Laura Petrolino

12 Days of Christmas: Five Habits to Break in 2020

By: Laura Petrolino | December 9, 2019 | 

12 Days of Christmas: Five Habits to Break in 2020On the fifth day of Christmas, Spin Sucks gave to you: five habits to break, four productivity tools, three AI expertstwo PR trends, and one mindset shift in a pear tree.


They rule our lives.

Consciously and unconsciously, habits create the world we live in, the goals we are able to achieve, and the limitations we place on ourselves. 

Without the ability to create habits, we couldn’t function.

They allow our brains to make sense of a complex and process-driven world.

In Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit, which I discuss often because I think EVERY human should read it…twice, he uses a car analogy to explain how habits allow us to function.

Remember when you first learned to drive and it felt so overwhelming?

There were so many things you had to remember, do simultaneously, and be aware of.

Now, you do those same things and don’t even think twice about them.

They’ve become automatic.

Like habits.

Habits to Break in 2020

If our brains didn’t form habits, life would be far too overwhelming to get anything accomplished.

So habits can be good.

But they can also be bad for that very same reason.

They cause us to respond automatically to many stimuli in a certain way. 

On the first day of Christmas, I discussed how crucial mindset is to achieve your goals.

Habits and mindset go hand in hand and reinforce one another. 

So here are five habits to break in order to be successful in 2020 (and each requires a mindset shift as well)

Stop Letting People Pick Your Brain

This might be the top habit to break for communicators everywhere.

Listen, I’m the worst at this one, even though I constantly lecture others about it. 

But I’m also a hypocrite. There, I said it.

Just last week someone messaged me and asked if they could schedule a call with me to get some ideas about XXX and I fell dumbstruck and said yes.

And even as I said it was like, “what are you doing, you idiot?” 

So then I had to go back and apologize, explain, and tell them no.

That it was unfair to our clients, who pay for my brain. 

(Plus, it’s stealing. Of course, I didn’t say that directly. Instead, I used the analogy that if your friend had a retail store, would you just come in and take some clothing? My brain is my commodity. You pick my brain and you shoplift.)

Every No is Also a Yes

Brain picking is a hard habit to break for many reasons:

  • We love to help others
  • It’s a great ego boost
  • We adore thinking up ideas and sharing them.

But at the same time, when we do this we shortchange our value, spend time on something that doesn’t bring us closer to our goals, and feel taken advantage of. 

We need to stop.

The secret to doing that is catching ourselves when someone asks.

And it’s why I went back and said no last week after I realized I’d fallen victim to it myself.

I had to feel the pain of turning someone down and explaining after saying yes.

This hopefully will make me more self-aware and avoid similar situations in the future. 

Another thing that’s helpful is having your professional or business goals in front of you and deciding if that yes brings you closer to them. 

Remember every yes is also a no.

You can’t feel bad about saying no to something that doesn’t get you closer to your goals.

Saying no is simply saying yes to something else that does. 

Stop Selling Your Time and Start Selling Your Value 

This is a mindset shift and a habit to break all in one. 

The value you bring to an organization isn’t the same thing as the amount of time it takes you to do something.

These are two drastically different things.

There are a lot of things you could do in an hour.

Some are extremely important for an organization and some wouldn’t even be noticed.

Likewise, a less skilled person could spend hours doing the exact same task.

But your background, expertise, skillset, and knowledge would make your hour much more valuable. 

Stop the habit of pricing yourself and your services based on the time you spend and start doing so based on the value you provide. 

One of the first lessons we teach our agency owner clients is how to make this shift and it’s a game-changer. 

Spend Time on Things That Are Important 

Don’t waste time on things that aren’t. 

Here’s how to do this:

  1. Take a week and really evaluate how you spend your time. Be brutally honest. Use the screen time function on your phone to see what you really do when you use it. This is painful because you realize how much time you really do waste. 
  2. Compare this to your goals. Does where you spend your time align with your goals? 
  3. Put in place measures to break the habits that cause you to spend time on things that don’t deserve it. Maybe this means getting one of a zillion apps that block social media during the day. Or put a block on your phone or email during “deep work” hours. Maybe it’s as simple as blocking off “meeting space” for yourself in your calendar. Whatever it is, be relentless about your time. 

Bonus: When you stop spending your time on the things that don’t matter, you suddenly are unable to tell yourself you don’t have time for the things that do. 

Stop Responding and Start Acting

This goes hand and hand with habit number three.

Don’t simply be a responder, focus a greater percentage of your time on proactive action. 

We often spend an entire day doing nothing but responding to things:

  • Email
  • Text
  • Client demands
  • Team member needs. 

And when it’s over, we realize we’ve gotten nothing done we actually needed to do.

All we did was respond.

And so we wake up the next day with the same to-dos and do it all over again. 

Take yourself off the hamster wheel. 

Do this by having a plan, changing your mindset, and valuing your time. 

Stop Being So Darn Mean to Yourself

OK, OK…by now you’ve probably figured out most of these habits are ones I need to break. 

But, I’m pretty sure a majority of these resonate with many of you as well.

And you should always write what you know…

In the last six months, I’ve been on a mission to stop being so darn mean to myself. 

I have made it my job to learn to be nicer to myself.

I’m a nice person to everyone but me. 

Have you ever taken a step back and thought about the things you say to yourself and how you say them?

The hateful tone you use to speak to yourself?

It’s horrible.

Not productive or useful in any way. 

The power of our own self-talk is immeasurable, so imagine if we used it to empower our growth and goals vs. to be so horribly cruel and condescending. 

Here are three things I’ve been doing to stop this habit:

  1. Pay attention to your tone. Listen to the way you speak to yourself. Even if you can’t say something nice, change your tone and it instantly becomes harder to hate on yourself. 
  2. Consider what you might say to a friend or someone you coached or mentored in a similar situation. 
  3. Ask yourself, “is this useful?”  How is it helping you, your goals, or others around you? Spoiler alert: It’s not. 

Habits Are Hard to Break

Breaking habits is not in any way easy.

But becoming aware of the habits that hold you back and creating new, more productive habits to replace them is crucial if you want to achieve your goals in 2020.

Let’s do this!

Which of these are on your hit list of habits to break in 2020? What would you add?

About Laura Petrolino

Laura Petrolino is chief marketing officer for Spin Sucks, an integrated marketing communications firm that provides strategic counsel and professional development for in-house and agency communications teams. She is a weekly contributor for their award-winning blog of the same name. Spin Sucks. Join the Spin Sucks   community.