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Habit hack: How to support your professional growth


Jane Erickson, from The Adult Learning Hub, shares insights this week into how you can better support the building & maintaining of effective habits to support your professional growth. If you feel like you've failed previously, this article sheds light on what you can do to 'hack' your own habits and evaluate unconscious factors that might be impacting you. A great read for anyone wanting to grow themselves professional this year, in whatever industry you are in.

During lockdown, I think we can all agree that we've picked up some 'bad' habits, am I right? Perhaps we are sleeping in a bit later, spending more time on our screens, or maybe even raiding the fridge more often than we should. Guilty at charged.

However, perhaps some of us have also managed to pick up some good habits during this time. Maybe we've taken up gardening, doing the latest free Jo Wicks exercise, reading or re-connecting with long lost friends on a more regular basis through the wonders of technology.

Either way, Covid has certainly reinforced the notion that we are our habits. What we rehearse everyday, what we practice...these become apart of the fabric that make us each unique and shape our identity, whether we are conscious of it or not.

I read a rather powerful quote by author & habit hacker James Clear recently, saying:

 'You do not rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your systems.'

When deciding to take on a new habit, we might initially have good intentions - to be healthier; to become a better person; to live longer or be better to the environment. However, after only a few short weeks (or maybe even days...), we find ourselves floundering, losing momentum or focus. It is often the case that we turn inward and attribute this lack of motivation inherently to ourselves - why have a failed AGAIN? What's wrong with me that I can't keep this up? I will never get this right.

Turns out, our environment, life circumstances, stress, and the systems around us play a HUGE part in building and maintaining habits (or not). This not only applies to our personal lives, but our professional lives as well. We might say to ourselves, I'm going to read one academic article a week OR one technical based book a month. These are worth while goals, but these might not be sustainable habits to maintain in the long term for a few reasons:

  • You are a busy professional. Emails come in. Tasks start to pile up...I get it. You've got competing priorities that require your attention.

  • You are currently working from home. Life can intercept even the smallest of tasks you need to get done. You might be a parents juggling home schooling and it can be challenging to sit down for 10 minutes even.

  • You don't really know the reason WHY you want to take on these new habits in the first place. 

  • You just feel 'you should' - which could be adding unconscious pressure.

So, how can we actually build better habits to support our professional growth? What are those 'systems', that will actually aid in the long term maintaining of a habit? Here are 4 tips to help:

1. Re-evaluate your systems & environmental cues

Take stock of your current environment. Look around you. What is helping you? What is hindering you? What barriers are there that might prevent you from maintaining a good habit? If you've made it a goal to read 1 academic article a week, and you do that at your computer...you might be tempted to switch tabs and go on social media, visit the kitchen for another piece of toast, or answer that email you've been wanting to get back to. Instead, why not print off the article, go outside in your garden, without any technology and read it in your favourite deck chair? You might even find this will save you time, because you have physically separated yourself from distractions. Set a reminder to do that and stick to it.

2. Find accountability in community

A friend and I made an agreement recently to go for an early morning walk together at least once a week. I am not an early bird by any stretch - but because I love my friend and what I get from our conversations (and the coffee!) I am more than willing to get out of bed early for these times. I don't want to let her down. I don't want to miss out on what could be the conversation of a lifetime. Same goes for building a good professional habit - find your tribe. Find a community that can hold you accountable and check-in with you to see how your new habit is going.

In The Adult Learning Hub app, for example, through our monthly themes, weekly calendar activities, and short collaborative tasks - it makes it that much easier for our members to connect with each other and grow their practice as adult educators. We do the hard work for them, essentially, providing regular opportunities to network, be held accountable (if they so choose) and to receive support as they journey towards mastery of their practice. The best part...they are short and sweet, making it totally achievable to build good habits. In 'Monday Momentum', we post informative polls/questions/surveys and reflection tasks to get the conversation going around topics that are important to our members, allowing them to better navigate and more confidently overcome challenges they experience professionally.

To find out if a professional community is right for you, watch this video to learn more.

3. Switch up your environment

Keep it interesting for yourself. If you want to listen to an educational podcast you love on regular basis, for example, make a list of all the places you can do that - while on a walk, when you are in the bath, or during your lunch hour. Each time you go to listen to the podcast, make a point of varying up your environment from the list you created. Make it easy and enjoyable for yourself. Taking on a new professional habit that supports your growth, is not something that is meant to be endured...but enjoyed and savoured, even. Make sure you explore ideas, alternatives, and the scenarios that allow you to do that.

4. Reward yourself

Make sure you decide in advance, how you will reward yourself for successfully acquiring your new habit. Schedule it with yourself and celebrate it in a way that's meaningful to you. Maybe you'll take a weekend trip somewhere OR treat yourself for a gorgeous lunch, or even purchase a subscription to a magazine or journal you like. It needs to be something that resonates with you and adds to your satisfaction. And - do it regularly if you want to maintain it. Once a year OR every six months...you decide! 

What habits are you hoping to develop in 2021 and beyond? Spend some time perhaps journaling today about where you see yourself and steps you can take to get there. 

I'd love to hear what you've come up with. Feel free to get in touch with me by sending me an email! 

Do you have a voice in the world of adult learning? We'd love to hear from you and feature your insights in an article. Email us to get in touch!

The Adult Learning Hub is an exciting new app-based membership community, bringing together passionate adult educators and practitioners. It's like a vibrant community of practice in your pocket! Watch this short video to find out more & sign up to our mailing list to receive updates about membership. We launch, Tuesday 1st June. During our launch phase, anyone who signs up gets up to 3 months free, from June to August!

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