5 bad habits that you must ditch to become motivated academic

Have you developed bad habits that deteriorate your performance and motivation? Find out how you can ditch bad habits and become motivated academic!

Did you know that the habits you develop at the early stage of your development as an academic can make or break your academic career?


It’s because it’s relatively easy to pick up bad habits, while it’s substantially more challenging to ditch them.

And bad habits can drain your energy, diminish your productivity, and prevent you from staying motivated to solve the challenges, especially when you hit an obstacle.

For example, at the early stage of my formation as a researcher, I became an email slave. It wasn’t just a tool. I become obsessed with checking my email and was responding to every email right after it arrived in my mailbox. And I was doing this 24/7…

The result?

I got distracted from my research and had to stay up late to complete all my tasks. A not really great example of the work-life balance!

Sometimes you may pick up a bad habit because you don’t really know it’s bad or it may have bad consequences in the long term.

Therefore, I’ve put the list of the most common bad habits that you must ditch to become motivated academic and succeed in your career.


Do you always stick to your plan or you delay your activities? Procrastination can be a number one enemy of every researcher, as you may struggle to get yourself motivated enough to get the work done.

As a result, you may feel anxious because of the lack of progress. This may further deteriorate your motivation so that you keep delaying your work.

To stop this bad habit and stay motivated, you need to understand that there’s a fine line between procrastination, motivation and burnout:

  • Take care of your wellbeing
  • Plan for breaks and allow yourself some free time
  • Don’t push yourself too hard to avoid anxiety and burnout


Distractions kill your productivity. It’s as simple as that.

You won’t be able to properly focus on doing your research or writing your work.

Bad habits are everywhere! It's easy to get distracted when working form home and it is one of bad habits to avoid by applying efficient task management
There’re so many distractions in your environment, especially when you work from home

Such distractions can include innocent things like having your phone close to you, having your email switched on, working with the TV on, working in a cluttered and untidy environment or in a noisy environment.

To solve this bad habit:

  • take care of your working environment, especially if you work from home
  • switch your phone to silent or use focus mode
  • plan your focus and relax time in your daily schedule

Being addicted to email 

I was guilty of this one myself, as I mentioned in the introduction.

Having your email open and replying to messages 24/7 is one of the key researcher’s sins.

Being addicted to email is one of bad habits that will deteriorate your productivity and motivation
Misusing email can take a substantial chunk of time you could’ve spent doing research. Use it with care!

It not only distracts you and prevents you from completing your daily tasks on time. It also can have a destructive influence on your health and wellbeing, as you’ll be more and more anxious about responding. You’ll also keep checking your email at all times.

To solve this bad habit:

  • set specific time each day (1-3 times for example) when you check and respond to your email;
  • switch your Outlook to work in offline mode to take control on when new messages hit your mailbox
  • check messages only when you want to respond to them
  • delete Outlook app from your phone and respond to emails from your PC only

Lack of sleep

Because of the distractions and procrastination, you tend to take more time to complete your activities than you initially planned (or than you should have).

As a result, you need to work in the evenings or even pulling all-nighters, sacrificing the time you could’ve spent on wellbeing, your hobby or with your family and friends.

Importantly the length and quality of sleep are essential for your cognitive functioning and sleep deprivation significantly influences your performance.  

To change this bad habit:

  • prioritise your sleep
  • make sure you regularly sleep at least 7-8 h per day
  • limit your caffeine intake, especially in the afternoons
  • don’t use your phone or laptop before bedtime
  • develop relaxing rituals that will help you fall asleep

Lack of organisation and poor time management

As you may have noticed, many of the above bad habits have something in common.

Yes, that’s right. Most of them are a result of a lack of organisation and poor time management.

What I mean by lack of organisation is mainly the environment you work in. To improve your productivity, make sure that:

  • your workspace is tidy
  • you’ve got everything you need within your reach (so that you don’t need to stand up and look for it)
  • your work environment supports your focus
Improve your productivity and achieve academic success by planning your work
Developing an efficient task management skills will help you progress through your career and you’ll get things done

The last point gets me to the poor (time) management. Let me make it clear from the very beginning – we cannot control and, therefore, manage time.

What we’ve got control over is what we do with the time we’ve got available. To solve most of your bad habits and get things done, you need to develop strong task management skills:

  • learn to efficiently prioritise your work and don’t multitask
  • write down your daily, weekly and monthly goals
  • keep your to-do list in a visible place so that you could easily refer to it
  • reflect on your work

Spreading negativity and complaining

Uncertainty and complexity are inherent to academic careers. These may cause anxiety and frustrations. However, it’s important that you don’t spread such negative feelings around.

I understand that you need to release your frustrations and don’t get me wrong – it’s a good thing to get it out. But you need to do this in a constructive way that leads to actionable reflections.

To stop the bad habit of complaining, try these:

  • have a support group of colleagues and/or friends who’d be happy to listen and discuss your challenges and issues
  • make sure you try to reflect and find a solution, rather than focusing solely on the issue
  • become aware of your body language (i.e. rolling your eyes, avoiding eye contact, negative posture) – these also send negative messages to your colleagues. Try to be open and positive instead!

Unethical behaviour 

Unethical behaviour is a big NO-NO in any type of career. This means that you must not:

  • plagiarise someone else’s work
  • falsify your results
  • steal ideas

I believe that none of you ever considered such unethical behaviours. But I wanted to raise them to emphasise the GOOD habits that lay on another side of the ethical spectrum:

  • do acknowledge someone else’s work when you cite it in your work to give them credit for the time and effort they put in getting it done
  • do check your results and correct even the smallest mistakes
  • engage with others to collaborate and solve challenges together

A final word…

It’s easy to pick up bad habits at the early stage of your academic career.

These may prove difficult to be corrected or ditched later on. For example, I took control over my email inbox only a couple of months ago. Until that time, I was addicted to checking email and responding to messages immediately.  

Therefore, from the very beginning of your career:

  • take care of your wellbeing and get enough sleep
  • take care of your working environment and develop efficient task management skills
  • develop efficient working patterns (i.e. switch off distractions)
  • promote collaboration, integrity and acknowledge others

What bad habit did you recently overcome?

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Academic Coach at Motivated Academic, senior lecturer at Cranfield University, UK.

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