Harness the power of habit to work more productively and efficiently, with less effort.
We think of activities such as stair-climbing and weightlifting as major energy burners. But our brains are also huge consumers of energy, as much as 20 percent of our daily supply. This is why our subconscious always looks for ways to put as many behaviors as possible on autopilot.
These behaviors are called habits, and they can be very powerful forces in our lives, especially in our careers.
Take punctuality. Regularly getting to work on time is a habit. So is being late. You probably don’t plan it out every morning and say to yourself, “Today I’m going to be on time,” or, in the case of tardiness, “Today I’m going to be late.” It’s just a thing that seems to happen, almost outside your control.
Fortunately, our brains are also capable of assessing and adjusting behaviors, creating habits that make us happier and more productive.
Here are a few simple yet powerful behaviors that, if you made them habits, would help you to work smarter and faster, with less effort:
Plan out your day the night before, ranking projects and tasks by priority.
Maintain a list of less-important tasks that you can work on when 1) you have a few minutes, 2) you are tired and need a little break, or 3) you are stuck on a more difficult project or task.
Say “good morning” to your co-workers every morning. Speak up in meetings. Maintain your professional network.
Organize and clean your workspace, and keep it that way.
Tackle your most challenging tasks at the beginning of your workday, when you are still peppy. Try to schedule meetings and “busy work” for the end of your shift.
If at all possible, set specific time slots for checking email and voicemail. Otherwise, keep your notifications set to “off.”
Keep a running record of your accomplishments and periodically share it with your boss.
Take regular mental and physical breaks. Eat lunch away from your work area, outdoors if possible.
Finally, plan to get to work on time (or even early) by realistically calculating when you need to leave home. Add in a little padding just in case.
Acquiring, and maintaining, even half of these habits could make a huge difference in your career. It can’t hurt to try!
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.