Throughout my life, I’ve noticed my habits are the single biggest factor in my success. When I break good habits, bad things happen. And I’m not saying they are catastrophic bad things, but I’ll start skipping some of my concrete work habits, therefore putting me behind in work. And it’s usually when I am being successful that I rest on my laurels and start to focus less on the winning habits.
Sounds ridiculous, right? However, it happens with all of us. I am in a good place personally with my habits, I come down from putting kids to bed and start cleaning up. Could I be better, of course! Right now I’ll probably only clean up the baby’s toys. But it gradually builds up to where I’m working on dishes every night instead of every other night.
If I have a habit of making 3 sales calls after lunch, I’m going to get more business than if I just let my feelings determine if I make the calls. Habits allow you to follow through even when you don’t want to do it. Right now, I have a habit of listening to an audio book when I go for a walk. I’ve learned a lot and now I look forward to that walk. And currently I’m walking 7 days a week which eliminates the “It’s too cold” excuse or the “I don’t feel like it”. It’s becoming a habit.
Habits aren’t supposed to be fun or exciting, they are supposed to get you through the things you need to do, even when you don’t feel like it. Because there will be days you do NOT feel like it.
You think these personal habits are unrelated to your work life, but that would be incorrect. By having habits in place in your home life, you are more likely to incorporate them into your work life, or vice versa. So how do you create those habits?
If you haven’t read James Clear’s book ‘Atomic Habits’, I would suggest it. But barring that, I’ll try to summarize some of his points.
- Start small
If you aren’t used to habits, and you want to work out each morning, start with waking up a little earlier. Don’t go crazy if you want it to last. Say you wake up at 6:00am, set the alarm for 5:55am tomorrow. Then 5:50am. Eventually you’ll be up early enough to get to the gym. From there, just try walking or driving to the gym. Then maybe the next day, you’ll go in and look around. Keep building small blocks that will eventually lead to the habit you want.
- Habit stacking
If you already have a habit established, build upon it. Let’s say your habit is to brush your teeth after breakfast. Great, you have an established system. Now, just add one small thing to it. Every morning, I will brush my teeth and read one motivational quote. Keep building upon your already established habits. Small changes eventually compound into big changes.
- Make it attractive/unattractive
If you want the habit of running 2 miles a day, don’t focus on the running part, focus on what the running will do for you. It will give you the health you want, or the image you want, whatever the case may be. Think of the attractive parts of the habit, not the things that suck. Or conversely, make it unattractive to NOT do the habit. “If I don’t run today, I’m going to consume more calories than I burn and my health will regress.” Thinking outside the box a little will help you establish those goals.
- Make it obvious
If you want the habit to be to remember your car keys each day, put the keys in eyesight, next to the door. Don’t leave them in the kitchen or bedroom. Put them where it will nearly smack you in the face if you don’t have them with you. If we use the running example, put your running shoes right next to your bed so when you get up, there’s no getting around the fact that you wanted to make running a habit. If you want to make 3 sales calls after lunch, put a reminder in your phone and email. The more obvious you make it, the easier it will be.
Building success starts with your system, your daily habits. You are more likely to succeed than you are with no systems or processes in place.
Trent V. Bray