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5 Ways to Break Bad Habits

Well, we’re at the end of July and we shave probably gotten less than 3 months of regularly-scheduled living out of 2020. With this year shaping up to be one where our opportunities for success are not as readily available as others, it’s more important than ever to focus on our self-improvement so we can come out on the other end of the pandemic more prepared to get back to our normal routine.

Bad habits can not only have a negative impact on our day-to-day lives, but they can affect how others evaluate us. One of the reasons a hiring manager may choose another candidate over you is their perception that you have bad habits that will be tough to break after developing them over a storied career. Or perhaps you’ll get overlooked for a promotion due to the bad habits you possess. Here are a few ways to break those nagging bad habits you’d like to get rid of.

1. Replace them, don’t erase them

Bad habits usually get developed because there is some sort of payoff. Because of this, they can be tough to break cold turkey. Identify your bad habits, jot them down, and then describe how it is that the habit benefits you. Once you can categorize what it is that keeps the habit alive, try to find something else that is a natural replacement to fill that void.

2. Set a timeline for yourself

You’re not going to be able to break a bad habit tomorrow. It will be a process and you’ll have to monitor your progress. There is no magic number for how many days it takes to delete a habit. Research has shown that on average it takes 66 days to make a new habit become automatic. The ease or difficulty of doing so can depend on multiple factors – such as how long you’ve possessed the habit or how rewarding it is. So if you’re trying to break multiple habits at once, think about which will be hardest to break and plot your timeline and your expectations for ease of reversal accordingly.

3. Quantify your progress

With a task like this, it’s not very easy to track your progress. You’ve either broken the habit, or you haven’t. When our end goal for a task like this is likely a long-term fix, it can seem discouraging to have to your end goal be so all-or-nothing. So try to find a way to quantify your progress. Perhaps you can tally up the number of consecutive days you’ve gone without committing your bad habit, or maybe your habit is one you can track via the amount of time spent doing it per day. But finding a way to help you feel accomplished along the way to eradicating your bad habit will help you keep motivated.

4. Make a not-to-do list

We’ve all got to-do lists, well how about a not-to-do list? Write down a list of goals, or anti-goals, each day. Were you successful in not doing anything on your not-to-do list? If so, that’s a successful day on this journey!

5. Get an accountability partner

Eliminate that internal struggle you can have with yourself and get a partner to join you in your bad habit-breaking mission. I’m willing to bet you can find a coworker or a friend who has bad habits they’d like to break, too. Partner up with someone and help keep each other accountable for your progress!

Questions or comments? Email me at

Author: Lawrence Beck, CPC

Lawrence joined SEMbio in 2011 and is a team leader in recruiting and business development. He attended Texas Tech University on a path that led him to obtain his Master’s degree in Sports Management. That experience provides Lawrence a unique perspective as a recruiter.