Now that you (like everyone else) have given up on your New Year's resolutions, here are some common workplace habits that are easy to dump, which would have a huge positive effect on your life and career.

1. Trying to Achieve Inbox Zero

The entire concept of Inbox Zero assumes that email is your top priority and therefore you should strive to do it perfectly. This is a totally crazy notion. Almost anything you do at work is more important than sorting through your emails.

Think of email as a river of sludge with some diamonds scattered in the midst. Rather than wasting time and energy (and getting yourself all muddy) by clearing out the sludge, let the river flow past and simply pick out the diamonds as you spot them.

2. Fighting Your Internal Clock

Lately, I've been satirizing the "successful people wake up at 4:30 a.m." propaganda by getting equally self-righteous about staying up until 2 a.m. All kidding aside, though, some people are naturally night owls (I'm one of them) and some are naturally early birds (like my wife).

Internal clocks, or more precisely circadian rhthyms, may be genetic. According to a recent article in Science, varied sleep patterns would have been an advantage for ancient humans. While you may not always have a choice (early birds rule the roost, alas), you'll get more done if you try to flow with, rather than against, your genetics.

3. Listening to Trash-Talk

Every workplace is a community, ideally a community of friends. However, if the work itself isn't always engaging, it's easy for people to fall into the habit of back-biting and spreading negative rumors. This causes a downward spiral, making work less enjoyable for everyone.

Listening to trash-talk, even if it's directed at others, gets you in the habit of thinking negatively, creating thought habits that will hinder your personal success. When a co-worker starts, change the subject to something work-related.

4. Interrupting Women at Meetings

You probably think this piece of advice is for men only, but according to a 2014 study, both men and women interrupt women more than they interrupt men. Due to our cultural history, most people are programed to listen more carefully to men than to women.

There is, of course, a moral case for overcoming this tendency, but there's also a practical case as well. Millions of great ideas are lost every year because somebody talked over a woman in a meeting. Equal time means more smarts at the table. It's that simple.

5. Sugar or Creamer in Your Coffee

Sugar is empty calories while creamer is full of chemicals. Just as important, they're both unnecessary to enjoying coffee, which is a naturally rich, sweet beverage. (If coffee tastes bitter, either the beans are old or you're not preparing it properly.)

When I first started drinking coffee, I put seven sugars and two creamers in every cup. To break that habit, over about a month I gradually reduced the amounts of both until I was fine drinking it black, which I've done ever since. It helps, though, if you use freshly roasted, just-ground beans.

Published on: Jan 10, 2019
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