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Want Success in the New Year? Give Up the Bad Habits for Good!

By Max Izenberg

“The unfortunate thing about this world is that good habits are so much easier to give up than bad ones.”  - Somerset Maugham

Being human, we are all creatures of habit. Of course not all habits are bad; we know that successful people generally have good habits. We all recognize and perhaps even envy the office receptionist with her impeccable time management and multi-tasking skills, or the manager who not only handles a busy workload but also lends a helping hand to her team – and makes it all look easy. We may even look up to these successful role models as we form our own New Year’s resolutions for the workplace.

So we begin to visualize a new person – one who will somehow be an improved model better than the one of the last year. However, while we have all the best intentions, how can we motivate ourselves to keep these promises and throw away the bad habits? The key is to make the promises more of a possibility instead of a one-time pledge. As Mark Twain said, “Giving up smoking is easy – I’ve done it hundreds of times.”

If you’re guilty of committing the following “bad” workplace habits, help is here! Follow these tips and guidelines to get back on the path to personal and professional success:

Tardiness: Are you guilty of showing up to the office or meetings just a few minutes late? This kind of habit can put the brakes on your career climb, so it’s time to put an end to it. But how? Little changes here and there can make it less of a challenge!  For example, move the time on your clocks forward by five or 10 minutes, or place a note on your mirror that says, “I will show up on time!” These tips will mentally prepare you to arrive on time and serve as daily motivators. Ready to add more? Make your morning routine easier and more efficient. Eat a quick breakfast at home instead of heading for the drive-thru or set your coffeemaker instead of stopping by the coffee shop. You can even pick out your clothes the night before to shave a few minutes from your morning routine. If overcoming tardiness seems overwhelming, just try one change first and master it. Then gradually add a few others and soon enough you’ll be known for showing up early instead of late!

Overeating: Are you guilty of snacking on bad-for-you foods, especially when stuck in a cubicle? Unfortunately, this kind of unhealthy habit can lead to some sneaky pounds on your frame. It can be even worse if you have to travel for work and eat out. However, if you want to drop those love handles, start by visualizing yourself a few pounds lighter. Buy yourself an amazing work outfit – but buy it a size or two smaller. Then, hang it next to your mirror so you see it each day as you get ready for work. Imagine how great you will look and how your colleagues, friends and relatives will see you in a different and slimmer light. Then put it into action by bringing lunch to work a few days each week, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Bringing a pedometer to work can help keep you on the right track to achieving that image. Soon enough you’ll work off those few pounds and become the vision you’ve been thinking about.

Being Discourteous to Others: Are you guilty of talking on the phone too loudly or wearing too much cologne – to the point where you irritate your co-workers? If your bad habit is being discourteous to others in the workplace, stop it so you will be able to continue your climb in the workplace. The first step is being aware of your colleague’s thoughts and respecting how they feel about you. If you are known as the guy who plays his radio too loudly or the manager who wears too much perfume, it’s time to establish a new reputation.

Step out of your “world” and get to know your officemates so you can understand how they see you. Then, take the steps to repair your image, whether it’s taking your personal calls outside during a break or easing up on the perfume/cologne. It’s hard to recognize our own bad habits, much less realize the effect they can have on others, but once you do congratulate yourself. Taking these courteous steps can go a long way in the workplace and you deserve a reward!

Smoking: Is your bad habit unhealthy AND unpopular with your colleagues? If you’re the only smoker in your office, then you probably know how it feels. Make this your year to quit, and share your decision with your officemates for increased success. Give them the actual date you plan to quit, and chances are they will help hold you accountable. In fact, their support may help you create a successful and clean break from smoking!  Sharing your goals with a supportive community (including friends and family) is a very effective way to end those toxic habits.

Procrastination: Are you the person who waits until the last possible minute to finish your projects? Do you make everyone wait on pins and needles to see if your work will arrive on time? Unfortunately, procrastinating will not lead you far on your career path. So, replace that bad habit with a good one! Manage your time instead of letting it manage you.

Use both electronic calendars/reminders and paper calendars to keep you on track. Do you need to look at one day at a time, a week at a time or a whole month to stay focused? Choose what works for you. If you are easily distracted by other projects, e-mails and conference calls, schedule a block of time in your appointment book to focus on one project, and only that one project. You can even ask a trusted officemate to hold you accountable for your deadlines. Whatever you do, utilize a system that works for you and eventually your procrastination habit will “disappear.”

Being a “Yes” Man/Woman: Are you the colleague everyone turns to when they need help? While this can be a good thing, it can also suggest that people are taking advantage of your “just-can’t-say-no” nature. In fact, you may be overwhelmed by all the projects and committees you’ve taken on. Now is the time to break that habit and create a goal that works. If you feel guilty about saying “no” try this exercise: look into the mirror and practice saying it. Really! Get comfortable with saying the word. Then, prioritize your goals. If you say “yes” to every project, you won’t have time for your own job responsibilities. Make a list of the projects and activities that are necessities for your career, then prioritize the rest. Start saying “no” to those that do not make it into your top five or 10 list. Soon enough, you’ll be back in control of your career.

Psychologists agree that breaking bad habits usually take about thirty days, so be resolute for that time period in order to give yourself a chance to change. Realize that although New Year’s is just around the corner, it’s up to us to stay accountable for our own actions no matter what time of year we make our promises. In that eternal quest for self-improvement, stick to your guns, and ensure that your bad habits do not stand in the way of your success!

Read other articles and learn more about Max Izenberg.

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