Six business skills that can make you healthier in your non-work life

Most of us have two versions of ourselves: the work one and the non-work.

And among that division, it’s easy for one side to be absolutely nailing it, while the other is flailing.

Your work self might be capable, high-achieving, and organised, but your personal life is a mess.

If your health and wellbeing lie neglected while your work side soars high, here’s a solution: use your work-self skills to nail your personal health goals.

Here’s how.

Project management

We’re unlikely to achieve our goals if we don’t carefully plan the when, where and how of successful execution.

At work, you probably do this routinely. When did you last spontaneously announce to your boss that you were going to ‘Increase sales by 100%!’ and leave it at that?

The fact is no one wants to work with someone who has ambitious goals but none of the everyday business skills that actually get things done.

Put your business head on and tackle your personal goals in the same way you’d create a project plan for an important work assignment.

First step? Schedule in time to create a plan, and give thought to each part. For example, if you want to get fit, do you prefer to exercise in the mornings or after work? Which days will you exercise? Block out those times in your calendar.

Next, add more detail. According to psychology professor at New York University, Peter Gollwitzer, the more detailed our plans, the more likely we are to succeed. So, if you’ve written ‘On Tuesdays and Thursdays after work, I’ll go to the gym.’ that’s good. But ‘On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I’ll stop work at 5.30pm and catch the 5.40pm train to the gym, where I’ll use the stairmaster for 25 minutes, followed by the exercise bike for 10 minutes; then I will complete my 15-minute free weight routine’ is better.

Collaboration and teamwork

If you’ve excelled at a job that requires great teamwork, but failed to go for most of the solitary runs or gym sessions that you’ve expected of yourself, it’s time to rethink your approach.

How? Put some social exercise in your diary – get yourself a workout buddy, or sign up for a team sport or a yoga weekend. You could even see if your workplace would be up for group membership of a gym or sports club.

Rather than shying away from another commitment for fear of letting others down, see it as making your life easier. You won’t want to let them down, so you’re more likely to show up – so your health will benefit.

Seek out those who already seem to have it sorted and study what they do. According to psychologist and author Katy Milkman: ‘You’re likely to go further faster if you find the person who’s already achieving what you want to achieve and copy and paste their tactics.’

Harnessing the data

Spreadsheets crammed with numbers whizz around most workplaces. Sales figures, profit margins, targets and the like show us exactly what we need to know – and can be just as useful outside the office.

‘You manage what you measure’ is one of the mantras happiness and motivation guru Gretchen Rubin lives by. ‘Setting myself a concrete task, and measuring each day whether I’m complying with it, makes me far more likely to stick to my resolution.’

So, if your goal is to improve your relationship with your partner, then a measurable first step might be to plan a date night together once a week. If your goal is to be more active, create a simple tick chart or get yourself a smartwatch and start monitoring your steps, zone minutes and distances and heart rate to track your progress and meet targets.

Katy Milkman also advises people to have a set number of ‘emergency passes’, say two per week, for when you fail to meet your steps target, stick to your diet, or complete your meditation. ‘This strategy can help you stay confident and on track even when you face the occasional, inevitable setback,’ she tells

Dressing for success

Remember the old mantra ‘Dress for the job you want’?

Putting on work clothes sends a clear message: I am serious about my job and this is what I’m focused on right now.

Research shows that when we put on certain clothes, it actually affects our behaviour, confidence and mood. Behaviour experts at Northwestern University call this phenomenon ‘enclothed cognition’ – it means you’re more likely to exhibit the traits you associate with clothes.

Try harnessing the power of clothes to achieve your personal goals.

If you’ve scheduled in a workout, when you get home from work, change into your running or gym gear right away.

If you’re striving for a better work-life balance, but your wardrobe consists of either ‘smart professional’ or ‘off-duty slob’, then try investing in some comfortable, attractive non-work clothes that better support your life goals.

If you want to focus more on your relationship, dress up for date night.

In the words of legendary Hollywood costume designer Edith Head: ‘You can have anything you want in life if you dress for it.’

Effective reward systems

Performing well at work can mean a host of lovely rewards – from pay rises, to peer approval – head your way.

If you’ve set up clear targets and trackers for yourself, adding in some reward systems can be the icing on the cake. Think about the type of rewards that you feel motivated by, and put in your diary that you’ll treat yourself when you achieve a significant milestone.

Make reward systems work harder by setting small, regular targets – with micro-rewards at the end of each stage. For example, buy one of a set of water glasses, books or candlesticks for every micro-goal you achieve, until you have the full set.

Or try choosing a reward that supports your lifestyle change: for example, if you’ve successfully attended all your workout sessions for six weeks, treat yourself to a one-to-one session with a trainer who can congratulate you and inspire you to achieve more. As you get closer to achieving a goal, start looking forward to the reward, anticipating the enjoyment you’ll get from it.

Make yourself accountable

If you’ve achieved some significant wins at work, then it’s likely they were underpinned by clear expectations. You need to get results because that’s why you’ve been employed in the first place – it’s what you and your boss expect. You show up to the meeting or Zoom call because other people will be there and expect you to be there, too.

So how can you make yourself accountable for achieving your personal goals? Seeking out a mentor or life coach or simply announcing to your partner or best friend that you will be doing this can work well.

‘Because you care about gaining peer approval, feeling watched by groups of other people changes your behaviour,’ explains Katy Milkman.

If you’re a good manager at work, training to be a sports coach or exercise teacher, or just offering to help a friend whose trying to get in shape by going on the journey together can help you transfer your ‘responsible role model’ work persona to help you achieve personal success.

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