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These 7 Small Bad Habits Are Having a Big Effect on Your Career

Topics: Career Advice

Small bad habits might seem like no big deal, especially if you get used to making them on a regular basis and they become normalized. But, even small things can have a big impact on your career.

Making moves in an effort to advance professionally doesn’t have to mean doing something drastic like heading back to school or changing industries. Incorporating small changes into your daily routine could actually make a world of difference. This is especially true when it comes to breaking bad habits. It’s worth your time and effort to attempt to make a change if your regularly do things that hold you back professionally. Bad habits can actually be a really big deal.

Bad habits could be having an impact on your career

It pays to be honest with yourself about any and all bad habits that could be having a major effect on your career and your professional life. Here are just a few small things to be mindful of that could be holding you back more than you realize:

1. Worrying about work after hours

Thinking about the day ahead, and planning for it constructively is one thing. Worrying about work is another. And, it’s definitely not productive or good for you. Most people tend to know this intuitively. Being kept up at night because you can’t stop obsessing about work isn’t pleasant. Still, ruminating is something most folks are guilty of from time to time.

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Thankfully, there are ways to break the habit of thinking about work too much after hours. Not talking about work a ton is a good first step. This will help you to engage more fully with other priorities. If your worrying practice is super engrained, consider setting aside a short and defined period of time for the activity. Giving yourself “worry time” can help you relax a little more the rest of the day. Finally, try to keep in mind that while it may seem that your overthinking is helping you to prepare for the future, it’s really just holding you back. Having time to rest and recover from the day helps you to be ready for what’s next, not lingering on the past or worrying about a not-yet-realized-future.

2. Complaining

It’s quite normal, and often super tempting, to complain at the end of a long, hard day. It can happen during the workday-proper too. (You might be lured to join in when negative coworkers are sharing their own feelings, for example.) However, complaining is a bad habit that probably isn’t doing you any favors professionally.

First of all, people generally don’t enjoy being around folks who complain all the time. Sure, others might tell you that they understand or even that they feel the same way you do. But, think about it this way – wouldn’t you rather be around someone who brings the mood up rather than someone who brings it down? Well, the people that you work with feel the same way.

Also, complaining can have a really big impact on you directly. It probably won’t help you enjoy your day, or your job. In fact, it will likely work against those aims as it directs your attention toward what you don’t like and what isn’t working. Complaining is a form of negativity. It increases stress and adversely affects your physical and mental health. It might seem like a small and harmless habit. But, the practice of complaining, especially routinely, works against you in some pretty serious ways.

3. Checking social media first thing in the morning

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up? Be honest. Does it, by chance, involve checking your phone? If so, you certainly aren’t alone. Plenty of people go to their phones, and often social media, right away in the morning. But, this bad habit usually comes with a cost.

Psychiatrist Dr. Nikole Benders-Hadi told Elite Daily that turning on your phone right away in the morning can increase stress and leave you feeling overwhelmed. And, it can impact your ability to get yourself ready for the day.

“The information overload that hits [you] before you’re fully awake also interferes with your ability to prioritize tasks,” Dr. Benders-Hadi told Elite Daily.

The way you start your day really matters. If you begin the morning in a positive and productive way, your day will tend to unfold in a similar fashion. And, if you start your day distracted and stressed, you might just keep feeling that way.

Checking social media first thing in the morning, or even just going to your phone right away, is a bad habit for sure. There are better ways to kick off your day.

4. Multitasking

It’s only natural to want to save time by doing a few things at once. In fact, sometimes it might seem almost impossible not to multitask with everything you have to do. What choice do you have but to cook dinner while responding to work emails and helping the kids with their homework? When you’re really busy, it can feel like doing a few things at once is the only way to move through the day.

But, here’s the thing about multitasking – it really doesn’t work. You’ll actually get more done in less time by focusing on just one task at a time. Plus, trying to juggle too many things at the same time, especially when the tasks are entirely dissimilar, can increase stress as well as lower productivity.

“We did a laboratory experiment where people did a typical office task: they had to answer a set of emails. In one condition, they were not interrupted,” Gloria Mark of the University California Irvine told Fast Company. “In another condition, we interrupted them with phone calls and IM. We used a NASA workload scale, which measures various dimensions of stress, and we found that people scored significantly higher when interrupted. They had higher levels of stress, frustration, mental effort, feeling of time pressure and mental workload. So, that’s the cost.”

It’s better to minimize your task-switching and allow yourself to focus on just one thing at a time while you’re at work. Breaking the bad habit of multitasking should help you get into flow state, where you’ll be most productive, creative, and innovative.

5. Showing up late

Some people tend to run a little behind schedule. If you’re one of them, it might start to seem like a little thing because it’s how you’re used to living. But, not everyone runs late. And, showing up even just a few minutes behind everyone else is actually pretty disrespectful.

You could be sending the wrong message if you’re often late for work in the morning or for meetings and appointments during the day. It might seem to some that you don’t respect the people you’re making wait. Also, people who are chronically late can come off as disorganized. The habit can make it seem like you’re having a difficult time getting yourself together and managing it all.

Lateness doesn’t communicate busyness and importance. Actually, it’s just the opposite. It can make you seem incompetent. Why would a boss or manager give you more to do (like a promotion, for example) when it seems like you’re struggling to juggle what’s already on your plate? Breaking the bad habit of showing up late will support your professionally.

6. Gossiping

A little office gossip might seem harmless enough, but it’s actually a pretty bad habit that could be really damaging to your professional life and your career.

First and foremost, gossiping isn’t great for your mood. It directs your energies and your attention toward the negative rather than the positive. Like complaining, the bad habit of gossiping encourages you to focus on the wrong things. It can also distract you from the tasks of the workday. And, it can have a pretty major impact on your professional reputation too.

“You might think everyone does it and it’s no big deal, [but] office gossip is harmful,” Cristin Sturchio, global head of talent at business research company Third Bridge told Business New Daily. “If you align yourself with gossips, your reputation will suffer, because people know who the gossips are in a company and they are not trusted. Besides, if someone is talking to you about someone else, what do you think they’re saying about you when you’re not around? Be brave and politely tell the people around you to stop gossiping.”

7. Working too much

Despite the messages you have been given via our modern culture of overwork, working harder and faster isn’t really the best way to advance your career. Stress and long-hours can even hinder your ability to be productive if the bad habit is left unchecked for too long. There’s actually a lot to be said for taking breaks and even vacations once in a while.

Researchers have found that employee output falls sharply after a 50-hour workweek. John Pencavel of Stanford University noted this effect when he studied the relationship between productivity and working hours. Productivity declined even more dramatically after 55 hours of work. And, those who spent more than 70 hours on the job produced almost nothing more with the additional 15 hours.

Additionally, science has proven that taking time off helps workers to be more engaged and creative at work. Breaks give your brain and body a chance to rest and recover. Detaching from work once in a while helps lower the threat of burnout and increases general feelings of well-being too.

Working too much is actually a really bad habit. If you really want to do something good for your career and your professional life, schedule regular bouts of time away. You should unplug in the evenings and on weekends. And, you should schedule a vacation once in a while too. Breaking the habit of working too much could do wonders for your career.

Tell Us What You Think

Have you broken any of the bad habits on this list? How did it impact your life and career? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.


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Stella Hoskins
Stella Hoskins

I work from home as a private contractor for a privately owned business. There are three-four of us who share the phone and email duties as customer service reps. Because of the small staff we’re not encouraged to take lunches away from our desk or 15 minutes breaks. I find myself very tired at the end of the day mentally and physically. By law am I entitled to a 15 minute paid break in the morning and afternoon even though… Read more »

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