You know those days when you leave work feeling amazing, pumped that you were highly productive? On the flipside, I’m sure you have days that are just the opposite. Ones that leave you feeling frustrated, wondering whether you got anything done. What if there was a way to end every day knowing that it was successful?
Unfortunately, there’s no bulletproof formula to guarantee this, but there are certain practices you can follow that’ll help.
Here are five habits that, if practiced daily, can boost your success at work:
1. Keep a Gratitude Journal
Gratitude journals have grown wildly popular and I can understand why. Earlier this year, I started a journal and committed to writing down one thing I’m grateful for every day. At 159 days in, I’m still going strong. I found that expressing gratitude every morning before work gets me in the right mindset and helps me prepare for the day’s challenges.
But don’t take my word for it. A study by UCLA found that people who regularly wrote down what they were grateful for were more optimistic and cheerful than those who didn’t. Interestingly, they also had fewer doctor visits and fewer work absences. Expressing gratitude daily is a simple, quick practice that has a massive impact, and there’s even an app for it in case you’re not a fan of physical journaling like I am.
2. Reduce Context Switching
Context switching is when you jump between various, unrelated tasks. You’re heads down on a project but get interrupted by an urgent message. A few minutes later, a conversation between co-workers distracts you, and, after you finally refocus, you remember an email you should have responded to earlier in the day. Does this sound like your day?
While rapid context switching may seem like the norm of the modern worker, Jessica Harris from Trello explains how it comes at a high cost:
We spend an average of just one minute and 15 seconds on a task before being interrupted.
It takes an average of 25 minutes to resume a task after being interrupted.
Heavily multitasking can temporarily lower your IQ by up to 15 points.
You probably can’t eliminate context switching altogether, but being mindful of the productivity damage it causes will allow you to create rules to avoid distraction (more on that in a second).
3. Create “If/When-Then” Plans
I learned about this habit from Robert Cialdini’s book, Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade. Here’s how it works. You pick a cue, then pick a desirable action that you can link to that cue. Here are a few “if/when-then” rules I follow:
- If/when I need to work without interruption, then I leave my desk and find a drop-by room.
- If/when it’s time to eat lunch, then I order a salad. Boring, I know.
- If/when I get a calendar invite for Thursday (when my company has a no-meeting policy), then I move the meeting to a different day.
Research suggests that people who use “if/when-then” planning are between two and three times more likely to achieve their goals. This type of planning is effective because you’re proactively creating automatic responses. When situations arise that might prevent you from reaching your long-term goals, you’ve already decided how you’ll act.
4. Exercise—Even if Only for a Few Minutes
You know you should exercise—the benefits are significant. But knowing isn’t the tough part—it’s finding time in your busy schedule to make it happen.
Running, cycling, or going to the gym may be ideal, but all you really need is a few minutes. One option is the 7-Minute Workout. It’s an intense workout you can do almost anywhere and is proven to deliver results.
Taking a short break to go on a walk is a great way to reduce stress. A few years back I committed to going on one walk in the middle of the workday.
These quick strolls elevated my heart rate, for just a few minutes, and it enabled me to go back to my work with renewed focus. So, even if you don’t have time to hit the gym, exercising for only a few minutes each day is still worth it.
5. Have a Shutdown Ritual
Eric Barker, a best-selling author who wrote an entire book on success, teaches the importance of having a “shutdown ritual” in which you take the time to close out the day’s business and prepare for tomorrow. His research found that the simple act of writing down the things you need to take care of the next day can settle your brain and help you relax.
My shutdown ritual includes making a concise list (no more than three) of the most important things I need to do the next day. Since committing to this practice I’ve found that I think less about work when I’m out of the office. My ritual also includes cleaning my desk and shutting down my laptop, practices signaling that my work day has come to an end.
It turns out that implementing this has been found to relieve anxiety and help you enjoy your evening.
One final thought. While each of these five habits is intended to help you be more successful, it’s important to also pause and take a moment to define what success means to you.
These are guidelines, and, ultimately, you’ve got to create your own standard of excellence and measure progress accordingly. Because real, lasting success comes by aligning your actions with what’s most important to you.