We’re a culture obsessed with improvement. It’s why late-night TV is littered with infomercials for miracle diet pills and the perfect pillow.
But we spend even more time working than we do sleeping or eating. In fact, the average American will spend roughly 90,000 hours on the job, which is why our workday is such a vital part of our lives to get right. If you’ve ever fantasized about creating the ideal workday, keep reading.
The first rule of thumb is to be realistic. We are suckers for quick fixes, and we flock to them. We also are optimistic and think we can make changes easily. But significant change and habit-shifting is hard work.
Habit formation researcher Phillippa Lally and colleagues from the University College of London discovered that, on average, participants in their study learning to form a new habit of their choice succeeded within 66 days. By this time their new behaviors had become as automatic as they ever would.
While committing to the process of creating your ideal job for a little more than two months may seem daunting, these five quick hacks can help make the transition a little easier:
Write down, in great detail, what your ideal workday would look like. Ask yourself:
- Where am I located?
- What type of environment am I working in?
- Who am I working with?
- When am I working?
Once you’ve answered those questions, examine how different or similar this is to your actual day. What can you easily incorporate tomorrow that will make your workday more ideal?
Start taking note of where your time is spent for a full week. Look at your emails and your calendar at the end of every day. What did you spend most of your time doing? Figure out where your time is being spent and if you are spending it on the things that will allow for you to have the most impact and challenge.
Review all the meetings that are booked in your calendar for the next week. Are there too many? Every one of my clients report to me that they attend too many meetings but don’t realize that they aren’t needed until the meeting is halfway over.
If you feel that your meeting schedule is out of control, here’s how to prioritize: Ask yourself these questions in advance of every meeting, and if the answer is “no,” think twice about joining or sending someone in your place:
- Am I running this meeting?
- Is my input required?
- Is the material being covered critical for me to be effective at my job?
- Will I be learning something that is of value to me, my role, or enables me to do my job well?
Most people don’t realize how little time they give themselves to process the information that they are digesting and to think about the work that they are doing. Most people get caught up in reaction mode and start responding to requests or issues as they come up. They have not made it a priority to set aside time to focus on being proactive and ahead of the ball.
Rectify this by setting some time aside each day to think and process.
Come up with an idea that both excites you and helps your organization with one of its goals. Explore your idea by talking to colleagues and superiors, reading articles, or doing whatever kind of research you enjoy most.
In my work with CEOs and executives, along with their teams, I’ve found it’s amazing how much power we derive from being more conscious about how we are operating. Treat your working habits as a laboratory and become your own expert.
—Laura Garnett is a performance strategist, TEDx speaker, and the creator of the Zone of Genius Assessment. Laura helps people achieve peak performance in the workplace by identifying their “Zone of Genius.” Prior to launching her company, New York City-based Garnett Consulting, she honed her marketing, branding, and career-refining skills at companies like Capital One, American Express, IAC, and Google.