In this comprehensive guide, you’ll learn over 60 of the best work habits I could find. This builds on my short-and-sweet first article on productivity.
Do you find yourself wandering aimlessly in your projects and overcome by distractions? Do you want to discover how to make more of your time and improve your productivity?
I’ve worked for myself since I was a 19-year-old university student, doing a mixture of freelance maths tuition, linguistic work and creating several websites. Beyond career, I’ve also wrestled with the issue of productivity in my studies and hobbies.
Over the years, I’ve wasted a lot of time on pointless tasks and multimedia distractions instead of using it fruitfully. I’ve also suffered from feeling bored, directionless and distracted during the working day.
It’s simply imperative that you squeeze every last drop out of your time and that you work smart, particularly if you’re a freelancer or entrepreneur. With great freedom comes great challenge. It’s easy to waste entire days doing sweet nothing to advance your project or build that business. It horrifies me when I hear of people who reflect on their working day and have no idea where those eight hours have gone.
This step-by-step guide is packed with simple work habits that you can implement now to transform your working day – and your results.
Starting from the big picture, we’ll cover one-by-one all the areas necessary for productive, purposeful, directed work, looking at everything from diet to environment to alarms, colleagues, bosses and habits.
What Is Productivity? Let’s Get This Clear
Productivity and work habits can mean 101 things, so let’s be clear about what we mean here.
By productivity, I mean optimising our working day by healthy means so that we do a lot of what’s most important – and do it well. So we won’t discuss 14-hour days. We won’t cover microdosing or study pills, and we won’t be learning the art of multitasking like an octopus.
With these work habits, we’ll be strategic with time, chop down and minimise our input, and create the llfe-wide conditions that are necessary for good work to bloom. And we go beyond the usual Pomodoro method and online calendars, looking at our lifestyle and approach to work as a whole.
There’s a lot to say, so let’s get going.
Work Habits Type 1: Goal-Setting
Without a clear direction, we’re like a rudderless ship, destined only for the rocks. Let’s take a big-picture look at what tasks you’re doing and why. That knowledge will then enable us to drill down and create a clear roadmap for our days and weeks.
Work Habits #1: Create A List of Your Goals
What are you working towards, and why? This is a crucial question, especially for entrepreneurs, autodidacts and business owners. If we have no idea what we’re producing and why, how can we begin working on it? How can we work smart?
There are three kinds of lists that are vital for productivity:
- Big-Picture Goals: Zoom out on your project, contemplating it from afar. Think about the purpose of it all. What is your ultimate goal, your mission? How many clients do you want to serve every month? Which new ventures do you want to undertake? These objectives should sit on the scale of years. It’s a great idea to review this list every day, such that you’re living and breathing your big-picture purpose.
- Weekly and Monthly Goals: Starting from your meta goals, drill down and create weekly and monthly goals that act as stepping stones to those larger ambitions. Make them very practical – when it comes to goals, short, simple and measurable often beats complex and highfalutin.
- Daily Goals: Now we zoom in even further, creating daily goals and milestones. You can do this at the beginning of the week, plotting out your route to a weekly or monthly goal, or each morning. This one is easy to skip – I should know – but knowing exactly what you’re doing each day is simply vital for concentrating your efforts. We’ll return to this point later.
2: Make Your Goals Exciting
And make sure those goals are exciting. If not, how will you ever mobilise yourself to take action? If you’ve spent any time in the professional world, I’m sure you’ve come across the daily drudge. This comes from doing work that sucks our soul, makes us bored to tears, or goes against our morals and ideals. So what ignites your soul? What has you jump out of bed in the morning? Identify that, use it to set goals, and you’ll be well on the way to splendid productivity.
Work Habits #3: Set Small Goals
Credit for this one goes to the productivity guide at Sammon.com. This applies to our weekly and monthly objectives. We accomplish huge goals through completing hundreds and thousands of bitesize tasks. By setting small goals and routinely overcoming them, you create the habit of success and a sense of momentum. They also tend to be practical, concrete and actionable, preventing procrastination, whereas long-term, big-picture goals are more vague and abstract.
That said, small doesn’t mean unambitious or unnecessarily conservative. Though a high bar is intimidating, you’ll be amazed at how high you can jump.
4: Rewards For Finishing Tasks
When you reach a goal, give yourself a reward proportional to its size. When I complete a new article, I treat myself to a nice bath. If it’s a long-term goal, a holiday might be in order.
