Habits to Learn, Habits to Burn

If you scan through the Pyrus blog, you’ll find I’ve written a lot about things to do and things to avoid. Do take breaks. Don’t stress yourself out. Do sleep well. Don’t succumb to Zoom fatigue. The secret to achieving these practices lies in our habits. I’ve decided to zero in on this concept and delve more into those practices we’ve ingrained. What do you do automatically, every day? Those are your habits. Fortunately, they don’t need to remain static. A closer look at our habits can help us cultivate a much healthier set of practices. And we need to do that to be our best in the workplace.

This HBR study on productivity found that people’s habits defined their level of productivity. Nearly 20,000 participants from around the world self-reported the practices they engage in at work. This included habits around communication, time management, and other important areas of work life. This other study surveyed executives in various workplaces to find out what habits they value most in employees. They made a case for the importance of habits around attitude, accountability, and ethics. Basically, there are an infinite number of areas in which we could build better habits. For the sake of this article, I’ll focus on just three areas. But don’t you worry. I’m jamming them chock full of quality content.

Good Habits for Staying Well

Your performance relies on your wellbeing. I’ve written a lot about the dangers of stress and burnout, but there’s more to watch out for. This article lists a bunch of bad habits that prevent you from being well and working well. These include sitting all day long, having a bad attitude, not sleeping enough, eating poorly, working without breaks, and avoiding opportunities to stretch yourself. Any of these sound like you? If so, consider the alternative habits you just may want to start building.

To avoid sitting all day and working nonstop, this article suggests planning thoughtful breaks. Exercise is a great option for a break. This study has demonstrated the positive impact of exercise breaks on workplace productivity. But if that’s not your cup of tea, check out all my other ideas for great breaks

To keep up your basic physical health, make sure you sleep smart and eat right. Those are some of the “simple habits” recommended here. Alongside those physical wellness habits, keep your mind clear too. Silence notifications and listen attentively in conversations and meetings. Staying present will help you do your best. 

Finally, instead of shying away from chances to grow, set stretch goals. This article suggests practicing good time management habits to reach those goals. You want to do the most you can with the least possible stress. Instead of multitasking, allow yourself to focus for blocks of time on your priorities each day. These habits will help you stay and feel well. When you’re feeling your best, you’ll be at your best.

Making a Habit of Work-Life Balance

As that section on wellness suggests, there’s some crossover between the habits you keep at home and how well you do at work. As we continue on in the remote world, that crossover may even become a blur. Keeping your work and personal life separate matters, though. This article written by members of the Forbes Young Entrepreneur Council lists important habits for maintaining work-life balance.

The first and foremost strategy is to practice intentional daily routines. These matter especially in the morning and at the end of your day. This article on morning routines makes a few practical suggestions for habits to build. For instance, starting your day a bit earlier with 15 minutes of buffer room lessens the pressure of the morning rush. This other article on daily routines suggests starting the day off with an activity you like. I think you can combine those habits to start every day with 15 minutes of downtime. What would you do with 15 extra minutes in the morning? Shower, read a book, drink a cup of coffee on your balcony? Make it a habit!

Besides that, having a dedicated workspace can also help you distinguish between home and work. I wrote this article about setting up a great physical workspace and this one about organizing digital space already. You can use some of the ideas in those posts to set yourself up for successful habits. At the same time, it’s important to get away from your desk and screens sometimes. One of the best habits recommended for work-life balance is taking walks, and here’s an article that spells out all the benefits of this great habit.

Habits for Getting Down to Work

Once you’re well and balanced, it’s time to set your nose to the grindstone. When we think we’re working hard, some of our habits are hardly working. This article sums up some of the major pitfalls we often practice. The biggest one this author harps on: constantly checking email. Avoiding this and other harmful habits requires implementing some good alternatives. Here are ideas to get you started on that.

Instead of wasting time on email and useless meetings, batch meetings, email checks, and virtual events together. That way you can leave the rest of your time open for focused, productive work. Dr Amantha Imber, organizational psychologist and host of the How I Work podcast, recommends her best habits for focused productivity here. Besides the batching tip, she also suggests making it a habit to turn off notifications. That way, you’re setting yourself up to work smarter.

However, even in the remote world, none of us work in a bubble. This article suggests some important habits to practice in your team. That involves being open in conversation, listening attentively, and leaving room for some lighthearted humor to punctuate the work. Not surprisingly, those habits also make it to this list of top leadership habits. If you’re leading your team, you may also want to add modeling self-discipline and setting a positive tone to your repertoire of good habits. Finally, no matter who you are, don’t isolate yourself. As this article suggests, staying connected to others matters most when we’re working remotely.

Well, I think that’s quite the collection of good ideas. If you follow the links I’ve included, you’ll see many more. How exactly does making new habits work, though? And the even peskier question: how do we get rid of the bad ones we don’t even notice anymore? I’ll tackle these questions in my next post. Learning and burning habits is the key to taking leaps in productivity. In next week’s post, I’ll show you that you have the tools to make it happen.