In large, our habits shape us — for better or for worse. And they touch every aspect of our day-to-day: our relationships and friendships, our health and energy, our income and savings, and of course, our careers.
Though no one will abide by the most productive and strategic approaches every 100 percent of the time, if our poor choices outweigh our positive ones consistently, we’ll start to see a shift in our ability to function. As career expert Elizabeth Whittaker-Walker explains, bad work habits are regular practices that limit our ability to reach goals.
Like with anything that becomes routine, it can be difficult to break the cycle. However, with a little practice — and some dedication — you can kick these terrible habits before they push you down. Here, the worst rituals you can adopt in the office — and how to cut it out, ASAP:
Not planning out your Monday
Sunday Scaries may officially have a name (and lots of memes) but the fear before the chaos of the week starts is not a new concept. Since Monday through Friday work was the norm, professionals have felt the weight of the work ahead.
Though you probably want to ignore the obvious fact that like winter, Monday is coming, this is a terrible approach, according to career and branding expert Wendi Weiner. Instead, getting a solid grip and understanding of what the day will demand on Sunday — or even on Friday! — will guide your productivity and perspective throughout the week.
“Mondays have always been my most hectic work days: lots of calls, lots of deadlines, and lots of catching up from over the weekend,” she continues. “For me, planning out my Monday with a strategy and to-do list has been extremely important because it sets the tone for the work week and keeps me on a straight line.”
Not structuring your day based on productivity
Everyone’s productivity peaks at different times, but if you’re on the 9-6 assembly line, your most creative and focused moments will likely be in the morning.
This makes it the ideal time to power through whatever is most difficult and demanding on your to-do list, according to founder and CEO of The Lonely Entrepreneur, Michael Dermer. He says a whopping 90 percent of professionals will check their email first-thing because it’s easy and feels more effective. However, that’s a waste of your genius.
“ Focus first on the hardest task of the day. This will allow you to apply your best to the most important jobs,” he continues. “Resist the temptation to do mindless or easy things to gain a brief sense of accomplishment.”
Eating at your desk and not taking a lunch break
If you’re reading this from your cubicle, mindlessly munching your salad, consider this your sign to get up — and do a lap. Many ambitious and hardworking professionals not only choose to take lunch at their desk but feel it almost-necessary to perform at their highest potential.
When you do this though, it actually has the opposite impact on your psyche, since you don’t experience a break from your workday. No matter the industry, having a moment of downtime — even if it’s 15 minutes — will have you feeling refreshed and energized for the hours left until 6 p.m.
“It doesn’t have to be about using the lunch break to eat lunch at a restaurant. It can be to go for a walk, a 30-minute workout on my elliptical or Peloton bike, or even a manicure. It’s not about vanity, but rather taking the shift in your mindset and keeping your brain clear and anxiety low,” Weiner shares.
Not taking PTO
Repeat after us: you don’t have to be a hero. Especially in an age where the Millennial workforce prioritizes a smart balance of life and work, forgoing your paid time off to get ahead isn’t a great strategy. In fact, at a manager-level, it’s up to you to set the tone for your employees and remind them that not only is vacation necessary — but you encourage folks to enjoy their time out of the office.
Trips to Europe, weeks at the beach or even maintaining regular health checks is all part of a work/life balance, and it something Whittaker-Walker stresses.
“At least once a quarter, schedule at least one day off to run errands, vacation, or to do something that takes you closer to a personal goal,” she encourages. “Tell your team members in advance about your upcoming time off, leave instructions about any procedures they should follow in your absence, perhaps even send them a calendar invite to remind them. While away, do your best not to respond to a ton of work emails, texts, etc. That lets everyone know that time off is time off, and when their time comes, they too will have the same agency.”
Giving your phone too much screen time
It’s germy, distracting and addicting — and even though you know all of this to be true, you still hold onto your smartphone as a baby would a pacifier.
This work habit is a tricky one to break since many professionals are ever-connected to their device to not only catch up on Instagram but check work emails, too. Dermer says the more you can give yourself breaks and blocks to look at your screen, the more your work will improve.
“When you are working on something, turn oﬀ your email and put your devices across the room with the sound oﬀ. Shifting your attention from one task to another, as we do when we’re monitoring email while also reading a report and answering text messages, disrupts our concentration and saps our focus,” he shares. “Resisting distraction and staying on-task requires discipline and mental eﬀort. It’s up to you to protect your cognitive resources. The more you do to minimize task-switching over the day, the more mental bandwidth you’ll have for activities that matter.”
Gossiping at work
Of all of the habits, this one is probably the most prevalent — and problematic. Gossiping is often what connects us to our coworkers, but it’s also what can create a Queen Bee situation, allowing cliches to form.
Whittaker-Walker explains the slippery slope of sharing confidential info about colleagues with coworkers threatens to crush one of the greatest resources anyone can have: trust.
“Sometimes we spend more waking hours at work than at home, building strong team relationships as a result. If a colleague thinks enough of you to share something personal, be it about family, a work struggle, or privileged information, re-sharing those details without permission, as juicy as they may be, is a quick way to lose trust and even get fired,” she iterates.
When in doubt, zip it up. It’s not worth your reputation, your career or your character to spread news that isn’t yours.