates an image of being constantly busy, that our culture favors so much.
I tried my best to deal with my responsibilities by switching from one to another in a matter of minutes and this turned out to be the main reason of my inability to focus.
When I broke my multitasking habit , I found it easier to stick to one task, finish it and then switch to another—something I recommend trying at work.
How to quit multitasking?
In order to successfully unitask, you’ll need to concentrate. That means eliminating all potential distractions.
Allocate a specific amount of time for specific tasks and choose the right time of the day to complete them—focusing on your task might be impossible among the morning rush or during the afternoon lull.
Silence your devices so you’re not interrupted by constant notification noises. If you work in an office, close your door. In the case of an open workspace, all you can do is ask your colleagues not to disturb you for the next hours.
4. Lack of exercise and unhealthy diet.
This is a classic mistake, made by many professionals today. We tend to lead such busy lives that it seems literally impossible to find a free hour that could be spent exercising. Returning home, we feel exhausted and prefer to spend our evenings in front of the T.V., eating high-calorie food to soothe our built-up anxiety from the day.
Eating right and exercising is a habit positively affected my productivity and my health.
I use to wake up feeling tired, needing at least two strong coffees a day to keep me going and resorting to quick lunches that had little nutritional value. It’s a miracle that someone decided to be honest with me and told me that I looked 10 years older than I actually am.
How to change your bad habits into new ones?
Get a gym card—you’ll feel more motivated to exercise once you spend some money on it. Take your time in the morning to have a proper and nutritious breakfast. Instead of relying on the snack machine, bring healthy snacks from home—fruit, nuts or carrots.
5. Taking breaks in a bad style.
Everyone tells us that we need to take regular breaks, but nobody ever says how to do this.
My old method for taking a break was to check my social networks. Seeing what my friends were up to and checking my news feed for interesting cultural events seemed relaxing. In fact, it wasn’t.
Getting off social media is something many people try today and often experience a positive change in their daily lives. I’m not suggesting we should all quit our social networks—monitoring and limiting our engagement with them is liberating and helps us to focus on what really matters.
What is a good idea for a break?
A short walk outside, a friendly chat with a colleague in the relaxation lounge or kitchen, a healthy snack, a few desk exercises—you name it!
Breaking bad work habits isn’t a piece of cake, but it’s definitely worth the trouble.
Changing these five bad habits helped me to regain my physical and mental equilibrium.
Why not try to reexamine our work habits and find out if there’s one that could be improved right now?
references: Stanford University Study
Author: Cindy Boesel
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock