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Laura Small


Nine Useful Habits to Start Now

Become a better version of your professional self

Published: Wednesday, February 7, 2018 - 12:01

Before you drag out that dusty old treadmill, how about challenging yourself with something you can live with, some good habits that will dramatically improve your life? Here are some for work that you might consider implementing:

1. Schedule 20 minutes of solitude every day. And if that feels too aggressive, then start with 10 minutes. Put it on your calendar and abide by it. Use the time to sit quietly at your desk if circumstances permit; otherwise, find a quiet conference room or park bench. Do nothing during this time but breathe deeply and observe your thoughts as they drift by.

2. Take the stairs. At first you may arrive at meetings out of breath, but before you know it, you’ll be gliding up and down, your calves will be more toned, and your cardiovascular health will thank you for it.

3. Bring your lunch, at least sometimes. Studies have shown that the lunch you make at home will generally be healthier and more satisfying than what you grab at that place on the corner. Eat it slowly, preferably away from your desk. Find a friend to chat with, or use that time to reconnect with yourself and prepare for the afternoon ahead.

4. Be kind. Let someone else present his idea first. Offer a compliment. Be gracious and generous. Or fake it—no one will know the difference at first, and soon, it’ll be on purpose. Be kind to yourself, as well—forgive yourself for little mistakes you’ve made, and speak to yourself the way you would to a good friend.

5. Take a seat at the table. (Women, especially, but guys, too.) Step up and be part of the discussion. If you see someone else sitting off to the side, encourage her to join you at the main event. You wouldn’t be there if you didn’t have something to contribute. Be thoughtful in your approach, but do occupy the space and add something of value to the dialogue.

6. Be an advocate. Speak up on behalf of someone who is over-delivering—on your team or elsewhere. Send a quick email to his boss, briefly describing what they contribute and how much you appreciate it. There is no downside to doing this, if it is sincere. You’ll build allies—managers will appreciate hearing from you and knowing that others are noticing the success of their team.

7. Be your own advocate. Fight for the project that you want to own. Ask for the raise that you feel you have earned. No one will ever advocate as strongly on your behalf as you can. Be armed with the facts, be calm and professional, and then give it all you’ve got. If you get a “no,” take a minute to lick your wounds and then consider what to do differently the next time.

8. Stop apologizing. Unless you stepped on someone’s foot, sorry should never be the first word out of your mouth. If you have a question, ask it. If you have an opinion, voice it. You do not need to apologize for your presence or your point of view.

9. Say something positive. Avoid the office gossip mill. Yes, it’s fun in the moment, but research has proven over time that indulging in catty chatter makes things worse, not better. Try to be the person who takes the high road and step away from the mud getting slung.

Become a better version of your professional self. It won’t happen overnight. Studies have shown that adopting a new habit takes at least 30 days, and sometimes even longer. Cut yourself some slack and try again tomorrow. Focus on the effort, not the result, and know that every step you take gets you one step closer to being the professional you were meant to become.

First published Jan. 9, 2018, on the SmartBrief blog.


About The Author

Laura Small’s picture

Laura Small

Laura Small is the VP and associate human resources director at the advertising agency RPA.