(By Robin Madell)
There’s your job, and then there’s how you go about doing your job. While your position itself (and how well it fits with your expertise and passion) certainly plays a role in your career success, your routines and rituals in the office can also affect your happiness and productivity. This includes what you do before and after work, as well as during your workdays.
Here are seven daily habits that, if practiced regularly, can boost your success at work:
1. Focus on strengths, not weaknesses. Sometimes, in an effort to be perfect, we channel valuable time and energy into trying to get good at things that aren’t part of our natural aptitude. Charlotte Crivelli, co-founder of Klick Communications, believes this is a mistake. “At my company, we instill a culture that people should work on tasks that use their core strengths,” she says. “We don’t believe in wasting people’s time getting them to improve their weaknesses. Someone else will be strong where they are weak, and it’s my job to ensure everyone is working on what energizes them and not what depletes them.” To take this advice to heart, make a habit of prioritizing as many of your truest skill sets as possible on a daily basis.
2. Work how you work best. On a related note, not everyone works equally well in identical settings. While you may not have an option to work behind closed doors if your company favors an open floor plan, there are work habits you can develop to play to your strengths and improve your focus. A recent survey by office furniture company Turnstone found that 32 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds prefer working individually in a lounge setting over a traditional work environment.
If your company doesn’t provide your ideal space, think about simple changes you can make to your daily work environment. “Not everyone works the same way, so don’t feel restricted by the space that you’re in,” says Brian Shapland, general manager at Turnstone. “If you need to do head-down work, use headphones, or find a secluded area in the office to set up shop. If you need to be inspired, seek out a collaborative space so you can bounce ideas off of co-workers.”
3. Control your attitude. The mood you bring to work can affect not only your own morale and work performance, but also that of those around you. Therefore, another healthy habit to practice daily is taking control of your mental attitude. “An old saying goes: ‘The city of happiness is in the state of mind,'” says Karla Brandau, CEO of Workplace Power Institute. “To enjoy more satisfaction at work, it is important to regularly check your viewpoint, because negativity can dominate your life, which depresses not only your mind, spirit and body but your productivity level.”
An additional strategy for attitude adjustment is to practice being where you are at work rather than thinking about outside relationships and personal challenges. “If you are physically at work and are focusing on other life issues, then you aren’t mentally at work,” says Mike Rodriguez, professional speaker, training expert and author. “This means you cannot perform in an effective manner.”
4. Make better eating choices. How you fuel your body before, during and even after work can have significant repercussions on your ability to perform at your best.
Kristen Smith, a registered dietitian based in Atlanta, recommends that employees start by establishing a meal schedule and planning meals that will be eaten at work. “You may need to pack a meal or snack to ensure you do not go a substantial time without eating,” she says.
Here’s what else she recommends for optimal workplace nutrition: eating a meal within one hour of waking and continuing eating snacks or meals every three to four hours thereafter; including a low-calorie, protein-rich food in your first meal of the day, such as eggs or Greek yogurt; staying hydrated by drinking at least four to six cups of non-sugary beverages at work; and avoiding caffeine several hours prior to the end of your workday to allow for adequate sleep when you leave the office.
5. Do one good deed. While taking care of your own physical and mental needs at work, keep in mind that a habit of doing something nice for a colleague can make you feel even better. Studies have shown that a little altruism goes a long way. A 2012 study by Wall Street Journal (Europe) and iOpener Institute for People and Performance revealed that happier workers help their colleagues 33 percent more than their least happy colleagues.
“We’ve all experienced the boost that happens when we lend a helping hand to someone else, and this pay-it-forward principle holds true in the workplace,” says Melody Wilding, licensed therapist and workplace psychology expert. “Whether it’s taking on some simple tasks for an overwhelmed colleague or grabbing an extra coffee to give away in the morning, giving back to your team is a surefire happiness hack.”
6. Don’t dwell. Your after-work habits help set the tone for your next day in the office, so it’s important to get them right. When you have a bad day at work, you may find yourself replaying the events of the day over and over in your mind on your commute home.
Paula Thompson, founder of Foresight Coaching & Consulting, points out that mentally imagining conversations that did not go well activates the same biochemical and hormonal processes in your body as when the event originally occurred. “You are literally physically recreating the event in your body, keeping your stress hormones high,” she says. “If you find yourself dwelling, allow yourself 10 minutes to purposefully replay the event in your mind, identify what you can learn from the experience, and then close the flashback and move on.”
7. Establish an evening reflection ritual. A related habit that can help you kick the tendency to dwell on what didn’t go well is to establish an evening reflection ritual.
Before you pack up to leave the office each evening, Wilding recommends taking the time to review three things that went well during the day or that you feel grateful about. “This little ritual – no matter how tough the day was – can become something to look forward to and help you end each day on a positive note,” Wilding says. “Even better, this steers your brain toward habitual, positive, growth-oriented thinking. As you work to identify three things you’re grateful for – don’t cheat and settle for two! – you’re training your brain to see opportunity in challenging circumstances, rather than allowing it to get stuck in a pattern of negativity.”