15 Ways You’re Sabotaging Yourself at Work


shutterstock_197900150You don’t want to be “that guy” (or “that girl”) at work. You know the one. They’re super nice and great to be around, but you definitely don’t want to be stuck working on a project with them. Somehow they’ve been here for years and haven’t gotten fired, despite how unprofessional they can be.

However, you might be like them without even realizing it. Here are 15 ways you’re sabotaging yourself at work:

  1. You’re Always Late

Being late has a much bigger impact than you might have expected. Yes, things come up. You might have car issues or an emergency you need to take care of. But those are only excusable once in a while. You might think no one notices you sneaking in five minutes late, but they definitely do. Restructure your morning routine to guarantee you’re getting there in plenty of time.

  1. You Let Technology Distract You

You need to use your computer to get your work done. The internet, however, holds a plethora of things waiting to draw your attention away from what you need to get done. Your cell phone is also in your pocket or on your desk, filled with apps and people to text.

Technology is a serious distraction in the workplace. Find ways to resist temptation, like leaving your cell phone in a drawer or another out-of-sight location if you don’t need it for work.

  1. You Complain Too Much

Complaining can have a direct effect on your progress at work, and even in life. Dwelling on the negative hinders your progress and doesn’t let you be the best worker you can be. It also affects your workplace reputation and makes people less likely to want to associate with you because you complain constantly.

Complaining shows you’re focusing your time more on criticizing the company rather than getting your work done. Take notice of how many negative comments come out of your mouth each day, and try and turn them into positive ones. It’s a hard habit to break, but it’s worth it.

  1. You Make Stupid Mistakes

We’re all human, and sometimes mistakes do happen. However, a lazy mistake can lead to sloppy work, which makes you look like you don’t care. A fix may be as simple as proofreading and double-checking the work you do.

If you’re rushed for a deadline, do your best to set aside a bit of time to do at least a quick once-over before you turn it in. A legitimate mistake is one thing, but a stupid one that could easily be fixed just makes you look incompetent.

  1. You Procrastinate

Waiting until the last minute to rush a project doesn’t help anyone, so why do we do it? If you’re a perfectionist, you might need the pressure of a deadline to make you finish your work instead of going over it constantly.

However, the procrastination habit needs to be broken. Set deadlines for yourself to make sure you have sections of your work done by certain times. Don’t overwhelm yourself at the last minute.

  1. You Don’t Ask for Help

We want to think we can do everything on our own and don’t need to ask for help. We might see asking for help as a weakness, but it’s actually a strength. It shows you want to be better at what you do, and you want to make sure things are done right. It also shows you’re a collaborative person who can work with others.

Being nervous about asking for help makes sense, but there are ways to overcome that and get the help you need so you can produce the best product possible.

  1. You Don’t Plan Well

Without planning, it’s hard to keep track of the work that’s expected of you and when all of it is due. One way to get yourself organized is to get a calendar and write out all the deadlines you have. Then, break it down further into what you want to accomplish each day.

No one wants to work with an unorganized person, so take steps to plan your work for maximum efficiency. Your employers will surely take notice.

  1. You’re Too Emotional

If you’re crying every time something doesn’t go your way, co-workers and managers are going to see that as a problem. The same goes for if you yell and smash keyboards when you’re frustrated. Emotions are a part of being human, but you can’t let them control you, especially in a public setting like work.

It’s important to learn how to manage your emotions so you can be more pleasant to work with. People also won’t be worried they’re going to set you off every time they talk to you.

  1. You Don’t Pay Attention

People expect you to listen when they’re talking. Company meetings and conference calls can be boring, but you’re responsible for knowing the information that’s discussed in them.

Find a technique that helps you focus your attention when you’re in these meetings. You might find taking notes helps to keep your mind engaged in the discussion. An added bonus is those notes will also help you remember the information for when you’ll need it later.

  1. You Think You Aren’t Good Enough

A lack of confidence is a turnoff for employers. If you’re new to the company or less experienced than your peers, it’s going to make you uneasy. But being timid and passive isn’t going to help you.

There are steps you can take to boost your confidence and be more self-assured at work. One way is not backing down from a challenge. Embrace it and prove you’re willing to go out of your comfort zone to make sure something gets done.

  1. You Think You’re Too Good

If you’re boasting about your work but not living up to your comments about yourself, people are just going to think they can’t rely on you. Overconfidence can lead to incompetence, and that’s the last reputation you want to get in the workplace. Instead of talking about how great your work is, focus on working hard and let the product speak for itself.

