HOW TO BREAK BAD HABITS
Why you do it: It's another oral fixation that serves as a security blanket when you're nervous or anxious. How to stop: The fastest and most effective solution? Switch to hard candy. But if you really don't want to give up gum, have a friend stop you every time she hears you doing it. Then keep smacking long enough to hear yourself and recognize what an irritating sound it is. You might be embarrassed enough to stop.
Why you do it: The nice reason? You're a pleaser and an overdoer, packing too much in. Not so nice? Deep down, you may think your time is more important than the time of those waiting. Either way, you lack some essential time-management skills. How to stop: When someone asks you to do something, don't accept right away. Say you'll get back to him, then decide whether you have the time. Also, figure out which tasks always seem to make you late. Maybe it's drying your hair in the morning: Time yourself to see how long it takes, then allot enough time in your routine. Tricks: Set your watch five minutes fast and build in time for unexpected delays. And always call ahead if you're running late. Not only is it gracious but the shame of making repeated calls might also be the incentive you need to be punctual.
Why you do it: It's a strategy for managing the anxiety of having to complete a task. How to stop: Recognize that when you procrastinate, others may think you don't care about the job, and that's worse than completing something less than perfectly. One trick to get you started: Make a check out to an organization you despise and give it to a friend to hold. If you don't finish the self-assigned task by a certain date, have her mail the check. If you make yourself accountable for the consequences, it will motivate you to wrap up the task.
Why you do it: You may have slouched when growing up because you were self-conscious or taller than others or developed breasts before your peers, and the posture stuck. Or you might just be tired. How to stop: Take dance lessons, Pilates, or yoga to strengthen the abdominals and upper-back muscles. A simple shoulder-shrug exercise -- think of touching your shoulders to your earlobes -- is an even easier way to combat slouching. Do 10 rotations forward and 10 rotations back, says Phil Haberstro, executive director of the National Association for Health and Fitness, in Buffalo. "This will raise consciousness of posture and help remind you to stand and sit tall," he says. "Regular physical activity helps combat the mental and physical fatigue that can contribute to slouching."
Why you do it: You may be a visual processor. You like to be surrounded by a mess because it's stimulating -- and it reminds you to do your work. But it backfires, since you waste time searching for things. How to stop: Separate papers into a pile you need to do and a pile you can think about doing. Use folders or boxes in different colors. "One of my clients has 12 clipboards hung up in her office: six for current projects and six for those she may get to later," says Lynn Cutts, a Colorado-based certified life coach. "She's still being visually stimulated, but her stuff is organized." Set up a system that works for you, and start with basic steps, like putting your keys in the same place every day.
Why you do it: You feel insignificant and want to be perceived as more special than others around you. You think people will be impressed with you if you're associated with a particular person. In addition to that, name-dropping can serve as a form of intimidation. "It's a kind of one-upmanship," says Lynn Cutts. How to stop: Listen to yourself! Would you want to stick around and hear all this? Remind yourself that you don't need to resort to mentioning names as a way of increasing your value. If you can't resist dropping a name or two, do so in a non-self-promoting way or with humor. Do it to share information, as opposed to putting someone down or making yourself look more important. And make sure to tell the full story, even if it's "Oh, I passed Harrison Ford on the street. He didn't actually speak to me, but he did glance in my direction."
Why you do it: You use it to derive comfort and relieve stress. "Nail biting could be the adult version of thumb sucking," says Alan Strathman, associate professor of social psychology at the University of Missouri, Columbia. How to stop: First, note when you bite your nails, and then substitute another action. Keep a stress ball on your desk, or even play with Silly Putty the next time your fingers start tickling your teeth. You can also try wearing synthetic nails or painting your natural nails with a polish that has a foul taste. Or get a manicure. You'll look good, and after paying for the service, you'll think twice about ruining the results.
Why you do it: You don't feel confident that you have the power to request something. As a kid, you probably whined when you didn't get what you wanted, and it paid off-then. How to stop: As an adult, you're in for a big surprise if you think you'll get the same results. If your husband or friends say you're a whiner, take note. Simply state what you want by making a direct request. For example, instead of ruining an evening out by complaining that you got stuck at a table next to the kitchen, politely ask the waiter to reseat you. Remember: Most people will develop a resistance to whiners.