5 Effective Ways to Overcome Bad Work Habits

“We first make our habits, then our habits make us.” - John Dryden

Ever had a case of the Mondays? Don’t worry. We’ve all been there!

There’s no single person who’s 100% on top of their game. No matter how experienced you are in your field, there are bound to be days that you’ll feel off, or even drop the ball completely, and that’s fine — it’s all part of being human.

However, consistently underachieving might be different altogether from having an off day - repetitive mistakes are often caused by bad habits. When it comes to work, bad habits can hamper productivity and make small tasks more challenging and complicated.

Fun fact: did you know that you can break or form a habit in as little as 18 days?

That means it’ll take less than three weeks to form habits that could be detrimental to your development and success. When you commit to identifying existing problems and taking the time and effort to create an alternative solution, the outcome you desire is much more likely to come to fruition!

If you want to beat the bad work habits you’ve developed, here are some of the ways you can change them:

It all starts with self-awareness

True enough, there are external factors that influence our ability to do what needs to be done — faulty internet connection, scrolling through social media, or other matters in your home or office that break your attention. 

However, it isn’t always the external factors that affect us. Internal factors also weigh heavily on our performance.

When you think about what habits might be affecting your productivity, start by having an open mind. Old habits can grow unnoticeable at times, especially if they’ve been going on for a while. 

Do your breaks extend beyond what you promised? Do you forget to prioritize your tasks and work on whatever is thrown your way? Maybe you’re not able to effectively communicate your boundaries?

Developing self-awareness of your ineffective work habits is the first step to overall development. Once you’ve identified them, it can be easier to create plans of action to detach those habits.

Create an environment more conducive to work

silver iMac with keyboard and trackpad inside room

A good work environment isn’t necessarily an office space or an organized desk — sometimes, it’s a state of mind. By all means, if organizing your workspace helps you better focus on what you’re doing, then declutter it and arrange it the way you like. Does an organized desk guarantee positive work habits? 

Not so fast.

One way to take a step towards productive work habits is by gearing yourself towards a mindset of focus. If you’re working from home and know that your shift starts at 8:00 am sharp, don’t set your alarm to 7:55 am to get up and go to your desk. Give yourself time to develop a healthy morning routine which can include: getting some breakfast, taking a bath, and doing some light morning activities to keep your brain engaged early in the day. 

You can also minimize distractions by not using your phone during work hours or resisting the urge to binge watch your favorite series in the background during your workday.

*Pro-tip: DON’T work from your bed! Let your bed be a space exclusively for rest and relaxation. Bringing your work to bed can affect the quality of your sleep in the long run, too.

If you’re working in an office, it’s important to recognize your work area as a place of productivity rather than anxiety or procrastination. Avoid associating your space with feelings of dread or anger — instead, when arriving at your office space, recognize that the day ahead is full of opportunities to do something meaningful.

Stay ahead of the curve

sticky notes on paper document beside pens and box

Another bad habit most of us are guilty of? Procrastination! The American Psychological Association estimates about 20% of Americans have chronic procrastination tendencies.

Many people develop an ‘I can do this later,’ or ‘I’ll get to it when it’s there’ mindset. And sometimes, you can’t blame them — when different tasks come your way from all angles, it can feel impossible to manage everything efficiently. 

However, that isn’t always the case. More often than not, we can outline our important dates and deadlines so we have a keener awareness and sense of urgency.

Digital platforms might rule, but never underestimate the power of writing everything down to better have information stored in your memory.

Aside from writing your deadlines down for long-term consistency, something that helps add structure to your day is forming a list of what needs to get done first - sorting out your priorities helps give you a better idea of what to do right now and what to do next, rather than feeling overwhelmed by different tasks.

Staying ahead of the curve can help you curb the ‘I’ll handle it later’ mindset. Once you know how much time you need to finish a task, that makes it easier to get up and take care of it rather than doing it at another time.

Be communicative

two women talking while looking at laptop computer

In 2019, 80% of Americans cited ineffective company communication as one of their primary work stressors. And it only makes sense — who wouldn’t feel frustrated when things aren’t explained clearly?

One of the most common bad habits employees have in the workplace is poor communication. Whether it be interrupting someone in the middle of their speech, spacing out during presentations, or giving incomplete instructions, these can drop team morale. Poor communication sets the foundation for an array of different mistakes.

To get your poor communication skills out of the way, first you have to know that communication isn’t a one-way street. In any conversation, it’s imperative to listen to others as well. Second, you MUST remember that effective communication is vital to the achievement of your company’s goals. Keep in mind when talking to your coworkers that it’s not you versus them, but rather you and your team versus the problem at hand.

Another way to dispel bad communication habits is by participating and encouraging company transparency and communication efforts. If you have to communicate updates to your supervisors or report your progress in meetings, be sure that it’s to the point and easily comprehensible.

Stop overworking

Because of how corporate culture has glamorized the importance of hard work as the secret ingredient to success, people often equate rest with laziness. However, what many fail to recognize is, rest is necessary for humans to increase work effectiveness.

Continuing to work hard for the things that you want to accomplish is good — but overworking yourself is certainly a bad habit that can only lead to burnout. 64% of workers have shared that they’ve felt burnt out at least once in their career! It’s never a good idea to sacrifice your well-being to keep the gears grinding, so to speak. You’re a human being, not a robot.

To let go of this sneaky bad habit, it’s important to set boundaries. If applicable, make sure your weekends are completely work-free or set a schedule where people can reach out to you where they can expect a timely response - allowing people to constantly come to you with work matters can disrupt the time you’ve dedicated to yourself and your loved ones.

Final word

Bad habits can be difficult to kick — especially if those habits are things that we’ve been doing for the better part of the last few years.

Addressing the matter at hand by its roots can help you move towards healthier work habits and a happier experience with your current job. Once you see your habits for what they are, you can immediately see an increase in productivity. But like solving any other problem, it’s easier to take it one step at a time, rather than demand an unrealistic change from yourself only to be unable to follow through. Either way, it’s important to start working on it rather than leave it to the side.

Keeping your team motivated and supported can help you feel like you’re in it together through these tough times rather than facing all of these challenges alone.


@Hazel Gil



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