Eating at your desk, one of many bad habits at work
How often do you eat at your desk? Image: antoniodiaz/Shutterstock

7 bad habits to change at work

8 Jan 2018

We’re all guilty of some of these bad habits from time to time, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to change them.

You can’t sit around at work day in and day out, waiting for something to change, assuming success will come to you.

You have to drive your own career journey and form your own path. How do you do that? By ensuring you have good working habits and getting rid of the bad ones.

The secret to success is not working until all hours of the night, nor is it clocking in and out every day without trying to excel or drive innovation.

You know this already. So, why are you here? To hone in on some of those bad habits standing in your way and learn how to change them. Recognising that you are guilty of these bad habits is the first step to getting rid of them.

Stop being disorganised

Half the battle of feeling stressed because you have too much to do is not being able to organise yourself. An organised to-do list is much more likely to help you tackle the tasks at hand.

Being organised is important at the start of the day, at the end of the day and for meetings. Check in with your to-do list and calendar regularly, and make sure you take good notes in meetings.

Part of being organised is also about knowing how to deal with things as they come in. It doesn’t mean downing tools on one task in favour of another. It means knowing where to store something so that you can come back to it later.

Stop trying to do more

The multitasking myth has been dispelled a number of times here, but we’re all so guilty of it that it must be repeated regularly.

Trying to do a million things at once won’t make you better at fulfilling any of these obligations, it will just pull your attention away from each of the tasks.

It’s at this time of year when you can be particularly guilty of trying to take on a number of new things at once. However, the last thing you need is to stretch your focus even thinner.

Bruce Lee once said: “I fear not the man who has practised 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practised one kick 10,000 times.”

So, instead of trying to take on more things in work, cut out some time-sucking bad habits and focus on how you can improve on the things you’re already doing.

Stop skipping your lunch breaks

It’s very easy to skip lunch during your work day, especially when you’re ‘in the zone’. However, this is one of the most common bad habits for employees and it’s one of the worst ones, too.

If you’re working a full day, which is at least eight hours for most of us, you need a decent meal to keep your energy levels up and avoid burnout.

However, another bad habit to avoid is eating at your desk and skipping the actual break part of your lunch. Your mind needs to take breaks, too, and, for it to be its most productive when you’re actually working, you need to get away from your desk, your screen and preferably your office, and out into the fresh air.

Staying cooped up in the office all day isn’t good for your creativity or for coming up with new ideas.

Stop maintaining the status quo

It can be very easy to settle into the job you’re doing and to continue along with all the habits and ways in which a particular office works.

But, just because things have always been done a certain way, it doesn’t mean it should be like that.

You should always be thinking about new ways of doing things, both for yourself and your organisation. If you allow yourself to stay the same, then you’re not likely to learn anything new or become successful.

Stop avoiding challenges

In a similar vein, make a special effort to stop avoiding challenges or doing things that scare you.

It can be easy to stay out of the spotlight and not volunteer for things that terrify you because many of us are fundamentally afraid of failure. However, if you don’t try anything new or take on something that you find challenging, you’re going to find upskilling very difficult.

Every new challenge that you overcome should be considered another string to your bow. Just make sure you don’t take on too much, otherwise you’ll be guilty of bad habit number two!

Stop over-promising

There are a few schools of thoughts on being realistic versus being aspirational. Being too aspirational about how much you can do can leave you feeling stressed and deflated if you fall short.

However, if you feel like you’re achieving everything quite easily, it might be time to push yourself a little further. The key to being aspirational is to mentally mark the extras as just that. If you reach them, you’ll feel great; if not, you won’t beat yourself up too much.

It’s also important to always be realistic when it comes to telling others what you can do. Aspirational goals are best left to yourself, unless the person you’re talking to understands that a certain task may not be possible within a particular timeline.

Stop stressing yourself out

This might seem like something annoying to say, especially if your workload feels out of your control. However, there’s a certain level of stress that we are doing to ourselves, and we can stop it.

The more you talk about, or actively think about, how much work you have to do, you’re stressing yourself out. Even the word ‘busy’ is making you feel more under pressure.

It takes practice to stop making yourself feel busy, but it is possible. Interestingly, the more you actively work towards feeling calmer about your workload and avoiding the word ‘busy’, the more productive you’ll feel, and the more work you’ll actually get through.

Being stressed in itself takes up your time and mental energy. Freeing yourself of this, along with those other bad habits, will make you feel better at work.

Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the editor of Silicon Republic in 2023, having worked as the deputy editor since February 2020. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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