9 habits you should give up yesterday

Some habits are worse than others and getting rid of them will make for a great step ahead in your life, health and productivity.

We could go on forever over things we should stop doing, however some things are worse than others and getting rid of them will make for a great step ahead in your life, health and productivity.

1. Smoking

I think smoking is the number one bad habit to give up: it’s terrible for your health, it makes you stink like an ashtray and depending on where you live it’s quite an expensive habit.

In the future, I want to write an in-depth post on how to quit smoking for good. But before that, here’s a couple of quick tips:

  1. When you smoke, think of how bad it is, how much you dislike to smell of cigarette and how bad the taste left in your mouth is
  2. Don’t try to restrict the number of cigarettes as it will make you yearn for more; just pick a day and quit cold turkey
  3. You feel stressed? want to reach for a cigarette? just think that smoking won’t make your problems go away, instead it will add an extra problem to your life
  4. Decide on a present you’re going to buy for yourself once you haven’t smoked for a month

One more resource I’d like to suggest is the book Allen Carr’s Easy Way to Stop Smoking: The Easyway To Stop Smoking. There are some great tips in there!

2. Watching the news

This one is a no-brainer for me: watching and/or reading the news is mostly a waste of time.
I know many won’t agree with me, but I believe most news are rubbish and made out to grab our attention so that they can then show us ads.

If you don’t watch the news, you’ll still know when something important happens, plus you’ll save 1 to 2 hours a day which you can spend doing most interesting and important stuff.

3. Aiming for perfection

Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it. Salvador Dali

Perfect doesn’t exist, so you better stop worrying about it and get the job done.

Perfectionism might as well be the root cause of procrastination because when you aim for it every task will look daunting and you’ll then be more prone to procrastinate.

Instead, don’t worry about coming up with a perfect whatever you have to do: just do it and you can then fix it later.

4. Staying up late

I used to define myself as a night owl, staying up very late into the night working. However, I realized that while I thought I was being productive, I actually wasn’t.

When you stay up late, you’ll always be less focused and more tired than if you worked in the early hours.
On top of this, if you get the job done early, you’re left free in the evening to wind down and get a rest.

It takes some time to shift from being a night person to being a morning one and at first you’ll find it difficult to be productive in the morning, but as with any habit, you need to stick to it and you’ll soon reap the benefits.

5. Saying yes

How many times did you say yes to somebody only ending up damning yourself for doing it?

It doesn’t matter if it’s work related (e.g. saying yes to a client you knew was going to be a problem) or not (e.g. saying yes to someone inviting you to a party you really didn’t want to go to). You should’ve said no, and you knew it the moment you agreed.

Saying no is ok, you should do it more often: you should only agree to plans you are really looking forward to. Otherwise, you’re losing your time and making yourself miserable.

When you feel like saying no, don’t make up excuses, the other person will feel it. Just say: “Thanks for asking, but I really haven’t got the time.”

Stop saying yes. Say no, instead.

6. Checking emails continuously

Most of us — I have to admit at times I’m guilty of this, too — have an issue with emails: we check it too often.

The problem with this, is you feel like it doesn’t mean much to spend 30 seconds to check your emails, while it really is wasting your time — if you add 30 seconds 20 times a day it’s 10 minutes, which is enough to read a chapter in a book — and shifting your focus from something meaningful (e.g. doing work or talking to another person) to something pretty useless.

Admit it, you’re not in charge of a lifeline service — unless you are, of course! — so there’s no chance you’ll need to reply to the next email within 5 minutes! It can wait.
If it can’t wait and it’s really urgent, you’ll get a call from the other person anyway once they don’t see a reply.

Try to schedule your email reading two times a day: before lunch and one hour before the end of your workday.

7. Working extra hours

Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.
Parkinson’s Law

Working extra hours is a false myth and to me is just an excuse for procrastination.

Let’s say you decide to work 4 days a week, 6 hours a day: that’s much less than most people work, so you know you’ll have to put in some extra effort to complete your tasks within the limited amount of time you have. The reward is having much more free time to spend doing activities you like and hanging out with people you love.

On the other hand, compare it to working 12 hours a day throwing in the extra Saturday every now and then, too. First of all, you’ll be burned out, because there’s only so many hours a day you can be doing productive work — it may vary from person to person, but I doubt anyone can do more than 6-8 hours a day of really productive work. On top of that, you’ll start to fall into the trap of thinking: “I can do this later, let me check the news” or “Don’t worry, I’ll get this done on the weekend”.

Try to work less and be more focused while doing so. You’ll achieve the same if not more in less time.

8. Driving when you could walk

I don’t know if you’re guilty of this or not, but have you ever thought that people drive a couple of miles to go to the gym…to then walk on a treadmill? (Click to tweet)

Actually, scientists have found out that doing light cardio activity (i.e. walking) is better than doing hardcore cardio.
If you can make sure you walk at least an hour a day, you’ll be in better shape than most people, even those who go to the gym and kill themselves with heavy-weights.

Plus, walking gives you a chance to reconnect with yourself and enjoy the surroundings.
It’s a great way to think about your life and focus on solving the problems you’re facing in your work and personal life.

9. Reaching for your phone

Phones have been shown to be a huge source of distraction even when we don’t look at them. Keeping them turned off isn’t enough either!

So while it might be difficult to leave your phone at home, you might at least try to turn notifications off and stop continuously checking it.

This is closely related to point number 6 about emails, but really, how many times a day do you need to check your Facebook and Instagram?

You’re just filling dead time with the wrong activity. Instead of checking your phone, enjoy the surroundings, talk to other people or pick up a book. Even if it’s only a couple of minutes, there are much better things to do than checking your phone.

Don’t try to kick all of these habits in one go, just aim for one or two at first. And even if you don’t manage to get rid of all of them, kicking a few will put you in a much better position.
Please let me know what you think and share your experience in the comments.

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  • Math 2015.10.09 at 14:53

    I completly agree with you! Your advices remind me the ones in the book “The 4 hour workweek” from Tim Ferriss. Have you read it? Thank you for your post.

    • Michele Finotto 2015.10.09 at 14:57

      Hi Math,

      Yes, I read the book when it was first published.

      I guess most of my tips are common-sense, however it’s always good to be reminded and I wrote this as much for other people as for me to have a reminder of what not to fall for…

      Thank you for commenting. Take care!

  • Carl Plumer 2016.02.05 at 02:34

    Getting up early and leaving the late nights behind is key, and one that I’ve only just started applying. I used to be proud to call myself a “night person” (and be tired all day long). Can’t believe how much energy I have now. And how much more productive I am. Simply by going to bed as nature intends (sun down, sun up). Cheers!

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