When you think of bad habits, what springs to mind? Not getting enough exercise, eating poorly, or watching too much TV. The list can be long.
Mostly the habits we recall are personally focused and outside the working environment. Yet, just as you can have poor lifestyle habits, you can have poor work habits too.
As I’ve written about before, much of what we do each day are habits. An action becomes a habit when you do it repeatedly – often to the point that you don’t think about it. The real danger lurks in this space because you may not even realise you are doing it.
Poor working habits can negatively impact your productivity, relationships, reputation, health, and well-being.
So, if something at work isn’t working, it can help to step back, pause and reflect, and dig into your work habits to see if they are helping or hindering you.
You want to answer the question – Are you bringing your best self to work each day?
Here are some tips to get you thinking.
Never having more than a week’s leave
If you burn the candle at both ends — working late, constantly taking work home and always working weekends — you will eventually burn out. When you aren’t in good shape, your work suffers, as does your ability to handle stressful situations.
Holidays are not just about having fun. They are essential for your mental health and well-being. During this downtime, you get the chance to reconnect with friends and family and to reflect on life, where you are going and what you want to do next.
Don’t fool yourself into thinking that a long weekend or mini-break is enough. They are great, but longer breaks (beyond a week) are much better at providing time to rest, recharge and reflect.
Being a meeting junkie
When you rush from meeting to meeting or event to event, you can get to the end of the working day exhausted yet having achieved little on your to-do list.
It’s essential to structure your day, so you get the most important things done first. Allow time for regular breaks, during which you get away from your desk for at least 30 minutes.
Having daily intentions and a prioritised work schedule helps you stay on track, better enabling you to meet your commitments to your boss, team and clients.
Always being late
When you keep people waiting, you are effectively saying, ‘My time is more important than yours’, unconsciously implying that you regard yourself as more important.
When you miss deadlines, you show yourself to be unreliable and difficult to work with. A regular pattern of tardiness does nothing to enhance your reputation. You’ll be known as the person who continually misses deadlines and let your boss and colleagues down.
Never getting bored
With the busy mantra rushing around in your head, you can easily worry when you have nothing to do. However, when you are bored or daydreaming, your best ideas will arise. This is because it is in this ‘quiet space’ that your brain can wander, ponder and create.
Be deliberate about finding time to do nothing. You can reconnect with nature and spend time outdoors. You can just sit and ‘be’ too.
Making it too hard for yourself
We are often told we need to set goals, but not just any goals — BIG HAIRY, AUDACIOUS GOALS. Yet research shows that setting goals that are too high and too hard inhibits progress. You are far more likely to progress when you break projects and activities into bite-size, manageable chunks.
It’s great to be ambitious and set stretch targets, but what’s more important is reliability and consistently good performance.
You are far more likely to achieve things and create new patterns of behaviour and success when your goals are well structured and there’s a way to make regular progress.
Saying yes too often
The conundrum is that if you always say ‘yes’, you lose your voice and often the ability to find the balance that works for your personal and professional life.
A crucial part of avoiding burnout and having the career you want is learning to say ‘no’. A no with conviction and no ‘sorry’ attached to it. That doesn’t mean you say ‘no’ without careful thought. Instead, it’s about saying ‘no’ with consideration of others and compassion for them and yourself.
There’s nothing worse than feeling like you are drowning in work and yet are unappreciated as more and more work comes your way. It’s easy to say ‘yes’ when a request comes in, yet there will be times when you need to say ‘no’.
It helps to set realistic boundaries around what you will and won’t do, and how you will respond to requests outside standard working hours. If you don’t set limits that you are comfortable with, you’ll resent your boss.
Being the office energy thief
An energy thief saps you of energy, drains your focus, wastes your time and can throw you off track.
Energy thieves focus on their needs, showing little or no interest in those of other people. They continuously focus on the negative, seeking to drag others down with them. They expect people to do things for them, demanding attention and support, yet are not prepared to offer the same support to others.
Being seen as political, a gossip, or an energy thief will do nothing to endear you to your boss or colleagues.
When you are multi-tasking, your attention is split, and as you switch from one activity to another, you lose concentration and ultimately become less productive.
If you are sitting in a meeting and typing an email (or reading this article), you won’t fully concentrate on what is being said. At the same time, each time you switch from one task to another, your brain loses focus and then has to refocus, using up precious resources.
The brain isn’t hard-wired to handle multiple issues simultaneously or to rapidly switch back and forward between tasks. Research shows that a person’s productivity dips by as much as 25% as they switch backwards and forwards between competing tasks.
Highly productive people time-box their workday and ruthlessly manage their schedule.
Not getting enough sleep
When your brain is tired, you tend to take the path of least resistance, letting past expectations and assumptions drive your thoughts and actions, and you’ll decide the way you’ve always decided.
When you are rested, you’ll be better equipped to deal with work pressures, manage a heavy workload and make well-reasoned decisions.
The concept of ‘sleeping on it, isn’t silly. Your brain processes overnight, and you are far more likely to make better decisions early in the morning when your pre-frontal cortex is rested.
So which of these habits do you need to replace?
And as you do that, embrace the mantra from the Sufi poet, Rumi, to “Live life as though everything is rigged in your favour”.
Getting you ready for tomorrow, today®
Michelle Gibbings is bringing back the happy to workplace culture. The award-winning author of three books, and a global keynote speaker, she’s on a mission to help leaders, teams and organisations create successful workplaces – where people thrive and progress is accelerated.