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Bored White Collar Worker Throwing Paper Airplane In Office

This is a guest post by Matthew Snider. He is a writer, a personal development junkie and a regular blogger at Self Development Secrets. Matt, with his one quarter Asian descent, did not start out as a writer, but he says, “the love for a subject is the most important aspect of writing. The readers want to read something written by someone who understands them.”

Are you struggling to make the most of your work day? Do you find yourself sitting at your desk — feeling lethargic, bored and unmotivated to complete the tasks of the day? Do you find yourself getting distracted easily by meticulous or mindless tasks at hand?

If you are losing hours of productivity throughout your day, then it’s time to make a change so you can not only get back on track at work (so you don’t get in trouble!) but so that you can feel happier and more empowered in your workplace.

The reality is that you’ll spend most of your waking hours at the office if you work a traditional, full-time job. With that amount of time before you, you’ve got to find ways to live a well-balanced, healthy life at work so that you can accomplish your goals and feel energized by the work that you are accomplishing for the greater good of your company.

If you’re ready to make a change, then read on to get our top, quick changes you can make by breaking these 12 bad office habits. Try one or two of these a day until you have completed the routine — and after a week you’ll be on your way to new habits that will stick with you at the office into the future.

Here are the 12 bad office habits you need to break right now:

Bad Habit #1: Skipping Lunch

You need food throughout the day, but how common is it for you and your colleagues to skip the lunch hour? If you’re not taking time to eat your lunch and refuel, you’re going to suffer the consequences of lost productivity. You may be irritable, moody, angry or unable to concentrate. So make sure you’re fueling up throughout the day — even if it means eating at your desk.

Bad Habit #2: Ignoring Small Talk

Many of us think that if we are busy, we just can’t talk. But now and then it is beneficial to take time to have a chat with your fellow colleagues. There is something that happens in the exchange of conversation that not only makes you feel better because you are learning something — or getting some encouragement — but you never know when that conversation is going to be helpful to you in the future. Maybe you didn’t realize one of your colleagues could be a key member of a future team project? You won’t know until you have a casual conversation and learn something new about your co-workers.

Bad Habit #3: Sitting All Day

Sitting all day at your desk not only is going to make your body feel tense and lethargic — but it’s terrible for it in the long-run. It gives you a negative feeling, making the office environment a bit down. Sitting at your desk all day is like taking an international flight from D.C. to London. You’ve got to stand up and stretch your muscles, walk around and get some fresh air. Your body will feel more energized, and you won’t feel like falling asleep at your desk!

Bad Habit #4: Checking Emails Too Much

One of the key losses of productivity in your office can come down to the routine things you have to do every day to keep up. Everyday tasks like email can eat up all your time because you literally could read and respond to email all day. Instead of getting held up on email as it pops into your inbox, try this method that can increase your productivity:

Set three hours out of your working day to run through your inbox and read and respond to email. You might want to schedule that in three chunks: as soon as you get into work, shortly after lunch and the hour before you leave. Try this method to see if it creates a boundary for you that frees up your mental energy for other projects.

Bad Habit #5: Going to Too Many Meetings

Businesspeople in conference room

Sometimes your role at work makes meetings essential to your workflow. But I know from experience that there are a lot of meetings I don’t need to be at — but I’m invited to. One of the best ways you can free up your time at the office so that you can focus on creative projects and agenda items that need to be completed is to try to attend only meetings that are pivotal for you be at. Now, figuring that out is going to take a little time, and you know your office the best.

So perhaps start by listing all of your weekly standing meetings followed by meetings that pop up for the week. You can color-code them to indicate which meetings you are required to be at and which ones you can skip or delegate to a team member. Breaking the meeting habit cycle is one way you can make sure you are protecting your most productive time.

Bad Habit #6: Always Saying “Yes”

Related to saying “yes” to all those meetings is always saying “yes” when your co-workers ask you for help. You’ve got to prioritize your goals and make the most important ones the tasks you focus on first.

You can develop a good working relationship with your colleagues by sitting down with them and talking to them about your priorities, offering suggestions and kindly telling them at the moment that you don’t have time to help them. Everyone in a busy office can understand that, and at the end of the day, you have to keep yourself afloat so that you can meet your goals with your supervisors.

So it’s not that you have to say “no” all the time. It’s more about the way you say it. You don’t want to burn bridges. When you have a little free time, you can apply a little personal discretion and help your colleagues with tasks. But it’s important first to prioritize you and your work.

Bad Habit #7: Not Taking a Break

I’ve learned the hard way from this bad habit. I work in a fast-moving office, and no one has time for a break. But the bottom line is that you have to make time for a break. We’re all swamped. But we all need sleep, and food and air! The most productive people are not the ones who work all day and never take a walk or go outside and see that the sky is still blue. No! Those people are burned out and unmotivated at work. They also tend to be miserable. So don’t let that happen to you!

The best thing you can do to boost your productivity at work is to take a break. All you need is 15 or 20 minutes. Go outside and breathe the fresh air. Take a brisk walk around your building a few times. Go out to lunch at a real restaurant. Walk to a park and watch the water bubbling in the fountain or listen to the birds singing.

The point here is to let your mind wander to a different place and relax a little. When you come back to your desk, something magical happens. I always feel a little bit of rest and energy. And often, that problem that I just couldn’t solve suddenly becomes solvable. The same could happen for you if you take a daily break in your office!

