7 Habits you Need to Quit if you Want to Move Forward

Happy 2017! I spent the last three weeks of 2016 mulling over my plans for the next year and thinking of what needed to change for me to actually get where I want to be. I realized I picked up way more bad habits that I realized. Not just things like not exercising enough or saving enough money, but things that are actually hindering my academic and personal growth.

What better time than January to address these habits and really consider how they affect us? Without further ado…

7 Habits you Need to Quit if you Want to Move Forward

1 – Being late.

Being late is annoying on so many levels. Being habitually late is just plain rude. I don’t mean a little late, like 5 minutes every so often. I mean strolling in 20 minutes late with coffee. I know too many colleagues who always show up 15-20 minutes late to everything and laugh it off saying, “yeah I’m always late lol I don’t bother rushing!”

Being late sends the message that your time is more important than whoever you’re meeting. Their time doesn’t matter to you. You didn’t take it into consideration when you strolled in 20 minutes late with Starbucks. That may not have been your intention. Life happens; we can’t find our keys or we hit more red lights than expected, so we didn’t mean to come off as rude. Even if we don’t mean to offend anyone, lateness is often interpreted as rude, unprofessional, and careless.

Maybe it’s time to think about why you’re habitually late. Are you late because you really don’t want to go?  Consider in the future if these things are worth your time. Did you not plan enough time to get ready? Time yourself getting ready and find out how long it really takes you. Give yourself enough time so you don’t have to rush through your eyeshadow blending. Are you disorganized and you can’t seem to find everything? Try laying out your things the night before. Pack your purse, lay out your outfit, put things in your car, and place your phone/keys/wallet all in one place.

You will feel soooooo much better when you know you have enough time to get somewhere. You won’t have to deal with the surge of stress and anxiety that comes with rushing around and slinking in late. Plus you will be more professional and seen as more reliable.

2 – Netflix Time Sinks

I find myself constantly saying I don’t have time to get things done even though I watch at least an hour (usually more) of Netflix every single day. I’m far from alone. Data from 2015 shows that each Netflix subscriber spends an average of 90 minutes a day watching Netflix which totals over 500 hours per year! 2016 data doesn’t seem to be available yet but I doubt the number went down. I’m pretty sure no one says their New Year’s Resolution is to spend 500 hours watching Netflix, but that’s what many of us end up doing. It’s easy to daydream of the life we want and the things we want to accomplish, but how does that align with our daily habits?

I decided to do a mini experiment with this and vowed to not watch Netflix for a day to see how productive I could be. I finished everything that had been piling up on my to-do list, exercised for an hour, and finished a book I had been putting off, all before 8pm. I was blown away by how much I got done without spacing out in front of my laptop all day. That was quickly followed by a sinking feeling of regret. How am I letting this much time get away from me? How much further could I be in school and in my career if I did this every day?

The key to stopping this habit is mindfulness. You must first be aware of how much time you’re spending in front of your screens vegging out before you can take steps to be more productive. You can also write down the things you want to do or want to be to see how that time could be better spent.

3 – Thinking of your health as a chore.

I’m not going to say maintaining your health is easy because I often fall off the wagon and let mine fall by the wayside. But so many things in your life are better when you feel good. Your health is your business, and honestly, no one can make decisions about it other than you. Health is a blessing and so easily taken for granted. I never thought about how walking is a privilege until I hurt my back so badly I couldn’t get out of bed to eat or use the bathroom. In London I couldn’t walk as much as I wanted to because my back would flare up and I would have to limp to the tube to go home. I felt like I missed out on a lot of experiences because of it.

I think everyone forgets their health until something goes wrong, then we desperately want it back. We would do anything to not be sick or in pain, but when we aren’t sick or in pain we don’t take steps to maintain that health because it’s no longer at the forefront of our minds. We’ve also created this unfortunate mindset where we think of healthy eating as “dieting” and exercise as synonymous with “trying to lose weight.” These mindsets construct them as punishments and unhealthy behavior as “rewards.” A lot of people are completely disconnected from the idea of healthy behaviors as rewards in themselves. I like walking as a way to relax. I try to stop myself from thinking of it as a punishment for eating too many French fries and instead enjoy that my back isn’t acting up (and it’s more relaxing and rewarding than Netflix!). Our lives and bodies are beautiful gifts we have been given for a short time. Our bodies are vessels to transport us safely and effectively through the world. They do everything to protect us and we should show respect for them by showing them love through healthy behaviors.

