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Should You Change Your Work Habits?

by Mentors to Executives Worldwide
April 14th 2021
How often do you have more to do than time in the day? What is the difference between “intentional” and “attentional” activities? This week Kim and Fulyana explore their work &... More
Thank you, I'm Kim Baillie, she's Fulyana Orsborn, this is Inside Exec. Today, we're going to talk about improving your work habits. Now, I will say that when I mentioned that someone questioned the fact that there would be work habits at all, whereas I questioned the fact that I would have to improve anything that I consider a work habit. So this is going to be a very interesting discussion. I'm going to come in and actually make it very easy because improving work habits doesn't mean something is not working. I think what I'm talking about here is applying as we apply to other things in the workplace. This is for yourself saying I want to look at what habits I'm doing that I want to continue and what habits I have that I want to stop doing altogether. But anything I want to stop, what am I replacing it with and anything that I want to do but do differently, I want to improve on that.

For example, I get this right five times out of six, but I want to get it six out of six, this habit. So when we're talking about our habits, sometimes we talk about work life balance. We talked about punctuality and all those obvious ones with that. I was wondering why we always tend to think, am I spending too much time at work? Am I spending too many hours particularly now with the remote mix of work from home and work from the office? People are overcompensating, they're getting a bit tired and all of that. Yes, you've got to look at that. But if I'm enjoying doing that and that is working for me, not your people the same, it's fine. But if I took this bit out by spending that last hour, which probably when my productivity is not too good, what will I replace it with? I replace it with another work habit where I actually am not working at any outstanding projects, but literally sitting down and thinking about the team, thinking about where we're heading, thinking about my customers, thinking about that.

It's what I call the reflection and innovative time. It's the time where you're looking at that strategically, you're not looking at solving an issue or meeting a target or stuff like that. So that to me is something I'm looking back at improving. Maybe give up an afternoon or whatever number of hours you're working, an hour a day a week, whatever works for you and try it out. I'm thinking about not me and my career, I'm thinking about my work, my team, my unit and my organization and then what will I do with that? And other ones when I say keep doing,, I'm not gonna be upset if some person is saying, well I'm doing eight hours a day and I'll always have friday afternoon off because I need to do this this and this and that's good. I'm not feeling guilty about it. I don't have to explain it. It's understood. I'm going to continue with that.

That's fine. So again, go there and assess what habits are working for you. Of course, with our habits, we've also got to look at how am I impacting others, right? So I can't just be talking about myself and my habits. But if I'm coming to a meeting late and in my mind I was just saying, ah you know, most of the time I'm on time, but I come in late but I'm a good contributor and you know, I make up for it and all of that. Well, that's great. But you're being rude and you're disrespecting other people's time. That to me doesn't justify that. Work on that. That would be an area of improvement. Perhaps if it's just being slack and not genuinely occasional, because something unexpected happened, again what is it that you like about what you're doing and how do you assess that? What does make you happy and productive and make the best of yourself at work? But also how is that perceived and accepted by the rest of the coworkers?

By your team members, by your customers, by the organization and then look at that. What am I doing that is actually causing nothing or causing harm even to me personally? I'm not sleeping because of it or not sleeping enough. Is it because I'm giving the wrong impression? Am I giving mixed communication to my team and that makes communication, if I say, look, you can have as much time off as you like and then I'm doing seven days a week, 24 hours? That might give miscommunication. I learned that the hard way and then I thought, well hang on, I'm respecting their right to do what they need, I'm happy doing those hours. So what is it? And I found that if you're in a managerial or leadership position, then it's your role. My role in that instance is to explain that I'm doing that because it works for me. I'm happy for each one of you to be different and make it work for you. But if I don't do that, I'll give the impression that look at me, I'm the martyr and that's not what I was doing at all.

I was doing what suited me. It is that sort of thing I'm talking about, the habits. What occurs to me is probably at a broader level, is the question of has work become a habit for you? Are you just working because that's your comfortable place? That's what you're doing and you justify it with all of these other reasons. I've got these many things to do, I've got all these people to manage, we've got these deadlines we have to meet. So it becomes then the decision about the intentional and the attentional. Are you working on the attention things that have deadlines that need your input and ignoring the intentional stuff which is the longer term planning and activities? But you still feel like you're doing work however the attention side of work has become a habit and what you need to do is look at whether that balance is right. So work might be a really good habit for you to have, it might stop you doing other things that would be detrimental to you in some health or well being way.

