Why is habit so important to your productivity?

I work with a colleague, Lauren, who gets up at 5:30am everyday and either runs or goes to the gym. I admire her dedication and each week I tell myself that I should start exercising in the morning before the length of time I spend at work wears me down and stops me doing something at the end of the day. Of course I’m not a morning person (really, really not a morning person) and so any exercise before I start work simply never happens. And unfortunately, I don’t get any fitter by thinking I should do it.

The difference between Lauren and I is she has created a daily habit which means that every day she is ensuring she exercises. I’m sure she doesn’t enjoy getting up as early as she does and would rather sleep in some mornings but she has a long term goal of completing a half-marathon within a particular time. So she simply does it.

Often we set lofty goals and things we want to achieve but before long the daily grind sets in and it becomes too hard and we quickly lose focus. Athletes don’t get to the Olympics by crossing their fingers and wishing or by waking up in the morning and deciding it’s too hard and hitting the snooze button. Instead they set up a series of daily habits and rituals that cover everything from when they get up, what they repeat to themselves before a race, what time and how often they train, what they eat and perhaps even the underwear they wear. It’s all designed to create a series of habits to help ensure success and the achievement of their long term goals.

Interestingly all athletes don’t have the same habits and rituals to help them succeed. There isn’t a secret formula for success that if all Olympic athletes adopt this training regime or this eating pattern or this combination it will ensure they succeed. Instead it’s about figuring out what will work best with their bodies, their sport, their goals and their timetables and then having to discipline to see it through.

It’s the same for us mere mortals. Too often clients see me and want the magic pill or formula which will guarantee success but sadly there’s no such thing. However by working out what is important to you, how you best work, what your goals are and what is best for your customers you can set up a  series of rituals and habits that will to set yourself up for success and make you and your team most productive.

So if we’re talking business, money and achieving our financial goals, what habits or rituals can you employ that will help make you the most productive and hopefully help you achieve your goals?

  1. Have a daily mantra. This might seem silly however often we carry around money messages in our head that are self-defeating. They might be, “I’m terrible with money”, “I can’t save”, “I’ll never understand the financial side of my business” or sneaky ones such as “I’ll never be able to buy a home until I meet my future partner”.  Just like a successful athlete might repeat a daily mantra around how they want to achieve success, why not create a daily mantra around how you want to view business, money and financial success. I’m not talking the Secret here but rather positive money messages that will infect the way you think. Stick them up on your mirror so you see them every day and start replacing unhelpful thoughts with affirming ones.
  2. Set up daily rituals. These are the small things you do every day that will help set you up for success. These might include not checking your emails until 10am so you’re dealing with the important first and not the urgent. Or it might be having a daily huddle with your team at 9:19 every morning so everyone is on the page or perhaps it’s using blockout so that you or other team members can’t be distracted by phone calls or questions if you need to get a chunk of work done. It’s all about creating powerful, everyday habits that will make you and your team the most productive and help set you up for success.
  3. When in control take charge. This might seem a strange one – of course if you’re a business owner you’d take control, right? Well yes and no. I’ve met so many business owners that tell me that they have to do things a certain way because that’s how their industry does it. My response? It’s your business – do it your way. For example most accounting firms track time in six minute increments and if you talk to any accountant they’ll tell you how frustrating it is and what a time waster it is. Which is crazy. So in my firm, we don’t track in six minute increments. Actually we don’t track time at all and yet we still know how long it takes for our jobs to get done and the sky hasn’t fallen in. My accountants are more productive (and much, much happier) and they can spend their time on something more important. Of course in order to do this I needed to create other systems that worked far better than tracking time in six minute increments but I could do that because, guess what? It’s my business.
  4. Use technology. When I exercise there are amazing and cheap apps I use that track how I’m going, motivate me and keep me accountable. It’s the same in business.Make sure you research and use those things that will free you up to concentrate on the things that are most important. There is everything from online diaries to cloud based accounting to online note books to online logbooks to time trackers to apps that will audit your social media usage to cloud based solutions that will all integrate and talk to one another saving you time inputting into three different databases. It’s all about making the most of the one thing that all business owners have a short supply of: time.
  5. Get help. There’s a reason why professional athletes have coaches. Sure they might be able to do it by themselves but it’s much easier when there’s someone there pushing them along, helping to correct any imbalances, celebrating with them and keeping them accountable to what they say they are going to do. It’s the same with the rest of us.

Often we see the athletes on the podium but we don’t see them at training again the next day. At the recent Commonwealth Games a reporter asked Sally Pearson if she was going to take time off to celebrate now that she had won Commonwealth Gold. She laughed and said she’d eat some tim tams and have a day off but then it was back to training and racing a few days later.  That’s because Sally understands the importance of daily habits and she knows that when she stops being productive on off-race days, she’ll be far less effective when it matters which ultimately will mean she won’t reach her goals.

It’s the unsexy side that is not often talked about that success consists of lots of small and often tedious steps. But once these steps or daily habits are set up, they will help carry you towards successfully achieving your goals.

 

Melissa Browne

Melissa Browne is an author and serial entrepreneur. She is CEO of the award-winning accounting and advisory firm A&TA (Accounting & Taxation Advantage), CEO of the financial planning business for 28-48 year olds who want to financially grow up The Money Barre and Director of Business at the long-day Preschool, Thinkers,inq. She has written three books, More Money for Shoes, Fabulous but Broke and her most recent, Unf*ck your Finances. Melissa also writes a fortnightly Money column for the Sydney Morning Herald & Melbourne’s The Age and is a regular media commentator, writing and speaking for everyone from Cosmopolitan to CEO Magazine to Weekend Sunrise to Triple J. In 2016 she was named one of the Financial Review’s 100 Women of Influence.

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