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How to Find a Better Rhythm at Work

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How to Find a Better Rhythm at Work


    A month ago, I wrote about how you can take a relaxing vacation. But as the calendar shifts from August to September, vacation season is coming to an end for most of us. Fortunately, going back to work doesn’t have to mean going back to the same old grind. Here are some tips for finding a new, better rhythm when you head back to work.

    Set Better Goals

    In my experience, many people set their work-related goals the wrong way. They ask themselves, “what am I best at?” and “what do I like doing?” While the answers to these questions certainly matter, they’re only part of the story. You should think beyond the “supply side”—what you want to do and what you are best at doing. You must also consider the “demand side”—what the world, your organization, or your unit needs most from you.

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    For instance, in my career as an executive at several mutual fund companies, many brilliant analysts came to me with their plans to start new, exotic mutual funds. While their ideas were always fascinating, I usually directed these analysts to focus on maintaining the performance of our existing mutual funds—our company’s highest priority.

    Don’t get me wrong—there’s nothing wrong with creativity. Indeed, some organizations need their employees to take risks and be creative, even if that is outside their comfort zone. The point is simple: your organization’s particular needs—whatever they are—should heavily influence the goals that you set.

    Manage Up

    At all levels of your organization, your boss will be under pressure from above—maybe, to cut costs, or perhaps to expand globally. When considering how you can be most useful to your organization, you should keep your boss’s own pressures in mind. In general, if your boss gives special weight to a particular goal, you should too.

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    (Of course, if you work for a “bad boss,” you probably won’t want to go along with him or her: here are some tips for dealing with this situation.)

    More generally, you should consider “managing up” to be a critical goal in its own right. You’re unlikely to be very productive (or very happy!) if you don’t have a mutually beneficial relationship with your boss.

    So make an effort to do your work in a way that’s compatible with your boss’s personality and habits. As a simple example, you can match your boss’s communication style: if he or she tends to communicate through email, that probably reflects his or her preferred method of incoming communication as well. In a broader manner, use your interpersonal skills to learn to anticipate what your boss wants.

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    Establish a Solid Routine

    Put bluntly, professionals can’t be at their best if they regularly sleep less than 7-8 hours each night. They might be able to spend more time at the office by burning the midnight oil, but in my experience, they’re often too tired to actually get much done.

    Likewise, professionals might skip their regular workout in order to stay in the office a little longer. However, a short workout session is a good investment of time: it will leave you feeling happier and more energized for the rest of the day.

    So, for your health and your productivity, you should commit to a daily routine that allows you to sleep eight hours and exercise nearly every day. Schedule your workouts around the same time every day, and try to sleep during a particular eight-hour window (for example, from 10:30pm to 6:30am each night). Over time, this schedule will help your body and mind get “ready” for each activity.

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    After a fun vacation, going back to work can be a drag. But by setting better goals, managing your boss, and fitting sleep and exercise into your daily routine, you can establish a better, more pleasant rhythm—both at home and at work.

    (Photo credit: Drumstick on Cymbal via Shutterstock)

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    Last Updated on October 21, 2021

    How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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    How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

    Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

    Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

    The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

    Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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    Program Your Own Algorithms

    Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

    Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

    By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

    How to Form a Ritual

    I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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    Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

    1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
    2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
    3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
    4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

    Ways to Use a Ritual

    Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

    1. Waking Up

    Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

    2. Web Usage

    How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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    3. Reading

    How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

    4. Friendliness

    Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

    5. Working

    One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

    6. Going to the gym

    If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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    7. Exercise

    Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

    8. Sleeping

    Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

    8. Weekly Reviews

    The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

    Final Thoughts

    We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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    More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

     

    Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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