Many of us who want to excel at work understand that the time we take to work on our self-improvement can be crucial and highly rewarding. Far from being a waste of time, working towards goals like getting better sleep and getting up earlier will feed directly into your mental and physical health throughout the work day.
Not only does self-improvement like increasing reading, doing more regular exercise, and learning new skills mean you can enjoy your life more fully, but the new skills and energy you acquire from all that hard work will lead to increased productivity and creativity within your job.
But making those changes is a lot easier said than done. Elizabeth Grace Saunders is a time coach, and in a post on the Harvard Business Review blog, she explains some of what she's learnt about creating lasting behavioural change:
Even the most motivated people can get stuck, frustrated, and lose hope during the process of behavioral change. As a time coach, I see this happen when clients become so fixated on specific tactics — getting up at 5 am, say, to make time for the gym, or a hard-and-fast rule that they never check email before 10 am — that they lose sight of the fact that many methods could lead to achieving their larger strategic goals.
Yes, habit change takes discipline, patience, and practice. But no, it shouldn’t feel like you’re constantly trying to force yourself to do something you really don’t want to do. That’s unsustainable. To make new habits stick, they must work with the reality of who you are and what’s best for you.
This is exactly what James Clear discusses in his post about Identity-based goals:
The interior of behavior change and building better habits is your identity. Each action you perform is driven by the fundamental belief that it is possible. So if you change your identity (the type of person that you believe that you are), then it’s easier to change your actions.
The reason why it’s so hard to stick to new habits is that we often try to achieve a performance or appearance–based goal without changing our identity. Most of the time we try to achieve results before proving to ourselves that we have the identity of the type of person we want to become. It should be the other way around.
It's never an easy overnight transformation to build good habits and work towards better productivity. It starts with a lot of hard work but it's also, as James Clear and Elizabeth Grace Saunders have highlighted, about doing the thinking behind why and how you're going to achieve your goals. Saunders empahsises that:
By staying focused on the goal and experimenting with tactics, I’ve seen people who have never kept routines start to exercise consistently, make progress on priority projects, get on top of e-mail, and accomplish all sorts of other goals. Keep these principles in mind, and you can—and will—achieve lasting behavioral change.
But even with a strategy and a goal to work for, it is still very difficult to become unfaultingly regular at working towards that goal. There will be many times that you will have to skip a day's routine or will be caught up in the failures rather than the successes.
Meditation and mindfulness are two of the tactics you can use to help see the bigger picture, gain more focus on a daily basis, and become less concerned with any dips in success along the way. The advantage to practising mindfulness is that it can be done at any point throughout the day.
You can practise walking and eating meditation or even be mindful when brushing your teeth. If you need some tips and guidance about how you can add some different mindfulness meditations into your daily routines, check out PSYBlog's post about Mindfulness.
Have you been successful at building your long-term goals? What was the best tactic you used to get into good habits? We'd love to hear your thoughts and stories so let us know in the comments below or say hi by email. You can also follow us on Twitter and say hi there!