Regardless of our passion for the goal, the journey towards it isn’t always sweet. Battering down milestones requires days, weeks and months of energy, planning and hard work. Once we’ve completed it, we might just put our attention elsewhere, glad to see the back of all our work. Adding a pre-determined goal sweetens the journey and acts as a celebration for our efforts.
Work Habits #5: Keep Notebook and Pen to Hand
Ever been in a coffee shop minding your own business, when suddenly a brilliant new idea came to mind? If you’re an entrepreneur or freelancer, you’ll have lots of these moments. Great creators from Dylan to Edison have publicly worshipped spontaneous creativity. Don’t discard those flashes of inspiration – write them down! Make sure you carry a notebook or device where you can jot down this gold. You can then review it later and bring those inspired ideas into reality.
6: Be Accountable
We’re only human. Falling off the path is itself part of the path. Accountability structures are the underlying pillars that support us when things get shaky up top. You can discuss your project with a coach, colleague, business partner, even family. Knowing your targets, they’ll nudge you into action or give you an arm around the shoulder when needed.
Work Habits Type 2: Energy
Now that we have a big-picture plan for your projects, let’s zoom in on your everyday and look at some strategies for optimising it.
Work Habits #7: Plan For Tomorrow
In an interview with Hive, productivity expert David Allen revealed that he always prepares his schedule for the following day, dividing his to-do list into the “soft landscape” and the “hard landscape”.
The hard tasks are those which can’t be rescheduled, like meetings or interviews. Soft tasks are those we can move around freely. Use the hard landscape as a wireframe for the day, fitting soft tasks around it. That should be easy now you know what you’re aiming for!
Planning for tomorrow also enables us to disconnect from our work until the next day, knowing that our schedule is already set.
8: Get Up Early
Disclaimer: if you hate mornings, you might be best staying in bed!
This is the wisdom of the 5AM Club. Getting up early allows us to create a solid morning routine and feel fully awake before we begin work. If we wake up before those we live with, we can enjoy the silence of the house and morning solemnity and translate them into good work.
Besides, getting up early means we’re more disciplined at night. Going to bed at a fixed time, we’re less likely to lose hours on unimportant pursuits.
Work Habits #9: Pre-Game Routine
Thanks to James Clear for his guide to productivity. Among other things, he suggests creating morning rituals and routines. There is wisdom in creating a morning routine or repeating little tasks each morning. For example, every morning I clear the dry dishes from the night before and drink cold water. Sometimes I take a morning walk around the local area. This focuses my mind and inspires me ahead of the day’s work.
10: Dreaded Task First Thing
We come to what may be the trickiest habit to implement. Several writers on productivity suggest getting the least appealing tasks out the way first thing.
If you face such tasks in your day-to-day, you’ll notice that your mind constantly delays them with sly tactics that go unnoticed. Even when you’ve summond the energy to take it on, suddenly your coffee cravings come out, and before you know it you’re boiling the kettle or starting up the coffee machine. You’ll do anything but take on the task.
Destroy this dynamic at the root by taking it on first thing. That way, the resistance can’t build up. Besides, those tasks are never as painful as we imagine (see Habit #37).
Work Habits #11: Right Tasks At The Right Time
On a similar track, take on the right tasks at the right time. If you’re a writer (like myself), find the time when you write best, and schedule that time for wordsmithery. Save monotonous, low-energy, low-attention tasks for your energy lulls. That way, you use your best fuel for top-priority tasks.
12: Split Timetable
Huge thanks to my friend Sher, owner of RecoveringSpiritualBeing.com, for this one. This strategy encapsulates what’s best about flexible working, freelancing and entrepreneurship. It’s a fantastic idea!
If your circumstances allow it, toss out the dated 9-5 and instead only work the hours when you are most productive. You might find a split timetable is necessary here. My friend Sher does this – she works 10:00 til 15:00 then 20:00 til 22:00!
By doing this, you’re tuning into your cycles of energy and synchronising your output with them. When are you actually able to produce your best work?
In my time working for myself, I’ve been surprised to discover my own energy cycle. I’ve found that I’m ultra productive in the morning, then go through a lull from around 12:30 to 13:30, making a short nap a must. Then some energy comes back and sees me through until around 16:00. But only from 18:00 onwards do I regain that brimming morning energy.
Work Habits Type 3: Planning
Work Habits #13: The 80-20 Rule
I’m sure you’ve heard of The Pareto Principle, a cornerstone idea in the world of business and productivity. If not, let me run you through it.
