“I have no time to work on my goals,” you say with drooping shoulders and tired eyes. Your colleague replies, “I know right. I work a lot but my growth has stagnated.”
Are these the kind of topics you and your coworker talk about over lunch together? If you do, you should make a few changes to eliminate your bad habits at work.
Often these bad habits are minor but hard to notice. They do not make you a horrible employee but can very well be the reason why you fail to bag that promotion you are waiting for.
One bad habit does not damage your growth. When many of them combine, they total up in little proportions to create a large impact. The worst part is these habits occur right under your nose without your knowledge.
In some cases, you are aware of the bad habit but you shrug it off as a one-off. In some other cases, you have no clue how a minor behavior impacts your long term growth.
Here are 10 workplace habits that hamper your productivity and growth:
1. Finding a reason when things go wrong
How do you react when something goes wrong? Do you try to justify why that happened?
For example, when one of our products did not get a good market response, I had many reasons why. While some of them were valid, the rest were excuses. The real reason was we had failed to talk to enough users before building the product.
When things go wrong, if you find excuses, you end up sweeping your mistakes under the rug. No one might notice it, but they do not disappear.
To change the habit, admit your mistake. Come up with a list of lessons learned to avoid similar mistakes in the future both for yourself and the others around you.
2. Not spending time on learning
I notice this as a pattern with most employees. When a new hire starts as a fresher, he begins with his fists pumped and chest flared. He puts in all the effort to learn the skills required for the job.
Fast forward 3 years later, the hunger for learning no longer seems the same.
With an experience of 6 years and beyond, most employees stop learning. Sure, some put in hours but their skills flatline after a point.
Think of the situation from an employer's angle. If you have 10+ years of experience, why do you deserve a higher pay or position when your skills are no different than an employee with 5 years of experience? Having more knowledge of the business because you have stayed longer in the organization does not cut it.
The same applies even to self-employed people like entrepreneurs and freelancers. If you are doing what you always have been doing, why should clients not choose a cheaper alternative?
The day you stop learning is the day you stop growing.
Do you know a coworker who has a problem with every little thing? “The cafeteria does not have tasty food.” “My manager does not welcome my ideas.” “I deserved the award more than the other person.” The list goes on and on like river Nile.
How do you feel listening to such a person? I am sure it isn’t a great feeling unless of course, you are the kind of person who loves gossip.
When you complain, that is how people feel about you. The more you complain, the more you get on the nerves of people.
No work environment is perfect. Every workplace has a set of things you’ll like and dislike. If you have a problem, unless you can suggest a way to fix it, do not whine about it.
Every time you crib about a problem for the sake of it, you lose a small portion of the good impression you’ve made.
You do not have to tolerate every problem. You have to stop complaining about things which do not matter or cannot be changed. If you complain often enough, your words lose value because you come across as a whiner.
4. Working for long hours
The world has a notion that people who work the longest are the most effective. While this can help you earn a promotion, it can destroy your productivity.
Long hours give you the impression that you are getting things done when in reality you are simply taking longer to finish tasks because you know you have the time. As per the Parkinsons Law, the time taken to complete a task expands based on the time available.
Give yourself a 14-hour workday and you will take 2 hours to complete a task which you would have otherwise finished in 1.
I have worked 14+ hour days for a few years. During those days, I would work on tasks that added no value. I would take longer than necessary on a task and take up projects which added no value to my long term goals. When I cut down my hours, I had no choice but to operate at high efficiency and prioritize the right tasks.
Cutting down your work hours is the best thing you can do to improve your focus. Many a time, less is more.
5. Telling yourself you will do it tomorrow
When I started my first venture of building websites and web applications for clients, I had a goal of building our own product. Each day I kept telling myself that I will start tomorrow. In the meantime, I would check my phone, go on a few extra breaks and work on unnecessary tasks.
I would even justify my actions saying, “My schedule is busy. I cannot start today.”
Whenever you set yourself a plan of starting in the future, you are lying to yourself. You have enough time to spare today if you choose to. To stop wasting time, you must stop pushing tasks to the next day.
If you postpone your long term goal for tomorrow without a reason, days will turn into weeks, weeks into months, months into years and you will still be at a point where you’re yet to begin.
