I love to read about the work habits of successful people so I’m always trying to hone my good work habits to model after them. It helps that I am a morning person but as I am my own boss, I am in charge of my own career development and in an age of increasing distraction, I’ve spent a lot of this summer trying to hone in on better work habits. Because, in short, I feel I’ve been failing myself on being a version of my best self of late.
Earlier this year I read a book called Busy: How to Thrive in a World of Too Much and it was so, so enlightening.
If you’re like me and also looking for a bit of a reset when it comes to healthier habits for your work-life balance, today’s post should be of help.
I have been working hard this year at being better at focusing and being intentional with how I spend my time. If I am more focused then I am less distracted intermittently. Batching my daily tasks helps me accomplish this. (It’s a major work in progress though).
What is batching? It’s doing tasks one at a time. So spending one hour doing your emails in the morning vs doing them throughout the day. O,r for me, batching responding to DMs is hugely helpful vs doing them in real-time (as I’m often inclined to do).
This is also related to the fact that I run two businesses. So instead of oscillating between both throughout the day, I’ve been trying to batch my day into sections dedicated to each company.
One of my best takeaways from Busy was there being a huge difference between deep focus on an important activity and hopscotching busyness. The author states it is not a quantity thing, but a quality thing. Days and lives crammed with deep immersion in projects, interactions and experiences are more meaningful than days spent hopping around from task to task. That really stuck with me.
Daily To-Do lists
I’ve been doing daily to do lists since 2020 and it was a game changer for me. Instead of trying to get everything on my to-do list done every day (and often failing), each night I now create a to-do list for the following day with my *most important* To-Dos and the things I’d like to achieve for my personal life, too.
Ideally, they go in order of the most important tasks to the least important and this allows me to stay focused on what I really need to get done day to day. Whatever is at the bottom of the list, if it doesn’t get done, it doesn’t get done. I just move those items to the following day’s to-do list if it’s still of importance. I keep these daily to-do lists on my Notes app and check them off as they get done throughout the day.
I also add things like Five Minute Journal, read The Daily Stoic, take vitamins and drink a green juice to my list as I’ve found I am twice as likely to achieve each of these good habits if I have a checkmark next to them on the list.
This is one of the best tips I have for managing your time day to day.
Using white noise
One of the biggest work habits I’ve changed in the last year is beginning to work with white noise. I have a hard time concentrating with music and I also live in a noisy city where street noise can easily travel and quickly distract or interrupt work.
While it would be easy to use a white noise app on my phone, I felt it important to get an actual white noise machine so I wasn’t tethered to my phone and draining its battery for the better part of my work day.
I added a Snooz machine to my living room so that I can have white noise while I work from home and it has been a game changer in my productivity. The machine features a real fan inside instead of a cheap fan or looping audio tracks like many other models on the market. The moving air sound is so calming and I love that you can adjust the fan tone as well as the volume easily.
The Snooz smart white noise machine is also ideal for helping you to sleep as well. They designed it to be travel friendly so if you need a good white noise machine for yourself to take on the road and don’t want to rely on having to sleep with your phone next to you playing white noise, enter the Snooz. I also think it is such a great option for white noise for little one’s rooms! They even have a nursery calibration setting you can utilize if you plan to use it in a child’s room.
Snooz has a free app you can use if you’d like, but I find myself turning it on and off manually so I don’t have to be opening my phone and getting distracted by other apps (read: social media!) And at just $99 the machine is really well priced and I like the simple design that lets it blend in with its surroundings.
I never thought I’d rely on white noise to be a productivity tool but now I find it one of the best habits I do for my work life!
Focusing on Output > Input
In Busy the author talks about the value of focusing on the output of your time. What are the most important things for you to achieve each day? He argues you achieve more by doing less so choose fewer, big important things to focus on daily. And always do the big things on your to do list first, early in the day. This will ensure they are given your highest caliber of thought and attention.
When I re-evaluated how I spent my work days through the lens of Output > Input, it really reframed how I was spending my time. I need to be spending time during working hours driving revenue to my businesses. Everything else should be secondary. Sometimes this means I let people down, I am slower to respond than I would like or I just don’t get to certain things that I would love to take on for my people-pleasing nature…but in the end I need to prioritize ensuring I am successful and my businesses have longevity.
Setting social media time limits & boundaries
I love the feature on the Apple iPhone that lets you lock your social media apps and give yourself time limits. Doing so has majorly cut down on distraction and allowed increased productivity each week day for me. Do I override them from time to time? Of course. But in the end, the reminders serve as good alerts that I need to move on with my time.
Less time on social media = one of the best healthy habits you can have.
The most important thing I’ve done when it comes to social media boundaries and settings? Two years ago I stopped sharing Stories and Posts on Instagram on the weekends and stopped responding to DMs from Friday evening to Sunday evening. This was a huge boundary for me to instigate. But if I post Stories on weekends, I get replies. Which 99% of the time I love! But then I feel I need to respond when I see them. Which inevitably leads to working on the weekends. And I felt I really needed two days where I was not on demand. So, nowadays, if you DM me on a weekend you will get a reply (if it warrants one) on Monday. No exceptions. This has, hands down, been the best thing I have done for my mental health work-wise in recent memory. (And I appreciate you guys understanding and supporting me on it!)
Pausing my inboxes
I shared the Boomerang Gmail plug-in several years back when I first discovered it and it’s been one of my biggest lifesavers when it comes to minimizing work stress. When the work day is done, I pause my inbox. Then I’m not interrupting important downtime and I’m actually turning off from work (this is incredibly difficult to do when you work for yourself – there’s always, always, always more work to be done.)
I also use the Boomerang scheduling emails feature so I can work on weekends or during the evening when I am traveling and playing catch up and schedule emails to go out the following week. It’s a lifesaver and has been a big influence on my job satisfaction.
Setting a timer when on deadline and need to avoid distractions
If I’m feeling the pinch of getting something done, I go to the timer method. I’ll set a timer for the amount of time I feel I need to set a task and then I get.to.work! I avoid all distractions when the timer is running. It truly forces me to focus and be as tuned-in as possible to the task at hand. I do this for everything from when I want to tidy my apartment or unpack to writing blog posts or working on client deadlines. This trick also helps me be better at paying attention to detail which is so important for all my jobs.
Changing up my environment
There’s nothing worse than staring at a computer screen unable to get going on something on your to do list. I’ve found that when this happens it is when I need a change of environment.
This could mean taking a short walk outside, this could mean heading to my co-working space to work or this could mean phoning a friend to discuss what has me stuck. Taking a step back from the task at hand is sometimes the best way to make progress on it.
I will never forget an article I read years ago about how sometimes the best ideas can come to you when you walk because your brain gets more creative when doing two things at once sometimes (walking and thinking). The time away from my screens often leads to some of my best creative sparks.
No computer in bed
I instilled this rule for myself when I became self-employed and am proud to say I have stuck with it. Work finally had a beginning and an end and I was able to install normal sleeping hours by not being tempted by my laptop. My laptop is not allowed near my bed when the work day is done. When you work for yourself there is literally always more to be done but that brings me to my next point…
Setting work hours for myself
I could work 24/7 if I allowed myself to. I really enjoy my work and my type-A, driven personality often has me putting my foot on the gas often. That being said, when I became self-employed I nearly burned out in the first six months because I was in overdrive too often.
By setting work hours for myself I actually have time to breathe and reboot and do a better job at my work than staying connected at all times. As someone who makes part of her living off of having her life shared online this is extremely difficult but it is also one of the best things I can do for my mental wellbeing.
What are your best work-related habits? I’d love to hear about your good workplace habits!
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