When it comes to getting shit done, 80% of what you produce comes from 20% of all the effort you put in. So, what is that 20% of effort for you? Which small number of tasks produce disproportionate results? Identify them, and dedicate more time towards them, outsourcing or dropping the others. That way, you’ll put more time into tasks that generate results and less will go down the drain.
Work Habits #14: Online Calendar
I highly recommend keeping track of what you’re doing and when you’re doing it, and an online calendar is a great planning solution. You can create schedules, add upcoming events and reminders and block out your time.
I’ve gone for a DIY solution, using Excel to create spreadsheets where I manage my tasks. But using a pre-fab product saves time and may give you ideas you hadn’t thought of before.
15: Batch Tasks
Tackling similar tasks in one go is an effective way to order your mind and be effective with your time. By batching, we avoid jumping back and forth throughout the day, instead directing our focus into a group of related tasks for a sustained period.
16: Take Breaks After Meetings
My friend Sher swears by 20-minute breaks after meetings. If you aren’t a fan of virtual meetings or they make you feel frazzled, a short break might be just the ticket. We’ll come back to breaks later on in the guide.
Work Habits #17: Set Boundaries With Your Colleagues
Managers and coworkers have a lot on their mind. Ignorant of the principles of productivity and time management, they’ll often sling unexpected tasks onto you, giving vague deadlines and blurry expectations.
If you’re working with others, you need to take the lead in creating structure. If not, their own lack of organisation will infect you and hamstring your productivity. And if you have a domineering boss, you might find yourself under the thumb, habitually working overtime.
Make your limits clear, and seek clarity and structure. Don’t get caught up in the mental whirlwind of those around you.
18: Say No!
On that topic, be willing to say no to projects and tasks. This is especially important for freelancers. There are several reasons why this is a smart idea.
First of all, you don’t become overwhelmed and burnt out. You also avoid the need to delay and cancel projects. And, more subtly, rejecting projects shows you’re in demand, increasing your value to your employers. It’s supply and demand! Besides, having the self-assurance to say “no” elicits respect.
When I turn down projects, one half of me is nonchalant and trusts that I have more than enough work, the other half is still clamouring for the extra money and fears that more projects won’t be fortcoming. It takes trust and self-respect to turn down projects that pay well but would overload the schedule.
19: Weekly Review On Fridays
Often we limp to the end of the week, desperate to shut off the computer. Not so fast! Did you achieve those goals you set for yourself? Have you done more or less than you expected? This is not self-flaggelation, but an honest weekly appraisal that helps you get your bearings straight and move on.
Usually, we do these reviews unconsciously as we mentally mull over the week while commuting or having dinner. Make sure to do this deliberately, at your desk, at a set time of the day. Write notes too. It brings clarity to your working week.
Work Habits Type 4: Surround
Now that we have goals, structure and planning in place, let’s look at your workplace. Most of these apply to homeworkers, but you might just build a reputation as the resident interior designer if you implement these ideas in the office.
Work Habits #20: Organise Desk
First things first, get your desk organised! Seek out objects in your visual field that are unnecessary to your work and remove them all. If you can’t do that, at very least minimise the number of objects around you and arrange them neatly.
Seriously, this simple change can make a huge difference. First of all, your brain will have less information to process, allowing you more energy for important tasks. Second, with less objects in your visual field, you’re less likely to be distracted. Third, it just feels amazing! When I clear up the space around me, there’s a noticeable sense of relief and relaxation. Try it now!
21: Cool Environment
Credit for this one goes to James Clear and his article on productivity. Hot spaces make us feel drowsy. Make sure there’s an ample supply of cold air entering the room to keep you alert, or move to a cool space. You need to be alert and focused to do your best work.
Work Habits #22: Work From Home
It’s shocking how much time we spend commuting. Have you ever figured it out? If you work 230 days a year and commute one hour each way, that’s 460 hours of commuting time – nearly 20 whole days! That’s not to mention the cost of commuting, which can take thousands out of your pocket every year.
Let’s be honest, commuting time is usually wasted spent browsing on the mobile or sulking at public transport delays. It’s time thrown down the toilet. You could invest those 20 days into work, side projects, studying or recharging the batteries.
23: Declutter Your Space
We’ve covered the need to remove objects from our visual field to enhance our attention. Let’s expand this to the entire room or place we’re working in.
