5 Habits for the Career Professional
In a 2018 interview James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, was asked what he thought the most important habits were for professionals. His response was interesting yet enlightening. Clear suggested that all professionals should focus on 3 major habits and 2 ancillary ones.
These were the habits of exercise, reading, writing, thinking and sleep.
Clear began with exercise because of its obvious positive physical benefits. Through exercise we can maximize our physical potential, allowing us to be at our peak performance. Exercise also functions as a “recentering” apparatus that resets our brain through physical exertion and concentration. The simple act of exercise allows us to release stress from our thoughts and alleviates the pressures of the day.
Research also shows that exercise improves concentration, motivation, memory, and mood. In fact, some studies show that anerobic exercise such as running or other cardiovascular exercises actually cause neurogenesis, resulting in improved and increased brain performance.
At the end of the day, the mental benefit of Clear’s first habit can be debated by reseachers. However, no one can deny that exercise should be pursued by any professionals looking to lead a healthy lifestyle.
We have been taught to love reading since an early age. In fact, some of my first memories are of my father reading books to me in my room at night. The importance of this habit has been engrained in us since we were young. Without the ability to read we would be unable to teach ourselves new skills, techniques or find entertainment in the endlessly published paperbacks.
It is our ability to learn and evolve as we read that James Clear chose to concentrate on. He felt unless you devoted yourself to the habit of regularly reading you would be ill equipped to learn how to solve any problem that presents itself in your life.
Most of the problems that we encounter in our day to day lives have been experienced by other human beings at some other point in time. We are not that unique and given this fact, the ability to read about previous solutions or experiences allows us to conquer any situation where we commit ourselves wholly to investigating said solution.
James Clear was challenged early in his career to write every single day. The premise of this challenge was that a person can never really understand what he/she might know or feel about a topic until he/she could put those thoughts on paper. Three years after adopting this mantra, Clear penned the bestseller Atomic Habits, which is the compilation of his research and habits and writings from those three years.
Clear built a career on the ability to write his thoughts and convey a point through text. This fact seems to have solidified his belief that this is a skill that every professional should have. The ability to research, compile and convey a point in a rational article means that a professional understands the topic enough to teach another human. Fostering this ability to teach a technique or skill to another person is a key step along the way to mastering a particular topic as well.
Thinking and Sleep
The last two ancillary topics James Clear picked as necessary for professionals were; thinking time and sleep. Let’s begin with thinking time. The daily devotion toward just sitting and thinking can be critical in a professional’s day. Often the day is filled with many problems, tasks and solutions but rarely does the brain just get to wander and bask in it’s true potential. Freeing the brain up to do this allows it to connect dots or ideas that may have appeared in-congruent before.
Another proponent for the necessity of thinking time is leadership expert John Maxwell. John talks in his book How Successful People Think about how thinking time is especially important for the creative who lives his/her life through these thoughts. In this book John talks about how successful people find the time to stop their day and let their brain go wherever it may. This is a very difficult habit to undertake, sometimes finding the time to sit and do nothing but think and write those thoughts down can seem like a huge time waste. I personally struggle with this, even though some of my best content and practice ideas come out of this time. Therefore dedicating time EVERYDAY just to this is absolutely critical!
Finally, Clear references the importance of a proper sleep schedule/habit. James Clear recommends we try to get about 8 hours of sleep a night. However, he says that you do not need to focus on an exact number. Instead target an average of that amount of time and if you need to pull longer hours then use makeup sleep time to “catch up” to a suitable average for yourself.
Self-development guru Brenden Burchard also talks about the importance of sleep. Brenden sees it as so important that be has a 3-step shutdown protocol for when he goes to bed. This routine is meant to help him shut down his mind and allow for the greatest possible night of sleep. Brenden suggests:
3) 3 Hours Prior to Bed – Do not eat any food. This way your body has time to digest and get back to a balanced gastrointestinal state.
2) 2 Hours Prior to Bed – Stop doing any work. This involves email, phone, consulting etc. Brenden argues that if this is too hard, you need to review how you budget time so you can be more effective and wind down better at night.
1) 1 Hour Prior to Bed – No more screen time. Eliminate all television, computer or phone lights. The blue light from these devices makes it difficult to fall asleep and the interaction stimulates our brain rather than winding it down. Instead focus on stretching, reading or talking with your family.
I personally have begun to adopt Brenden’s recommendations. While I’m not doing as well at shutting down work early at night, I have found that my overall quality of sleep has increased drastically and that I actually require less sleep time when I follow these three steps.
While vague in name, these habits can easily be defined for today’s modern professional. The physical benefits of many of these habits is undeniable and the mental benefits have HUGE upsides that improve performance and overall career satisfaction. As we enter 2020, begin to look at your current habit set and seek to find a way to implement these professional habits into your day to day life.
Carry on OTO’ers
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