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8 min read

18 Destructive Habits That Are Hindering Your Success

Unhelpful habits can hold us back. Behaviour routines repeated regularly can significantly impact the type of person you are, who you become, and – if you’re a small business owner – the overall success of your business. But here’s the thing with habits – they tend to occur subconsciously. So how can you put a stop to them, if you’re unaware you’re doing them in the first place? Awareness is key – so we’re shining a spotlight on some common destructive workplace habits below, plus ways to break them. Are there any that sound familiar?


1. Neglecting your health

Let’s start with you – the engine behind your business. If you don’t take care of your health by eating well, exercising and getting decent sleep, then you’re going to become prone to exhaustion and stress, which can trigger various illnesses. Find a way to ensure self-care is part of your daily routine – if you don’t, you’ll suddenly find yourself stressed or unwell and wondering how you got there. Prevention is key – prioritise your health and you’ll not only be preventing burnout but increasing your productivity levels in your day-to-day. You and your business will be all the better for it.

2. Easily distracted

Turn off notifications and avoid interruptions! Whether it’s signing out of email, turning your phone onto ‘do not disturb’ mode (or put it in your desk drawer!), or letting people know you’re not to be disturbed unless it’s an emergency – reducing the number of distractions you have in your day can have a massive impact on your productivity. While checking emails and messages is important as a business owner, try to move away from reactive working by scheduling specific times to do this.

3. Being a perfectionist

While some areas of your business require attention to detail, others do not and aren’t worth your time making perfect. What tasks are you currently spending your time on? Could they fall into a ‘that will do’ category? It’s time to prioritise your time by parking the perfectionism.

4. Being negative

Frustration, stress, exhaustion… a number of factors can contribute to negative feelings, which can affect your productivity and overall passion for your business. Projecting negativity can harm relationships between yourself and any colleagues, clients, suppliers, etc. Encourage a more positive outlook by thinking about what might be frustrating you – and how you might be able to address these areas. Is your workload unmanageable? Are you anxious about the future? Are you not celebrating your small wins enough? Delegation, outsourcing, long-term strategy planning, and treating yourself now and again can all help encourage a more positive outlook.

5. Being disorganised

There are so many tools and techniques available to turn the most disorganised of people into productivity powerhouses. It all comes down to having the right systems in place that work best for you. For example, if you’re struggling to give an important task the time it needs, block out time in your calendar to specifically work on it. It will also ensure other meetings don’t take this time up in your day. Are your digital files categorised into folders? Do you have a filing cabinet for important paperwork, organised into categories for quick access? Are you making use of online tools that can help you manage your workload better, store easy-to-access client information, and streamline time-consuming processes? For example, if there are more than a couple of you working in your business, consider a collaboration tool that will streamline your workflow and improve communication such as Asana, Trello, and You can also get your working week off to a quicker start by writing your to-do list on Friday.


6. Fear of feedback

Fear of criticism can really hold both yourself and your business back from progressing for the better. You might not be aware you do it, as it’s more something that you’re not doing! By regularly seeking feedback, you’re giving yourself the best opportunity to learn about what others feel needs improving – whether it’s asking for reviews of your services/products, or receiving feedback from your team on how happy they are working for you. Being open to feedback shows clients and colleagues that they’re valued and that you’re dedicated to providing the best service and working environment possible.

7. Sidelining your education

It’s common for busy business owners to put their own education on the back bench while they passionately funnel their attention into the running of their business. However, the most successful people never stop learning – whether it’s reading about new trends, your market, industry, new technology, new marketing techniques, analysing your own data, etc, you should always be looking to learn. Ensure you carve out some time in your diary for this – your business will thank you for it.

8. Fear of change (metathesiophobia)

It’s commonly known that our mental health fares best when we have structure and routine in our everyday lives – if we look back in time, our ancestors preferred constancy as they inherently knew that change often brought a lack of safety, as they had to move around to search for food, water, and shelter in order to survive. Humans are naturally wired to fear change for a number of reasons but, when it comes to your business, putting your head in the sand and ignoring opportunities that will change your business for the better could have disastrous consequences. Whether it’s embracing digital technology to streamline your processes and provide better data security, or pivoting your business offering in response to a change in customer behaviour, a change really could do you good.

While a fear of something isn’t necessarily a habit, the anxiety and worry it creates can lead to a series of coping patterns, even without you realising. Take a step back and think about your business behaviour – would you say you’re stuck in your ways a bit? If someone approaches you with a business offering, do you want to hear more or do you dismiss the offering immediately? Don’t see change as a punishment, but as an opportunity to grow, improve and to learn new things. Change also doesn’t have to be big at first – start with small challenges to your comfort zone. It can even be on a personal level instead of professional – from taking a different route to work to starting a new hobby.

9. Fear of technology (technophobia)

This phobia gets its own number in our list due to its widespread impact across any business. Technology is prevalent in both our personal lives and the workplace, making running a business extremely difficult if you suffer from technophobia. Digitising your business will ensure better data protection, faster processes, better customer service, and so on! Starting your own business needs to play to your strengths and passions – if your dream business isn’t heavily reliant on technology, for example, a hair salon, but needs an understanding of it in order to run a website, manage online appointments, store customer details securely, make software updates, etc, then consider outsourcing some of the intimidating tasks to an expert, or a tech-savvy friend who’s looking for extra income on the side.

