Science teaches us that the way we work is a result of our daily habits. You might have developed bad work habits such as checking your phone every five minutes while you are working. Or not answering your customer emails quickly enough. Worse, you may be continuously over-promising and almost always finding yourself unable to deliver.
Unfortunately, it can feel like productive work habits are very difficult to maintain. You swear that you will not check your phone all morning till lunch. And you stick to the plan on day one. Now, you are very relieved, knowing that you have finally averted your bad habit.
Two days later, however, when your stress levels are on the rise, your eyes start to dart all over, looking for that quick Facebook or IG fix that helps distract you from the task at hand. Guess what’s back? Your bad habit. So, how do you build productive work habits that last?
Substitute your bad habits
Habits are the small decisions we make and the actions we perform every day. Because 40 percent of the actions we take everyday stem from our habits and not conscious decisions, stop trying to erase your bad behavior. Strive, instead, to replace your bad habits with positive and more productive ones.
Remember, just because we want to stop a bad habit does not mean the desire to engage in it disappears. Unexpected challenges will arise the next time you are working. Just don’t seek to relieve your stress by taking a “quick break” to check your Facebook or IG feed. Replace that behavior with a more positive one like surfing the web for resources that help you complete your task.
Use identity-based goals
Don’t think for a second that you can build a productive work habit by relying on your motivation and willpower alone. Research shows that it takes around 66 days – more than two months before a new behavior is automatic.
To build those productive work habits, you have to first decide the type of person you want to be, and then prove it to yourself with small wins. Breaking down your goal into smaller, easy-to-track chunks makes it easy for you to see the progress you are making and keeps you focussed.
Make it easy
Easy to do habits do not seem overwhelming – and they also don’t need you to summon a great deal of motivation to get going. This is why it’s a great idea to break down a big goal into smaller and easily achievable milestones.
Make it easy for yourself to build and maintain productive work habits by setting reminders in plain sight. Redesign your environment if you have recently started working from home, for instance, so that it becomes easier to build good habits and break bad ones.
Plan to fail
No human being is perfect, so you might as well plan for the inevitable moment when you fall off the wagon, so to speak. Instead of beating yourself up when you stumble right into your bad habits, remind yourself that there is zero evidence that habits are all or nothing.
Indeed, you are best served to come up with a list of potential challenges that may stand in your way. Then, address these challenges using an “if this happens, then I’ll have to do that” statement. Do make sure, however, that you are doing your part to remove triggers and distractions from your environment so that there are fewer chances of slipping back into bad habits.
Have tons of patience
When we first set a goal, we are pumped and excited, and not lacking in motivation, drive, and willpower. You will agree that a while after immersing yourself in the tasks that make you feel like you are getting closer to achieving your goals, our motivation and sense of willpower start to fade.
Motivation is not enough. Recognizing that productive work habits have to be built slowly and in tiny steps, rather than in one big burst of hard work, will help prevent you from giving up too soon. To have a long-lasting transformative change, consistency must remain a constant. Be patient.