Three Habits that Will Change Your (Work) Life This Year

It’s a new year! Time to do all those things that you know will make your life better, but you never seem to get on top of. But let’s keep things really simple: what are the small things you can do that will make a huge difference to the way you think and feel? Instead or trying to master one hundred different things in 2020, why not just do some basics really, really well? Apart from exercise, diet and sleep, here are three things that will take barely any time at all but have a huge return on investment. 

1. Daily Reflection

Time Commitment: 3-5min/day

Have you ever gotten to the end of the day and felt mentally and emotionally exhausted? Well you’re not alone. Three out of five people go home feeling absolutely drained at the end of their workday. And this has big impacts on their life outside of work. They find that they don’t have the energy to engage with their family and friends, they find it difficult to get motivated to exercise after work and often they find that they’re so exhausted they look for quick and easy dinner options on the way home.

I don’t need to tell you the effect this has on physical health and relationships, but more devastating is the cumulative effect it has on our general wellbeing. This constant feeling of mental and emotional exhaustion is known to be linked to chronic stress, mental illness and a long-term lack of motivation.

The simple answer comes in an easy few minutes at the end of the day.

Before bed, write down three things that you feel went well during the day. They might be things you are grateful for, or little wins that you day. It may even be a great workout or a beautiful sunset. It doesn’t really matter as long as you take the time to acknowledge that it was great. 

Harvard research shows that doing this just once a week can boost happiness and optimism scores by up to 150%... imagine what doing it every day can achieve!

(See our course which includes daily reflection: Journalling Essentials Course )

2. Meditation: 

Time Commitment: 3x 10min/week

I know, I know….. you’ve probably tried this already and haven’t been able to stick to it. The benefits we hear most about are mental wellness and decreased stress levels. But did you also know that the practice of meditation can also increase your focus, help you fall asleep faster, teach you to control your emotions and even help with self-control?

But the good news is that as little as 10 minutes of meditation three times a week is enough to see a lot of the benefits that this passive activity gives us. Use an app like Headspace, or Calm to get started and learn the basics. Or just focus on your breath for ten minutes. 

The key thing to remember is that even if you think you’re not doing it right, you probably are. Even if your mind starts to wander from the very start of your session, you’re getting benefits. And even if you can only focus your attention or clear your mind for a total of 30 seconds in that whole ten minute practice, that’s 30 seconds of teaching your mind to b e still.

It’s called meditation ‘practice’ for a reason….. we never truly master it.

3. Shorter Lists

Time Commitment: 5min/day

Every day we get overwhelmed by the amount of tasks we have to complete. Managing these tasks in a better way is a sure-fire remedy for a lot of the stress we deal with on a daily basis. The key mistake people make is that they have one enormous task list with everything imaginable written down on it and, while we encourage using lists as much as possible to organise your day, these huge lists of tasks can get overwhelming. 

And when our task list is this big, it doesn’t matter what we get completed, we never really feel like we’re making progress. To be honest, after adding new items during the day, most people task list is longer at the end of the day instead of shorter!

Here is what we tell everyone who will listen: if you are not completing your task list at least three out of five days a week, then you’re simply making bad lists.

To help, at the start of every day, take that giant task list and make a new list with ONLY the things that you are going to get done that day. If other things pop up during the day that are not completely urgent, then write them on that big master list – but otherwise don’t look at it again until the following day.

This has the effect of giving us a sense of control every day and also a sense of progress. Most importantly, it gives us a sense of achievement and a true ‘finish’ to the workday.

(For more on organising your day, see our course here: Journalling Essentials Course )

For the investment of just a handful of minutes every day, you can make a huge impact on your mental and emotional wellbeing, your sense of accomplishment and your general feeling about work. If you were to do anything at all this year to make your work life better, this would be it.

** Tony Wilson is a Workplace Performance Expert focussed on helping leaders build the environment for high performance. His insights into performance science and it's application in the workplace will make you re-think the way that you approach leadership, culture change, high performance and productivity. Tony has an MBA and a BSc majoring in physiology and combines the two for a different perspective. He is also the author of Jack and the Team that Couldn't See and delivers workshops and keynote presentations around the globe.
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