There’s no time like the New Year to weed out habits that are slowing down your career. Without even being aware of them, bad habits can slip into the way you do your work and can sabotage your career. Today we shed light on five of these habits and provide ways to counter them.
1. Seeing meetings as a waste of time
If you’re invited to meetings that don’t seem relevant to you, an obvious option is to say so. “If you don’t need to be there, then you need to speak up and speak out about it wasting your value time,” says Sydney-based Success Coach Katrena Fiel.
But another option is to accept the invitation and make the meeting work for you. You can use meetings to raise your profile, build relationships and learn about the big picture. “If you are going to be there, then participate. Lean in, sit up, take notes to stay focused and speak up,” says Fiel. “Don’t waste everyone’s time by keeping silent about your ideas, opinions and recommendations.”
2. Thinking more work leads to better outcomes
Being seen to be busy might be “in”, but taking breaks is vital. Regular breaks protect your health and your productivity. You’ve probably heard by now that prolonged sitting is the new smoking and the harder you try to focus on work without resting, the harder it gets.
Follow the lead of elite performers: the best musicians, actors and chess players practise in a focussed session of 90 minutes max. If you find yourself beavering away while busting for the loo, chances are your work is suffering and it’s time you too took a break.
A full lunch break might be impossible but Friel encourages mini-breaks peppered throughout the day – five minutes here and 10 minutes there. Set a timer on your phone for 90 minutes of focussed work. Afterwards, get a fresh glass of water, go outside and take three deep breaths, or donothingfor2minutes.com.
During one of your short breaks, why not take the time to plan your next long weekend or holiday. A rejuvenated mind is a sharp and creative one.
3. Waiting for your work to be noticed
If you’re frustrated your good work goes unacknowledged while others are rewarded for doing less, you probably need to tell someone what you do. “The louder people in our society are not necessarily making the biggest contribution. They are just better at letting it be known that they are amazing,” says Friel. “Modest, more quiet people need to develop their own personal strategy for letting others know how amazing they are, in a way that is comfortable for them.”
One way Friel recommends is to let slip what you’ve been doing and the outcomes you’re achieving, framing it as a progress report. After all, people can’t appreciate what they aren’t aware of. “If you don’t toot your own horn, what happens? Absolutely nothing,” Friel reminds us.
4. Always being the team player
It’s nice to be cooperative but you need boundaries about where you invest your effort. Respecting your boundaries and priorities often means turning down colleagues, clients and bosses.
Saying “no” can be uncomfortable but there are ways you can avoid it without having to say “yes”. You can ask for time to think about it, send them to someone better qualified to help, or explain that you have other priorities right now but you’re happy to talk again.
When you need to say a straight “no”, be pleasant and confident. Don’t waffle on explaining why, because it only opens your decision up to debate. Simply say you’d love to help but can’t. Friel says when her clients learn to say “no”, it soon becomes a non-issue.
5. Letting perfect be the enemy of good
Friel describes the quest for perfection as a disease. “It is a terrible disease that leaves great working women “starving” at the end of each day because they are never satisfied with what they have achieved.”
Wasting your own time by perfecting work that is already good is even worse than letting others waste your time. The Pareto principle estimates 80% of our output comes from 20% of our work. To achieve perfection takes an additional 80% effort. Rather than trying to get to 100%, you’re usually better off investing your energies in new projects and strategic thinking.