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Breaking Habits: Knock Down The Barriers Keeping You From A Better You

It's barely 5 a.m. in Vancouver, BC. The sun has not yet peeked over the hill and Dawn Becker, CAP/OM the immediate past president of the Western Canada Division, rolls out of bed, ready to meet the day. She'll soon pull out of her neighborhood and onto a major TransCanada thoroughfare to beat the morning rush and cut her commute time in half.

It's not that Becker is a woman in a hurry. It's that she has learned the advantages of using time as a tool, carving out and shaping parts of her life, not only her professional life, but her personal, too.

"Saving time is almost worth getting up at five," said Becker, an executive assistant for pension and benefit plan administrators who represent workers in Canada's huge forest industry. As an early bird, she clocks in ahead of the crowd and has quiet time with the executives she assists, often as much as an hour. "It's a better time to sit and have a more private and confidential chat," she says.

Time well spent doesn't end when Becker leaves the office at the end of the day. She has been pro-active in IAAP's Vancouver Chapter for eight years. And for seven years in a row, she has honored standing appointments with a personal trainer at a fitness center for two nights a week, immediately after work.

"I want to stay fit to keep the extra weight off. I want to be moving when I'm 85, so I'd better start now," she says.
But a conversation about being our best selves is not limited to a single IAAP member. It's about all of you, the productive, competent and steady ones who are good at doing your jobs, good at being yourselves and serious about being even better.

Habits To Break. Steps To Take
As a full-time employee who manages a career and a household (and how many children are still under your roof), it seems an impossible challenge to be your busy self, then expect to be even better. But this is reassuring: For stellar results, we don't have to change self. What we have to change are habits, says Margaret Heffernan, a career advice columnist for Inc. magazine.

First, Heffernan says, acknowledge that habits hold an important place in our lives. Habits give us comfort. Yet, when habits become too ingrained or unhealthy (think fast food, smoking, internet surfing, shopping rather than saving), it's easy to become stagnant, sluggish and dull.

"Positive transformation occurs when dysfunctional habits are removed and replaced with productive ones," Heffernan says. "Productive people don't work more hours than you do. Productive people just have a knack for making the most of their time."

In subtle ways, intuition tells us what we want or need to change to become our very best. Jumpstart the process here by asking two central questions:

What habits shall I break? What positive steps shall I take?

The First Step
The first step to being the best we can be is to re-examine and redirect self-limiting thoughts. We shouldn't assume we can only do what we've done before, Heffernan advises. Consider what's possible. Small changes can be powerful and more often than not, our personal best impacts our career.
So let's get personal.

In her Inc. column, Heffernan, the author of Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious, itemized habits that happily successful and truly productive people have in common. She said they do this:

They Take Breaks
Do you think you'll get more done as a hard-driving, can't-stop-for-a-minute worker bee? Think again. What's clear from neuroscience is that by multi-tasking, we get depleted (that is, tired) and stressed (that is, frazzled), then feel stuck (that is, in a rut). A current study at Stanford University measures the effect of dashing about digitally. When we leap from e-mail to text to tweets to internet and apps, the results are worrisome. Taking a break refreshes our minds and allows us to see new solutions.

Habit To Break: Staying chained to your computer and glued to your chair, working non-stop.
Steps To Take: Stand up, stretch, walk away and breathe. Deep breathing, which involves breathing in through your mouth slowly and out through your nose slowly, is calming. Make it a regular part of the day; it’s free!

They Collaborate
People who get the job done are people who have wide networks, teams and support groups. Good ideas get better by brainstorming with colleagues, clients, mentors, friends and yes, your boss.

Habit To Break: Desktop dining.
Steps To Take: Go to lunch in the cafeteria or break room and connect with others. Meet someone you didn't know before.

They Leave Work Behind
Far from being focused on round-the-clock stresses of the daily grind, highly-productive people create private lives and build outside interests. That way, they sharpen a range of skills and think in different ways. They understand the value of vacationing. In Brazil, workers enjoy an average of 30 vacation days annually. Canadians typically have 26 days while the average number in the United States is 12 days. The trouble is, as many as 57 percent of U.S. employees left an average of 11 days unused vacation time on the table last year, according to The New York Times. When they do take time off, as many at 34 percent admit to working while they're away. Do you call that a vacation? Inc. asked.

Habit To Break: Running on the human hamster wheel, non-stop.
Steps To Take: Vacation! The sky won't fall and the company won't fold while you're away.

They Put Their Best Face Forward
Few things these days are more "out there" than Facebook and the line between a personal image and a professional image has begun to blur. Today's job seekers shouldn't be surprised if they are asked to agree to a social-media search. Current employees shouldn't be surprised if such a search becomes a procedure of the future. Is it fair and legal? Apparently so.

"Almost all employers do some form of background screening because they have to avoid negligent hiring," Max Drucker, chief executive of Social Intelligence told The Wall Street Journal. Drucker's company provides reports to potential employers after scouring the internet for information, pictures and comments a job candidate has shared with the world.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has ruled that researching how you spend personal time and what your passions are do not violate your privacy, The Journal reported. That means the internet is fair game. Not all companies use agencies like Social Intelligence, but more and more are mining information on the internet to help evaluate a potential employee.

Could you pass a Facebook background check?

Habit To Break: Overexposure. Sharing too much information.
Steps To Take: Check and recheck privacy settings. Do a search to see what bits and pieces are floating around on other sites. Are pictures from that college fraternity party still out there? If in doubt, consider hiring Reputation.com to help present a better you.

Being Your Best Self: Is Consistency Key?

For success with any plan, consistency is key, says Eric Holtzclaw, host of The Better You Project, a weekly radio show at thebetteryouproject.com.

Think about yourself as embarking on project. Put yourself on a a six-month plan, a two-year, or maybe a five to ten-year plan.

Replace unhealthy, counter-productive habits with new, healthy ones. Then be consistent with the new and improved. Success will likely follow.

"If I say I'm going to do something, I do it. If I say I'm going to be somewhere, I'm there. If I initiate a new process, I follow through," Holtzclaw says. "In my experience, consistency is a must."

Here's the role he says consistency plays:

Consistency Creates Accountability. The simple fact that there is a set time line for expected results is often the catalyst that keeps us marching along.       

Consistency Builds Your Reputation. You establish a track record and become known as one who makes it to the finish line. More importantly, you know it, too.

Consistency Reinforces Your essage. Create an upbeat vibe and stick to it. Send a positive message to yourself and others and repeat, repeat, repeat.