If you really want to do something, you'll find a way. If you don't, you'll find an excuse– Jim Rohn
6. Accepting all meeting invites
Today, meetings have become a place to portray work that was not done and fill up the time during the day. No wonder people yawn, rest their chin on their palm and check their phone/emails during meetings.
Many of the meetings you attend are useless and add no value. Also, meetings disrupt your flow of work by taking chunks of your time at odd intervals.
For example, let’s say you finish a task at 10:50 AM. You glance through your calendar and notice a meeting starting at 11 AM. Now because you only have 10 minutes to spare, chances are you will fool around using your phone or browsing the internet.
The meeting at 11 takes over 30 minutes. When you’re finally finished, you cannot focus on another task right off the bat due to attention residue. You will need some time to gather your thoughts again.
If you accept many such meetings in a day, your productivity goes for a toss. To make that worse, nothing great comes out of the meetings either.
Make it a habit to decline meetings by default. You should accept an invitation only if you see a value by attending it. Meetings do help in planning no doubt. But at some point, you have to get out of a meeting and get things done.
7. Doing everything on your own
Whether you are in a leadership position or not, you must utilize the power of teams to speed up results. A common example is when an experienced employee prefers to do a task himself instead of training a newcomer.
“I tried training the new hire, but he takes too long to complete it. He even makes mistakes. I spend less time completing the job myself than training the new hire. What’s the use?”, says the employee while letting out a sigh.
Learning any new skill takes time. Sometimes training can see more laborious than completing the task yourself. But you’re comparing a one time task of training against the repeated effort of doing the task yourself again and again.
It might take you 10 hours to train a new hire and 2 hours to complete it yourself. Today, the math suggests doing it yourself instead of spending time teaching someone else. But if you compare the time saved over a few months, leveraging the power of teams saves your time and helps the team grow.
8. Keeping chat/email open
A few years back, I would go paranoid if I did not check my emails every now and then. I always had a hunch that “I might receive some urgent mail”, “I need to stay on top of all activities happening at the moment”, “Someone might be waiting for my response.”
Today, I check email only a couple of times a day. I have realized that my previous assumptions were just big fat lies I was telling myself to get a dopamine rush by checking emails as soon as they arrive.
Most of the emails you receive do not need your immediate attention unless you are monitoring a critical system.
Every time you receive an email or chat notification, you lose focus from what you were doing. It might seem a small distraction but when it happens 10 times an hour, you lose enough time.
Close your email and chat while working. Turn it on every few hours. People will comment about your behavior at first but then get used to your style of working. They will wait for your response to trivial questions and reach out to you in person for urgent requests.
9. Keeping phone notifications on loud
Every beep your phone makes calls for your attention. “Who just texted me?”, your brain asks and you take a peek. It turns out that the bank has a new pre-approved loan for you. Dejected, you press the corner button of your phone and lock it.
“Where was I”, you ask yourself and gather your thoughts on the task you were doing. From the time your phone beeped and you focused on the task again, two minutes elapse.
On the surface, two minutes seem like nothing. But with the numbers of texts exchanged these days those add up to a big figure over the whole day.
Put your phone on DND for all messages and app notifications. Only leave calls on. Over time, people will realize that they have to call you for any urgent affairs.
10. Working on tasks as they come
How do you decide what are the things you must focus on for each given day? Having a to-do list does not suffice because the list grows longer and longer with time.
If you approach your day without a plan, your emails and ad-hoc tasks will dictate how your day goes by. In other words, you will work on tasks which matter to others than the tasks which help your own goals.
To overcome the problem, spend 10 minutes at the beginning of each day deciding what are the top 3-5 tasks you should work on today. Make sure you include at least 2 tasks that help you achieve your long term goals. You can write the list down on a notepad, your phone or your laptop.
Having a clear plan of action for the day helps you pick the right tasks and ignore the unnecessary ones. When you work on tasks that matter, you will never have Monday blues again.
The difference between a productive and busy day lies in some simple tweaks. Working all through the day and coming home exhausted to the point where you want to hit the bed does not indicate you pulled off a great day.
You can knock things off the park by working with the right focus and prioritization for fewer hours. Who wouldn’t like growing their career while cutting down their work hours? I do and I am guessing you would too.