Have you noticed? When it comes to success, the little things make all the difference. They are often the bad habits that do it. Often with poor control over your emotional intelligence.
You are the sum of your habits. When you allow bad habits to take over, they dramatically impede your success. The challenge is bad habits are insidious. They creep up on you slowly until you don’t even notice the damage.
Breaking bad habits requires self-control — and lots of it. Research indicates that it’s worth the effort, as self-control has huge implications for success.
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University of Pennsylvania psychologists Angela Duckworth and Martin Seligman conducted a study where they measured college students’ IQ scores and levels of self-control upon entering university. Four years later, they looked at the students’ grade point averages (GPA) and found that self-control was twice as important as IQ in earning a high GPA.
The self-control required to develop good habits (and stop bad ones) also serves as the foundation for a strong work ethic and high productivity. Self-control is like a muscle — to build it up you need to exercise it.
Quit sabotaging success with bad habits. Practice flexing your self-control muscle by breaking the following bad habits:
Bad habits … wondering around the internet
It takes you 15 consecutive minutes of focus before you can fully engage in a task. Once you do, you fall into a euphoric state of increased productivity called flow. Research shows that people in a flow state are five times more productive than they otherwise would be. When you click out of your work because you get an itch to check the news or Facebook, this pulls you out of the flow. This means you have to go through another 15 minutes of continuous focus to reenter the flow state. Click in and out of your work enough times, and you can go through an entire day without experiencing flow. Not a good thing, is it?
Never giving up your devices
This is a big one that most people don’t even recognize. The impact here is that it harms their sleep and productivity. Short-wavelength blue light plays an important role in your mood, energy level, and sleep quality. In the morning, sunlight contains high concentrations of this blue light. When your eyes are exposed to it directly, the blue light halts production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin.
The result makes you feel more alert. In the afternoon, the sun’s rays lose their blue light, which allows your body to produce melatonin and start making you sleepy. By the evening, your brain doesn’t expect any blue light exposure and is very sensitive to it.
Most of our favorite evening devices — laptops, tablets, and mobile phones — emit short-wavelength blue light brightly and right in your face. This exposure impairs melatonin production and interferes with your ability to fall asleep as well as with the quality of your sleep once you do nod off.
As we’ve all experienced, a poor night’s sleep has disastrous effects. The best thing you can do is to avoid these devices after dinner. Note that television is OK for most people as long as they sit far enough away from the set.
Bad habits … letting interruptions take control
Interruptions are a productivity nightmare. Studies have shown that hopping on your phone and e-mail every time they ping for your attention causes your productivity to plummet.
Getting notified every time a message drops onto your phone or an e-mail arrives in your inbox might feel productive, but it isn’t. Instead of working at the whim of your notifications, pool all your e-mails/texts and check them at designated times. This is a proven, productive way to work.
Nothing turns people off like a mid-conversation text message or even a quick glance at your phone. When you commit to a conversation, focus all your energy on the conversation. You will find that conversations are more enjoyable and effective when you immerse yourself in them.
Not able to say no
Research conducted at the University of California in San Francisco shows that the more difficulty that you have saying no, the more likely you are to experience stress. This includes burnout and even depression, all of which erode self-control. Saying no is indeed a major self-control challenge for many people.
“No” is a powerful word that you should not be afraid to wield. When it’s time to say no, emotionally intelligent people avoid phrases like “I don’t think I can” or “I’m not certain.” Saying no to a new commitment honors your existing commitments. It also gives you the opportunity to fulfill them successfully.
Just remind yourself that saying no is an act of self-control now that will increase your future self-control. It does this by preventing the negative effects of over commitment.
Billionaire Warren Buffet once said, “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything.” Remember, you only have 1,440 minutes in a day. Don’t give them away easily.
Not writing it down at the time
Richard Branson has said on more than one occasion that he wouldn’t have been able to build Virgin without a simple notebook, which he takes with him wherever he goes. He knew the value of writing it down.
In one interview, Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis said, “Always carry a notebook. Write everything down… That is a million dollar lesson they don’t teach you in business school!”
Ultra-productive people free their minds by writing everything down as the ideas come to them.
Letting the bad guys get to you
There are always going to be toxic people who have a way of getting under your skin and staying there. Each time you find yourself thinking about a coworker or person who makes your blood boil, don’t give in. Instead, practice being grateful for someone else in your life.
There are plenty of people out there who deserve your attention. The last thing you want to do is think about the people who don’t matter when there are people who do.
You should never give anything half of your attention, especially meetings. If a meeting isn’t worth your full attention, then you shouldn’t be attending it in the first place. If the meeting is worth your full attention, then you need to get everything you can out of it.
Multitasking during meetings hurts you by creating the impression that you believe you are more important than everyone else.
Little life prioritization
Intel’s Andy Grove once said, “There is always more to be done, more that should be done, always more than can be done.”
Highly successful people know what they value in life. Yes, work, but also what else they value. They know success is a ‘whole life’ metric. There is no right answer. For many, these other values include family time, exercise, and giving back.
Not skipping meetings whenever you can
Mark Cuban once said, “Never take meetings unless someone is writing a check.” Meetings are notorious time killers.
They often start late, have the wrong people in them, meander around their topics, and run long. You should get out of meetings whenever you can. You should also hold fewer of them yourself. If you do run a meeting, keep it short. Also use them to solve simple objectives.
Talking too much
People who talk too much often derive pleasure from other people’s misfortunes. It often is fun to peer into somebody else’s personal or professional faux pas. But over time, it gets tiring, makes you feel gross and hurts other people.
There are too many positives and too much to learn from interesting people to waste your time talking too much about others.
Slow to act … indecision
Most writers spend countless hours brainstorming their characters and plots, and they even write page after page that they know they’ll never include in the books. They do this because they know that ideas need time to develop.
We often freeze up when it’s time to get started. It is because we know that our ideas aren’t perfect and that what we produce might not be any good. But how can you ever produce something great if you don’t get started? You need to give your ideas time to evolve.
Author Jodi Picoult summarized the importance of avoiding perfectionism perfectly: “You can edit a bad page, but you can’t edit a blank page.”
Trying to keep up with the Jones
When a sense of satisfaction is derived from comparing yourself to others, you are no longer the master of happiness. When you feel good about something that you’ve done, don’t allow anyone’s opinions or accomplishments take that away.
While it’s impossible to turn off your reactions to what others think of you, you don’t have to compare yourself to others. You should always take people’s opinions with a grain of salt. That way, no matter what other people are thinking or doing, your self-worth comes from within.
Regardless of what people think of you at any particular moment, one thing is certain — you’re never as good or bad as they say you are.
Not using the 80/20 rule
Known as the Pareto Principle, in most cases, 80 percent of results come from only 20 percent of activities. Ultra-productive people know which activities drive the greatest results.
Focus on those and ignore the rest. You don’t get extra credit for solving trivial action items.
The bottom line
By practicing self-control to break these bad habits, you can strengthen your self-control muscle. More importantly, you can also abolish nasty habits that have the power to bring your career to a grinding halt.
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Mike Schoultz is the founder of Digital Spark Marketing, a digital marketing and customer service agency. With 40 years of business experience, he writes about topics that relate to improving the performance of business. Go to Amazon to obtain a copy of his latest book, Exploring New Age Marketing. It focuses on using the best examples to teach new age marketing … lots to learn. Find them on G+, Twitter, and LinkedIn
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