When you think of bad habits, what springs to mind? Not getting enough exercise, eating badly, or watching too much TV.  The list can be long.

Mostly the habits we recall are personally focused, and things we connect with life outside the working environment. And yet, just as you can have poor lifestyle habits, you can have poor working habits that negatively impact your career.

An action becomes a habit when you do it repeatedly – often to the point that you don’t think about it.   That’s where the real danger lurks.

Poor working habits impact your productivity, working relationships and reputation.

1. Never taking more than a week’s leave

Holidays are not just about having fun.  They are essential for your mental health and well-being.  It’s during this downtime that 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.

Mini-breaks are great, but longer breaks (beyond a week) are much better at providing time to rest, recharge and reflect.

2. Never getting bored

With the busy mantra rushing around in your head you can easily worry when you have nothing to do.  However, it is when you are bored or daydreaming that you can come up with your best ideas.

It is in this ‘quiet space’ that your brain wanders, ponders and decides.

3. Running from meeting to meeting

When you rush from meeting to meeting or event to event you can get to the end of the day exhausted, but not having achieved anything.

At the start of each day, set clear intentions on what you want to achieve and write it down.  When it’s written down it is harder to ignore the task, than if its just floating around as a thought bubble in your head.

These daily intentions also help to ensure you focus enough time on your health as well.

4. Being late for meetings

When you keep people waiting you are effectively saying to them – ‘My time is more important than your time’.   When you do that, you are also unconsciously saying to the person that you think you are more important than them.

Having a regular pattern of tardiness does nothing to enhance your reputation.

5. Making it too hard for yourself

We are often told that we need to set goals, but not just any type of goals – BIG GOALS.

Remember the ‘BHAG’ acronym?  It stands for ‘Big, hairy, audacious goals’.

However, research shows that when goals are set too high and too hard, we don’t make progress.  You are far more likely to achieve things and create new patterns of behaviour and success when you break it down to bite-size, manageable chunks.

6. Not getting enough sleep

When your brain is tired it eagerly takes the path of least resistance – letting expectations and assumptions drive how you think and act.

If you want to make better, more deliberate decisions you need to be fully alert about when you make 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.

7. Always multi-tasking

When you multi-task 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 be fully concentrating 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 work day and ruthlessly manage their schedule.

8. Saying ‘yes’ too often

The conundrum is that if you always say ‘yes’, you lose your voice and your right to find the balance that works for your personal and professional life.

A key part of avoiding burn-out 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.  Rather it’s about saying ‘no’ with consideration of others and compassion for them and yourself.

So which of these habits do you need to replace?

Getting you ready for tomorrow, today!

Michelle Gibbings is a change leadership and career expert and founder of Change Meridian.  Michelle works with global leaders and teams to help them get fit for the future of work. She is the Author of ‘Step Up: How to Build Your Influence at Work’ and  ‘Career Leap: How to Reinvent and Liberate your Career’.  For more information: www.michellegibbings.com or contact [email protected].


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