Do you remember your first day at work? What was it like? Was it a heady mix of sweaty palms, excited, nervous energy and complete confusion? If you were lucky, there was an induction process waiting for you where they told you about the company and you met the team and your new boss! If you were unlucky, you spent the entire first day sitting at a desk twiddling your thumbs. Not knowing what to do because the boss had forgotten you were joining today. Sounds familiar? We all went through this.
The truth is that nothing quite prepares us for working life. We spend our entire early life learning how to study for exams. Then we are suddenly thrust into the working world. Knowing how to study, is not the same as knowing how to work.
This is where the problem starts. NOBODY TEACHES US HOW TO WORK. There are no guides or guiding principles. We are supposed to just figure it out along the way. We no longer pass through the apprentice stage of being taught by a master or mentor.
Another problem is being the youngest in a team. We are all about proving ourselves. We begin to take on a serious avatar. We stop being true to who we are and lose our essence in the race to prove ourselves. Anxiety sets in, we never feel that we are doing enough. We over work and our mental and physical health suffers.
Does all this sound familiar? Have you gone through this, cause I sure have!
My name is Ashdin Doctor and I am a Habit Coach. I have had the opportunity to work with and observe some of the most successful people around. Understand their work habits, their work mindset. They all have a few work habits in common. And I wanted to share those that had the biggest impact on me.
Here are five learnings I wish I knew when I started working.
1) Don’t take yourself seriously, take your work seriously: One of my favourite cartoons is that of a lawyer dressed as a clown sitting in this plush office. Behind him are the words, “if I can dress like this, I must be damn good at my job”.
There is a lot to be said about keeping the fun alive at work. We often end up portraying a serious demeanor, thinking it will make people take us seriously. It’s not true. We lose our individuality and become part of the herd. We keep trying to fit in.
Instead, we need to reserve the seriousness for the work we do by creating a strong work ethic. Simple things like ‘never arriving late for a meeting’ or a ‘relentless focus on quality’ or ‘delivering on time’ or ‘doing the things you said you would do’. And of course, by being damn good at the work you do!
Think of Richard Branson as a person; he exudes fun but takes his work very seriously.
Let who you are shine through. People can relate to that. Have fun when you are at work because work is going to be a constant for the rest of your life. You might as well enjoy it!
2) Deep Work Hours: I used to spend days working on things that now take a few hours. All because of this one tiny habit. People are shocked when I tell them that I work for only about 4 hours a day. It is possible because of this simple technique called “deep work”. The simple rule is while you are working no distractions at all.
Set an alarm for about 25 minutes. Now for those 25 minutes, keep your phone off, internet off, remove all distractions. Request people not to disturb you. If you are working on a computer close all the programs or browser tabs you do not need.
Now start working on only one task. Only one. There is no multi tasking allowed.
Once the 25 minutes are up. Check your phone, walk around the room, talk to your friends for 5 minutes. Then come back and start the next 25 minute deep work session.
So in 4 hours I have 8 such sessions. Try this out from today and watch your productivity go through the roof!
3) Be curious: Just get into the habit of becoming curious about everything. From how things work, to learning new concepts, reading books, attending workshops. Seeing that you are reading this blog, there is already a sense of curiosity in you. Let it grow!
I read this very hard hitting line. It said that “You never have a salary problem, you have a skill problem”. What it means is that you have not worked on yourself, you need to upgrade your skills in order to deserve the salary you want. If you aren’t constantly acquiring new skills, you aren’t growing.
The funny thing is that it doesn’t have to be a skill related to work alone. So, I have set myself a goal. Every three months I will learn something new. As I type this blog I am doing a course in Swedish Massage. Last quarter was all about learning aspects of personal finance.
Reading books directly translates to becoming better at your work. Each book is like having a conversation with the author. Imagine the amount you can learn from them! I like to think of my library as a group of mentors. Start reading and become curious.
4) You are not your job, your job is not your life: To be better at your work, you have to spend time away from work. You need to think of your work life, the same way an athlete thinks about his training. There is an intense burst of work or activity or training, followed by rest and recovery. Athletes like Lebron James and Roger Federer sleep for 12 hours a night! Recovery is when the magic takes place.
A client of mine used to take great pride in the fact that he worked 14 to 16 hours a day. He believed that if he wasn’t working, he was wasting his time. Rest is for the weak. I forced him to work for 10 hours and then later on 8 hours. It was unbelievable, he said that his productivity actually increased. He had less brain fog, could focus better and make better choices. He had more time for his family and friends. He even started learning a musical instrument.
The truth is that your recovery has to be as intense as your work. There is no point working so hard to earn money if you can’t rest, relax and enjoy it.
5) The small productivity gains add up: Here are a list of my favourite productivity tools.
- Use paper and pen: In a digital world using pen and paper for thinking and jotting down notes gives me an edge. The brain works better, I can scratch things out, I can draw lines and connect ideas so easily. Start all your creative work on paper first, then move to working on a laptop.
- Use a calendaring app and record all your meetings with a buffer time: I set up meetings keeping a buffer so that I am never late for a meeting.
- Work when the world is sleeping: This is the only time we can work distraction free. Either early in the morning or late at night, you choose. Don’t work both late night and early morning, that will be a disaster. Make sure you get your sleep in.
- Say No: Say No to things you do not need to do. Don’t be a people pleaser. Create a “Not To-do” list.
- Airplane mode: Put your phone on airplane mode often. When you are working or relaxing. This prevents you from compulsively checking the phone.
I wish someone had told me all this when I started working or even later on. These are just five simple changes you can start from today. Knowing how to work makes you more productive and efficient for sure. But more importantly it allows you to enjoy the work you do. Your attitude to work changes. Start by just rekindling the apprentice in you.
My name is Ashdin Doctor and although I sound like one sometimes, I am not a doctor (It is my surname). I believe that having an awesome life is easy. All we have to do is identify and create the right habits, routines and rituals. These create the foundation to make us awesome.
I run a Habit Coaching business called Awesome180 and a podcast called “The Habit Coach By Ashdin Doctor”. I partner with thought leaders, doctors, experts in various fields related to lifestyles and health in order to create tiny habits that have the biggest impact.