Bad Habit #8: Dressing Down

There’s something to be said for the advice to “dress for success.” It’s a basic psychology principle rolled into a personal dress code. When you get up in the morning and take time to make yourself look good, then you feel confident about the day’s work. It’s a subtle action that you can make to produce significant results in your productivity.

Now, this can be a challenge for people who always seem to be running late to the office, but you can follow what I decided to do to ensure I always have enough time:

  • Consider taking a shower and washing your hair the night before.
  • Do what you need to do to your hair to make sure it survives a night of bedhead, whether that means drying it or styling it before you go to sleep.
  • Pick out the next day’s outfit — with all the accessories — and lay it out on a chair or in a dedicated “getting ready” space.
  • Wake up just 18 minutes early to do your basic hygiene and/or makeup and hair.

By following this quick plan, you make incremental changes and work the day before to make sure you are out of the door on time — but still looking and feeling your very best. When you “dress for success” you always get a little boost even if your mood doesn’t quite comply. Mad turns to happy. Sad turns to feeling good about yourself and how you look. Everyone needs a little burst of encouragement, and this is one that will set you on the right path from the very beginning of the day.

Bad Habit #9: Setting Goals That Are Too Lofty

We need goals. We need lofty goals. But one bad habit I run into sometimes is that I set lofty goals with unrealistic expectations. So make sure that you are setting three kinds of goals: daily (which you can accomplish during one day), short-term (which you can accomplish in a week) and long-term (which you can accomplish in a quarter).

When I’ve divided my goals into these categories, it not only makes it easier for me to see what I need to do to make them happen — but it gives me a boost of energy and confidence when I see how productive I can be. With this plan, you’ll get goals checked off your list in three unique and useful ways.

Bad Habit #10: Drinking Too Much Caffeine

Energy is what we need — but you can get that in a lot of ways. One of the worst things you can do to your productivity is to drink too much coffee or soda — both of which are high in sugar content and lead to a sugar crash — and not enough water.

Limit your caffeine intake and focus on staying hydrated throughout the day with about eight glasses of water. Caffeinated drinks can dehydrate you, leading to lethargy and sickness. Now, that’s a downer for productivity!

Bad Habit #11: Not Getting Enough Sleep

Japanese bussiness woman sleeping on a train floor

One of the best tips I ever got ahead of my first real job was to go home and get some rest. Get some sleep.

I begin my road to sleep by relaxing in a bath followed by a cup of herbal, decaffeinated tea. Then I think, put on some essential, soothing oils and place my phone in sleep mode. I don’t have a TV in my room, and I don’t bring my laptop into bed with me. I start doing my nightly routine about an hour before I want to go to sleep. And guess what? It takes some practice and self-will, but it works.

At night, I go to sleep. I wake up the next morning ready to work. I feel that I’m more productive because I’m not yawning at my desk or wanting to sneak home and take a nap. So do the same. Go to sleep and get enough sleep for you. Wind down and be kind to your body.

Bad Habit #12: Bringing Work Home With You

You work enough during the day not to have to bring home all the problems at the office with you. Early on in my career, I made it a rule that once I left work, I wouldn’t check my work email or answer work calls.

This won’t work for every profession, but some form of it can work with many jobs. This is really about communicating your working boundaries with your colleagues. If you let them know that you will answer email and calls only in working hours, they’ll make extra effort to reach out to you during those hours and to make sure they have access to you.

What I’ve found is that I’m more productive in the office when I follow this rule, as well, so it’s good for both parties. That’s because I put a little pressure on myself to get all of my daily goals done before the work day is done. I know that whatever happens that day, I’ll cut off my work email when I leave, so I need to be as productive as possible in the interim.

Try this and see how it works for you. You may find breaking the bad habit of doing work after you’ve left the office will be the perfect kick in the-you-know-where that you need to accomplish your work and be the most productive you can during business hours.

Ready to Be More Productive?

Business man standing at desk

In conclusion, are you ready to be more productive in your office? Do you want to feel more energized and to be more productive at your workplace? If you’re with us on this, then you can make a change today. Don’t let the bad habits you probably are engaging set you back — and certainly don’t feel bad that we’ve caught you in the act. You aren’t alone in recognizing your missteps! Many people don’t even realize the harm they are causing themselves.

Bad habits start off very casually, but if left alone can snowball into a disaster of a personal work culture that can hurt you and hold you back from moving forward in your career.

If you take anything away from this quick guide, let it be that at the end of the day, basic psychology is at the foundation of a healthy working life.

You’ve got to be good to your mind and body — and listen to it when it is telling you that you need a break, a nap, a meal or a conversation that means something in the greater context of life. If you are in an office culture that doesn’t welcome or support these attributes of a healthy working life, you’ll have to find a way to stand for them — either by talking to your boss or by executing them in small ways at your desk.

Good luck to you as you work to break these 12 bad office habits and to start producing more work — and smiles.

This is a guest post by Matthew Snider. He is a writer, a personal development junkie and a regular blogger at Self Development Secrets. Matt, with his one quarter Asian descent, did not start out as a writer, but he says, “the love for a subject is the most important aspect of writing. The readers want to read something written by someone who understands them.”


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