Join Gretchen Rubin for an in-depth discussion in this video Strategies for success, part of Gretchen Rubin on Creating Great Workplace Habits.
- So let's say you're ready to start some good habits at work, where do you start? Right, it might seem very overwhelming. Well, you want to begin in the foundation These are the habits that are really going to help you build out the habits that you're going to want to have in the workplace, and the first strategy to use in changing your habits is the strategy of Monitoring. Now, monitoring has kind of an uncanny power. It turns out that whenever we monitor anything that we're doing, we tend to do a better job, even if we're not consciously trying to change.
Whether that's monitoring what we eat, how much we spend, there's something about just looking at how much we're doing something and tracking it that helps us do a better job. So whatever it is that you're trying to do, you want to monitor it, and another positive aspect to monitoring is it forces us to be concrete. So you might say something like, "I want the habit of networking more." Well, what does that mean? How do you measure that? That's too abstract, you want to turn it into something that you can monitor.
Once a week, I will go to a monitor-- networking event. Well that's something that you can actually keep track of, or you know, get in better touch with my clients, that's too abstract, call a client every day, call one client every day. That's something you an actually monitor and track, and so the strategy of monitoring is one that forces us to be specific about what we're expecting from ourselves, and how we're going to work towards that goal, and also by seeing how often we're following through, we're much more likely to start moving in the right direction, that's the strategy of monitoring.
Next up, the strategy of Foundation. And the strategy of foundation is just, you know, there's certain things that we do, in our everyday lives, that give us more self command, and self command is something that we want all day long, at work, and at home, you want to be in control of yourself, so what do you need to do? There are four things to think about with your foundation. First, eat and drink right. Don't let yourself get too hungry. When you are too hungry, that's when you lose your temper, that's when you can't make decisions, that's when you get into fights in the workplace, make sure that you eat enough.
And drinking, well, I mean, part of the fun of drinking is that it lowers our inhibitions, and that's not a good thing for self command. Next, moving around. You do not need to train for the marathon, or do an hour spin class in order to get the benefits of just moving around, you know, go for a fifteen minute walk during your lunch hour. Bike to work instead of driving to work, all this exercise, it boosts your alertness, your memory, your self command, it's going to do all kinds of positive things for you. Next, sleep.
We all know it, and so many of us don't follow through with it. Most adults need at least seven hours of sleep a night. So figure out what time you wake up in the morning, do the math, give yourself a bedtime, and make sure that you're consistently getting at least seven hours of sleep. It has a huge impact on your health, on your mood, your memory, your immune function, they think it contributes to weight gain. If you use your brain at work, you cannot be using your brain efficiently if you're not getting enough sleep. It's your most important resource.
And then finally, and this is the one that kind of surprised me in Foundation, is uncluttering. To kind of a crazy degree, to most people outer order contributes to inner calm, inner self command, and a sense of creativity. I have a friend who said, "You know, I finally cleaned out my fridge, and now I know I can switch careers." And I knew exactly what that felt like, and often if I feel stuck in a work project, if I just take the time to clean out my, clean off my the top of my desk, file things, print things out, move things, get rid of my to-do list, there's some kind of energizing creative explosion that happens, so often by managing clutter, it seems like it's a trivial thing, but it can matter more than we think, and so to work on making sure that you eat and drink right, move some, get enough sleep, and clutter can help set the foundation for all the habits that you're working on.
Next, Scheduling. To a crazy degree for most people, if something actually appears on their schedule, they are much more likely to do it. So if during the course of your work day, you want to go to the gym, don't just say, "Sometime today I'm going to go to the gym." Actually slot it into your calendar, you might have to slot fun things into your calendar too, you might intellectually say to yourself, "I think it's important for me to get out of the office, for half an hour and eat lunch outside, you know, away from my desk." But then day after day, you find yourself right there eating your sandwich right at your desk, so write on your calendar: Go out to lunch.
There's something about the power of seeing something on the schedule that allows people to work. Now, if you struggle with procrastination, scheduling is the answer. Let's say you go to work on an annual report, and you're dreading it, and you keep putting it off, and putting it off, and putting it off, put it on your schedule. For two hours every morning, work on the annual report. If it's on your schedule, you're much more likely to do it. Once you start, you're going to find it much more easy to, easier to keep following through. But here's the key thing about scheduling: if you're scheduling working on the annual report, during those two hours, you do nothing else.
Because it turns out that working is one of the most dangerous forms of procrastination, so you are not doing research, you are not answering emails, you are not filing. You are writing the annual report, or you are staring into space, and out of sheer boredom, you will start working on the annual report and once you start working on it, it will get much easier. So the strategy of scheduling is excellent for people who struggle with procrastination. However, if you are a rebel, there are not many rebels, but if you are a rebel, and if you are, you know it, scheduling does not work for you.
The minute something goes in your schedule, you don't want to do it. Do not try to use scheduling if you are a rebel, because you will resist it, and even something you might choose to do, you won't do it if it's on your schedule. And finally, Accountability. For almost everyone, accountability is an enormously powerful strategy, and they're all around us, you know, attendance records help get us to school on time when we were little, deadlines help us get work done. Accountability is something that can really help people follow through, and if you are an obliger, accountability is crucial for you.
You must find ways to build an external accountability for anything that you want to do, whether it's at work, or at home, in your personal life, whatever it is, you want to have that accountability. And there are all kinds of accountability, you can, you can ask your boss for accountability, you can work with teams to form accountability, you can hire an executive coach, you know, sometimes when like people are trying to do something big and bold, like switch careers, you might need to hire somebody or work with somebody to help you stay on track as you complete the many steps that are neccessary to switch from one career to another career.
And here's a thing that's very important: If someone comes to you, in the workplace, and says, "I need you to hold me accountable for this." sometimes people don't want to, they're like, "No! I trust you!" or, "You do it in your own time, I know it's going to be amazing!" No. If someone asks you for accountability, it's because they figured out they need accountability. If somebody asks for accountability, if they want deadlines, if they want supervision, if they want to have to check in with you, provide it. Because they're telling you that that's what they need in order to do a good job. The fact that you might not need accountability, doesn't mean that they don't need accountability.
And if they're asking for it, they probably learned the hard way that accountability is crucial for them. So with all of these strategies, it's very important to just think, "Well, what am I like? What do I respond to? When have I succeeded in the past?" Look at what works for you, think about how you can use these strategies in order to shape the habits that are really going to allow you to thrive in the workplace.