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For a Breakthrough Year, Break These 3 Habits

Wouldn't you feel great if you could start replacing bad habits with good ones? That alone, along with a game plan, could give you a breakthrough year.

I'll warn you, though: Breaking the three habits below might hurt. Why? For one thing, our culture encourages them. So breaking any one of them can feel like swimming upstream. For another, most of us have spent our entire adult lives drifting into these habits. Reversing them can take awhile.

Finally, all three of these bad habits provide a payoff: We get to show the world how "busy" we are, which can feel sort of socially validating. Yet the payoff for overcoming them offers something far better: a satisfaction that the world can neither give nor take away.

The 3 Bad Habits to Break

1. Overcommitting
If you remember the SNL character Stuart Smalley, you may recall his humorous work, "A Healing Journey Through the Dysfunctional Forest." One of the characters was Overcommitted Opossum.

As I recall, Overcommitted Opossum was always angry that the other animals (a) weren't doing their share—and (b) not appreciating how hard he was working. Stuart (Al Franken) made these characters funny and relatable—especially Overcommitted Opossum.

It's less funny when that character is us. If you find yourself frustrated with nearly everyone around you or otherwise frazzled, stop and take a breath. Ask yourself if it's time to re-evaluate your workload—and scale back the parts that aren't healthy or productive.

Last point on overcommitment: Sometimes what needs to change is not your work ethic but your work environment. More about that in a future Pep Talk.

2. Multitasking
When you dare to count the costs, not only the relationship costs but the toll on physical safety (think texting while driving), it becomes much easier to trade multitasking for good old-fashioned focus: focus on the person in front of you, focus on the task at hand, focus on the road and your surroundings.

I have known siblings who once were close and now are estranged because one person refused to put their phone away—during dinner, no less. How hard is it to maintain eye contact and pleasant conversation? (I'm thankful for siblings who can do both. One of them doesn't even have a cell phone.)

Phone etiquette aside, these time management tips can help you stay more focused all week long.

What is multitasking costing you? At the very least, it costs all of us our enjoyment of the present moment.

3. Hoarding (a.k.a. clinging to clutter)
As you've probably noticed, acquiring "stuff" is practically addicting. Fortunately, so is getting rid of it. The more clutter you get rid of, the more you want to get rid of.

That was my conclusion again last week when I hired the good folks at 1-800-GOT-JUNK. I had them haul away everything from an ironing board the size of a roller rink to one of those giant physician scales that had no business being in my bedroom.

By the time they finished unclogging my living room, it felt as though my cholesterol had dropped a good ten points. Maybe it had. Getting rid of things also gave way to new ideas and optimism. What could decluttering do for you?

Closing Thoughts
Even though we form these habits in the order shown, you might find more success breaking them in reverse order.

For example, start by clearing the clutter off your desk. A clear desk often leads to clearer thinking. Clearer thinking will increase your concentration and your desire to concentrate. Multitasking naturally starts to diminish, as does the compulsion to overcommit yourself.

Bottom line: We either chip away at our bad habits or they chip away at us. Which scenario will you choose in the year ahead?

Visit the Monday-Morning Pep Talk Archive

What is multitasking costing you? At the very least, it costs you your enjoyment of the present.

Gina DeLapa

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Gina DeLapa is America's Ultimate Reminders® Coach, a sought-after speaker, and the proud creator of the Ultimate Reminders® book series. Her wise and witty reminders ("Beware the organization whose response to a burning building is to form a committee") will make you laugh, stir your soul, and inspire your best. If you're not already getting her free Monday-Morning Pep Talk, be sure to sign up now at UltimateReminders.com/mondaymorningpeptalk.