Having good work habits will help you both professionally as well as in other aspects of life. Here is a list of what should be core habits.
The importance of good work habits
The importance of having good work habits cannot be overstated. Good work habits make you productive and ensure that you are adding value to the organization you are a part of. Good work habits generally make other people like and respect you, something that tends to spill over into your private life.
1. Schedule time to get work done
In many jobs, the only way to get some “real work” done is to block other people from highjacking your time by blocking of time in your calendar. Do not accept all meeting requests as if on autopilot. Think about why you were hired. Make sure that you attend to your responsibilities.
2. Come prepared to meetings
Most meetings are held in order to make a decision or solve a problem. When people meet, they all have to take time out of whatever else they are doing. To make busy people sit and listen to your mumbling away trying to come up with a good answer is a sure way to get a bad reputation among your colleagues.
Instead, be the person who delivers facts, and promises to get back to people on the topics that you cannot answer. Read the agenda beforehand, and try to identify where you can contribute.
3. Arrive on time – leave early if you must
If a meeting starts at 13:00, you are supposed to be sitting down, ready to discuss the agenda at 13:00. Arriving at 13:10 with a fresh coffee in hand is not the way to show your colleagues the respect they deserve.
If you have wall-to-wall meetings, leave early so that you can join the next meeting on time. Make it clear at the start of your current meeting that you have to leave at a certain time. This allows the meeting organizer to make adjustments to the agenda if needed.
4. Make your boss look good
A lot of people underestimate the value of making your boss look good. This is not about not taking credit, it is about keeping him or her informed about what you are working on that your boss might be asked about. This way, your boss will always be able to respond as if well informed.
5. Use the Subject field
When sending mail, always use the subject field. Try to find a title that indicates what your email is about. Avoid sending long emails with multiple subjects/issues. Send short, concise emails with a clear language. This makes it easier to reply to your email with the information you need.
6. Learn the difference between To and CC
The second most important rule when it comes to email is this: If you want someone to take action based on your email, put these people in the To-field. All others should be in the CC field. Think about that for a second. If you teach your colleagues this, it’s instantly clear which emails you should prioritize first.
7. Be a gentleman
This should not just be a work habit. This is just as important in your personal life. Gentlemanship is about being polite, attentive and respectful. Sooner or later you will need help or someone to vouch for you. Guess who’s most likely to find his colleagues stepping up for him, the gentleman or the bully?
8. Ask questions
The only way to gain knowledge is to ask questions. Be curious, try to understand the bigger picture. By actively asking questions, you also help everyone to learn, even the people who sit silently on the sidelines.
9. Find out why
Reaching a goal is so much more achievable if you understand why the goal is important. Solving a problem or choosing the correct option is much easier when you understand why this is a problem. Doing something without knowing why can lead people to just numbly doing as instructed without thinking. Knowing why also make it possible to make quick decisions when needed.
10. Say no (sometimes) and explain why
To be able to follow thru on your commitments you have to set boundaries. Saying no is a necessary thing. The sooner you learn to do it right, the better for you and your employer. If you are clear on why you are saying no, it is much harder to argue.
11. Inform proactively
Keeping your colleagues and your boss informed about what might happen is a lot better than trying to explain what and why a thing just happened. If you feel that something is cooking, inform the people you think may need to know. It does not have to be a detailed report, just something like “If X happens, just know that I have all the details and that we should fix it by doing Y.”
12. Keep your commitments
This is self-explanatory. If you take on a task, you also take on responsibility. If you would like to advance at work, the first rule is that you are trustworthy. Give your boss the ability to relax after you say yes.
13. Know your role
What exactly do you get paid to do? How can you contribute in a way no one else can? Knowing this is the first step knowing your role. Prioritizing, delegating, taking on new commitments or setting boundaries is a lot easier if you are confident in your role in the company.
14. Dress for the role that you want
Those who say that appearance does not matter are either lying or have not understood how the world works. People do in fact judge a book by its cover. The good news is that you can use this to your advantage. Read the below blog post to find out how.
15. Find something to be passionate about
Have you ever met a successful person that is not passionate about the field he or she is successful in? To succeed in anything, you have to be good at it. You have to love what you are doing. It does not help to have good work habits if you cannot find motivation and meaning. If you need help to find your passion, read the below blog post.
16. Praise people openly
When someone does a really good job, or if someone has helped you out in a particular way, thank them. When you are celebrating the conclusion of a project, take the time to tell everyone attending how others have contributed to the success. Mention them by name and be specific.
Many people do not see the impact of their contribution to a team. Praising them openly can help them understand their contribution. When you take the opportunity to thank others, not trying to take the glory yourself, people are more inclined to help you the next time you ask.
17. Stay until the job is done
This is what separates the committed people from the rest. I’m not advocating working 60 hours a week. What I’m saying is don’t be the one who leaves in the middle of an ongoing crisis because you have put in your obligated number of hours. If you do, your chances of getting promoted are about the same as winning the lotto.
18. Be a problem solver
There is a saying; “If you are not a part of the solution, you are a part of the problem.” I would like to rephrase that:” If you are not a part of the solution, you are not a part of the future.”
Don’t just come with the problem – anybody can do that. Present the problem AND propose a solution. This is the difference between being the whining guy who always complains about how difficult everything is as opposed to being the guy who identifies a problem and fixes it. From a management point of view, this is the difference between heaven and hell.
19. Understand the bigger picture
This is about taking #13 one step further. What is the current market situation? How does your company perform compared with the competitors? What is it that makes customers come to you and not a competitor?
If you know these things, you are in a much better position to make the right decisions or to contribute in other ways at work.
20. Ask for help
As long as you are not asking others to do your job, people love to help. Asking for help is also a great way to learn and to get to know people. It also shows that you know your own limitations.
21. Have a plan B
Having a good plan is important. Having a good plan B is what often will set you apart from others. It enables you to move on even when your first attempt was unsuccessful. Being able to seamlessly move from plan A to plan B makes your failure much less noticeable.
22. Be on top of your email
Few work habits are as important as this: Do not use your inbox as your to-do list. Answering email at least within two workdays should be the basic rule. Don’t just check email, set off time to handle it. Try to practice the two-minute rule.
23. Take notes
Taking notes from meetings and important discussions have literally saved me from being fired early in my career. Having your notes searchable makes it easier to find what you need. The ability to refer back to previous discussions is a powerful tool in a competitive workplace.
24. Focus on your deliveries
At the end of the day, it comes down to what you have delivered. Just as cash is king in financial transactions, deliveries are the king in the exchange between the employer and the employee. Be proud of your achievements and use them as references when you want to advance your career.
25. Have a to-do list
If you have been reading this blog for some time, you know that I think that a to-do list is not enough and that you should go all-in doing GTD. The point is that even having a simple to-do list is better than not having one. Having a list makes it easier to keep your commitments and prioritize.
26. Build a network
Many people do not understand the value of networking. They think of networking only as adding people on LinkedIn and even that is done without putting much effort into it. Start networking with colleagues in other parts of the company you are working in. Go to places where you find people from your own industry.
A network has no real value if you never use it. The next time you are stuck on a problem, take a look at your network. Again, this is something that adds value to the work you are doing. By having you as an employee, your employer does not only get your personal contribution, he gets access to your knowledge network.