Habits are all around us and we’re rarely aware just how they affect our day to day. Some habits are good for us and our well being (drinking water, washing hands, giving praise, being kind), some are essentially harmless (drinking coffee) and some can be more self destructive (talking over others, needing to be right, looking for happiness in the wrong places.
But as the word implies, most of our habits are essentially just that; habits. They’re things we do without thinking about them, and making changes to these habits can be hard.
Here are my top 5 habits that unlocked things for me over the last several years in my work and personal lives.
The Note Taking Habit
This is by far the hardest habit to create if you're not a natural note taker, but without a doubt has impacted my professional life the most over the years. Being able to reflect on decisions made, write down shower thoughts, and collect data is an absolutely crucial skill in a leadership setting.
I am definitely not a note taker by nature, nor am I actually consistently good at this habit, but it is a habit that has unlocked a lot of my own headspace and really helped me a lot in my communications and strategic thinking.
As for how I do it, please read this blog on my personal note taking habits.
The "Do It Now" Habit
This one is straight out of the Getting Things Done playbook, but you just can’t beat a winner. If a task will take ~5 minutes or less, just get it done right away.
This can be a great momentum builder in the morning when you’re lacking motivation, and a terrific way to get the ball rolling on a productive day. Go through your to do list, grab all of the quick wins, and just get them done.
Often I am surprised by how many of my to do list items fall into this “quick win” category, and once I’ve spent an hour ticking these off I usually feel far more motivated to tackle bigger tasks.
The Feedback Habit
Giving feedback is hands down the hardest thing I’ve ever had to get comfortable with. Period. But great feedback is a two way street, and the best leaders are those who can give impactful and generous feedback, as well as understanding that they too need to take feedback and improve.
The key to giving great feedback is understanding that the goal should be aligned to helping others improve, as opposed to scalding or assigning blame for past problems. Feedback should be actionable and clear, and it should be given generously and with respect.
When one of your colleagues is proving feedback it is fair to have the same expectations as above, and the key to being good at receiving feedback is separating your emotions and understanding why you’re being given the feedback and what you can do to improve the situation.
Seek to clearly understand the feedback, gain clarity around the expectations moving forward, ask questions to clearly understand the challenge, and finally, be clear on what your response to the situation will be.
Not all feedback is created equally and knowing when to say no to feedback is important top.
The Show Love 🙌 Habit
This one is simple — show love to those around you! Give props where it’s deserved, be kind and generous with praise of others, only give praise when it’s deserved, and give praise without any expectation of reciprocity. Lastly, always look for the quiet achievers and ensure they’re appreciated, as often the hardest work in your organisation is being done quietly in the background.
The Introspection Habit
“To thine own self be true” - Hamlet.
One of the hardest things to do as a leader is being truly honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses. The reason this is often hard is because we confuse our aspirational qualities with our actualized qualities.
Being honest with your colleagues, and in particular your subordinates, is incredibly important. Here are some of the things I make clear to others: