career

How to boost your career during your commute or lunch break

Want to take your career up a notch but don’t have the time?

Fret not, because there are small steps you can take that can cumulatively affect your career positively.

If you have time to spare during your commute or lunch break, here are some things you can do to boost your career.

Listen to a Podcast

Listening to podcasts is a great way to keep track of the news, deepen your knowledge of your industry, get motivated, or switch off from work. They’re also great for making a long commute fly by.

There’s a podcast for just about everything. So, to narrow things down, here’s a list of podcasts for every stage of your career.

Time commitment: An hour to 30 minutes

Keep a career journal

You can use a career journal to brainstorm future career goals, carry out a SWOT analysis of your current role, track progress and more.

By making a habit of writing and tracking your progress week-by-week, you’ll be able to track progress and more easily pinpoint areas of improvement. Setting goals and keeping track of your progress will help you stay accountable and motivated.

The notes you take will help you when making a case for a raise or give you talking points when preparing for your next job interview.

Finally, ideas tend to strike when you least expect them to, which is why keeping a career journal is super handy

Instead of forgetting the optimised work process you dreamed up on the commute back home, you can preserve your ‘eureka’ moment by jotting down your ideas as they come to you.

Time commitment: 15 minutes or less

Learn something new

Technology has allowed us to turn our PCs and smartphones into miniature classrooms. You can learn how to speak a foreign language, master Excel shortcuts to boost your productivity, or grasp the fundamentals of finance.

If you intend on learning on the go, aim for course providers with shorter lessons or exercises like Duolingo or GoSkills.

Course providers like GoSkills curate courses with shorter videos so you can learn in manageable, bite-sized chunks at a time that works best for you.

Time commitment: 30 to 15 minutes

Talk to a coworker

According to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan, engaging in “short-term social interactions”, or small talk, can make you better at your job.

Charles Duhigg, the author of Smarter Faster Better, discusses a concept called “Psychological Safety”.

The more comfortable you are with your colleagues, the more comfortable you are about bringing your whole self to work. This can translate to sharing your bolder ideas during a brainstorming session, without the fear that you’ll be judged.

Time commitment: 15 minutes or less

Move around

Our bodies were built to move, not to stay seated for more than six hours a day. According to a study conducted in Denmark, your risk of heart disease increases by 64% by being sedentary and you’re more at risk for certain types of cancer.

To counteract the negative effects of a sedentary life, remember to stand at least once an hour and get about 30 minutes of activity per day.

This could mean taking the stairs instead of an elevator (when possible) or setting up an active workstation (e.g., standing desks or Tic Toc chairs). If you have time to spare, consider using your lunch break to break a sweat at the gym or a fitness class.

Many studies show that aerobic exercise can increase energy levels, decrease feelings of stress, and grow the size of your hippocampus (a part of your brain that’s important for memory and learning).

Time commitment: 30 to 15 minutes

Meditate

Stressed employees are less productive, have reduced mental ability, and are more likely to take sick days. Not only have studies shown that meditation reduces stress, it also lengthens attention span, increases happiness, and boosts empathy.

It’s important to note that these benefits are more likely to be reaped and sustained with consistent practice.

Meditation has become more accessible than ever – there are plenty of apps geared towards first-timers. Many of these apps feature guided meditations, with some as short as five minutes.

The best part is that you just need yourself and someplace you won’t be disturbed, and you’re set! How’s that for five minutes well spent?

Time commitment: 15 minutes or less

Clean your work desk

Having a clean desk has many benefits. Not only does it look more professional, it keeps you organised, which saves you more time.

A clean desk is even more important for those who work with sensitive data. By keeping your documents filed away, you are less at risk for accidentally leaking information.

Studies have shown that a cluttered environment restricts your brain’s capacity to focus and process information.

It’s a three-for-one because it shows consideration to your deskmates, and gives you a great reason to move around (see above points!)

It’s worth noting that a cluttered environment can enhance your creativity. A study conducted by Social Psychologist Kathleen Vohs found that participants who brainstormed in a messy room generated ideas that were 28% more creative than their counterparts brainstorming in more orderly rooms.

Depending on the kind of work you do, or the field you’re in, you may have to conduct a set of personal experiments to see what works best for you.

Time commitment: 15 minutes or less

Build your network

Use your lunch break to grow your network. There’s even a New York Times best-selling book on the topic. Bring your lunch to the common area and strike up a conversation, or ask someone you admire to lunch.

You have probably heard about the benefits of professional networking ad nauseam, so I will refrain from writing about it here and will link you to an infographic instead.

Time commitment: An hour to 30 minutes

Get a head start

You may already do this on the way to work, but you can:

  • Check your email
  • Create a to-do list for your work day (complete with deadlines and levels of priority)

On your way back, it’s important to switch off. As mentioned earlier, relaxed people are more productive employees.

Time commitment: 15 minutes or less

Can you think of any other ways to boost your career in small, cumulative ways?

About the author: Krystal is a Marketing Manager at GoSkills, an online learning company that helps anyone learn business skills to reach their personal and professional goals. With a GoSkills.com subscription, members receive personalized courses consisting of high quality and to-the-point video tutorials, transcripts, cheat sheets, exercise files and short quizzes.

Photo by Konstantin Planinski on Unsplash
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