How to Get Rid of Bad Work Habits

Bad work habits usually develop over time. You may find that you are late to meetings, that you deliver reports after deadlines or that you have low productivity. Trading good work habits for bad ones may result in a happier, more efficient work environment. You will need to take stock of your current work habits, think about what impression you are making at work, and make consistent steps to change your habits. Long running habits may take time to break, but you are likely to see performance and manager evaluations improve. Read more to find out how to get rid of bad work habits.


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    Decide that you want to change. If you have no desire to change a habit, it is not likely that you will have the will power to change it. Understand that bad work habits can prevent you from getting promotions or being seen as a serious team player and hard worker.
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    List your bad work habits. Before you can change your work habits, you should take stock of habits that may look bad to your manager, your colleagues and/or yourself. It is safe to assume everyone has at least a few habits that affect their work negatively, so take out a pen and paper and list things you can improve.
    • For example, bad work habits include missing deadlines, surfing the Internet for personal reasons, being late to work or meetings, being negative, being noisy or disruptive in the office, using inappropriate humor at work and dressing unprofessionally.
    • Don't forget to evaluate common productivity-draining habits. Many of these habits are seen as positive in some companies, but changing them can result in better performance. Potential bad productivity habits include eating lunch at your desk, checking your email all the time or scheduling too many meetings. Scientists have found that breaks from these behaviors can consistently increase your work time productivity.
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    Spend a week taking stock of your work habits. You may not be able to list them all at once, so journal things that you believe are slowing you down, and you can reassess at the end of the week.
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    Prioritize your bad habits based on what you would like to get rid of first. Number them according to what is most important and then try to get rid of 1 bad habit each month. List habits that affect managers and co-workers as high-priority, such as punctuality, because they may reflect badly on your work performance.
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    List 3 to 5 steps that you will take to change your bad habit. Psychology Today reports that you should be as specific as possible about your plans to change your habit, in order to increase your chances of success. For example, if you want to reduce the amount of caffeine you have in a work day, start by ordering a smaller size, then reduce your caffeine budget and buy a replacement, such as water or tea to fill the craving.
    • If you use the computer to play games or surf the Internet, you may not realize that most companies have Internet browser tracking programs. Your managers can view your history, and will do so if you aren't getting your work done. Close your Internet browser and schedule short micro-breaks of 5 minutes 3 times per day.
    • If you have a hard time meeting deadlines, you must view them as non-negotiable parts of your job. Prioritize your to do list so that the closest deadlines are at the top. Create a negative risk, such as not having an afternoon coffee or a decline in your clothes budget if you miss a deadline. Create a positive incentive if you make all deadlines in a week, such as buying something you've had your eye on or going to a movie.
    • If you are too negative at work, evaluate why you feel negative. Schedule breaks when work gets overwhelming. Keep negative comments to yourself and put a dollar in a jar every time you slip up. Use the money to buy something that will improve your mood, such as a plant, a sunlight lamp or a massage.
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    Remove all temptations to continue the habit. If you check your email too often, close the program or turn off the alert bell after you check it on the hour. If you are usually late, set all your clocks ahead, or ask someone to do it for you, so you don't know how early you are.
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    Track your progress. Be self-aware during the day and mark in a journal how often you still engage in a bad habit. You should not look to remove the habit immediately, but instead, look for a progress over a period of days or weeks.
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    Give yourself an incentive. If you remove most occurrences of the habit after a month, you should allow yourself to engage in something that you can look forward to. If you do not achieve your goal, set a bigger goal for a few weeks to a month later and reward yourself if you make your second try.
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    Be patient with your progress. Psychology Today also reported that bad habits are easier to start than good ones, which means you must have will power and desire to remove the bad habit in the long term. Will power should be seen as a muscle, and the more you use it, the easier it will be.


  • Don't be too hard on yourself if you can't remove your bad habit right away. Many habits are cultivated over years, so it will take time and it will be difficult. Make sure to give yourself something to look forward to if you achieve your goal, along with a more professional work demeanor.

Things You'll Need

  • Paper
  • Pen
  • Incentive
  • Work journal

Article Info

Categories: Routines and Habits