Success, Habits & Productivity

Ditch These Seven Bad Habits in the New Year

Tuesday, February 6, 2018
Fatou Darboe
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What are your New Year’s resolutions for 2018?

That’s probably the most asked question you got on January 2nd, when you returned to work.

new years resolution statistics

Image credit: Statistic Brain

Indeed, January 1st is the most widely celebrated bright-line point (the exact moment in time that separates past from future) in the world.

You can virtually feel the transitional shift from 2017 to 2018, stirring you to do a lot of self-reflection and work on your personal development.

It is usually a good time to make important changes in your life – a time to hit that reset button.

Resolutions

However, New Year’s resolutions are usually met with mixed feelings. Probably because most of our resolutions fail. For various reasons.

One of which is that we tend to think of resolutions as abstract concepts instead of goals.

If you want to achieve a goal, the goal has to have several key characteristics: it has to be actionably describable, measurable and have a specific time frame.

Our New Year’s resolutions are often vague, unattainable and lacking structure.

Yes, sincerity and commitment do not count when it comes to New Year’s resolutions. The statistics show that you will abandon them by mid-February. And that time is fast looming.

According to Statistic Brain’s study, 41 percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions while only 9.2 percent achieve them. That is likely because of the aforementioned nature of resolutions.

Perhaps instead of thinking about New Year’s resolutions, you should think about bad habits you need to ditch this year.

Seven Habits You Should Leave Behind

Here are seven that you should leave behind in order to become a more productive and well-rounded professional in 2018.

1. Spending Too Much Time on Electronic Devices, Particularly at Night

Our bodies are trained to respond to light and dark which alert us to the time of day and other important signals. Some of those signals help us regulate our circadian rhythms (the 24-hour physiological cycle that aids us in sleeping at night and waking up in the morning).

It is a pretty regulated cycle until we introduce screens to the natural process.

When we introduce screens, our brains recognize lights from them (phones, computers, TVs and pretty much any electronic with a bright light) as external light. Our brains then send signals that we should be awake.

That is the reason why so many of us find it hard to sleep when we are exposed to so much external light at night. So you should put your devices away before bedtime.

A lot of successful business people recommend that.

Arianna Huffington, author of The Sleep Revolution, recommends that we should ban electronics from the bedroom completely. She says, “I never take devices to bed. iPads, iPhones, Blackberries - I don’t charge them near my bed, because I feel it’s imperative to be able to have uninterrupted renewal time.”

We acknowledge that completely banning electronics from the bedroom is a tough habit to break. It could take a while to adapt to.

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Image credit: Success.com

If you like to watch TV before bed, that’s relatable. Most of us do. So what if we told you that you could still indulge in some TV in the evening to help you unwind without losing precious sleep?

Yup, it’s possible!

If you can’t completely ban electronics before bed, you could download an app that reduces your screen’s blue light as the day winds down. Blue light is a light that is used in most electronics and is often attributed to sleep loss.

Apps like f.lux can help you to adjust your screen’s blue light depending on the time of day.

If you have an iPhone, you can turn on the Night Shift mode which essentially does the same thing as f.lux.

Whatever your night time routine is, do not neglect sleep. We need at least 8-9 hours of sleep for us to fully function as human beings. You simply cannot cheat Mother Nature. You need to sleep every night for 8-9 hours.

That is because sleep allows your body to repair itself. When you sleep, your body generates new white blood cells in order for you to fight off infections.

Your heart rate also decreases in order to give your heart muscles a break. Your eyeballs also go into relaxation mode and rehydrate.

You dream, which is great for your psychological health. Your brain also decides what it keeps in your long-term memory and what to get rid of from your day’s activities.

And much more.

There is a lot of research about the benefits of sleep and the conclusion is that you cannot function optimally, or at all, without sleep.

2. Staying at Your Desk All Day

Take some time away from your desk during the workday. Don’t fear, it won’t make you less productive or eat up your precious time.

In fact, the top 10 percent of the most productive employees take 17-minute breaks for every 52 minutes of work they do, which highlights the importance of taking breaks.

We understand it is hard to take a break at work, especially if you are super focused on a project or task.

An easy way to remember to come up for air is to put reminders on your phone or calendar to take a 17-minute break after every 52 minutes of work. This is advice from the top 10 percent of the most productive people.

And while you’re on that 17-minute break, take a step back from your work completely. That means no work calls or emails.

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Image credit: Staples

You have 52 minutes to completely focus on work so your 17-minute breaks should be used to check your social media, take a short walk or catch up on your personal calls, messages or emails.

3. Not Asking for Help

There seems to be an epidemic of fear in asking for help at work.

Indeed, many of us think or assume that asking questions about a project or assignment will make us look incompetent or attention-deficient among our peers.

