8 Bad Work Habits (And How to Break Them)

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When you're considering goals for this year, don't forget to examine your work life. What changes could you make to become a more productive and pleasant colleague?
Experts offer this list of common bad habits at work -- and how to break them:

* Planning poorly. Do you spend your first hour at work wondering what you should work on today? "So many people, when they leave their office at 4 to 6 p.m., really have no clue what they're going to do first thing the following morning," said Glenn Davis, president of the Next Step Group, which recruits sales and sales management professionals for software and other companies. It's more efficient to plan your next day before you leave work.

* Putting personal life before work. Everyone has emergencies from time to time. But it's annoying to have to repeatedly fill in for the colleague who is late every morning because he's checking on his home remodeling project, or who misses an entire afternoon because she scheduled a routine dentist appointment for 1:30 p.m.

* Being late for meetings. People who show up five or ten minutes late for a meeting cause a "domino effect," Davis said. Meetings later that day may be thrown off schedule because the earlier ones ran late. And people who show up on time feel their time is being wasted.

* Abusing work-from-home privileges. Yes, you save time when you work from home by not commuting. But too many people are easily sidetracked by the laundry, their kids, a quick errand. "People like to say, 'I get so much more done'" working from home, Davis said. And some do -- but not everyone. If you work from home, make sure you're putting in a full day's work -- and that you're accessible to your colleagues during the workday.

* Spending the day in "email reaction mode." Answering every email message as it comes in may make you seem responsive, but it's not productive. "You feel like you're being a hero because you're dealing with all your email," said Valerie Frederickson, CEO & founder of Valerie Frederickson & Co., an HR executive search and consulting firm. "But it has nothing to do with achieving your goals."

* Not taking care of health and hygiene. Leslie G. Griffen, an HR consultant and career coach, is sometimes hired by companies to approach an employee who doesn't bathe and ask them to improve their hygiene. The problem is twofold, said Griffen, principal of The Griffen Group. A sloppy appearance will cause a poor first impression. Also, "if your hygiene is bad, your health is probably bad," Griffen said. An added benefit of eating well and exercising: You'll have more energy.

* Using inappropriate humor. Your coworkers may not appreciate your sense of humor. Skip the off-color or "racially targeted" jokes, Griffen said. And be careful about sensitive subjects such as politics and religion.

* Not caring about your work. People like coworkers who are enthusiastic about what they do. Show that you take pride in your job by presenting yourself well, communicating clearly and doing your best work.

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