Have you ever worked in an office strewn with white-collar paraphernalia? Then you’ll know the effect that clutter has on you. A disorganised space makes for a disturbed mind.
So make the space around you neat and tidy. Store away unneeded items, put dishes in the kitchen, and arrange your belongings. This is especially true for the room you work in, but can extend to the entire building. Having a clean, clear space puts you in a different frame of mind.
Work Habits #24: Use Plants
Credit for this one goes to BusinessNewsDaily.com. Plants add a nice visual touch to your space, and you can spend moments of rest looking at them. Remarkably, this study by the American Society for Horticultural Science shows that plants increase productivity and reduce stress!
25: Switch Locations
Thanks to BusinessNewsDaily for this habit. This is one of those hidden productivity tips, one that might scare professionals who’re used to punching the clock. Switching your place of work over the course of the day and week resets the mind and takes you out of autopilot. You might even have a flash of inspiration during your journey.
You can head to a coffee shop, park, library, or coworking space, or simply move around within your room. Usually I work at my desk, but sometimes I switch to the dining table or couch. And on occasion, I even work in bed (don’t tell ANYONE I said that).
Work Habits #26: Set Boundaries With Household
In their article on productivity tips, Hive illuminate the importance of boundaries. There are certain downsides to working from home, I’ll admit. One is that people come and go, making noise and demanding your attention. It’s relatively easy to safeguard your time if you work in an office, but not so easy if your home is also your place of work. This is where control comes in. If you know your goals, optimal working hours and have set up your space for success, it’s about time you told your co-inhabitants. It’s your time for getting shit done – make sure you and your loved ones respect it!
Work Habits Type 5: Distractions
Okay, for overactive millenials and Gen Z this might be a real challenge, but my word will you notice a difference in your productivity, attention span and state of mind if you take these tips seriously.
27: Cut Out Social Media
This one comes directly from me! It’s quite simple. Social media stops you getting shit done. Avoiding social media saves you lots of time, energy and head space.
When you’re working, make a vow not to use it. You can use it during your breaks and down time – that’s no problem – but don’t let it use up your vital productive energy.
Work Habits #28: Remove Temptations
Laptops and computers are a phenomenal invention, but they pose a problem for productivity dilettantes. You have the world wide web waiting on the other side of that searchbar! Keep your tabs and windows to a minimum – every one is a temptation and distraction. Having 100 tabs open doesn’t make you look busy and important, and it does nothing for your ability to be productive.
Beyond tech, things like musical instruments, books and pets can be tempting. Even if you don’t indulge, they push and pull on your attention, taking you into memory and imagination land.
29: Email Management
Oh boy, emails. I’m lucky in that emails have never really jeopardised my work, but I know people who spend one or even two hours a day reading and writing them.
If ever there was a time drain, I’ve found it. Almost every productivity guide mentions them, and for a good reason. Isn’t it true that we feel a sense of obligation with emails? If someone has taken the time to write one, we should respond immediately, right?
Well, maybe. But other people are often busy, and unless they’re wildly insecure or downright impatient, they won’t condemn you for not responding right away. Best idea is to set aside short chunks throughout the day for responding to them. If you recieve a lot of similar emails, you can create templates to save time.
Your smartphone is an enormous distraction. It’s not only the notifications that call our attention – it’s the mere possibility of using the thing. You see the phone, and before you know it, you’ve grabbed it and started scrolling away.
Put it on silent and keep it out of sight, on the other side of the room or in another room. If you want to be super vigilant, turn it off and hide it away. My partner has me hide her phone in hard-to-reach places if she’s experiencing a bout of phone addiction, but I think a self-imposed approach is more sustainable.
Those Whatsapp messages can wait. Instagram won’t mind if you aren’t scrolling down the home feed. Gain control over your smartphone use, especially when you’re on the job.
31: Work Offline
I love this idea from LifeHack.org. In one simple act, you cut out a lot of distraction. If you can’t access the internet, social media, weather forecasts, sports pages and YouTube, you’re more likely to get on with those all-important tasks.
I can’t believe none of my research churned up YouTube as an option! Let’s be honest, it’s an incredible invention that has revolutionised communication, education and entertainment. And there is wonderful content on there. But it’s also a huge black hole for your time. You take a five-minute break to watch a cool video and end up wasting half an hour.
Don’t let videos overtake your time for getting shit done. The trick with YouTube is to only indulge during breaks and downtime. Use in small doses!
