Finally (finally!), the days are getting longer, and winter’s frigid temperatures are rising. (Okay, so that last part is happening more slowly than most of us would prefer, but it is happening.) Pretty soon, it will be downright pleasant to enjoy evenings on your front porch, back patio, or balcony. But you can kick back with your favorite beverage in hand only if you aren’t at the office. And unfortunately for your sunset-watching desires, your to-do list may have other plans.
Hold on, and don’t wheel the grill back into the garage just yet. Andy Core has some work-smarter ideas to help you get home at a reasonable hour so that you can enjoy those warm summer nights.
“If you consistently find yourself replying to emails and finishing up reports an hour…or two…or three after you meant to go home, your tyrannical to-do list may not be totally to blame,” says Core, author of the new book Change Your Day, Not Your Life: A Realistic Guide to Sustained Motivation, More Productivity, and the Art of Working Well. “Bad habits may be sabotaging your best efforts.”
As you go through life, Core explains, you develop habits and routines that you think will help you succeed. The problem is, many of those patterns probably don’t work for you personally. What’s productive for your coworker may not work well for you, for example. Or a strategy that was effective five years ago may no longer be viable. Even your instincts can lead you astray from time to time.
“The good news is, you can change habits and patterns that don’t serve you,” Core promises. “You can refocus your attention, redirect your thoughts, and generate greater motivation, energy, optimism, and creativity—all of which will enable you to build a more rewarding life.”
A credentialed, award-winning thought leader on increasing employee engagement, Core is the perfect coach to help you become what he calls a “Thriver”: someone who works hard, meets or exceeds expectations, and enjoys high levels of personal and professional success, accompanied by (and this is the best part) lower stress levels.
Here, just in time for summer, Core shares seven strategies to help you change the way you approach your day—and get out of the office earlier:
Get big things done before 9:00 a.m. (instead of snoozing, procrastinating, and lurking at the water cooler). Ever notice how your morning sets the tone for your whole day? As Sir Isaac Newton famously says, “Objects in motion tend to stay in motion.” So if an object (you) gets a groggy, frustrating start, you’ll probably feel sluggish and behind the eight-ball all day long. However, if you start your day with positive and productive ideas, actions, thoughts, and feelings, you’re likely to gain momentum throughout the day.
“Here’s an example of what I’m talking about,” Core recounts. “I know a top salesman named Barry whose daily pattern involves getting up early, exercising, eating breakfast, spending time with family, and accomplishing several meetings or other work activities before 9:00 a.m. By the time his colleagues are settling into the starting blocks, Barry has already blown through several important tasks on his to-do list, and he’s geared to continue that pace for the next several hours.
“The point here isn’t how early Barry’s alarm rings—it’s that he makes the most of the first several hours of his day instead of snoozing and procrastinating, as so many of us do,” Core notes. “The truth is this: What you do first matters. And since the sun will keep rising earlier and earlier for the next few months, this is the perfect time to kick off a new morning routine.”
Own up to your junk hours. “Junk hours” are a little like junk food: While they provide short-term pleasure, they contribute to long-term imbalance and exhaustion. For instance, junk hours might include chasing rabbit trails on the Internet, shooting the breeze with colleagues at the water cooler, checking email in order to avoid doing other work, or even attending an unnecessary meeting.