3 simple micro-habits for a happier career and life

Anna Brech

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How often have you committed to an elaborate wellness goal (“I’m going to 10K every day, followed by squat lunge drills and a fresh fruit smoothie”), only to see it crash and burn two weeks in?

Part of the problem with failed habits is that we aim too high, and expect too much.

Small, concrete goals offer a better way forward – which is why business guru Arianna Huffington has set her team the task of “microsteps” this year.

Read more: Overloaded? Try a day of play

“Our mission is to end the epidemic of stress and burnout by changing the way we work and live,” Huffington writes on her Thrive Global blog.

“We know the way to get there is not in huge, giant leaps, but in very small steps […] They’re small, actionable, incremental, and science-backed steps we can take to make immediate changes in our daily lives.”

Here’s three simple micro-habits you can use to bring positive change to your own life:

Micro-habit #1: wake up an hour earlier


“Either you run the day or the day runs you” – so said entrepreneur Jim Rohn.

Mornings are typically a stressful period (one study even found a higher instance of blood pressure and heart attacks on Monday mornings), but mastering them doesn’t have to mean packing in 101 tasks in before breakfast.

Instead, you could join a growing movement of people who are embracing “slow mornings”.

Read more: Want a happier career? Find your why

“Slow-morning practitioners wake up early to meditate, read, exercise or do nothing at all,” says the Wall Street Journal, branding the habit “an antidote to our tech-obsessed society”.

Part of the problem with our bigger goals (travel! adventure! going freelance!) is that we have zero time to work on them: we’re too embroiled in the hustle of daily life.

Waking up an hour earlier than you normally do means you can carve out a rare slice of solitude. You have the space to think big, so instead of saying “not yet”, you actively work towards the dreams that drive you.

Micro-habit #2: get outdoors during lunch

Blue City Morocco

The average Brit spends nine hours a day sitting down at work, and 86% of Americans do the same (even though they admit to hating it).

When you’re fighting deadlines, it’s so tempting to grab a sandwich al desko. And yet, research clearly points to the fact that we are more productive and engaged when we take a lunch break (remember those… ?)

Getting out to stretch your legs wards off the damaging effect of a sedentary lifestyle. And in an age where most of us are chronically over-worked, it also helps keep stress and burnout at bay.

Read more: Trade your city break for a wilderness weekend

But health benefits aside, a lunch break is also good for the soul. This is a time to do as you please: whether that’s a brisk walk to a local park or trying out new street food.

Your current lunchtime probably equals a snatched 20-minute breather amid the crazy demands of work; but it doesn’t have to be that way.

By taking an hour every day (and being really strict about enforcing that), you can build your break into a powerful slot of its own: one that allows your mind to break free, bouncing off that question of what drives you.

And heading outdoors forces you to make the commitment, making you happier and more creative in the process.

Micro-habit #3: Leave work on time

When it comes to poor work habits, overtime is the sneakiest of them all: it’s so easy to let work spill over, and those hours clock up. In both the UK and America, a culture of presenteeism keeps many workers stay glued to their desks way beyond home time.

But other areas of the world are more enlightened. In Denmark, a typical day runs from 8am-4pm – and working beyond that doesn’t display commitment; it’s a sign you’re not managing your time well.

In France, a law gives workers the “right to disconnect” from after-work emails, which perhaps explains why people there enjoy a record average of 9.3 hours of free time a day (presumably spent hanging out in scenic cafes).

Read more: How to stop caring so much about work

Meanwhile, laid-back New Zealanders enjoy one of the world’s best work-life balances, where external demands (cycling, beach life, time with loved ones) are considered just as important as what goes on in the office.

When you force yourself to leave work on time, each and every day, it has a powerful knock-on effect. We know that work shrinks to the time we allow it, so by setting yourself a cut-off time, you’ll be more effective in blitzing deadlines.

And the fact that long hours backfire when it comes to productivity means you’ll stay fresh, too.

But above all, leaving work on time means you’ll have more time for YOU. Instead of burning the midnight oil, you can work on all those dreams and side hustles you’ve shelved over the years. It’s your moment for No More Not Yets.

This story is part of Flash Pack’s No More Not Yets campaign. Our mission is to eradicate two powerful words that can stop you achieving your dreams: “not yet”. The not yet seen, not yet swum, not yet sat in the suns. Not yet met, not yet tried, not yet climbed, braved or conquered. What’s your Not Yet? Find out more here.

Images: Shutterstock, Flash Pack

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