33: Information Diet
In the information economy, companies make tens of billions from our gazing at screens. With the advent of high-def colour screens and modern marketing, your attention is constantly being harvested with through shiny graphics and attention-grabbing copy.
Besides, there’s just so much out there. Thousands of YouTube videos are published daily. Hundreds of blog articles are written every day. You can never stay up to date with it all, and your attempts to do so will seriously burden your productivity. Pay close attention to the information you let in. Ask yourself if what you consume really adds value to your life. If not, cut it out.
34: Turn Off The TV
While you might find some high-quality programmes that put you into the optimal state for working, most likely the TV you watch is distracting and overstimulating. When you’re in work or study mode, turn it off. The same goes for most forms of music and radio.
Work Habits Type 6: On The Job
This is where we get really serious. We’re going to talk about how to optimise your time on the job. Most people don’t implement this kind of work habits – do so, and you’ll be WAY ahead of your peers.
35: Work In High-Focus Intervals
Listen up. This is productivity gold. Let’s change your paradigm of work as an unbroken block of doing, doing, doing sprinkled with coffee breaks and a short lunch break.
Instead, let’s see our working day as a collection of 30-45 minute periods separated by short breaks lasting three to five minutes. Before each segment, we choose a single task to work on for the entire period. During breaks, we move around, take our eyes off the screen and do a small activity unrelated to our work.
The activity could be anything from grabbing a coffee to taking some fresh air to playing with the dog. If it recharges you and takes your mind off your work, it works.
I cover this habit in more depth in this article.
Work Habits #36: Use A Timer
Another crucial component of this system is the use of timers. Once you know which task you’re going to tackle for the next period of work, make sure to time yourself. If you’re distracted for a moment, turn the timer off until you return.
Seriously, don’t skip over this. It’s remarkable how setting a timer focuses your mind. There are plenty of offline and online timers out there, so choose one and get timing!
37: Just Start
The trickiest part about these intervals is the period just before we start them. Let’s face it, some tasks are necessary evils. And even the tasks we love often push our comfort zone, so we experience resistance. In any case, clicking that timer is not easy.
The trick to overcome this is to start anyway. Push aside your resistance, decide to begin, and hit Start. After five minutes you’ll forget about your resistance, focused on the task at hand.
Work Habits #38: Five-Minute Tasks
On that note, another way to bust through your resistance to turgid tasks is to commit to doing it for five minutes. Seriously. Just five minutes. Set the timer and make sure you do it for the whole time. This is sneaky slight-of-hand – you’ll likely get into a groove and end up spending half an hour on it.
39: Give Yourself Less Time
This is a little counterintuitive. If you think a task will take you half an hour, try to do it in 20 minutes. If it seems like you’ll need 45 minutes, chop it down to 30. Then set your timer for that reduced length of time. That way, you become ultra-focused and can finish the task in less time. Amazing!
Work Habits #40: Ask Yourself If You’re Being Productive
A trick that Tim Ferris shares in his book The Four-Hour Workweek is to ask the question: “Am I being productive?” at least three times a day. If you’re looking at random websites or looking for a new outfit, it’s a no. Close that down and get back to work!
With all the work habits we’ve discussed so far, you should have no problem answering yes EVERY TIME you ask yourself that question.
41: Don’t Multitask
Another thing to keep in mind with this system – do not multitask. Choose a task and stick with it for the full period of time. Phone calls and emails can wait for breaks, and other tasks can wait for later work periods. You might think you’re being a heroic warrior by trying to tackle ten tasks at once, but really you’re like an octopus on ice skates. Dividing your attention is fatal for productivity and stresses you out. And far from doing ten tasks, you do none.
42: Don’t Lunch In Front Of Screen
During my brief time as an employee in the corporate world, it struck me that colleagues would eat their lunch in front of their computer (particularly high-up bosses). It might seem like powering through the lunch hour is a wise idea and gets you brownie points, but really you miss out on a huge chance to recharge the batteries. Besides, being chained to your computer all day like a dog is remarkably depressing.
From my experience, productivity is like a capacitor or a wind-up clock. You can only work for so long before you lose all ability to focus and produce zilch. Recharging time is absolutely essential. Turn the computer off and go have lunch somewhere else.
Work Habits #43: Improve Typing Speed
Thanks again to LifeHack.org for this trick. Learning to touch type (using all your fingers without the need to look at the keys) is a fantastic skill for computer-based work. It makes typing smoother, slicker and easier on the fingers. Double your typing speed, and you take half the time to get your ideas onto the screen. I learned to touch type for free with the website Touch Typing Study.
