Saturday, September 13, 2014

5 Habits to Becoming a Better Professional

Do you have a routine?  Or two?  Most of us have dozens, and we don't even realize it. Did you ever find yourself driving to work, only to remember you were really on the way to the grocer?  Your "drive to work" routine took over when your mind went to something else.  Can't do the morning crossword without your coffee?   Routine at work.

The fact that we have routines (or habits, if you will) allow our brains to direct attention to tasks and ideas outside of the one we're performing right now.  Some people look at their habits as a problem; smoking, late-night snacking, tapping their pen...  all of these things can have drawbacks.  But what if habits could work for you?  What if you just need to establish the right ones?

Studies have shown that when people start choosing to eat a healthier diet, several things in their lives change, not just their weight.  They drink less alcohol, get more sleep, take the stairs more often, and have a more positive outlook.  Why?  Eating healthier is what scientists refer to as a "keystone" habit. It's a habit that has the effect of pushing the first domino in a line.  If the person only ate a healthier diet, they would derive benefit.  But as they take control of their eating habits, they also tend to start taking better care of their health in general.  As they begin to feel better, they become more optimistic.  And so it goes.

What habits can we add to our work day that may become keystone habits?  Here are a few suggestions that will help you break out of some of your less successful routines, and may have you building a better work experience in general in a matter of days or weeks. Don't tackle them all!  Just choose one, and do it for a month.  Then, choose another, if you like.

Keep your desk clean and organized:  This will, by necessity, mean that you and your paperwork
load will have to have a plan. As your paperwork becomes more organized and timely, what else might fall into place?

Every day, reach out to a different co-worker or subordinate, and offer help: You're incredibly busy already, so why add "favors" to your daily to-do list?  Because you will quickly gain a reputation as a team player.  Your co-workers will be more likely to help you when you need it, and your projects may receive better and closer attention.

Commit to being on time for everything:  Being on time makes you look organized and detail-oriented.  It shows respect for the person you're meeting.  And in order to accomplish it, you'll have to become more organized and self-disciplined.  Where will that lead?

Keep a record of everything you do in a work day: Get specific - 20 minutes in traffic, 3 minutes at the Coke machine, etc.  Looking at the habits you already have will take you minutes per day, and will make you consider whether you spend your time wisely.  Not enough breaks?  Too many breaks? Too much time on the phone?  Buried in paperwork?  Any time to work on new projects?  Do you follow up with prospective clients who have turned you down?  Find the wasted time, and take the reins of your schedule.

Take one full minute every day to remind yourself why you do your job: Are you working to buy a new car?  Put your kids through college?  Feed your travel bug?  Don't glance at a photo of a beach, or your kids.  Spend one entire minute immersed in the details of your goal.  Don't answer the phone or drive to a client meeting.  Just sit, and thoroughly connect with your goal.  What parts of your day does that put into perspective?  What things seem more important?  What things are less important?

You're on your way.  Write to me and let me know how it works.  I'd love to hear from you!