4 – Obsessing over what you’re meant to do.

When I scroll through pinterest I see all kinds of blogs devoted to helping people find out that they’re meant to do and finding their true calling. I realized lately that I’m stuck in this trap myself. Like everyone else, I’ve been pestered since sophomore year of high school by people asking what do I want to do when I grow up. In college that question comes up even more as I have to take specific classes, declare a major, and follow a career-prep path. I’ve talked to many teachers and friends who are in their 40s, 50s, and 60s and a lot of them joke that they still don’t know what they want to be when they grow up. I’ve found that many people change careers two or three times over the course of their lives. Worrying about your true calling can prevent you from ever finding it. Finding out what you actually love or are good at can take a huge amount of trial and error, jobs that end up not being the best for you, and failures. I think we want to know for sure what we’re meant to do because we DON’T want to fail. If it’s our true calling, we shouldn’t fail at it right? But the road to success is paved with failure. You really have to make peace with the idea of failing because it will free up your mind, energy, and creativity to really experiment with what you love.

5 – Fearing the next step

It’s easy to stick to our current status quo. Do you ever get the feeling that you sabotage yourself out of fear of success? Even though it sounds totally backwards, a lot of us would rather stay in our uncomfortable or unsatisfactory current situation than take the leap into something that could be better. It could, of course, be worse, but there are always a million reasons not to do something. People who succeed are usually big risk-takers. Many people feel they don’t deserve the things they want. Why not you? Why can’t you look for a different job? Why can’t you have the body you want? We see the success of others and think that success is for other people. The extraordinary is for someone else, not us. Like C.S. Lewis said, what lies ahead is more exciting than anything left behind. Take some time to journal or reflect on what’s paralyzing you. Even if you take the tiniest step, it’s still a little closer to where you want to be!

6 – Moral licensing.

Ah this one probably captures most of the others on this list. Moral licensing is when we do a good thing that increases our self-image or self-esteem so that we are less worried about the consequences of immoral behavior.  Pretty much this means you allow yourself to indulge on something bad and justify it by recalling something good you did in the past. This usually shows up in the form of the “treat yo self” mentality. Rewarding 5 minutes of work with 20 minutes of internet time. Rewarding a workout with several days of wine and Netflix.

Again, this requires a shift in mindset. Are these behaviors really something that help you grow? If not, they may not be as rewarding as they seem in the long run.

7 – Not doing things immediately.

This is the heart of our daily routines. We all do it: Having a dumping ground for mail on the kitchen counter, throwing laundry in a pile and ignoring it, letting dishes fester in the sink for days, leaving small messes until they build up. Most things in our daily routine take less than two minutes to take care of, but if left for a week they take much longer. Kind of like how it takes way longer to scrape hardened food particles off an old dish than to just rinse it immediately.

My favorite methods for dealing with these problems are the two-minute rule and the Pomodoro technique. The two-minute rule says that if it takes less than two minutes, do it now. As for the Pomodoro method, set a timer for 20 minutes each day and dedicate that time completely to cleaning and organizing. 20 minutes is a very small amount of time taken out of your day and if you do a little every day you’ll almost never have to spend hours and hours over a weekend trying to tackle projects at home.

Beyond household tasks, I find that handling things immediately helps my digital peace of mind too. If I see an inflammatory comment on my facebook wall, I mute the person. If I get an email I don’t remember signing up for or want to stop receiving, I unsubscribe as soon as it comes in. That way I don’t have to take the time to unsubscribe from dozens of lists all at once. After a few weeks my email inbox is only what I need.

Dealing with huge amounts of clutter and spam and messes is overwhelming and discouraging. By doing just a little each day as problems arise will save you a huge amount of stress in the future.


Do you have any bad habits you feel hold you back? Do you have ways of coping with the ones here? Join the conversation in the comments! I love hearing from you!

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