44: Know Your Tools
You might never have imagined finding this in a productivity guide, and only when I read this article from the NY Times did I realise the importance of this. Knowing your tools, whatever your niche, is simply crucial. You can spend hours wading through manuals, videos and internet forums trying to figure out your software. That can be part of the journey, but you could also unnecessarily waste a lot of time. Know what you’re doing ahead of time, and you won’t have those issues.
Type 7: Routines
Let’s talk about meta-routines you can put into place to optimise your mind for work.
45: Get Ready For Work
Thanks to Uni Temps for this habit! This is relevant for homeworkers. If we want to work productively, we need to get ready for work. You don’t need to go overboard, but don’t just roll out of bed and start working. As a minimum, I recommend getting out of the PJs and into comfortable clothes, having breakfast, washing and waiting at least half an hour after waking up before you start.
Treat your work with respect, especially if it’s your own gig. It’ll show in your work.
46: Detach From Your Work
When working solely from home for the first time, I found it tricky to transition from work to play. All of a sudden, I’d go from concentrated work to cooking the dinner, and something felt off. When working from home or under our own schedule, the line between work and play is blurred. Detaching and creating a firm boundary between work and play is crucial, even if you love what you do. This productivity advice from Uni Temps inspired me here.
Keep it simple. As soon as I finish, I always hide away my laptop in the same place. This acts as a little ritual and since I can’t see it from then on, a division is created. If you have a desktop, you could cover your screen with a blanket so that your attention isn’t drawn to it. I also tidy up my desk, storing books or pens, and I commit to avoid looking at my emails until the next day.
These little acts are a trigger for my mind to let go of my ongoing projects. I’ll add that the timed 30-45 minute periods mark the end of a working day. When the last alarm goes, it’s time to stop. Don’t underestimate the power of these little actions.
47: Weekly Routines
I’ve found that tackling weekly tasks on the same day every week automatically programmes them into my mind, meaning they happen spontaneously. I don’t need to think about doing them.
For example, I now check my traffic stats every Thursday, and publish videos for The GU YouTube channel on Fridays. It’s wired into me now! What weekly tasks do you have? Decide on a day for them, jot it down in your schedule and get to work.
Work Habits Type 8: Mindset
So far, I’ve spoken mostly about external structures, habits and routines. Let’s look at the inner game of productivity.
48: Trust Small Increments
I love this principle I found in this NY times on productivity. The basic wisdom here is that growth is not linear – it’s more like a lock-step process. As such, it’s necessary and fruitful to push the envelope at times. But lack of patience can drive you to work harder, and a lot of times it won’t bring results. In fact, it might jeopardise them. Results come slowly over time and big results only come after months and years of diligent effort. Measured persistence trumps gung-ho workaholism, so trust consistent daily action.
49: Fear Of Failure
Another tip of the hat to Entrepreneur.com for this one. While the desire for instant results has you put your foot to the floor, fear of failure makes you slam on the brakes. This fear is so widespread that we don’t even recognise that it’s a fear. We take it to be real and inherent to the situation we face.
If you fear failing, you won’t even begin in the first place. So watch out for this fear wrapping its tentacles around you. Use it as a guide, but don’t let it stop you taking action.
50: Forgive Yourself
Thanks to the NY Times for this one. You won’t churn out fantastic work and be fully focused during your productivity periods every day. Some days you’ll get nowhere and decide it’s best to turn in. Accept it as part of life as a freelancer or entrepreneur and don’t beat yourself up for it. Sometimes working is not productive, and in a week’s time, you’ll have forgotten all about that stinking day.
51: Long Breaks
It’s crucial to take one nice, long break during the working day. I’d suggest taking one long enough that you feel disconnected from all your pending tasks. That way, you know that it really is a break. This resets you, recharging the batteries so you can go again. Of course, if you have a split schedule (Habit 12), you’ll have no trouble taking long breaks!
On the other hand, super-long breaks can induce boredom and laziness, so watch out.
52: Find Meaning In Work
If you detest your work and find no meaning in it, it’s no wonder you can’t produce. If we’ve designed our career around our passions, we’ll have no trouble finding meaning in our work, meaning we’ll be glad to put the hours in. On the other hand, if the meaning isn’t immediately obvious, we can search for it.