10. Impulsive spending

Not having a budget in place is risky business. Small costs are just as important to keep track of as bigger investments. It all adds up. If you’re prone to an impulse buy, it could be having a detrimental impact on your budget. For many small business owners, every penny needs to be accounted for. Creating a budget will give you a clear idea of your expected income and expenses.

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11. Self-doubt

Nothing fuels feelings of uncertainty and indecision more than self-doubt. Thinking negatively and fearing rejection will catapult you into a world of second-guessing yourself and thinking pessimistically about your business. This way of thinking can become self-fulfilling. While it’s normal to experience these feelings when faced with challenging situations that naturally come with starting and running a business, frequent self-doubt can become debilitating and if not addressed, can lead to anxiety, depression, lack of motivation, emotional instability, low self-esteem and difficulty making decisions.

Imposter syndrome goes hand-in-hand with self-doubt. It’s a psychological occurrence where an individual doubts their skills, talents or accomplishments, possessing a persistent internalised fear of being exposed as a fraud. Despite external evidence of their competence, those with imposter syndrome don’t believe they deserve their success.

There are a number of ways you can address self-doubt, from visualising your success to stopping any comparison of yourself against others; spending time with supportive people; and identifying your values. It may help to see a mental health professional to overcome self-doubt if these feelings persist to the point that it makes it difficult for you to function in everyday life. A quick Google will point you in the right direction of available services.


12. Neglecting your network

A ‘little and often’ approach to networking is a great way to build strong relationships that your business could really benefit from – whether it’s new business opportunities or advice. Don’t be the person that only reaches out when you need something. Dedicate a small part of your day just to check in on your platforms and stick to it – it will soon become part of your routine and you’ll quickly see the benefits as your network expands.

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 13. Marketing sporadically

A tip mentioned in a previous article that warrants another spotlight! Don’t stop marketing after your initial marketing efforts pull in customers. Your pipeline is left empty and you’ll end up having to do another big marketing push. Avoid panic marketing with some consistency. Social media scheduling tools can really help when it comes to saving you time – you just need to dedicate a specific part of your working week to creating marketing content, then let the scheduling tool take care of the publishing for you.

14. Procrastinating

We all do it! Try to break projects down into more achievable tasks, tackle the hardest task first in your day, take any distractions away e.g. pop your phone in your desk drawer and sign out of desktop social media/email, etc. Ask someone to check in on you to make sure you’re staying focused on the job at hand! There are many techniques out there – give them a go and see what works best for you.

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15. Multitasking

Switching your brain from one task to the other can interrupt your train of thought and cause mistakes. It may seem tempting to reply to an email immediately as it comes in, but it’s diverting your focus away from the task at hand. Rather than aid productivity, it reduces it by up to 40%.

Keep multitasking to a minimum by turning off your email notifications (once again!), setting your phone to ‘do not disturb’ (if the nature of your business allows), write a to-do list, prioritise the most challenging tasks and schedule regular breaks.

16. Spreading yourself too thin

Wearing a number of hats is expected from a small business owner, however, there’s a balance to strike. Pushing yourself beyond your limits to get everything done can run you down, which not only impacts the quality of your work, but your passion overall. Reassess your workload – can it be re-organised and re-prioritised? Revisit your skills – are certain tasks taking you longer than expected? Could you look to outsource certain tasks that would save you time to focus on other important areas, such as new business? If you’re part of a team, could you delegate better? Value your time – don’t immediately say ‘yes’ to things! Always keep perspective on where your time is going, and where it might be better placed – even if that includes taking time out to focus on essential self-care tasks that make you happier and more productive in the long run.

17. Failing to plan

It’s been said that a goal without a plan is just a wish. Your business plan details all the future plans and predictions for your business. It will explain your ideas, map out how they’ll be put into practice, and provide relevant information and facts including the business details, management plan, operating plan, marketing and sales strategy, financial projections, and operational and team specifics. Planning also goes beyond your main business plan – it should form part of your day-to-day, from marketing campaigns to your daily to-do list. If you’re not the best planner, counteract this unhelpful habit by doing a little bit of planning every day – even if that’s checking back over your business plan to ensure you’re on track, or if you’ve discovered any new information since launching that might impact it in any way. As Benjamin Franklin said, “if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”

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18. Experiencing a post-lunch productivity slump

Most people will be familiar with this! Luckily, there are some slump-stopping techniques you can try to add some rocket fuel to your pm productivity. There’s the usual ‘go for a walk’, ‘stay hydrated with water’, ‘listen to uplifting music’ and ‘eat a healthy snack’, however, the curve ball that also makes the list is, in fact, chewing gum! There’s evidence to suggest that chewing gum can enhance attention, as well as promote wellbeing and work performance. – It’s an idea worth chewing over.



To break a habit, research suggests it can take anywhere between 18 and 254 days. Some of the best ways to break a habit are to identify your triggers, change your environment, find an accountability partner, or use a reward system. Additionally, you can break unhelpful habits by replacing them with new habits that are more helpful to your goals. Establishing a routine, avoiding distractions, exercising, and encouraging feedback are examples of a number of healthy habits you can introduce into your day-to-day that can give you and your business a boost for the better.

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Jenny Lambert

Jenny Lambert is a freelance writer, interiors blogger and Etsy shop owner with extensive experience working in marketing, digital and publishing roles.

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