Kill Your Old, Expired Working Habits
“How was your holiday?” I asked.
“Terrific, but it seems like it was years ago already!” said your colleague who has, in fact, only been back in the office since a week ago.
Holidays present an opportunity to reflect and improve on old work habits.
As soon as you are back at your work-desk — without knowing it, your daily routine kicks back in again. Your day-to-day activities involve having meetings organized in the same format, and with the same people. Your internal processes haven’t changed a bit. In short, your old habits come back to haunt you even after having a holiday, where it should have in some way changed you (ideally for the better).
Having work habits are not a bad thing. They are often comforting and allows you to avoid questioning the way you do things and why you do them. They can be, on one end, extremely useful, but on the other end can also effectively kill creativity and innovation. It impedes you from responding fast and efficiently to changes in your environment and the ever-evolving challenges you need to overcome.
Working habits are a reflection of your past experiences. And the more that they are present, the more they will suffocate you into a narrow way of thinking.
The more successful you are, the more the weight of your past experiences become a form of stranglehold. You start to believe that your past perception, intuition and judgement to be wholly accurate in determining your future successes as well. Besides, as you age, you will naturally prefer continuity over disruption.
A break or vacation is, in every sense, a great opportunity to foster a critical, introspective look at both you and your colleagues’ working habits. It’s a chance to perform a complete 360° evaluation, calling into question your current practices.
Hyperactivity as a measure of success is an illusion.
In the collective unconscious, hyperactivity is often seen as a benchmark for high performance and an established norm of success. This never ending momentum disconnects us from reality and gives us the illusion of having super powers: stopping means disappearing!
If we compare this “modern norm” with primitive or wild behaviours, we clearly see that stopping in a critical situation is a must: when an animal is hunting, it moves very slowly and carefully before attacking its prey. The same applies to us when we are lost, we should pause, look at a map and then make an informed decision with regards to where we should continue our journey.
The act of slowing down, coupled with retrospection are marks of intelligence in the professional context. It is, afterwhich, particularly crucial to take the proactive approach to work on changing and improving old practices that are hindering your productivity and growth at work.
Gain control of what you do.
If you are not careful, you can easily become a prisoner to a momentum with implicit injunctions: always moving forward, always thinking fast, always acting with intuition, always having immediate answers…
Have you heard of the tunnel effect? Basically, the faster you drive your car, the narrower your vision becomes. The only way to recover your 180° vision is to pull over and stop.
You will regain control only by slowing down or even stopping this continuous momentum. You will therefore be able to witness the life of your company, see what is happening on the ground, take a step back on your role and become better aligned with your business.
Consciously stopping as part of an active approach is the best way to stay lucid and act with accuracy in an uncertain environment.
So what’s the next step for me?
Fighting against your old working habits simply means taking risks. Here are some key takeaways that can quickly apply to you:
- Get out of your comfort zone and challenge the way you do things.
- Choose gradual targets and challenges in order to change up work routine; explain these to colleagues around you and take the necessary time to evaluate their implementation.
- Take regular breaks while navigating through your packed schedule (coffee, cigarettes, snack… moderation is key!).
- Estimate the ratio effort/outcome of your actions.
- Change your working habits from time to time.
- Ask for feedback from your peers and colleagues.
- Reduce the number of meetings you have and spend more time on thinking.
- Drop your anchor into the sea of reality. Stop what you are doing RIGHT NOW! Stand still, stay silent and observe. This will broaden your hindsight.
The real risk in today’s world is to remain in our own routine, and to feel contented with it. Staying the same while the world quickly changes is guaranteed to be your one-way ticket towards becoming completely edged out and irrelevant.