10 Tips to Break Bad Work Habits and Boost Productivity

How to break bad work habits to boost productivity?

Realizing your habit is bad is equivalent to winning half the battle.

Habits form unintentionally especially when they are bad ones. For every bad habit you get accustomed to, you lose time and productivity.

Studies say that we spend around 90000 hours at the workplace in our lifetime. This accounts for almost one-third of your life tenure. However, much of this time is unintentionally wasted, and hence, getting things accomplished on time becomes difficult.

From procrastination, gossip, laziness, frequent breaks, and other small things that fall into cracks or rabbit holes, there are several bad habits, resulting in time wastage, and loss of productivity.

In this article, you will learn about bad work habits and actionable strategies to overcome such habits. This will help you become more productive and get things done.

What are bad work habits?

Bad work habits refer to negative behaviors that are developed unintentionally. This negative pattern affects your working and personal habits.

This includes having a messy table, being late, procrastinating, taking frequent breaks, over usage of mobile phones at the workplace, and bringing personal issues to the office. All such activities hamper your regular work schedule and distract your attention from critical tasks.

We all have fallen prey to bad work habits at some stage in our professional lives. The key here is the build a stable boundary and requirements for your workplace.

How to break a bad habit?

Breaking a bad habit is not easy. It takes determination, grit, and conviction to change our mindset.

Dr. Maltz, a renowned plastic surgeon, pointed out that it takes a “minimum of 21 days to dissolve an old image and build a new one.

Over time people misinterpreted the same, and removed the word “minimum.” This number of 21 was long enough for people to believe and short enough for people to think they could attempt to change their habits.

Research published in the European Journal of Social Psychology states that it takes around 2 months, or 66 days to be exact to change a habit. This research was based on a survey of 96 participants.

However, the result still was not accurate and wavered between 18 and 254 days for different participants.

Without getting much into the debate about the number of days in changing a habit, let us focus on actionable methods to overcome bad work habits.

10 bad work habits and tips to break them

Bad work habits can be as simple as skipping breakfast. More severe ones include procrastinating, frequently checking social feeds, and participating in way too many meetings.

The most common and widely observed bad work habits are as follows:

1. Procrastination

Pushing your tasks to a later date while working on a long-term project, you end up rushing and working too hard during the later stages.

Why does it happen?

Failure to work consistently, general feelings of being lazy, unexpected events, and lack of motivation.

How to break it?

Break down your project into small chunks and set small milestones. This will help you to continuously work on the project at a steady pace. Further, small and achievable milestones will keep you motivated to complete the overall project on time.

2. Finishing the easy tasks first

You feel the urge to complete all the easy, simple, and smaller tasks early on in the day. You push aside all the difficult and tedious tasks to a later time.

Why does it happen?

You get a sense of satisfaction that you have completed many tasks since the start of the day. However, as you move on to large projects lack motivation and enthusiasm.

How to break it?

Medical professionals have revealed that your willpower continuously goes down throughout the day. You should complete critical and challenging tasks by the start of the day. This is the reason why renowned leaders pick up critical tasks and finish them in the first half of the day. They spend the second half of the day in meetings, responding to emails, and other small and easy tasks.

You can define your work order based on the priority of various tasks, using the task management functionality in PM tools like ProofHub or any other PM tool as per your niche.

3. Frequently checking and responding to emails 

The urge to read, reply, and take necessary actions to every single email as soon as a new email arrives consumes a lot of your time. Further, you are distracted from your task which further takes additional time for you to focus.

Why does it happen?

Email serves as the source for conveying important information. However, this soon turns into a distraction as you start checking your email for every new incoming notification.

How to break it?

Fix a certain period during your day when you dedicate time to checking emails and responding to them. Turn off email notifications if possible.

4. Digital distractions

Just like emails, our mobile phone also becomes a source of distraction. Mobile phones can be necessary but their usage should not increase when in the workplace.

Why does it happen?

Checking social media feeds, reading a random article on LinkedIn or Twitter, reading e-newspaper, and others are all reasons that distract us from work.

How to break it?

Use Do Not Disturb (DND) on your phone. This will ensure that your phone rings and notifies you only for important calls and messages. Minimize the time you spend scrolling social media feeds in the workplace.

You can use collaboration tools that streamline your communication needs in the workplace. This will minimize the time you spend on mobile devices and emails.

5. Mindless surfing

You open the browser to search for a term that is related to your work, but then you end up reading an article describing the firing order of a V8 engine. Weird right? But I have done this.

Why does it happen?

The internet is vast and is like an endless source of knowledge. However, you could just be sucked up into this vast expanse and spend time without actually gaining anything productive.

How to break it?

The next time you open the internet, ensure that you search for what you intend to do. Close the browser as soon as you have gained the related knowledge.

You can use extensions such as StayFocusd to define the time you want to spend on the website. This will block distracting websites after a set duration as per the timer you set.

6. Not listening with concentration 

Instances when you are not paying attention to what someone is saying to you. You are thinking about the voices in your head, or checking emails pretending that you are listening.

Why does it happen?

Not being open to criticism is the prime reason for not being an active listener. You always have the urge to be the one delivering instructions.

How to break it?

Focus on listening actively to suggestions and accepting constructive criticisms. Active listening not only involves hearing but paying close attention to what the other person is saying.

7. Overworking

Abstaining from taking regular breaks results in overworking. You stay put in your workplace for long hours, affecting your health.

Why does it happen?

This could happen due to procrastination. However, forcing heavy targets and harsh deadlines on yourself results in situations where you work beyond fixed limits.

How to break it?

Take breaks as per schedule. Eat a healthy diet and on time. Do not sit in your workplace during breaks. Use digital tools to manage and streamline the workflow. This will ensure the steady progression of tasks with minimum stress and other issues.

8. Taking breaks way too often

Just the opposite of what we discussed in the previous section. Too many breaks for any reason hampers your productivity and distracts your workflow.

Why does it happen?

Lack of interest in the task that you are doing is the prime reason for taking too many breaks. Frequent breaks not only affect your productivity but also disturb other members of your team.

How to break it?

Minimize the number of breaks you take. When you start a task, ensure that you complete it before taking a break. Additionally, do not look for the company of your peers when taking a short break. This is the reason why a short break elongates to a long one.

9. Being late 

Getting late occasionally is acceptable. However, getting late frequently portrays that you do not respect time.

Why does it happen?

Being late indicates that you do not value and respect the person waiting for you. You tend to prioritize your importance over anybody else.

How to break it?

You should respect and value time. Ensure you maintain an effective time management system with reminders and notifications to keep track of the tasks at hand.

Team management apps come in handy in such cases. This will help in building effective understanding and time management among your team members.

10. Multitasking

Accept it! Multitasking is a productivity killer. Working on multiple tasks simultaneously does not necessarily increase your efficiency.

Why does it happen?

When you are late, and have several tasks to complete in a short deadline, you are tempted to adopt multitasking. In some cases, individuals believe that multitasking helps them complete multiple tasks in a short period.

How to break it?

Avoid multitasking. Complete one task at a time. Move to the next task only after finishing the first one. This will improve your accuracy, precision, and the overall quality of your work.

When you have an excess workload delegate tasks to your team members. This will not only simplify your workload but also help in effective deadline management.

Bottom line

Bad work habits hinder your workflow and prevent you from completing tasks on time. The moment you realize that a particular activity is hindering your productivity, you should take the necessary actions to rectify your habit.

Bad work habits affect your productivity and make you incapable of completing tasks on time. A specific improvement plan will help you overcome your bad work habits. This will help you to be productive at work and complete tasks on a timely basis.

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