02nd Jan 2020
Fallen into bad work habits? Make 2020 the year that you replace them with good ones, writes Jenny Darmody
It’s a new year, so it’s never been a better time to break some bad habits you may have gathered last year and start replacing them with new ones. Don’t worry, I’ve been guilty of every single one of these in the past, so you’re not alone.
Your procrastination habit
We’ve all been there. You have a pile of work to do, but instead you have your eye on your Twitter feed and another on your desk thinking now is the perfect time to clean it. Or maybe you think the best way to get through this massive project on your plate is to make a plan. And colour-coordinate it. And split it into sections. And maybe there could be Post-Its involved. See where I’m going with this?
We often suffer from a bad bout of procrastination, allow it to wash over us, and then power through the work at break-neck speed and move on. But that’s not actually breaking the habit, it’s just getting over one procrastination slump and waiting for the next one to hit.
How to break it
First, take some time to figure out the times you’re most likely to procrastinate. Are you someone who spends half the morning on social media, or do you power through work until lunch and then start wandering the halls of the internet? Once you know when you work best, make sure you do the biggest and most important tasks during that time and leave easier tasks to the ‘slump’ time of your day.
Procrastination isn’t just about the time of day but the task itself. We often procrastinate simply to avoid doing a particular job. In this case, the best thing to do is to break it up into smaller tasks, take it one step at a time, and take a break to do something else after each stage. When you feel yourself starting to procrastinate, distract your mind with a different task.
Your overworking habit
On the flip side, while you may spend some days balancing a proverbial pencil on your nose and letting the clock run out, that probably leaves you running yourself into the ground on other days. Steamrolling your way through as much as possible, staying late to finish projects and not taking adequate breaks are all signs of overworking and could leave to burnout, which actually means you’ll end up less productive than you’re aiming for.
Once you’ve settled into a routine where you allow yourself to overwork, it can be difficult to pull yourself back from it because taking breaks will start to feel like you’re not working hard enough, but this is a dangerous road to go down.
How to break it
Examine your to-do list and consider the fact that the list might actually be the problem. We often thoughtlessly write down everything we have to do without actually considering what’s possible in a day. Then we find ourselves constantly in ‘task debt’, a concept where we’re constantly playing catch-up and never actually getting closer to being finished.
Take the time to realise how long each task will take and write it down beside each one. Factor in a small break between each one, include lunch and stop adding things when you hit the end of the day. Remember, you are only one person and there is only so much you can get through in a day.
Your skipping lunch habit
You might feel like you’re simply too busy to stop for lunch, so you instead choose to just power through. Maybe you’ll eat a banana while continuing to fire off one email after the next. Maybe you’ll even just make another coffee and eat a few of those biscuits and sure, you’re not even that hungry now anyway.
Or maybe you did manage to bring lunch from home, but are using it as an excuse to not so even stand up from your desk, because your lunch is right there and you already have a fork and you have so much to do anyway.
How to break it
Whether you’re skipping your actual lunch altogether (very bad for your body) or just eating lunch at your desk and working through it (very bad for your mind), you need to treat your lunch as an important meeting that you can’t ever miss.
Write down in your diary that you have a lunch appointment, set an alarm on your phone to make sure you actually stick to it and consider giving yourself something to do during lunch to actually commit to it, such as reading an interesting article or going for a walk. Whether you’re bringing your lunch in or buying it, take the time to make sure it’s a decent, filling lunch and eat it away from your desk and screen.
Your bad snacking habit
Alongside the bad lunch habit, can come the bad snacking habit, and please know that I’m writing this from a place of understanding. I do have a packet of biscuits on my desk, so I’m far from perfect. But whether it’s the coffee and pastry habit or the trip to the vending machine habit or, yes, the constant eating of the biscuits at your desk (guilty), it can all have the same bad effect.
But snacking doesn’t have to be a bad thing in work. It only causes a problem when you’re consuming the wrong snacks, which will negatively affect your energy levels, or you’re eating so much of them that you’re skipping a proper lunch and not giving your body the nutrients it needs. So, how do you break the bad snack habit without getting hungry and eating your lunch at 10AM?
How to break it
Figure out at what stages of the day you are liable to snack, and have easy, healthy snacks to replace them. Personally, I tend to last longer when I have porridge in the morning at the office. I then may need a snack around 11am or 12pm before taking a late lunch to avoid afternoon snacking.
That means the key for me is making sure I have the porridge and whatever else goes into it, but also thinking about a healthy snack for that mid-morning slump. Fruit, a stash of nuts or a jar of nut butter with some crackers are all great for slow-release energy and will stop you from experiencing a sugar crash.
Jenny Darmody is the growth editor at RECRUITERS.ie, Ireland’s most trusted recruitment partner. Jenny is also a former journalist, specialising in all things career-related and work-life balance.
Read more: The best ways to manage a demanding boss
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