Entrepreneurs, world leaders and professional athletes all have one thing in common: They all have some quirky habits.
In the world of sports, strange habits like spitting on the ground and even clapping have been credited with improving athletes’ performance. But, is there something to this beyond superstition? It turns out that maintaining a few small, ritualistic habits can have a potentially measurable effect on performance. By some accounts, 45 percent of folks admit they carry out some kind of ritual before they tackle a difficult piece of work.
These four habits might not be as strange as those rituals, but at least we can explain why they will improve your performance and attitude.
1. Get to work (a little) early
Let’s start with the basics, shall we? Getting to work earlier than you need to might not sound great, but as a habit, it has the potential to improve your mindfulness and your outlook. Let’s break it down. Getting to work early includes:
- Picking out your clothes at night before you go to bed.
- Having a lunch made the night before.
To be clear: We’re not encouraging you to get to work hours early, or even a half-hour early. The goal is merely to cut down on the inherent anxiety of waking up at a fixed time, taking care of your morning constitutionals and then braving savage rush hour traffic, with the intention of arriving clear-headed and without any lingering road rage.
The point is, if you leave yourself just a few extra minutes each morning -- and do so as a matter of habit -- you’ll cut out a lot of frustration and anxiety from your life, and likely improve your mood and performance in the workplace while you’re at it.
Related: 11 Habits of Truly Happy People
2. Leave yourself notes (everywhere)
You never know when inspiration is going to strike. It might be in the shower, on your way to work or in the middle of the night. If you’ve ever sat bolt upright in bed at 3 a.m. because you just had a breakthrough idea, you know what we’re talking about.
Leaving yourself notes might feel at first like a bad habit -- like your memory is failing you -- but just the opposite is true. Having post-it notes all around your work areas is one possible sign of an active, productive and fearlessly creative mind. Indulge this habit and leave notes everywhere!
3. Use visualization to conquer your emotions
Rituals don’t have to make literal sense -- they just have to help you out in some way. Case in point? This visualization exercise, as described in an experiment conducted by HBR.
The experiment studied 85 students who were tasked with singing a song in front of a live audience. Half of the performers were instructed to draw a picture of how they felt prior to the presentation -- Nervous? Frightened? Scared to death? -- then reflect on the drawing for a full five seconds and then crumple up the drawing and throw it in the trash.
Does it sound useless? Maybe, but it’s not. The students who carried out the ritual gave objectively better performances, felt less anxious and even had calmer heart rates.
Visualization is a powerful tool. By directly reflecting on your not-so-helpful feelings before a high-stakes performance, you can put things in perspective and fully understand that the anxiousness is all in your head. You can apply this idea to work at any time by practicing this kind of mindfulness before each big task, interview or review. Be honest about how you’re feeling -- then “crumple up” those feelings and throw them away. The unburdened feeling you’ll enjoy afterward could make a big difference in your work.
4. Take a minute each morning to arrange your workspace
Our desks, cubicles and open floor plan workspaces are our homes away from home. But, do you actually feel at home there?
Take real ownership of the physical space you work in. When you arrive each morning, take a moment to be sure everything’s where you expect it to be and all of your essential tools can easily be found. Getting overly obsessive about how your things are arranged isn’t healthy, but if it’s something that improves your workflow without inconveniencing others, there’s absolutely no harm in it.
Settling into your workspace each day and really making it your own can help you out in some significant ways. As we mentioned, it can help keep you organized and prepared for whatever the day throws at you, but it also psychologically prepares you and creates a stronger sense of ownership over the work you do. If your space is truly your own, then so is everything you accomplish there.
Find what works for you
Professionals the world over have some quirky, helpful habits.
What are your habits? They don’t have to be particularly elaborate or unorthodox -- in fact, the simpler they are, the better. The point is merely to encourage and practice behavior that gets you and your employees into the right mindset. See what works for you!