What things do you do every day without fail? You brush your teeth, get dressed and any number of other ordinary, boring actions. You know you did those things, but if you were asked to seriously consider if you did them, you would probably have trouble remembering if you did or not. Habits are the things we do without thinking. They are actions we take automatically and without any serious thought behind them. This is why if someone has ever asked you if you flushed the toilet, you assume you did, but you cannot actually say if you did or did not for certain.
The automatic nature of habits can be an advantage. You do not have to leave yourself a note reminding you to brush your teeth in the morning or to flush the toilet at work. You simply do those things. That same lack of conscious thought, however, can make habits very hard to break. It can also make them very difficult to detect in the first place.
Most people do not even realize what habits they have until one of them becomes a problem. They may have been trying to do something new and find an old habit getting in the way, or they are trying to stop a bad behavior only to find it has become completely ingrained in them. It is in those moments that people realize exactly how many habits they have formed unawares, and it is after they break bad habits that they see how much that bad habit has cost them.
Overworking YourselfWorking hard is a good habit to form. Some people, however, take it too far. They work every night, every weekend and every vacation. This unrelenting work causes them horrendous mental and physical harm and leads to complete burnout. Most people are not quite that bad, but you do need to take a break from work. Rest and relaxation are essential for creative thought and problem solving. They will also improve your productivity when you are working. So, when you are at work, be at work. When you are on vacation, be on vacation and leave the office behind before chronic stress burns you out.
One of the most common ways people do themselves harm by overworking themselves is by going in to work when they are sick. When you do this, you likely either see yourself as a dedicated employee or, more honestly, as unwilling to use up valuable vacation time by staying home. Going into work sick, however, actually only prolongs your illness. Rather than focusing entirely on fighting off whatever disease you have, your body has to split its energy between getting well and working. The stress of not being productive due to illness does not help either.
MultitaskingThere is an old saying that begins, “Jack of all trades, master of none.” This short phrase perfectly sums up a person who is constantly multitasking. They are always busy and always working, but they struggle to complete a single project. They continue to feel like they are working hard, but they are actually accomplishing very little.
If you want to be more productive, you should actually only work on one thing at a time. Finish one project before you move on to the next thing. This is true both in your personal life and at work. Resist the urge to check your email until after you finish your report. Talk on the phone to your sister, then do the dishes. One thing at a time.
Never PausingWhen was the last time you truly did nothing? If you are like most people, you probably cannot remember. The closest thing you have done to doing nothing would be watching TV or scrolling through your smartphone. Those are both still forms of stimulation. If you want to live your best life, you need to learn how to pause. This means you need to stop being afraid of doing nothing. Put your smartphone away when you are waiting for the coffee to brew. Stop listening to music while you walk down the street. Let yourself pause and do nothing for just a few minutes. You will be amazed what this can do for your stress levels and how much more relaxed it can make you feel.
ProcrastinatingWorking well under pressure is an excellent skill to have. That does not mean, however, that you should create your own pressure by waiting until the last minute to do things. Procrastinators are often convinced that they actually do better work by waiting until the very end of the allotted time or until they simply run out of time. Procrastinating does nothing but raise your stress levels. If you are constantly behind or running late, you are constantly stressed. Stress, of course, can hurt your immune system, sleep cycle and make you a grouch to be around. Skip the procrastination and skip the stress. If you really need something to help you focus, set a personal deadline for well before things actually need to be done. That manufactured pressure can give you the push you need to get things done without all the associated stress that comes with potentially running out of time.
Constantly ConnectedAs much as people crave it, constant stimulation is not good for you. You need to take breaks in order for your brain to store information as memories and for your neurotransmitters and hormones to settle down to normal levels. As such, you need to put your phone, computer and tablet away on occasion. Most people today balk at the idea of being without their phone, but constantly being connected does nothing pleasant for your mental or physical health. You are less likely to be focused during in person conversations which can hurt your relationships, and constant connection to social media or the internet carries a high risk of anxiety, depression and internet or smartphone addiction. If you want to live your best life, start actually living it rather than remaining buried in your phone all the time.
Dismissing Your HealthIf you want to live your best life, you need to keep your body healthy. This means that you need to take care of it by doing all those things you know you should do but constantly skip. You need to go to bed at a reasonable hour so you get plenty of sleep. You need to drink plenty of water. You need to eat healthy food and exercise regularly. You may not want to hear it, but not paying attention to your basic health necessities pretty much guarantees that you are going to be sluggish, tired, irritable and unable to focus. None of these are conducive to living your best life.
Bad habits can sneak up on you unawares, but you are the one who decides whether those habits die or stick around. You are the only one who can form habits and the only one who can get rid of them. This is your life. Make it or break it, it is up to you and you alone.