That is far from the truth.

When we don’t ask for help, we set ourselves up to fail.

Let’s take a look at the statistics on this topic.

A Care.com survey of working moms found that 29 percent of respondents felt guilty about asking for help, especially regarding things in the home.

They also reported that 79 percent of respondents felt like they were lagging behind at work and 75 percent experienced less stress when they asked for help.

The results of this survey apply to everyone, not just working moms. A lot of working professionals find it difficult to ask for help at work and in their personal lives.

However, most successful people strongly believe in asking for help when they need it. And the truth is that most people are happy to help. All you need to do is ask.

If you’re a manager, you should encourage your team to ask for help when they need it. If your team members are not asking you questions, you should be worried.

4. Not Taking Vacations

The research done on taking 17-minute breaks at work also applies to taking vacation time.

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Image credit: DeskTime

“Vacation shaming” (being guilt-tripped by colleagues, bosses or yourself for taking a vacation) is prevalent in our society.

Many of us feel guilty for taking time off or going on vacation because we’re afraid that it makes us look less committed to work.

However, taking a vacation makes us more productive. If we look at countries like Finland or Sweden – countries in which taking vacation time is mandatory – we see that employees are more dedicated to and invested in their work.

That is likely because spending less time at work makes us waste less time when we’re actually at work.

Look at your calendar and spot the times when you will be most busy. Also identify certain weeks when you will have time to catch up or even get ahead.

Those will be your pre-vacation weeks since they will allow you to become extremely productive before you take a vacation.

And that is also the time when you need to ask for help. In addition to planning out your workload, you need to ask for help from your colleagues.

There may be certain days or weeks when they can help you execute some of your tasks so that you can take a break.

You should also let them know that you will cover for them as well when it is time for them to take their vacations.

5. Not Networking Enough

85% of jobs are found via networking. (Bet you didn’t know that!)

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Image credit: LinkedIn

In fact, the jobs that are offered to candidates via networking are offered because they have the potential to succeed in those roles (as opposed to filling out job listings that are based on experience and skills).

However, building a solid network is not an overnight task. You need to start networking early – when you are not even looking for a job. Starting early is a good career management strategy.

The goal doesn’t even have to be looking for a new job. It can be as simple as trying to create new partnerships, customers and talent for your current job.

That strategy works to keep you engaged and motivated at work and could also hasten your career advancement at your current company.

Just network, build your online presence and be prepared for new and exciting changes.

6. Not Getting Enough Exercise

If you exercise regularly, you are familiar with the many other benefits, besides weight loss and staying in shape.  

Indeed, exercise helps you in all areas of your life, including work. It makes you more alert and productive at work; which can consequently help you get your job done faster and increase your chances of getting that long sought-after promotion.

The truth is that if you are not exercising regularly, you could be putting both your job and health at risk.

You may not be getting enough exercise, perhaps because of the conflicting information you read about it. Well, it doesn’t have to be complicated. Just moving can take you a long way.

You can simply just take a walk or stretch. Perhaps even carry your child and groceries.

Not liking to get sweaty or not having enough time is not an excuse. Justifying that work is more important than exercise is not an excuse either.

There are many studies and guidelines as to how much exercise is enough and what type of exercise you should be doing. Ignore those and follow these two rules:

  1. Schedule in aerobic and weight training exercises every week, at least five days a week.

  2. Any amount of physical activity will do. It is better than getting none at all.

Just do something. You will feel better, have less stress, have more energy, sleep better and consequently, be more productive and achieve more.

More importantly, you will reduce your chances of developing chronic diseases.

7. Neglecting Podcasts

Listening to your favorite podcasts is not only good for your psychological health (doing something you love daily can help you avoid burnout and make your workday a lot easier to work through) but is also a great way to learn something new.

In fact, a lot of teachers are now introducing podcasts into their lesson plans. For example, an English teacher discovered that when his students listened to the Serial podcast, they paid more attention to the written texts.

Listening to the podcast helped them to process the accompanying written transcript.

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Image credit: The Atlantic

The research concludes that podcasts help to enhance your skills in other areas as well.

So if you’re interested in becoming a better cook, knitter, blogger, or whatever you’re interested in, there’s a podcast out there for you.

Check out Stitcher (a catalogue of over 65,000 podcasts), find a podcast you like and start listening!

Wrapping Up

If you can’t ditch two or three of these bad habits, that’s OK.

Simply start off with ditching one habit at a time (and try to ditch one every month or couple of months) and by the end of 2018, you will greatly improve your quality of life.

You will hopefully increase your energy levels and be able to tackle more challenges.

Who knows? You might become the man or woman of the year at your workplace.

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