10 Bad Habits to Leave Behind in the New Year

by Salary.com Staff - Original publish date: January 18, 2012

In order to make room for the great new work habits you’re resolving to adopt on January 1st, be sure to ring out any bad office practices. And, yes, procrastination is on the list, so reading this now instead of later is a great first step in the right direction.

Here are some tips for banishing common office behaviors that can get in the way of success.

1. Put off procrastination…now

Overwhelmed by the difficulty or size of a pending chore? Make use of calendars and computer alarms to plan out and schedule small pieces of big projects. Doing a little at a time is usually easier than tackling a whole project at once – and always more productive than putting it off ‘til you’re “up to” a big challenge.

2. If your system's broke, fix it

Do you clean up your act every few months only to find your folders empty and your desk a mess again in no time? If you’re constantly unable to find things, you may be trying to adhere to a filing system that doesn’t work for you. Notice where your various papers naturally end up and base a new categorization scheme on what works for you.

3. Are you too accessible?

Nothing hinders a project’s progress more than incessant interruptions. When you really need to focus, be sure you will not be bothered. Let co-workers know you are busy. If you have a door, shut it and hang a do not disturb sign. Turn off phone ringers if possible, as well as instant message boxes and incoming email announcements.

4. Cool the water cooler gossip

Sometimes it gets a little too easy to join in the office banter, even when it starts heading down the wrong path – like discussing the boss’s bad breath or which sales rep’s going out with which admin assistant. If you need to vent about a co-worker, do it with a trustworthy non-colleague. Limit the work coffee talk to sports and “Idol” chatter.

5. Poor planners don’t get rich

Do you arrive at your office without a plan for the day or run into meetings unprepared?  If so, it’s likely you’re wasting valuable time – and annoying your co-workers. Leave the poor planning in the past. Take a few moments to write a to-do list or an outline for the next day or an upcoming meeting so you can show up ready to go.

6. You won’t get ahead by being behind

If you find you are constantly 10 minutes late for work or appointments, chances are others notice it too. Nip this habit in the bud by setting all your alarms 15 minutes earlier and leaving yourself an extra half hour to get to work. The worst that can happen is you’ll be a little early and find yourself with some valuable free time.

7. Cut out crude cubicle conduct

Remember, your cubicle is not your castle. That’s because in most offices cube walls are not made of stone. Therefore it’s not okay to talk loudly, produce offensive smells, clip fingernails, blast music, belch, or cough incessantly. Be sure you leave the nail clippers, dental floss, strong perfume, and colds and flu at home or behind closed doors.

8. Unchain yourself from your work

It may seem like keeping your nose to the grindstone is the height of efficiency, but studies show that taking regular breaks from your work is a more productive approach. Step away from your work every so often so you can come back with a fresh outlook. Or take a break from one project every so often to work on another.

9. Unhealthy habits can affect your work

It’s easy in an office to get into a sedentary routine. But your physical health has a direct correlation to your mental health, which in turn affects your work success. Bringing healthy snacks to work instead of eating fast food can do wonders for your mood. Likewise, taking a walk after lunch can revitalize both your body and your mind.

10. Unhealthy habits can affect your work

People notice smart dressers – even if unconsciously. So, if you’ve gotten a little lazy in the wardrobe department, it’s time to weed out the “comfy” clothes and spruce up a bit. Don’t worry; you don’t need to be a GQ model or glamour queen to dress for success. Just tailor your look a little. Here are some helpful hints about clothes that say “pay me more.”

Full speed ahead

Once you’ve divested yourself of behavior that may be holding you back, replacing it with positive work habits should be easy – in fact, it often happens automatically. Congratulations on leaving the past behind and following the road to career success! Now, how about resolving to call your mother more often?