  1. You Gossip

It’s easy to get sucked into the juicy workplace gossip that’s going around, but gossip can be really destructive to the work environment. If you’re going around spreading rumors, people aren’t going to trust you with anything, and they’ll likely avoid you.

Productivity also drops when you’re more focused on getting details of Barb’s date last night than on doing your job. Choose your friends at work wisely and don’t share intimate personal details. Keep work and home separate as much as possible.

  1. You Try to Please Everyone

Yes, teamwork is good — but there’s a limit. You can’t say yes to everything someone asks you to do. Making people happy and helping them out is a good thing, but you have to set some boundaries. Make sure you’re putting the work that you’re responsible for first. Then you can help the others if you have some extra time. Don’t be afraid to say no.

  1. You’re Terrible at Emailing

Office email is a big part of communicating in the workplace. Make sure your email habits are appropriate and professional. You don’t want to send an email to your boss with a lot of text language and smiley faces in it. You also don’t want to take too long when someone really needs an answer. Review how you email and make sure it’s suitable for where you work.

  1. You Hate Your Job

If you despise where you work, you aren’t going to be passionate and put the in the effort the company needs and expects from you. If you’re unhappy, it shows, and your negativity toward the place you work is going to seep into everything you do. If you feel these symptoms every day, it’s probably time to find a new job.

Take a look at your work habits and see how many of these you find yourself doing, so you can take steps to change them. You might be surprised at what you find.

Personal Branding Blog – Stand Out In Your Career


I'm Dan Shapiro, CEO of Glowforge, and This Is How I Work


I'm Dan Shapiro, CEO of Glowforge, and This Is How I Work

The Glowforge printer is unique: it’s not a 3D printer in the traditional sense, but rather a laser cutter that can cut and etch a variety of material. Such laser cutters were previously complicated to use and expensive to own, but Glowforge set out to make something new and bring the technology to your desktop.

Dan Shapiro is no stranger to innovation; he’s worked for a variety of startups, sold a company to Google, previously was the head of Photobucket, and also launched the bestselling board game in Kickstarter history when he crowdfunded Robot Turtles. He recently applied that crowdfunding acumen to Glowforge this past October, and with over $ 27 million in pre-orders, Glowforge became the largest 30 day crowdfunding campaign ever. The initial goal was $ 100,000.

Not to be too glowing—sorry—but it’s an exciting device and its easy to see why it sparked such interest from designers and hobbyists:


We spoke with Dan to learn a little about his day to day work running the company, perfecting the device, and tinkering with lasers.

Location: Seattle, WA. We’re next door to a craft distillery, a pot refinery, and a gluten-free brewery. It’s basically the most Seattle place in Seattle.

Current Gig: CEO and cofounder, Glowforge. Also Chief Turtle Officer at Robot Turtles, LLC, and author of Hot Seat: The Startup CEO Guidebook.
One word that best describes how you work: Interrupt-driven
Current mobile device: A Google Nexus 5x in a ziploc baggie, because I dropped it yesterday and it’s covered with tiny glass shards. A replacement is on the way.
Current computer: I have three “Wintel” boxes I’ve built from parts and a Surface 3 Pro for travel.

A few weeks ago I ran into Geoffrey Fowler from the Wall Street Journal. He noticed my Surface and looked puzzled. “Windows?” he said. “Was it a gift?” His colleague leaned over and said, “He’s from Seattle. It’s different there.”

My friends tease me about not moving to Macs but I’m just too damn cheap. Same reason I drive a 2003 minivan I bought used five years ago.

What apps, software, or tools can’t you live without?

I’m terrible at keeping track of things so I bought three pairs of digital calipers to scatter around the office. We had a few pairs already but I got tired of not having one within arms’ reach. In the last few days I used them to check the thickness variation between sheets of acrylic we ordered, measure a key dimension of the Glowforge for someone at community.glowforge.com who is designing a custom desk for it to sit on, and (with the help of a stereomicroscope) measure the impact of some software changes on our engraving resolution.

What’s your workspace setup like?

Just a really messy IKEA table covered with laser projects, a desk chair we picked up from eBay, and a couple of Dell monitors.

What’s your best time-saving shortcut or life hack?

I keep strange hours. I get to the office at 10am plus or minus an hour, then head home around 6 or 7. I make dinner about half the time. We put the kids to bed together, then hang out until around 9:30.

Then I work until about 3am.

