Coaches have a front row seat to the habits that get in our clients’ way. One small but insidious bad habit can cost so much more than we realize. The research shows that the best way to nip a bad habit is to replace it with something else.
Here are 10 potential things to stop doing in the next year, and what to start doing instead.
Stop taking the monkey. Volunteering to take on problems that are not yours to solve or projects that somebody else should be doing is thankless and diverts your attention from the work that you are accountable for. It is one thing to occasionally step in to help out in a pinch, but it is another to feel constantly overwhelmed because you are stepping in where you shouldn’t. If you find yourself doing this, start putting your hand over your mouth next time a call for a volunteer goes out and let everyone be uncomfortable in the silence until somebody else pipes up.
Stop booking every minute of the day. Research shows that people who take a minimum of 15 minutes in the morning to plan their day and an hour at the end to tie up loose ends are much more productive than those who don’t. Start booking those times out before they get booked by other stuff that is less important.
Stop keeping your head down and not developing relationships. Getting your work done is important but creating relationships with people who can help you get work done is even more so. Leave time as you come and go to stop and chat with people, make lunch and coffee dates. Start making a list of all the people in the company you like and are interested in and reach out with invites.
Stop complaining. Yes, there are serious problems in the world and you have more work than you can do, but chances are you actually have a completely decent job and are safe at this moment. Moaning “Ain’t it Awful” never helped anyone – stop focusing on stuff you can’t control and start paying attention to what is If you must, stop listening to the news and listen to podcasts or books on tape instead.
Stop using email for a dopamine hit. Scanning your email, texts and Twitter feed is not actually the same as responding to them. It is a habitual way to create a dopamine hit in your brain and it is wildly unproductive. Start making yourself take breaks from your electronics. Schedule time to look at and respond to email and texts. Don’t look at any other social media during the work day unless it is part of your job.
Stop ignoring administrative tasks. Doing HR paperwork and submitting expenses is about as tedious as work gets but the only person who suffers when you procrastinate is you. Start saving rote admin work for late in the day when your brain is shot—or even better, don’t let yourself do anything high value until the boring stuff is done.
Stop being indirect. Yes, it is hard to tell it like it is, or to say no when you need to. It is so much easier to keep your head down and your trap shut. Going along to get along muddies the waters and is the path to mediocrity. Start having an opinion. Once you are clear about what you are willing to take a stand for and why, practice making your case and then speak up and don’t equivocate.
Stop being too busy to learn something new. “I don’t have time” is an old story and rarely true. We are all constantly barraged with new operating systems, software, and apps. Start taking twenty minutes to watch a YouTube video on something that will help make you more efficient and your work easier and will keep you humming and relevant.
Stop multi-tasking. Split focus means no focus. There are some rote things you can do and multi-task: like driving a regular route, cleaning, knitting, crocheting, doodling. But the minute you drop a stitch, spill the Clorox, or have to hit the brakes unexpectedly it’s all over and you will absolutely miss whatever is being said. Start deciding what you are going to focus on and for how long. Set your timer for seven minutes to do a work burst, and shut your laptop when in meetings that you need to pay attention to.
Stop putting off your time off. Burnout is real. And the more burnt out you are, the less likely you are to realize it. If you notice that you are cranky, apathetic, or unusually emotional, you are probably burnt out. Everybody knows this is true, and yet somehow they think it is true for everyone but themselves. Start stepping away from work. Take your paid time off, even if you must check in an hour a day to stay relaxed.
One little change can make all the difference. Use this stop/start list to identify a new habit for the New Year. Choose one thing and stick with it.
About the Author
Madeleine Homan Blanchard is the co-founder of The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Coaching Services team. Since 2000, Blanchard’s 150 coaches have worked with over 14,500 individuals in more than 250 companies throughout the world. Learn more at Blanchard Coaching Services. And check out Coaching Tuesday every other week at Blanchard LeaderChat for ideas, research, and inspirations from the world of executive coaching.