What does your job contribute in the grand scheme of things? Sometimes this is a matter of simply remembering our motivation for doing our work when our vision takes a back seat. Even if you dislike your job, if you trace its impact far enough, you’ll find it’s serving people in some way. Use the big picture to add extra motivation or rekindle a dwindling store of it. And if you can’t readily find meaning in what you do, maybe you should consider jumping ship.
53: Inspire Yourself With Reading
Reading books about your niche is an excellent way to recharge the batteries and bring new excitement and inspiration to your work. With the juices flowing, you have extra fuel to bring to bear on your projects. I’ve found that this is the perfect antidote in times of doubt, uncertainty and demotivation.
54: Spend Morning Reading
My friend Sher, owner of RecoveringSpiritualBeing.com, has the habit of reading every morning before she begins work. While it doesn’t quite fit my schedule, I love this habit. Reading connects us with the big-picture of our work and inspires us with new information, giving us increased energy and motivation for the day ahead.
Work Habits Type 9: Self-Care And Lifestyle
55: Relax The Body
As the NY Times mention in their article, it’s common for us to tense up the hands, face and shoulders as we work, especially if we’re tackling cognitively demanding tasks. Maxwell Maltz addresses this in his book Psychocybernetics, too. This is a recipe for discomfort. It also disrupts our attention and prevents us from working in flow (see Habit #56). Every now and then, I check in on my body to make sure I’m relaxed as I work.
56: Work In Flow
I often fall into the need to get tasks over and done with, even if it’s something I largely enjoy. The satisfaction of logging those productive mintues is just too sweet.
But the wiser part of me sees that I’m efforting too much in those moments, making hard work of it. With that persepctive shift, I then return to the task and just enjoy it as another event I’m experiencing in my life. I absorb myself in it, and remove the efforting. That way, I can tap into the ease and flair that accompany the flow state, and the work becomes joyful rather than hurried.
57: Tune Into Mind And Emotions
This one is courtesy of my friend Grace from GraceBeing. Before launching herself into work, she dedicates a few minutes to tune into her thoughts and emotions. If she’s feeling low and uninspired, she works to motivate herself and lift her spirits.
This is a great practice – whether we’re aware of it or not, our inner state affects our output. Sometimes we’re best stepping back to care for ourselves before trying to take action. Other times, we might decide to continue regardless, but we do so with a clear picture of what’s going on inside us.
learn Powerful Mindfulness Techniques With My Learn To Meditate Series.
Thanks to Entrepreneur.com for their article on productivity! It reminded me of the vital role of sleep. Do not sacrifice sleep for supposed productivity – replacing sleep with work is a disastrous move. A cacophony of books and articles explain the importance of sleep to our wellbeing and functioning. Instead of skimping on shut-eye, trim down and strategise your time using all these work habits. You’ll have more than enough time on your hands.
This is one of the wonders of working from home, or working for yourself, or both. I have a 20-30 minute nap at lunchtime most days. Almost without fail, my naps take me from tired and grumpy to energetic and bubbly. If you feel the lunchtime slump, avoid the temptation to valiently push through. Have a nap instead.
60: Plan Meals In Advance
Here’s another example that shows how our life habits affect our output at work. I was practically indoctrinated into weekly meal planning in my childhood (thanks, Mum!), so it bamboozles me that people make meals on the fly, especially if they’re a parent.
Haphazard dinners mean hasty trips to the shop for last-minute ingredients, irregular meal times and crappy food. Besides, it’s just plain stressful. Every day, you have to come up with three meals then cross your fingers and hope the pantry holds up its end of the bargain.
Plan breakfast, lunch and dinner for at least three days in advance, then buy in all the ingredients for those meals in one shopping trip. Seriously, your days of hodge-podge dinners and hasty shopping runs will be long gone, giving you more time and mental space for the important stuff.
61: Eat Healthy
Your diet speaks volumes about your character and is reflected in your face, body and demeanour.
To be on top of your game, you need energy, a clear mind, and a fit, ailment-free body. Put top-notch fuel in, and you’ll get optimal performance. And you’ll feel bloody brilliant. On that point, regular exercise is also non-negotiable.
62: Drink Water
This study shows that dehydration could affect our cognition and short-term memory. Dehydration leads to headaches and lack of focus. Keep yourself hydrated, drinking at least two litres of water per day.
Start putting these work habits into place now to get shit done and lead a more fulfilling life. Looks like it’s time for my bath!
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