Do you feel like you could be better at your job and enjoy it more, but you’re just not sure what needs to change?
Maybe you make to-do lists, but you’re always falling behind by your lunch break.
Or maybe you promise yourself you’re going to get to the office early every day this week, but by Tuesday, you’re already running late.
We all have patterns and routines at work that don’t help us reach our goals. However, by focusing on building a few positive work habits, we can reset some of those patterns and be happier and more engaged at work.
In this article, we’ll talk about what work habits are and why good ones are important to build. Then, we’ll look at some examples of good work habits and give you actionable tips for establishing them in your work life.
What are work habits?
Work habits are practices, routines, or tasks you carry out to do your job as effectively as possible.
There are a few types of work habits you can develop:
- Practical work habits, such as making to-do lists and always being punctual
- Behavioral work habits, such as accepting feedback and waking up early
- Ethical work habits, such as avoiding gossip and maintaining integrity
A good work habit helps you do your job better, leading to higher productivity and job satisfaction.
Good habits also help you make a good impression on your coworkers and managers, creating more opportunities for career growth.
Keep in mind that you can have bad work habits too.
Poor habits, like failing to take accountability for your actions or chronically arriving late, can have a negative impact on your career. In fact, up to 70% of executives are concerned about employee absences impacting productivity.
The importance of good work habits
Good work habits are essential to excellent job performance and a successful career. And when an entire workplace consistently demonstrates good work habits, the business as a whole benefits too.
On an individual basis, working more efficiently and effectively opens up more opportunities for career growth. It also leads to a deeper sense of pride in your work, creating a cycle of positive feedback that continues to improve your job performance.
When it comes to the business overall, the aggregate effect of good work habits is impressive. A good workplace culture with high team morale leads to increased engagement, productivity, and, of course, profits.
10 work habits of successful entrepreneurs
CEOs, business leaders, and successful people from many industries have achieved their career goals through their own combination of work habits.
You can get inspiration for building your own work habits by learning about the routines of entrepreneurs you look up to.
Here are a few of our favorite work habit inspirations from top entrepreneurs and business leaders:
- Warren Buffet spends a huge portion of each day reading books and newspapers.
- Ariana Huffington starts her day with yoga after getting a good night’s sleep.
- Richard Branson wakes up extra early to fit in rigorous exercise.
- Oprah Winfrey sets aside time to wind down each night to recharge for the next day.
- Mark Cuban turns every meeting he can into an email or a phone call to save time.
- Elon Musk uses work batching to complete groups of similar tasks around the same time.
- Barbara Corcoran organizes her to-do list by priority and follows it closely.
- Tim Cook rises before four a.m. to get ahead on emails.
- Jeff Bezos plans his most important work for the time he’s most productive.
- Anna Wintour sticks to a daily routine, even choosing similar outfits on a day-to-day basis so she can save her decision-making energy for the most important tasks.
10 examples of good work habits for a successful career
Feeling inspired by the work habits of those successful entrepreneurs?
Then let’s dive into even more examples of good work habits, backed up by tips for building these top work habits right away.
1. Manage your time effectively
46% of recruiters say time management is a top in-demand skill, and for a good reason. Good time management is the cornerstone of productivity and efficiency that keeps any company profitable.
To develop your own time management work habits, try to take advantage of your brain’s natural rhythm, much like Jeff Bezos. Plan your most complex tasks for the time when you’re most alert, and save the simpler stuff for when you’re gearing up or winding down.
A task management tool is immensely helpful for developing this work habit. You can plan your tasks for each day and allocate sufficient time for each item.
Don’t forget to give yourself a little wiggle room each day or week to allow for the unexpected. Good time management also requires the ability to be flexible when necessary.
2. Accept feedback graciously
Early in your career, accepting feedback is how you’ll learn the ropes of your position, company, and industry. But this work habit isn’t one you can let go of as you move up in your career.
“As you get more senior, your job is to hear what’s not working so you can make it better,” says Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube.
Learning how to accept feedback for self-improvement early in your career can later be used to determine how you can better your team, product, or business overall.
Throughout your career, be open to new opinions and ideas. You never know what might become the next big thing.
3. Be an active listener
No matter your role or seniority in the company, being an active listener helps you do your job better and benefits your team as a whole.
Active listening helps you remember more details, observe more carefully, and offer solutions when needed.
To practice active listening, try the following:
- Make eye contact
- Provide verbal and nonverbal feedback through your words and body language
- Summarize what the speaker said and repeat it back to them
4. Ask questions
Ask questions of your colleagues, supervisors, and other professional contacts to learn more, add nuance, or clarify a point.
When you’re curious and attentive (that is, a good active listener), you’ll find plenty of ways to expand your knowledge by asking questions of those with different experiences and expertise.
You should also develop the habit of asking for help when you need it.
