• Scott Herring

Break These 4 Bad Work Habits

When you’re under the gun to get things done, you hurt your effort with bad work habits. You may not even realize you have some of these problematic tendencies, but each of them hurts your productivity. I'll break down five bad work habits and give you ways to break them so you can get more work done.

1. You Spend Too Much Time Responding to Email

Michael wrote about this idea recently. Some people think emails are real work. Unfortunately, email can be ugly, unproductive and unnecessary. Email can be a drain on your day because it contributes to task-switching, something we regularly discourage here at Renegade Blogger. And although it’s asynchronous, many people use email inefficiently, when the phone or an in-person conversation can really save time. For example, scheduling a meeting can require many back-and-forth volleys, while a phone call could produce a time & date in a few seconds.

I recommend a three-prong solution: schedule email breaks (to minimize task switching), write succinctly (emails should be one or two paragraphs), and use phone calls or in-person conversations for more complex conversations.

2. You’re Always Late

When you arrive late or miss deadlines, you hurt your reputation as you simultaneously reduce the productivity of others. Colleagues resent your tardiness (“Hey, if I can get here on time...”) and no one likes to repeat concepts already discussed in a meeting “to catch you up”. Over time, you’ll undoubtedly miss opportunities, so it’s a critical habit to get right.

I use all the tricks to cheat: I'll set clocks five minutes ahead (not all clocks allow it anymore), I leave earlier than I ever think I need (and bring a book to fill any “found" time), and make sure I always have a quarter tank of fuel in the car (I gas up on return trips). Make a note when you're\late for something in case it can lead to a new trick. That is, "I was late to this event, which I could have fixed by __________."

3. You Procrastinate

“If it wasn’t for the last minute, nothing would get done.” Ouch. Yes, deadlines help things happen, but waiting too long leads to mistakes, stress and frustration. Start early – “eat the frog” – to build momentum and alleviate finding all possible last minute challenges. The alternative is that when faced with a deadline that you can’t meet, you must either add resources (e.g., work harder), move the deadline, or cut back on deliverables. It's preferable not to have to choose from that menu of options.

4. You’re a Pessimist

Winston Churchill once said “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” On occasion, it is wise to play devil’s advocate, act as a contrarian and challenge your colleagues. That act grows tired, however, if it’s every time. Taking the other side, being a supporter on occasion, can redeem you.

Breaking Bad...Work Habits

Bad work habits can create animosity with others, and with a few minor adjustments to your plans and presentation, you can prevent being your own worst enemy. The first step is awareness – are you doing any of these things? If so, tackle the one that you feel would be easiest to fix (build momentum – don’t procrastinate!). You’ll be glad you did.


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