Last Updated May 31, 2011 5:30 PM EDT
Here's the list:
- "It's not my job"
- Resistance to change
- Negative attitude
So decide which is most relevant to you, and then read about why it hurts your career and how to stop it.
Okay, the real reason I love this list is that I can look at it and immediately see which one is me. I am number one. You never know if I'm going to do what I say. This is bad. It usually starts out bad for everyone around me. They catch on to the problem faster than I do. But once I know I have the problem, then I feel a tinge of guilt saying yes to anything because I never know myself if I'm going to follow through.
And, I have started noticing how people have stopped relying on me for some things because I disappoint them with such irritating predictability.
I know how to be more reliable. I have to convince myself that delivering what I promise is as important as being clever, witty, and fun. I remember the first time I realized that I have to be more consistent: This lady was spraying fake tan on me and I was worrying that it would make me look crazy. Then I thought: Maybe people already think I'm crazy.
And I think, actually, this is the core to all the items on the list of career-limiting habits: you have to genuinely care that you are limiting your career and that you have a habit that completely annoys people.
2. "It's not my job"
Look. Here's your job: To stop your career-limiting habits. Your job is to get people to like working with you so that you stay employable. People like working with people who do work that matters to them.
So your first day at work, throw out your job description. That was just to hire you. No one cares about that job description really. They just care that you do stuff to make their life easier. So your job is to make your boss's life better.
You will not do that by telling your boss "that's not my job." Your boss knows what your job is and your job is what your boss asks you to do. You get a promotion by making your boss happy. If you don't like the work, then make a deal with your boss that you'll get that work done and then you'll do some extra, interesting work.
If you go through your career getting the work done that people care about, then you'll get more and more control over your workload by becoming more and more valuable to the people around you.
Almost all procrastination comes from the fear of not being able to do something well. In general, you know how to perform well enough. But the root of not being able to start any task is thinking you are not going to do it well enough. So the key to beating procrastination is to treat it as a symptom of the real problem: Perfectionism.
Sometimes, in job interviews, when an employer asks, "What's your weakness?" a common response is "perfectionism." However, perfectionism is not just a weakness. Perfectionism is a disease.
Actually, it's similar to anorexia in that the person with the illness has a whacked-out view of the world and starts taking obsessive actions based on that view. Which becomes an impediment to achievement in areas of their life that they care about.
Perfectionism prevents you from seeing a big picture, and that prevents you from moving up the ladder. Also perfectionism prevents you from being flexible on collaboration and delivery, which prevents you from being a high-level creative person.
Mostly, though, perfectionism means that you never think you are doing a good enough job. Because there is no perfect. So you will never be pleased with yourself or the people around you. And that's a miserable way to live.
4. Resistance to change.
Are you telling yourself none of this applies to you? Then your problem is resistance to change. People who resist change are constantly dreaming up reasons that the status quo is fine, and then getting themselves into messy situations.
But the status quo is never fine. People can always improve, systems can always improve. Optimistic people who care about doing a little extra to make things work efficiently are the people who can accept that change is constant.
There is no safe ground in one's career, because the workplace is about moving forward to create something better. Your career should mirror the workplace you exist in. Prepare for career change all the time. Because you need to be growing and changing to deliver better product just as the companies that surround you do.
Can you tell me what you're aiming to change right now, today? Because if the answer is nothing, then that's where you need to start.
5. Negative Attitude
Procrastination (which is really just perfectionism gone awry) ends up with negativity and disappointment showered on yourself. Negativity, directed at other people and their ideas, is just as annoying. You might think you are a realist, "the only guy with two feet on the ground" or whatever. But really, you're just a buzz kill.
There is no point in debating whether or not people are better off being around the "realism" of negativity because people just plain don't like it. Optimistic people are happier, they perform at higher levels at work, and they get more done. Do you think you're the optimist in the group? Here's a test you can take.
If you know you're not an optimist, you probably think optimists are living in the clouds, but they are meeting their goals, and the pessimists are not. So the negativity shouts out to people, "Stay away from me! I'm going to bring you down!"
Instead of priding yourself on being the voice of reason, or however you justify your negativity, try keeping your mouth shut. You might think you sound smart telling everyone your doubts, but your aptitude for predicting calamity is overshadowed by how unpleasant it is to be around you.