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Five Work Habits To Kick Before The End Of The Year

Sometimes you have to ditch certain plans, routines, and habits in order to make good on your big-ticket goals before the clock runs out.

Five Work Habits To Kick Before The End Of The Year
[Photo: Poike/iStock]

Kids are back in school. Pumpkin spice lattes are back in Starbucks. It’s official: Summer is over and the year is winding down.

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But before it does, there might be a goal or two you committed to back in January that you’d still really love to make good on. Don’t worry–falling short on your New Year’s resolutions is totally normal. And even if you missed your chance to get back in the saddle at the six-month mark, there might still be some things you can do to make headway between now and the holidays. One tactic that might help? Cutting back.

Sometimes all you need to jump-start your progress is to ditch some of your routines, bad habits, and maybe even some of your other goals so you can redirect your energy where it counts. For inspiration, here’s what five Fast Company contributors–in their own ways, all experts on productivity and self-management–are kicking to the curb in order to end the year on a high note.

Habit To Break: Being Too Hands On With Work

“I’m a doer,” says Michael Litt. “I like to have my hands on the work I produce.” The CEO of video platform Vidyard, Litt has spent the past year adjusting to the company’s growth out of its startup phrase. Back then, he recalls, “I was able to improvise and troubleshoot–whether that [was] supporting engineering, sales, or customer service–and that made me a really strong team member. But as time went by, and we were able to hire more brilliant, qualified people, this actually became a bad habit.”

What You’ll Gain: Becoming A Big-Picture Leader

So between now and the end of the year, Litt is focusing on getting out of the trenches and becoming less of a doer and more of a CEO– “someone who could help plan and execute a long-range strategy, who could look at a thousand moving parts and zoom out to see the bigger picture. This was never my forte, and it hasn’t come naturally,” Litt admits. “But I’ve started to learn in the last few months that being bad at something means I’m figuring out how to be good at it. At times, this feels terrible, but it’s necessary.”

“To this end, I’ve started cold calling professionals who are a few steps further along in my career track. Some snub my advances,” he says, but he’s already gathered some great advice. “I’ve realized the importance of investing in continuous learning. Talking with colleagues who have walked in my shoes has given me a much clearer idea of the path forward.”


Read more by Michael Litt: This CEO’s One-Page List For Keeping All His Priorities Straight

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Habit To Break: Procrastinating On Boring Stuff

After multiple mid-20s career changes, followed by a year as a digital nomad setting up a marketing business, Arianna O’Dell has settled (for now) in Seoul. In recent months, she’s focused her energies on getting a product line off the ground. “I’ve had a lot of fun creating items for my online store, but now it’s time to buckle down and do the hard part of finding distributors, licensing deals, and partners,” she says in an email.

What You’ll Gain: Finally Getting Down To The Important Stuff

To do that, O’Dell admits she’ll need to stop procrastinating on parts of the business she doesn’t enjoy as much. “I think my bad habit is putting the less-fun things off when I know I should be focusing on them. (Don’t even remind me about the pile of taxes receipts I have to sort through this month!) I’m putting off a lot of new creation (even though I love it) until I can get my revenue to where I want it to be. Between now and 2018 I hope to have new revenue channels and improved sales skills.”


Read more by Arianna O’Dell: How (And Why) To Launch Your Own Product Line, No Startup Required


Habit To Break: Micromanaging

Allen Gannett, CEO of marketing platform TrackMaven, is trying to kick a similar habit as Litt, but he’s taking a different approach. “I’ve spent this year working to end my micromanaging habit,” he says. “As our company scales, my detail oriented, type-A personality has become more in conflict with what the organization needs. Worse, I’ve hired experienced managers who not only needed space but thrive off autonomy.”

What You’ll Gain: Time For Building New Skills

But rather than practice big-picture thinking, Gannett is trying to force himself away from business issues. “I’ve been channeling my anal-retentive qualities into hobbies. For example, I’ve been doing more writing both for fun and for work. With writing, there are very few stakeholders, and I can strongly assert control,” Gannett points out.

“This seems to be working, as I feel less of a need to be ‘that guy’ at work. My team is happier and my internal leaders are enjoying being managed by me. Just don’t ask my editors if they like working with me.” (Editor’s note: This one does!)

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Read more by Allen Gannett: What Happened When I Replied “Call Me” To Every Email I Got For A Week


Habit To Break: Too Much Screen Time

After recently learning about research suggesting that using tech devices before bedtime can worsen sleep quality, author Neil Pasricha is kicking his evening phone habit. “I will not check my phone or look at any screens after dinner,” he says. To help him stick with this habit change, Pasricha explains, “I have put my cell phone charger in the basement to help automate this since I plug my cell phone in when I get home.”


Read more by Neil Pasricha: How I Knew When Saying “Yes” Was Hurting My Productivity (And Worse)


For coach, consultant, and writer Suzan Bond, it isn’t her smartphone that’s been diverting her focus, it’s her TV. Looking back, she realizes she’s been spending “too much time in the past year immersed in all the binge-worthy television that’s out these days. I don’t have cable yet have just about anything I want at my fingertips through copious online streaming–Amazon, Netflix, HBO Now, Hulu.” Lately, she says, “I’ve found it too easy to immerse myself deep in series, watching episode after episode Ozark, The Handmaid’s Tale, and even old seasons of Fixer Upper.”

What You’ll Gain: More Time For Hobbies And Side-Projects

Bond has been working to kick that habit during the summer wind-down, and it’s already paying off. “While I’ve been known to read more than 65 books in a year, my reading had slowed to a trickle,” she explains. But already, “without TV shows or movies to distract me, I’ve returned to my reading habit. I read four books in a month. I’ve also recorded 10 episodes of my new podcast, Indiedotes. I look forward to using the time I gain away from staring at the screen for more creative projects in 2018.”


Read more by Suzan Bond: Setting Goals Might Be Preventing You From Actually Changing Anything

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There’s still time yet–so don’t give up on whatever big goal you might’ve set for yourself. Hearing the clock ticking down might even give you the extra motivation you’ve been missing, just as long as you clear away whatever’s been distracting you in the meantime.

About the author

Rich Bellis is Associate Editor of Fast Company's Leadership section.

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