I know, I know: I said I was going to do a three-part series on developing better work habits, but instead I came up with four parts.
Such is the life of the thoughtful blogger.
As I noted in my last few posts (you can see them here, here, and here), once you start identifying where you tend to skip corners, slack off, or just plain avoid tasks, you can begin to strengthen your resolve to do better.
A few tips:
1) Time it: On days that I’m especially having trouble concentrating, I like to set some sort of timer to keep me on track. Sometimes I use a kitchen timer (tick, tick, tick, tick, brrrriinnnggg); sometimes I use this meditation bell timer, which rings once when you’re ready to start and three times when you’re done. I almost always set my timers for 45 minutes, then take five minutes or so to get up, stretch, re-fill my water bottle, and just clear my head.
2) Write it down: Keep a pad of paper on your desk and write down every time that you find yourself wanting to procrastinate, skip a task, or cut a corner. Eventually those passing thoughts will lose their compelling quality and you’ll be able to just say, “there goes that temptation to not do my best again.”
3) Tackle it: Choose one area of your work every week that you want to improve. Week 1 might be keep a neater desk top. Week 2 might be “be kinder to the dishwashers.” Week 3 might be “program email to download only every 20 minutes.” Week 4 might be “record expenses every day.” And so on.
4) Go the extra mile (or minute): If you’re working on something, and you’re tempted to stop, make yourself keep going — even if it’s just for another minute, another entry on the database, another dust to shelf in the display case. Chances are, you’ll get just re-engaged enough to forget to watch the clock. In other words, push past your own mental frustration to the next level.