We all know how easy it is to set New Year’s resolutions with the best of intentions, only for them to be forgotten about or abandoned in a fit of rage by the time February comes around. Dry January, anyone..?
When it comes to achieving goals in our personal or professional life, we tend to think BIG. e.g. ‘I’m buying a house’ or ‘earn X amount of money’. Whilst these are great goals, and we encourage everyone to dream big (the bigger the better!), they can only be achieved by changing our habits. For example – Want to save for a house? Set daily / weekly savings targets, or implement cutbacks on routine things like coffee and lunch – saving £5 a day instantly (that’s nearly £2k a year!). I know, I know, it’s easier said than done, but with just a little change in your daily ritual you’d be surprised how much you can achieve…
Here at BOWER, we’ve set ourselves a team goal for 2019, which is to start working smarter.
Now we like to think that we’re already pretty savvy and get a whole lot of work done for a small team, but realistically we each have bad habits that we need to break out of, and can always be doing more to make sure that we are reaching our full potential.
We’ve compiled a list derived from our training and development programme (because practice what you preach, right?) of some our favourite highly effective habits to start implementing into your working day to make your working life and career soar to new heights..!
1. If it takes 2 minutes, do it now
This is something that we (humble brag) like to think we do pretty well at BOWER. It’s one of our core training principles for effective time management, and super easy to implement in daily life. If you are about to add a small non-urgent task to your to-do list that will take you 2 minutes or less, (make that 5 mins during non-busy times or 15 during quiet) just get on it right away! You will have saved yourself time by not faffing around in your todo list, and you’ll give yourself maximum feel-good efficiency points *tick*.
2. Bookend your day
One of the best practices to get into is spending an allotted period of time to yourself at the beginning and end of your day to assess your day’s actions. Even just 5 minutes is enough to help focus you for the day ahead. In the morning, ask yourself: Do you have a clear idea of what you need to achieve today? Do you have enough time and resources to carry your work out, and if not, what needs to change? In the afternoon: Did you achieve everything that you wanted to today, and if not, where will you find the time to do this extra work? In theory it sounds simple, but we all know how difficult it can be in practice to find the time in a busy job for just 5 minutes to yourself. You get into the office, catch up with colleagues over last night’s activities, your phone rings and all of a sudden, your day has begun. Try to make time for this important habit, because once you do, you’ll see your productivity go through the roof and your satisfaction in your work increase with it.
3. Stop Dead-ending
Ever needed help from a colleague only to be met with a big fat ‘No’ or ‘Can’t be done’? Or received an email that answered only 1 of the 3 questions that you asked? Dead-ending is the bad habit of responding to a task or issue in a way that does nothing to advance the situation. This is something that PAs, EAs and Assistants everywhere should have nailed from their very first day. Instead of approaching a difficult or challenging task with a ‘no, sorry can’t be done’, stop and ask yourself, OK, what else might we be able to do? Investigate the problem further, ask more questions about it. Perhaps it’s not exactly as you thought, get advice from a colleague who might be able shed light on it. Responding to problems, even really difficult ones, with intelligence will make you a more helpful and valuable team-member and employee.
4. Tidy desk, tidy mind
This one is fairly self-explanatory, but we thought we’d put it in here to remind a certain colleague of it’s importance – Mel come on, tidy up. Anyway, it’s an age-old saying that countless professionals rely on as a way to boost productivity. The tidier your desk, the less likely you are to get distracted, and more you are likely to retain your focus on the task at hand. Ensure that your company provides you with essential telephone and tech cleaning equipment so that you can wipe down at least once a week. Studies have shown that flu viruses can linger on unclean surfaces such as work desks or electronic equipment for 24 hours, so if you are sick and at work, do your colleagues a favour by cleaning whatever you touch. Putting aside 15 -30 minutes a week to tidy and clean your space is necessary for maintaining a productive and happy working environment.
