Habits can be bad (smoking) or good (flossing). Either way, they have an extraordinary amount of power because habits are unconscious patterns of behavior. We don’t have to plan. We don’t have to think. We just do.

Because habits require so little energy on our part, they can be fabulous career tools.

For example, if you make it a habit to always arrive at your workplace a little early, you’ll feel more in control and more grounded than if you rush in at the last minute. Chances are you already know this. But have you considered these other easy and effective work habits?

Never say, “That’s not my job.” Seriously, do not allow these words to cross your lips. Always cultivate an air of willingness to pitch in, even for tasks that are clearly not your responsibility. It’s a simple way to look good.

On the other hand, don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know.” Too often people pretend to know more than they really do. But smart, secure people are always open to learning and growing, and never hesitate to ask questions.

Try to schedule some quiet time every day, even if it means carving out precious minutes from your lunchtime. Sit with your thoughts, meditate, journal, pray — whatever centers you. You’ll feel more energized, and you may even find yourself solving problems that previously seemed intractable.

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Keep a good record of your successes. Noting down an accomplishment or even a small step toward an accomplishment takes just a second. But it’s very motivating. Your ongoing list will also come in handy at career review time. You’ll definitely need it when scouting around for your next job.

Identify routine tasks and do them in batches. The classic example here is checking email, which you should strive to do only a few times a day. But you can also batch phone calls, errands, filing, website maintenance — anything that’s not particularly time sensitive and can be done on your own schedule.

Once established, habits are remarkably persistent, as you know if you’ve ever tried to break a bad one. So it’s great that we can also use the power and ease of habits to our advantage, growing our careers and making every workday calmer, happier and more productive.

Seattle Times Explore columnist Karen Burns
Seattle Times Explore columnist Karen Burns