Bad habits are often a real sticking point in personal development. But what if we told you that you may have some distracting habits you might not even realize are holding you back?
Here are nine tough habits that can limit your productivity, and some ideas for moving past them.
1 Keeping it too casual
Nowadays, it’s increasingly acceptable to dress informally at work, and most of us call our managers by their first names.
It can be tempting to take full advantage of flexibility in the workplace, but without some structure, your productivity—and reputation—can suffer. Dress comfortably, but don’t show up looking slovenly. Speak openly, but not too informally (definitely avoid offensive language and topics).
Remember, it’s an office where a team is working, not a dorm.
2 Neglecting routine
We know that managing your morning is valuable. In fact, there are benefits to incorporating routine throughout your schedule.
Furthermore, creating structure in your day-to-day work reduces the number of decisions you have to make, freeing up bandwidth for better willpower.
But setting a routine depends on you. Some people focus by designating themes for each day of the week. For example, Monday can be themed by organizational tasks. Others make a master list of their usual tasks and split it up throughout the day. Looking for inspiration? Go here.
3 Being a slob
Research shows that a messy desk makes it tough for you to get stuff done. Unfortunately, it’s also a distraction for your team. In fact, 57 percent of surveyed workers reported judging a colleague for keeping a sloppy workspace.
Take some time every week to clear off your desk. I suggest doing it Friday before you leave so you can start the week with a tidy space.
Gossip is for bonding. Some even theorize that language developed in order to gossip! Whether it’s about the new person on X team or the latest thing Stephen Colbert said about Insert-World-Leader, it’s important to monitor your gossiping carefully.
Gossip can give you a bad reputation—even if you’re sharing well-intentioned news or information with broad agreement. You might isolate some people or make them uncomfortable, not to mention potentially jeopardize others’ trust in you.
Gossip spirals. Once you start gabbing, you keep gabbing. At the office, it keeps you from your work, and the noise distracts others.
Don’t stop all socializing, though. Be cognizant of the possible reactions coworkers may have. Choose safe and polite topics and aim to do the majority of your chatting during breaks and in designated social spaces.
5 Not Using Sick Days
If you go to work when you’re sick, you deliver sub-par results and put coworkers at risk of illness.
Sadly, I admit that I did this once and made my coworker very sick. I had a rough cold but showed up to work anyway. That was a big mistake. It turns out my colleague had an autoimmune disease, and a few days later, was out and suffering.
The immediate cost of my “bravery” was a few (crappy) work days where I didn’t get much done. The extended cost was that a key member of our team was M.I.A. for several days.
The lesson: Take your sick days. Stay home. Rest. Everyone will thank you.
6 Responding to emails and messages immediately
When micro-tasks, like messages, seduce us into multitasking, it takes several minutes to recover the momentum we lose.
So, stop. Stop answering messages and emails as they come in.
Set aside time each day to check emails. Block it off in your calendar. (Here’s why you should check email in the morning.)
If you are using a messenger or SMS, snooze your alerts until you have a block of time to catch up. Use Slack’s “Remind me” feature to save messages for when you can address them.
7 Overlooking basic organization
You don’t have to train to be an organizational mastermind. Instead, learn to use lists effectively and update your shared calendar. Feeling wild? Set a reminder or two.
If the word “organization” gives you hives, find out who the “organized people” are on your team and ask them how they do it. Most people love to share about things they are good at.
8 Never unplugging
Learning how to take a break allows you to get some space, recharge, and come back to work with vigor.
Unfortunately, overwork is highly valued in U.S. culture. This tendency has only been compounded by economic recessions and stagnation—some employees fear that taking time off could jeopardize their jobs.
Because it’s hard to work productively if you’re miserable, or sick, there’s good reason to take a break now and again. Rest. Go on vacation, and truly disconnect.
9 Repeating mistakes and not owning up
If you’re repeating mistakes or deflecting when they happen, you’re missing out on learning and growth—and you’re sacrificing productivity.
Responsibility and ownership shows maturity and professionalism while opening the door to improvement. By learning from your mistakes, you’ll work better and faster in the future.
The first step, though, is admitting you’ve slipped up and figuring out how to do better.