Do you feel like your time at work is a burden? You want to change something but you are not sure where to start? Here are 6 great work habits you can start this year to improve your wellbeing, productivity and happiness.
1. Organise your day in chunks
How often do you multitask at work? Fill in a spreadsheet whilst talking to your colleague and keeping an eye out for new emails. But do you really save time doing these things at the same time?
Our brain cannot focus on more than one complex task at the same time. We can do automated things at the same time, such as walking and talking on the phone or driving and thinking about a work project. These rely on different brain areas, which makes it possible. Work tasks require active thinking, planning, reasoning. These rely on the prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain involved in complex cognitive functions. And it can only process one complex task at a time.
So when you try to multitask, you’re actually switching between tasks. Which in itself drains your mental resources as you continually change your focus. So organise your day in chunks and do one thing at a time – dedicated time for emails (e.g. morning and after lunch), separate time blocked for different projects, small talks in your lunch breaks etc.
2. Use your lunch break
In the UK only 1 in 5 people take their full lunch break. And 52% admit to eating on their desks.
Your lunch break is an important opportunity to detach from work halfway through the day. This improves your productivity and ability to cope with stress in the second part of the day.
You can also use it as an opportunity to do something for yourself. After all, how many such opportunities do you have in your average day?
Create a routine to go for a run, brisk walk, yoga. Or dedicate it to your personal development. You can spend 15-20min from your lunch break every day to do an online course, listen to a podcast, read a career book or network. Imagine the things you can learn in a single year if you do this! That’s 5,200 minutes dedicated to you!
3. Swap the coffee for a healthier drink
Caffeine is the world’s most widely used psychoactive drug. It’s known to improve mental and physical performance. In the modern world where we often feel overwhelmed by life and time pressures, we have developed a relationship with this magic energy-boosting drink.
But it’s a double-edged sword.
Amongst other side effects, caffeine increases breathing, cardiovascular activity and cortisol levels. The same things happen when you’re under a lot of stress. One study found that people who had 300 mg of caffeine experienced more than double the stress of those who took a placebo.
So if you’re already under stress it’s certainly not a good idea to have much coffee!
Instead, swap some of your caffeine drinks with an alternative such as a glass of lemon water, matcha tea, a refreshing walk outside or natural energy-boosting supplement such as Guarana extract.
4. Learn to say ‘No’
There’s a strange feeling to saying No.
Others may perceive you as not committed, pretending that you don’t have time, even incompetent. But by committing to too many things you fail to prioritise your own wellbeing. Saying ‘No’ to some things and taking care of yourself means you get more work done because you are better rested and more productive.
So ask yourself:
- Is it my job to do it?
- Do I really have the time?
- Can I learn something from it, develop a new skill, or make a valuable connection?
- Will it have a positive impact on my performance appraisal or career?
- What would be the negative impact if I said ‘No’?
If you can’t say No then at least be realistic about a time frame. Is it a top priority? Can you deprioritise something else? How long do you need to complete it, realistically?
5. Prioritise your personal development
Spending time on learning and development activities is linked to many benefits… Higher salary, better career prospects and self-fulfilment. 94% of employees say they would stay with an employer for longer if it invested in their development. Yet lack of time is the number one cited reason why employees felt they’re held back from learning.
But do we really lack the time? Or this just a bad work habit?
In the UK we spend 1h 50min a day on social media (2h16min global average)! And another 58min commuting. You can start small and dedicate as little as 10 minutes to learning something new every week. This accumulates to 60 hours a year dedicated to your personal growth!
You can listen to a podcast or an audio-book on the go, during your commute, in the bath or even when driving. Or do a soft-skills course in your lunch break.
6. Detach from work
Giving in to Sunday blues every week? Worrying about work every night? Your brain and body don’t realise you’re not at work if you worry about work in your leisure time. This is because the same brain and body systems are activated. This results in poor mental health.
Instead, think and reflect positively about work. This is good for your wellbeing. Watch out for these thoughts and replace them:
If you want to improve your wellbeing and performance without spending much time or effort, picking these six great work habits is a good place to start.
Firstly, organise your workdays better. Split your day in chunks, instead of multi-tasking. And do not skip your lunch break.
Secondly, learn to say No – to caffeine and to your manager.
Finally, prioritise yourself first. Spend time on your personal development, wrap your workday with positive action and spend the evenings on yourself, rather than thinking about work.
What good habits help you at work on a daily basis?