So work might be the right habit for you to have but it's a balance of what makes up that work and then it becomes the components of how you do things. So I'm just going to tell you that you have to have a list, I knew it was coming so I don't want to disappoint you all. But yes you do have to have a list. Yes, I do list for every week and it's not a hard and fast list of these are the things that I need to do each day. I break it up into days, things that have to be done on certain days. But if they don't get done on that day or if I've got extra time I'll mix and match and put things into the day or just mark them down as done if I've done them the day before, or whenever I've done them but what it gives me at the end of each week is that I can look at it and I can see what I've done in the week, what things had to be adjusted, what things got left over. I can move things to next week. And so I have them in the list for next week. It gives me a pattern of what is taking more time than I thought.

What's taking less time than I thought? Where can I move things around and have that intentional activity rather than the immediate attentional things that are happening? It gives me an opportunity and this is the part that's most interesting, it has given me the opportunity to see that there was time in the day where I couldn't be doing other things. And I think I've mentioned in a previous podcast that I started a program called 75 hard. It's actually an activity in 75 days. You only have to do five things, but you've got to do them every day. And on the face of it, it looks really easy and I've talked about this before. One of the things that I thought was going to be the easiest thing to do was the reading component because I'm good reader, I enjoy reading. But what I found in doing that program was that even though reading is a habit for me, you know, it's something that I like to do every day, but I found in doing that program that the better time for me to be reading was first thing in the morning and I was doing it at night because that had always been my habit to read to go to sleep.

But because I was now reading non fiction solely, because that's part of the program, is that you can only read non fiction books, the end of the day was not the right time for me to be doing it. So that habit had to change into a different time of day. So we're not talking about doing away with habits and saying this is a bad thing. It might be something that just has to change when you're doing it or how you doing it. And that again, that was another thing was how I was doing it. So the program recommends that you use a physical book because you can see your progress through the book. Whereas for my reading situation it's better for me to read digitally. But I can see my progress from the book because I read a certain percentage of the book each day. So it's got the measure at the bottom of the screen. So I know how much I've read each morning when I do the reading. What it does do is change my mindset as well. So it becomes a different kind of habit and a different result out of that habit that has been a lifetime habit. You know, reading has been a lifetime habit for me, work or otherwise. This is now very much more work focused habit and it gives me that opportunity to think more intentionally about what I'm doing business wise. In some of the books there was attention stuff as well because there were things that I needed to take notes of and to write down also. I can do the notes at the same time whereas in the evenings if I was reading I was too tired to have you know the notepaper or to do the copy and paste into some other document on the phone while I was reading.

It's a whole host of habits that come about when changing one habit that you might not even have thought of before. I just want to emphasis about replacing a habit that is not serving its purpose anymore. Whatever it is and what am I replacing it with because I could use that and get much more and let's face it we are creatures of habit so we do have those habits but they might be outdated now so we have to regularly review that. With some of it you do more of like Kim you just said, you found that reading in the morning is better for you. I like to do all the hard stuff of thinking in the morning, that's better for me and I'm going to continue with that but I also know that in the afternoon there's a certain dip and that dip might be better replaced with me going for a walk and then coming back when I'm much more reflected and focused.

So this is what I mean. Just examine what has changed for you and things that were working really, really well for you before. Are they still relevant or has the situation and your life has changed that you need to create new habits? And I think the first step is to recognize that you do have them, you are habitual in your nature. So you do things repeatedly or in a certain way and just look at whether that could be better. Sometimes it might be a really, really simple example, about peeling vegetables. I know the food analogy will work well with herself. But if you think about peeling vegetables, it was always done with a knife. And then there was the vegetable peeler. So habit became that we did it with a vegetable peeler. If I talk about working with flowers for the most part we were trying to use cutters or secateurs. But there is a whole stream of people who only use a knife. And so I've recently changed over from using the secateurs to using a knife.

And it was only habit. It was habit for me to look for the secateurs rather than the knife. And now that I'm using the knife, I think well why would I have something that I've got to pick up and put down where the knife, I can keep in my hand as I'm working. But it was habit, it was habit to use the secateurs because that's how I was cutting the flowers off the plant. So that's what I continued to use. And in terms of a demonstration, they're not a good thing to use because you bang them down on the table. And I used to always get complaints when I was banging them down on the table. And so rather than think about the implement I was using, I put a towel on the table. So I changed the habits, so it was a bit less intrusive. But I wasn't going to change that habit completely until I found a new tool. So think about your habits in that sense as well. Are you doing something automatically without thinking that it is habitual, that might be done differently? That would give you a changed result? Give it a try. We've covered your work habits. You can now go away and review them. Think about intention and attention.

We will leave it there for today. I'm Kim Baillie, she's Fulyana Orsborn. This is Inside Exec.

Should You Change Your Work Habits?
Should You Change Your Work Habits?
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