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As you get older, you supposedly get more set in your ways, and change becomes increasingly difficult to achieve. Change is never easy, but the saying, “Old habits die hard,” doesn’t have to be true for you.

You probably have a few bad habits that you would like to reform to increase your personal effectiveness in your career. With a little planning and a lot of practice, you can transform your bad habits into good ones (and make them stick!).

Reset Your Habits for Personal Effectiveness

Identify the negative.

Before you can make any progress, you must determine what habits are holding you back in your professional life. Do you procrastinate on projects until the very last minute? Do you avoid conflict at all costs? Are you afraid to learn new technology and skills? If you could change just one of your worst work habits, what would it be? Write the bad habit down in a notebook or journal, then define what a successful change would be. For example:

Bad habit: I am a constant procrastinator, always putting off assignments until they are urgent.
Good habit: I start long-term projects as soon as I know about them, and I work on them gradually over time.  

Ask yourself, “Why?”

If you know your habit is detrimental to your personal effectiveness at work, then why do you keep doing it? Examine the internal motivation you have for perpetuating this bad habit so you can find the core of what you want to work on. For example:

I procrastinate because 1) I am very susceptible to distraction, 2) I am a perfectionist and I know it will take me a long time to get a project up to my standards and 3) I can easily convince myself that it’s better for me to do the most unpleasant task tomorrow.

Find ways to outsmart yourself.

Look at the list of reasons why you continue this bad habit. How can you try to prevent those circumstances from happening in the first place? For example:

1) When I am working on projects that require my concentration, I will close all unrelated Internet windows and tell co-workers that I am unavailable for a period of time.
2) I will make an effort not to be so self-critical of my work in its early stages, recognizing that it will take time to become a finished product.
3) I will do the most important (often the most unpleasant) task first thing in the morning to get it out of the way.

Make a plan and do a trial run.

Now that you have an idea of how you can turn around your bad habit, set a trial period to give it a shot. It is intimidating to make big, life-altering changes, so it is important to start with small, achievable steps. Test out your plan for a month or six weeks and then evaluate how the process is going. Take a cue from Matt Cutts, who gave a TED talk this month about trying something new and challenging for a 30-day period to push yourself out of your comfort zone.

What is the one habit you would change to improve your personal effectiveness on the job?

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