While it’s important to solve problems on your own, it’s unlikely you’ll make it through your career without needing a little assistance. Knowing who to ask for help and when to do so is another critical work habit.
5. Take the initiative
Nearly 60% of companies say self-management is an increasingly in-demand skill.
That means it’s important to practice taking the initiative at work rather than waiting around for your boss to tell you what to do.
When you have downtime, look for other tasks or projects that will benefit you or your team. Just be sure you’re not overstepping your role. You can also pursue training or professional development opportunities to grow further in your position.
Volunteering for additional projects or asking your boss for increased responsibilities can also be a great way to take the initiative. Just make sure you’re performing well in your primary duties before asking for more work.
6. Batch your work
If the nature of your work allows, try batching your work to maximize productivity. This is Elon Musk’s strategy for getting more done.
When you batch your work, you set aside certain days of the week for different kinds of work. For instance, you might only schedule meetings on Tuesdays and Thursdays or set aside Friday as a brainstorming day.
While this approach won’t work for every position, it can be extremely helpful for getting into a productive workflow each day. Your brain takes time to adjust to each new task, so working on the same kind of tasks for extended periods of time allows you to maximize your productivity.
7. Focus on one thing at a time
Multi-tasking seems like the key to productivity and efficiency. After all, doesn’t doing more things at once get the work done faster?
Nope. Because your brain takes time to transition between tasks, even small distractions like checking your email in the middle of working on a report or presentation can derail you for much longer than intended.
That’s why strategies like batching your work are so effective at enhancing productivity. But even if your schedule is too varied to successfully batch your work, focusing on just one task at a time can still boost your productivity.
8. Protect your free time
Work-life balance sometimes sounds like a nice-to-have but not an essential work habit, when in reality, it’s critical to success. Even Elon Musk sets aside free time to watch movies and play video games with his kids.
Your brain needs rest and relaxation to work at its best. You’ll return to your projects with a fresh perspective, new ideas, and more energy.
When you set aside time for recharging, as Oprah is sure to do each night before bed, you’ll also set a good example for your coworkers, creating a ripple effect of this benefit throughout your team.
Protecting your free time might look like taking regular breaks throughout the day, not checking email on the weekend, and fully utilizing your paid-time-off each year.
9. Get a good night’s sleep
Many successful entrepreneurs, such as Mark Cuban, emphasize the importance of sleep. They may sleep just six hours a night, but they protect that sleep fiercely.
A 2018 study showed that sleep really does help you be more productive.
In the study, those who reported getting five to six hours of sleep experienced 19% more productivity loss compared to people who got seven to eight hours.
And those who got less than five hours of sleep? They experienced 29% more productivity loss than those who had a few more hours to snooze.
10. Learn constantly
One of the best work habits you can build is learning everything you can at every opportunity.
74% of CEOs are concerned about the availability of key skills in their company, with 32% saying they are extremely concerned about this skills gap. That means any valuable skills you can learn may open up opportunities for promotions, raises, and other benefits.
Plus, upskilling delivers benefits at the organizational level, too. These include higher workforce productivity and greater business growth.
There are a few ways you can practice learning constantly.
Start by taking advantage of any professional development opportunities your company may offer, such as lunch and learns. You can also ask to be cross-trained in different areas of your company to enhance your knowledge of the business.
In addition, look for learning opportunities outside of work, such as online business courses, industry conferences, or professional networking groups.
How to develop good work habits
These work habits and their benefits might sound like a great goal, but how do you get from A to Z?
Building a workplace habit won’t happen overnight. You’ll need to consistently work at it over a period of time. There’s a popular belief that it takes 21 days to set a habit, but psychological research suggests it will take up to ten weeks to make the habit truly second nature.
During the ten weeks that you’re habit-forming, use these tips to keep you on track.
- Start small: Set easy, incremental goals to build your confidence and work up to a larger goal.
- Use a visual reminder: Sticky notes, phone alerts, and other subtle tools are a great way to remind yourself of the habit you’re trying to build.
- Incentivize yourself: Reward yourself for meeting habit milestones. Do something small like buying yourself lunch if you complete your to-do list.
- Be patient: Stick it out through the days where it’s a lot harder to maintain your good work habits, and go easy on yourself if you miss a day.
- Use existing habits and routines to build new ones: Consider the routines you’re already following and find ways to incorporate your new positive habit into them. For instance, use standing meeting times to practice active listening and ask questions.
Remember, these work habits lay the foundation for your entire career trajectory.
Not only that, but these tips for building good habits can help you outside of the workplace too. You can use these strategies to develop personal habits in the same way you build your work habits.
Start building good work habits today
There are plenty of good work habits out there that will help you find success and satisfaction throughout your career. But beware of the bad habits, too — their negative impact can be hard to recover from.
Practice developing work habits like time management, active listening, and taking the initiative by using the tips we covered in this article. Check out Pareto Labs for more articles and resources on building good work habits.
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