Bad Work Habits and How to Break Them

I hope all my readers had a great 4th of July holiday.  I know that I enjoyed my three-day weekend very much.  Having that free time for a holiday that celebrates freedom got me to thinking about ways to create more free time to do the things I enjoy doing.  One of the ways to do so is to work more efficiently, so you can get done what needs to be done in less time.

Overcoming bad work habits will go a long way towards being able to work more efficiently.  I came across a recent article in the LifeHealthPro newsletter that discusses 10 such habits and ways to break them.  Some of the habits mentioned are a result of  technology advances (e.g., constantly checking e-mail, looking at your phone while talking to someone), while others have been around forever (i.e., meetings with no agenda, not delegating tasks, and especially, procrastination).  Others seemed to me to be more common courtesies that adversely affect the ability of others to do their work efficiently (i.e., being consistently late, making too much noise, constantly complaining).

Then there were those that I had not thought about as being bad work habits, multitasking and saying yes or no all the time.  It seems logical that someone who can do more than one task at a time would be more efficient, but according to the article, recent research has shown that when a person is multitasking they are not performing any of the tasks as well as they could if they focused on only one of the tasks at a time (after following many drivers who are talking on their mobile phones, I should have realized this).  Some of the recent research has even concluded that people who multitask on a frequent basis have lowered IQ’s and may even be damaging their brains.

While consistently saying no to every request at work seems like a bad idea on its face, saying yes all the time would seem to show a willingness to cooperate with and help out co-workers, i.e., be a team player.  However, as anyone who has never turned down a request for help can testify, doing so can quickly lead to work overload and a failure to meet expectations for all the things you have agreed to do.  When that failure involves a request from a customer, the downside to saying yes to every request becomes clear.

The article has helpful suggestions on how to break the bad habits it identifies and sets forth a four step process for breaking any bad habit:  Step 1: Write down the bad habit; Step 2: Write down what triggers the performance of the bad habit and how to avoid those triggers; Step 3:  Write a substitute action for every trigger and teach your brain by repeatedly performing the substitute action when the trigger occurs; and Step 4: Enlist an army of family and friends to help you by telling them what your bad habit is, how you’re going to change it, and giving them permission to point out when you engage in the bad habit.

As everyone who has ever tried to break a habit of any kind knows, it is a very difficult thing to do.  So start small and work on only one or two bad work habits at a time.  If you keep at it, you should begin to enjoy more free time as you become more efficient at work.