Are Your Habits Impacting Your Productivity?

With our son home from college we find ourselves occasionally jockeying cars to accommodate schedules and various spring time projects around the house. A few weeks ago I had to use my husband’s car. While doing so, I found myself laughing several times and here’s why: I tried turning the volume up on the radio by pushing a non-existent button on the steering wheel. I tried to change the radio station the same way. Then, I ended up accidentally blowing the horn at an innocent driver on the expressway.

The funniest though was when I had to get gas and couldn’t remember where the release button was for the gas tank door. You see, back in September I got a new car and after a few months of settling in I had clearly become comfortable with how the new RAV4 works. The irony, my husband’s car is the car that I drove for 11 years (Volvo’s last forever)! It’s amazing how habits can mess you up.

Habits are an interesting things aren’t they? At times we are conscious of our habit, like biting our nails when we are stressed or bored. Other times however, we don’t even realize what we are doing because the habit has become an integrated part of who we are — it’s simply how we operate. Either way, habits can be hard to change. Trust me because after 11 years of driving the Volvo it took me a couple of months to get used to all of the new bells and whistles on the RAV4. Then, curiously, when I went back to driving the Volvo, it was unfamiliar, it felt rather uncomfortable.

Remember the last time you drove a new car? Chances are it took you awhile to get used to all of the new technology; yet you did it, you became comfortable driving it. You ended up creating new driving habits. Or, when you changed office space and in your new space the only room for the trash can was to the left of your desk. After years of having a trash can on the right side of you desk you found yourself tossing things or nearly tossing things in that now non-existent trash can for the first few weeks or so. But after awhile you got used to having the trash can on the left. We create new habits all of the time and old ones dissolve away.

It’s the habits that have become part of our fiber that can be a challenge to change. They have become reflexive in nature, and we don’t realize that these habits aren’t serving us well. We may be in the habit of believing that everything is a priority and it all has to be done – only to leave the office day in and day out with the most important task left undone. We may believe that getting “the little things” out of the way first is the best way to get through the day – only to run out of time to do the “big” thing. We may believe that we need to respond to e-mails immediately – only to get sidetracked from what we were so focused on five minutes ago.

Some habits are easy to change while others are harder. Step back and take a look at your work habits and ask the question, “Is this habit serving me well?” Is answering email on demand the best habit? Is allowing interruptions the best way to get your work done? Does lack of prioritizing your workload get you the results you want? Does your stacking, stuffing, or spreading around of paper help you find the information you need when you need it? If you are answering “no” to these questions, then it’s time to change your habit.

Remember, change doesn’t have to be scary. Change doesn’t have to be hard if we focus on what we want the outcome to be and keep consistent with our efforts. Hey, if I can change my habits from driving a Volvo for 11 years straight to a new car, you can change your habits as well! Plus, you will know that you have succeeded when you unexpectedly revert to the old habit but this time, it feels uncomfortable!