Office time is for meetings, working together, paperwork. Evenings are my secret—that’s when I get most of my real work done.

What’s your favorite to-do list manager?

Favorite? I hate them all. My unfinished work is my enemy, and its allies get no sympathy for me.

My email inbox is my to-do list.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without and why? (…other than your Glowforge!)

Are you kidding? With my phone and computer, I’m set.

The reception to the Glowforge crowdfunding campaign was enthusiastic, to put it modestly. Did you have any idea it would exceed your goal so substantially? (And I kind of imagine it’s an intimidating prospect to get so many orders!)

We had our fingers crossed that we might beat the most-backed 3D printer, which was $ 3.5M. We did not, in our wildest of dreams, think that we might be the biggest crowdfunding campaign in history! Fortunately our plan from the outset were to use a large factory for production. That means that scaling up our production is straightforward, so our focus is on delivering the best possible functionality and making sure the quality is up to what our amazing backers deserve.

Do you still find time to tinker with projects of your own or are you too swamped?

I make things all the time! We have an office tradition of “Laser Thursday”, where we all work on personal projects together. Outside of that, sometimes if my brain is fried I’ll sneak over and run a quick print to switch from head-stuff to hand-stuff, which is really recharging.

A few of the items in the Glowforge video, like the leather satchel and the wallet, came out of me just playing around on the Glowforge, making things for myself.

I'm Dan Shapiro, CEO of Glowforge, and This Is How I Work

What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else? What’s your secret?

I’m not the best at anything. That’s okay, though, because I don’t have to be! Dilbert creator Scott Adams once wrote that the secret to success wasn’t being the best at one thing, but at being above average at an unusual combination of things.

In line with that philosophy, I like to collect “B+” skills. Over my life that’s included writing, public speaking, electronics, programming, woodworking, and DJing. The last one seems like the odd one out, but I put myself through college by running a DJ business that included building and running laser shows to parties. Put them all together, and hey—Glowforge.

What do you listen to while you work?

I love the people I get to work with, and the background sounds of the office work for me. At the end of the day, I tune in to NPR’s All Things Considered, where my brother is a host. It’s like a family phone call where he’s got me on mute.

What are you currently reading?

I just finished rereading Richard Shell’s Negotiation Strategies for Reasonable People. I don’t like negotiating and have a big deal coming up that I need to prepare for. Richard Shell’s book makes more sense to me than any other because it’s research-based and focuses on reaching good outcomes while acting like a decent human being, even if occasionally your negotiation partner isn’t.

How do you recharge?

Dinner with the family, four nights a week. I have an amazing wife and awesome seven-year-old twins. We’ll do art, play board games, or watch a cooking show together.

Once or twice a year we fly somewhere together to really get away—we went to Malaysia this summer and are headed to Tokyo for New Years.

What’s your sleep routine like?

I used to suffer from insomnia and I hated it. It’s boring and a stupid waste of time. My solution is to sleep about 6 hours a night. That’s enough that I function well, but I’m still tired so I can fall asleep quickly. So around 2 or 3am I shove earplugs in my ears, turn on a white noise machine, put a pillow over my head, and crash.

Fill in the blank: I’d love to see _________ answer these same questions.

My cofounder, Tony Wright, cofounder of RescueTime—one of the most thoughtful people about time management that I know.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Starting a new company after having kids, I had something of a crisis. Every single day, I had to make a horrible choice: do I spend the night with my family, or [do I spend it] working? There was always a reason to work late—an important event, a late meeting, or just being in the flow. It was ripping me apart trying to trade off my work versus my family every day.

But the solution was simple, once a friend told me. I budgeted up to three nights a week for work-time. The other nights were family time. Once I made that decision, everything got easy. I was no longer trading off family and work; each one had its own space, and that I could handle.

Is there anything else you’d like to add that might be interesting to readers and fans?

Glowforge was ultimately born of seeing so many things around me that I want to optimize. When I first installed an industrial laser in our garage for prototyping, it was transformative, because it meant that I could go from thinking of a project to having something useful in a few hours. Now, with a Glowforge, I can do it in minutes. I love that. It’s like a superpower, and I want everyone to have it.

The How I Work series asks heroes, experts, and flat-out productive people to share their shortcuts, workspaces, routines, and more. Every other Wednesday we’ll feature a new guest and the gadgets, apps, tips, and tricks that keep them going. Have someone you want to see featured, or questions you think we should ask? Email Andy. Photos by Glowforge.