Matt Tarpey, CareerBuilder writer
Whether it’s eating too much junk food or watching too much TV, we all have bad habits. For the most part these can be chalked up as guilty pleasures, but when a habit hurts your productivity or performance at work, it’s time to leave it behind.
Here are five bad work habits that may be holding you back at work.
1. Being unprepared for meetings
One of the most common complaints in any office is that meetings are useless or a waste of time. This viewpoint leads many workers to underprepare for meetings, making it a self-fulfilling prophecy. When you have a meeting, take a couple minutes to understand what its purpose is and what you can bring to the table to get everything ironed out quickly and smoothly.
“Not preparing adequately for meetings is one of the most common and insidious time-wasters at work. It’s particularly dangerous due to the fact that if one key player isn’t prepared for a meeting, it can slow the day down for everyone in the room,” says Sam McIntire, founder of Deskbright, an online learning platform designed to help people thrive at work.
McIntire says that to maximise meeting productivity, you should follow these best practises:
- Set goals for your meeting, and know what you want to accomplish
- Prepare an agenda of discussion points, and don’t stray from it
- Only invite people whose attendance is critical
- End the meeting once you have accomplished your goals
- Summarise key action points and next steps
2. Not having a plan
Getting organised is far from an original life-change, but it’s still one of the most important things you can do to increase your productivity. The time it takes to go over your schedule and create a clear to-do list is nothing compared to the time and energy you’ll save down the line.
“Managing your time well at work is one of the easiest ways to stand out in the crowd,” says Leila Hock, career strategy coach with Alignment Coaching. “To do so, before leaving work each day, write the three most important things you need to do the next day. When you get into work the next day, start with the hardest before you even check your emails or voicemails or log on to your company chat service. Controlling your own schedule – especially your mornings – is one of the best habits to get into for both your value to the company and your happiness and engagement at work.”
3. Working on the wrong things
Working hard may be the old-fashioned way to get ahead, but these days working smart is just as important.
“It’s a common misconception that your time is only ‘wasted’ at work when you aren’t being productive. But working hard on the wrong things can be just as bad as slacking on critical tasks,” McIntire says. “Whenever you work on a task or project at work, ask yourself: How does this fit into my short-term and long-term goals? Is the work I’m doing now critical to my success and the success of those around me? If you can’t think of good answers to these questions, you may be focusing on the wrong output.”
Though not necessarily a work-specific bad habit, procrastination is still amongst the most prevalent in any office.
“Putting off important work until the last minute, even though there was ample time to complete it, creates a bump in the flow of the work place and can disturb other people’s days,” says Max Cron, a consultant at PointAbove Consulting. “The only thing procrastination leads to is anxiety. Avoid this by completing your tasks in a timely manner.”
5. Not speaking up
When you’re unsure of something, don’t be afraid to ask. When you stay silent about something you find confusing, the potential ramifications only increase the longer you wait to ask.
“Uncertainty, doubt or confusion create trouble. If you’re in a situation where you are feeling lost, speak up and ask, ‘Can you clarify or explain?’” says Kristi Daniels, workplace expert and coach with Thrive 9 to 5. “Also, if you have no idea what you are doing, say it out loud to yourself. The declaration ‘I have no idea what I’m doing’ creates an energetic vacuum, which clears the space for a good solution or innovative idea to drop in. The ideas won’t come when you struggle or resist.”