"Our habits are driven by our beliefs and our values," says Brad Napier, owner of Premiere Design Studio and a career coach. "Our beliefs and values form throughout our lives and are based on our experience of the world – they are the filters that sift through our experiences. Whether good or bad, habits assist us in living as congruent as possible to our values. Changing a belief from doing what's urgent to what's important is what makes people stand out from the rest in any work environment. That's the beauty of life – our habits are not cast in stone and are relatively easy to change once we know what we must change, and once we know what it will mean if we don't change."
Here are a few bad habits to avoid in the workplace:
1. Arranging unnecessary meetings
"Attending meetings with no apparent objective or agenda is frustrating and a huge time-waster to most people" says Marja Botha van Doorn, a certified coach and management consultant. "When arranging a meeting, think about what you want to achieve and whose presence is required to add value to the outcome. Draw up an agenda with time allocations for every topic and make sure that each member of your team adheres to it."
2. Avoiding responsibility
Carol Gerber, a life coach asks: "How many times have you heard someone say ‘it's not in my job description'? Maybe it should be and maybe going the extra mile will get you noticed for that promotion you have your heart set on. Of course, if the task is part of your duties, own it and make it work. No one has time to listen to excuses why your report is late or who else should be blamed." Here's how to remain accountable:
– If someone owes you information, follow up.
– If you have a deadline, plan and prioritise so you have sufficient time to complete the task.
– Don't assume the one e-mail you sent requesting information is sufficient. If it's going to get the job done and make the client happy, follow up and worry about your job description later.
3. Taking phone calls or checking your BlackBerry while in a meeting
"Interrupting a person who did the effort to speak to you face-to-face to take a call or check messages on your BlackBerry is disrespectful and rude," says Van Doorn. "If you expect an urgent message or phone call, say so before the meeting and ask the other person whether they would mind."
4. Being too involved in your employees' personal business
Gerber says: "If you find yourself telling your employees about your life without them actually enquiring, you are most definitely over-sharing. On the flip side, taking part in conversations that don't impact on you or your work is a serious no-no. You don't have to be in the loop for everything that takes place in your office." Here's what to do:
– Be aware of whom you're talking to and what you are saying – if your opinion hasn't been asked for, don't give it.
– If your employees didn't ask about your weekend, don't volunteer the information and don't tell the entire office about your love life. Unless they're a friend, they don't want to know.
5. Spending your day in email response mode
This is one of the biggest time-wasting traps that many people fall into. Van Doorn says that answering every email message as it comes in may make you seem responsive, but it's not productive. Make specific times available to answer emails in a focused and structured way.
21 days to break a habit
Roland Cox, an executive coach and the founder of Aspiral, believes "the best way to address the most common bad habits occurring at work is to assess oneself on a scale of self-fulfilment versus performance. Many people tend to have an imbalance in these and favour the one over the other. Some people are super efficient, but derive no pleasure from their work. This is often not sustainable and not meaningful for the individual. On the other end of the scale, people may feel that they are comfortable in their work, but with a less efficient work rate, and are happy to continue that way. They are generally not high performers."
Van Doorn says: "It's not easy to replace bad habits. It takes persistence and approximately 21 days to develop a new way of doing things. Of course, sometimes you will mess up and fall back into a bad routine, but if you keep working at it, people will notice and appreciate your effort."