December is exciting for more than the rivers of glühwein and gift-wrapping bonanza.
As a productivity junkie, I can’t wait for the fresh-slate feeling and clarity that comes with a good year review and setting new goals for the new year.
Non-Trivial Working Habits
But we want to offer you something different — several mental habits that would tremendously impact your work life and career.
According to psychologist Dr. Patrick McGraph, just like physical habits such as exercising or smoking, we develop mental habits. These are less about what we do and more about how we think and react.
Some of them are productive, and some — not so much. But they all impact our daily lives in ways we may not even notice.
For example, suppose one has a solution-oriented mindset (Wichita way of thinking). In that case, they may experience less anxiety, be more creative, and have greater self-confidence.
On the other hand, a person with a habit of diverging responsibility would have difficulty learning from their mistakes and growing as a person and professional.
Ideas for Healthy Mental Habits for a Successful Career
Here are our suggestions for Mental habits to try in 2023:
Practice empathy in the workplace
It helps nurture your relationships, make you a better leader and create outstanding service, especially towards your colleagues, clients, and customers. As always, recognition and success will follow.
Develop a Growth Mindset
It is a belief that, as opposed to a fixed mindset, you can grow through practice, challenges, and trials in any area of your life.
The key is to reframe how we view challenges: not as signals to quit trying but as a natural part of the process.
To quote Carol Dweck: “When you enter a new mindset, you enter a new world.”
Practice Resistance hour
You might have heard about ‘eating the frog’ first, i.e., starting from the most challenging part of your to-do list. Sometimes it may lead to the feeling of stuck-ness, as the frog may kick and bite.
Instead, try to commit to eating your frog for one hour at your most productive time. Setting a mental limit for a challenging task can reduce mental resistance.
Make hard choices
People are wired for loss aversion: we don’t like to make decisions that would cause us to compromise.
Refusing a new project when the team is busy, saying no to opportunities, or choosing between priorities. The majority of choices we make in the workplace come with a tradeoff.
And yet, it doesn’t mean that not making them is better.
- Taking projects we can’t deliver can deter clients from ever coming back and damage your team spirit.
- Overscheduling leads to burnout
- Dragging on decisions leads to frustrations
Hard choices = easy life.
How to choose the best career habits to adopt?
When choosing habits for the new year (or quarter or month), choosing is the keyword.
You probably already have an impressive list of ‘should-dos’ and ‘somedays.’ Deciding what’s really worth implementing AND has the potential to stick, drastically improves chances for success.
The best habits are the ones you actually maintain.
Here are some guiding questions to probe your candidates:
- Why do you want to implement this habit?
- What impact would it make in 5 years?
- Would you enjoy doing that?
- In your experience, how likely would it stick?
- Do you have the resources (money, time, energy) to work on that?
How to develop good working habits?
Step 1. Find your why (and come back to it)
“Our WHY is our purpose, cause, or belief—the driving force behind everything we do.” — Simon Sinek.
Step 2. Set clear actions
Make sure you know exactly what you need to do to perform your habit, so there’s no ‘figuring out between you and desired action. Think beforehand, but aim for doable, not perfect.
Step 3. Design your environment
Consider your surroundings in terms of the number of steps it takes to reach your target habit.
Reduce the number of steps needed to practice a positive habit or make it more challenging to maintain negative behaviors by making them harder to perform.
Step 4. Reflect on the process
Try to include a reflection routine in your weeks. Take a look back at what you planned and what you’ve done.
- What are you the proudest of?
- What went according to plan, and what didn’t?
- What worked, and what didn’t?
- How can you improve next week?
Step 5. Don’t try harder; try different.
Humans tend to view their future selves in an overly optimistic manner. When setting goals such as ‘learn to code‘ for 60 minutes every day,” we’re likely to face a setback.
But even more reasonable goals and plans cannot work in reality.
But don’t be discouraged by these setbacks: treat them like new information in an experiment.
Instead of quitting or doubling down on bashing yourself for the lack of discipline, think like a scientist: why did it happen? And what can you tweak to increase your chances of success?
How to maintain good habits?
Whether you choose some of our examples of good working habits to work for your new year’s resolutions or your own, here is some advice on staying on track with your goals:
Keep your goals front and center (and your why, too).
Our brain is truly magical and is wired for salience. It prefers the most apparent tasks with the most obvious steps.
That’s why prioritizing strategic work over burning deadlines is often challenging.
You’d be surprised at how quickly your ‘most important goal’ can be sidelined if you don’t ensure it’s always in front of you. And the next step too!
Combining a screensaver and a periodical rereading of my Why helps keep the focus on the prize.
Choose attainable, but rewarding goals
When researching how to keep up with New Year’s resolutions, you’ll find a lot about small steps and 1% changes.
In other words, introduce tiny habits that don’t feel like work: one push-up to start your workout habit, one sentence a day of your book, etc.
Who am I to cross the all-mighty James Clear?
But I will.
Just a little.
By all means, your goals have to be attainable, even on a bad day. But they should also feel like progress and not like a ruse. So that you’d feel like you’re actually working towards your goal.
Work on your expectations
Speaking of feeling progress: Most goal-setters overestimate their ability to commit to a goal.
The planning fallacy is a typical cognitive mistake. It explains why we are so bad at estimating how long it will take and how much we can invest in performing anything.
If expectations are unrealistic in the first place, the lack of visible progress can demotivate and even encourage quitting.
Instead, look honestly at what you demand of yourself and what resources are available. Forget bloggers, gurus, and Steve from sales. Only use your own experience to benchmark what’s achievable.