It’s mid January and the festivities and over-indulgence of the Christmas period are all but a distant memory. Most of us are settled in to our daily routines and are getting firmly back in to the working mind-set. We’re definitely experiencing the quiet before the storm right now. It’s all about getting our heads down and anticipating the big project rush that comes as we approach the early days of spring.
Rather than pottering along, awaiting the deluge (tempting as that may be), January is actually a great time to shake up our working practices. Humans are creatures of habit, and although routines and systems can often prove productive, it’s important to review them regularly to ensure that we haven’t become a little too comfortable and complacent, and that we are effectively adapting to change. So, if you’ve got the time and inclination over the next few weeks, here’s how to go about carrying out your own personal internal audit:
Identify and record your bad working habits.
Take a week so that you can properly observe your daily and weekly working practices. It’s not easy, but be honest with yourself and note down what is and what isn’t working as well as it could be. Some of these bad habits might be affecting your own well-being, work/life balance and productivity; always eating at your desk, not taking proper breaks, not delegating enough or constantly working late for example. Others may impact more on your colleagues or standard of work in general; poor time-keeping, procrastination, a decline in planning and organisation, or perhaps getting easily distracted.
Think of ways you might tackle each problem.
Draw up a list so that you can prioritise the changes you would like to make. Attempting to change all your habits at once is massively daunting, so split your goals into small achievable chunks. Think about tackling those bad practices that affect your work and colleagues first as these will have more of an impact on your working future. Start with a straightforward change that you can easily achieve as this will give you a boost and the motivation to continue. If, for example, you are routinely 15 minutes late into the office – set your alarm for 15 minutes earlier. It may not seem that important in terms of your general productivity, but routine lateness grates on managers, colleagues, and employees alike. A small adjustment to your morning routine could make all the difference.
Lead us not into temptation.
Human psychology tells us it is much easier to change a bad habit if we remove temptations and change the circumstances that facilitate those habits. If you get easily distracted by social media or office chat, remove social media platforms from your desktop so that you won’t be tempted to look at them during the working day. Wear headphones if you can’t stop yourself being drawn into long conversations or make time for breaks during the day when you can properly chat with your colleagues, or check your phone without losing focus during work-time.
Use Nudge theory.
Even with great intentions, it is not always easy to keep the impetus for positive change and we can often slip back into our old, easy routines after a short period of time. Use tactics to nudge you into maintaining your new routines. If your plan is to get out of the office every lunch-time, or leave work on time, organise activities that you have to attend or plan something with a friend or colleague. You are far less likely to want to let down someone else rather than just yourself!
Use tools and outsourcing.
There are so many useful tools and technologies available now for helping you keep good habits and planning. If you have trouble with being organised, there are some brilliant pieces of software and apps that can help you with scheduling, prioritising, timekeeping and communicating effectively. Get recommendations and let technology take the strain. Likewise if you are constantly trying to tackle too much, think about how delegating or outsourcing some dedicated tasks might improve your productivity.
Give yourself an incentive to keep going with good habits. When you have reached a goal reward yourself. This doesn’t need to be a huge goal, maybe just focusing well and getting through your to do list in the morning means you can reward yourself with a 15 minute break. Psychologically we are programmed to respond to rewards, so be generous with yourself and stay motivated!
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