5. Time blocking
Any great PA will tell you – the key to productivity is all in the diary! Keeping a well-maintained diary is essential for any professional who works to tight deadlines or with a heavy workload. Blocking time in your diary for projects and non-urgent tasks (and actually doing it!) is the only way to ensure you will find time for those important items in your todo list that keep getting pushed aside for everyday work. Need help managing your diary, or ideas on how to manage it? Ask an invisibLE Personal Assistant to spare an hour or two!
6. Do the thing you hate first
CEO Emma’s personal favourite… Nobody wants to do things they don’t enjoy, but the sooner you get it done, the less you will have to think about it. It could be something like beginning a new project, calling a client, responding to a massive email from a colleague or even just cleaning out your coffee mug. If you keep putting off those unenjoyable tasks, you’ll end up doing them either behind schedule or on Friday afternoon, which will leave you in a foul mood for the weekend! Keeping on top of your to-do list is essential if you want to feel in control and like you are smashing your job.
7. Exercise every day
Making exercise part of your daily routine is something that we all should be prioritising. Whether it’s walking an extra tube journey, taking a quick stroll at lunchtime or squeezing in a class before/after work, the countless benefits of exercise on the human brain are unquestionable. Regular exercise can help reduce feelings of anxiety and depression, and releases serotonin which makes you feel happier. When you exercise, your blood flow to the brain is increased, which can help to keep you alert and focused when you get back to work. Regular exercise also keeps you physically fitter and boosts your immune system, making you less likely to succumb to certain illnesses or diseases. The list goes on…
8. No coffee past lunchtime
It’s getting close to the end of the day and you’re on the home stretch, but that foggy end of the day head is starting to set in. What do you do? Most of us reach for an afternoon pick me up… that final delicious cup of coffee. We all know that caffeine is highly addictive, and lots of us rely on it to get what is known as “fake energy” to get us through the day. Research also shows that as well as being a stimulant caffeine reduces the body’s natural flow of melatonin, the hormone that helps us control the body’s rhythm and get to sleep at night. And what happens when we don’t get enough sleep? We’re tired! And therefore more likely to reach for that end of the day pick me up. So next time you feel that afternoon fatigue starting to kick in, try to resist. Search for alternative brain stimulants. Instead why not try taking a quick walk, getting some fresh air or drinking plenty of water? The results will mean that a better duration and quality of sleep, reaping all the benefits of better rest, from recovering from distractions faster to improved memory.
9. Work from home
Smallbusiness.co.uk reported that 50% of the UK’s workforce will be working remotely by 2020. Technological advancements over the last few years has meant that most of us can perform our office jobs from the comfort of our own home. But what are the benefits? Firstly, do you ever find yourself interrupted by the hubbub of the office? Sometimes all you need is a quiet afternoon alone, uninterrupted, to get that task done you’ve been meaning to do for months. Taking a day to work from home can reduce your stress levels, allow you a better work-life balance and allows more flexibility for home life. And, let’s not forget, no hectic commute and maybe even an extra half an hour in bed! At BOWER, we work as flexibly as we can with work-from-home days, remote days, and our membership at The Office Group which allows us to work from loads of great spaces all around London.
10. Switch off at the end of the day
In today’s 24/7 ‘always on’ working culture it can be especially hard to find the time to disengage from work. Technology is great and comes with amazing benefits (as we just mentioned), but it’s getting increasingly difficult to separate work from home. Whether you’re struggling to resist the urge to check your emails late at night or to spend an extra 30 minutes on a project that you couldn’t find time for during the day, it’s not always easy to leave the office at the office. Senior or Private PA roles can also require 24/7 availability, and it can be especially difficult to find time for yourself in an all-consuming job whilst also ensuring success at work. Try turning your phone off for a couple of hours in the evening and make sure you don’t check it! If you have a demanding boss – give them the heads up that you’ll be uncontactable for a couple of hours. Making sure you find time to completely disengage from work is vital, and it allows you to increase efficiency on the job and reduce stress in your personal life. Whether it’s exercise, finding a hobby, going for a walk or catching up with friends, find a way to unwind that works for you.
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