Getting back to good work habits

Written by Professional Academy Management and Leadership Tutor, Kathryn Knights

When habits are going well everything feels good. But life can get in the way of habits. Your job might get busy, your relationship might break down, you might have children, or your rhythm might just disappear over time. Sometimes it’s a sudden change and at other times it’s gradual. But when the realisation hits that our habits have waned, it can feel impossible to get back on track.

Here are seven ways to get back to good work habits:

1. Start at the beginning

Let’s assume there are a few good habits that have slipped recently. You can’t get all your plates spinning again in one go. You need to work on one at a time. So take a look at the things that have slipped and then prioritise them. Maybe there is one that is the most important to get back on terms with e.g. paying off your credit cards. Or maybe there is one habit that will be easy to create an easy first win with e.g. going back to your Monday night exercise class. Look at the habit at the top of your priority list and give it your full focus. When you’re back on track (three weeks or so) move onto the next habit on the list.

2. Get scheduling

I’ve mentioned before the importance of trusting in your calendar as a system to ensure you do the things that are the most important on any particular day. So if you decided that you’re going to perform X habit at X time on X day – put it in your calendar and trust in the process that what goes in your calendar will actually happen. To take this to the next level you can colour-code your habits so that they stand out when you view your calendar each morning and demand your attention.

3. Decide on your first step

Ask yourself: ‘what is the smallest possible step I can take to get going?’ Make the answer as easy and simple as possible. For example, if you have a report to write the first step might be to just read through any notes you have already taken or to spend five minutes jotting down any ideas that come into your head. Once you have your fist step you have something to lead you into the following step and so on.

4. Set up your environment for success

Homes and workplaces can be very distracting places to achieve things, especially things we find tough in the first place. Think about the habit you are trying to instill. What is distracting you? If your desk is untidy and full of paperwork – tidy it up. If your phone keeps pinging – turn it off or move it to another room. If the room you are in is the distraction – move to another room. If the time of day is not working for you – carry out your habit at a different time. If you don’t have the right tools – invest in them (within reason). Whatever it is, change your environment so that success is inevitable.

5. Be accountable to yourself

Check in with yourself on a regular basis. Use a paper journal to write down the habits you need to pick up again. At the end of each day (or at the start of the following day) jot down whether you succeeded in carrying out your habit or not. At the end of the week reflect on the results. What were the things that stopped / started you from taking action? Use what you learn each week to be better the following week. And don’t forget to celebrate your successes too!

6. Be accountable to others

Doing things on your own is tough. When things go bad there is no one to help you. So; ask a friend, work colleague or partner to be your accountability checker. They’ll inspire you during the good times and keep you going during the harder ones.

7. Do not give up

You can’t change the past, but you do have control of the present. Instead of feeling deflated about what you haven’t achieved be happy with what you have achieved. Don’t forget you have the power to keep moving ahead in a positive direction, despite the past.

If you need further advice, get in touch via LinkedIn.

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