We all have habits. These are the things we do very regularly without even thinking about them, such as getting up and putting the kettle on before you do anything else. You just do them without even knowing that they're habits.
Work habits are just the same, you get to your desk and without even thinking you check your email, after making that all-important cup of coffee.
Does any of that sound familiar? Can you quickly identify some simple habits in your work and life?
Most of our habits will be neutral in terms of whether they are beneficial or not. But I've been going through some self-analysis and began to think about whether the way I work is particularly efficient and/or effective.
And I've concluded that I need to make some work adjustments if I really want to move my business further and faster.
So, I did some research on getting started with new work habits and have embarked on some small but significant changes in how I work.
One of the first things I'm doing (starting with what you're reading right now) is to write a minimum of 150 words a day. This may not sound like a lot but I do enjoy writing and know that content development and blogging are important for success in online marketing. Thus helping my business.
I've also realised that I need to be much more diligent in doing my business marketing each day. I aim to do at least 45 minutes each day but have let that slip in recent weeks.
Last week I made a commitment to exercise a minimum 3 times over a seven day period since that's something else that I've let slide in recent months. Not quite a new work habit but it's important to stay fit and healthy if you want to be focused and productive ("Sharpen the saw" as Dr Covey used to say).
A key tip is to realise that checking and acting upon email at the beginning of the working day is a completely reactive work habit. You're letting someone else set the tone for the day. So, my emails won't get answered until mid morning from now on (well, most of the time anyway).
Now these may seem like really small and simple things but the cumulative effect over time should be quite significant. If I write 150 words a day that amounts to 2 or 3 blog posts a week. Thus accumulating a decent volume. Doing some marketing each day helps to ensure that I'm constantly winning and keeping customers instead of waiting until things get needy.
I've learned over the years that if you want to make changes then start with small and regular things and go from there. You'll be far more successful making regular small changes than aiming at big stuff in one go. Getting started is easy, keeping going is hard. So start small and develop as you go.
But the best thing about aiming at habits is that I habits happen without having to think too much about it. I want my new habits to become integral parts of my life and work so that they will get done because it's a normal part of what I do anyway.
I'll be writing more over time as these new work habits develop but feel free to share your thoughts on getting started with new work habits in the comments below. If you've started a new work habit recently let us know how it's going.
While listening to a business speaker recently he mentioned that it's vital to monitor who you hang around with when you're trying to build a business. And this got me thinking about who I tend to hang around with and whether I actually keep the right company.
You see, it's been very well documented that you often end up becoming like those you spend the most time with.
For example; if you spend a lot of time with folks who swear a lot you're quite likely to become someone who swears a lot. If you start going out drinking regularly with drinkers then there's a strong chance that you'll become a habitual drinker (and maybe an alcoholic). Children who grow up with parents who smoke normally end up smoking too. And so on.
Those of us who are parents will know that we don't want our children hanging around with those who swear, smoke and do stuff that's disrespectful and often illegal. Most parents want their kids to hang around with folks who are intelligent, respectful, and well behaved. We instinctively know that attitudes and behaviours are contagious when it comes to kids.
But why do we seem to think that we're any more immune to the bad (or beneficial) influences of others when we're older?
So, let's have a think about this: does it not make sense that if we want our children to hang around with good influences then maybe we all ought to seek out good influences, despite how old we are?
Look at it this way: if you want to become better at a sport it makes great sense to get some coaching and also to hang around with those who are good and positive role models.
A good example is that I used to play basketball (OK, you can stop laughing now). I'm not very good but my play certainly improved when I started hanging around with those who were better than me. I was able to observe what they did and how they did it, ask for help and then try and put some of that into effect in my own level of play. It worked.
And so it is with being in business. When you run a business, who you hang around with matters more than ever. Very few of the regulars at your local bar will be able to educate, influence or inspire you to be a better business person. Unless they're running a business of their own they just won't understand your challenges, your motivations or your decisions. And, if you took a good look, you'd find very few business owners in the bar every night anyway.
So, what should you do?
As a business owner the answer is really simple: go where the successful people are. Go to events where people in business go. The local Chamber of Commerce is a good start. Are there other business groups that meet regularly where you can rub shoulders with those who are heading in the same direction that you'd like to go?
However, I must warn you that this kind of stuff can be quiet intimidating to begin with. But I promise it'll be worth the initial discomfort.
Perhaps you could start a mastermind group and invite people who are already successful to come along and make a contribution?
How about asking a successful person if they'd consider mentoring you as you get started?
To be honest, having good positive influences around you will seriously speed up your development as a businessperson. After all, what could be better than to be able to pick up the phone (or send a quick email) to someone who's been there and done it?
Now, back to thinking about who you hang around with now: I'm not saying that you should ditch all of your friends immediately but it's a sobering thought that you only have to look at your friends to take a look at your probable future. If you're happy with what you see then I wish you the best of luck.
But if there are things you'd like to change then don't just kick your friends off the radar completely, we all need friends (even if they will never understand your life in business).
However, I would certainly encourage you to take your time and have a think about the value that some of your friendships bring to you. Ask yourself whether your friends are lifting you up or bringing you down, helping or hindering you in any aspect of your life.
And this is especially worth doing if you're starting or running a business.
So I hope that you'll begin to think a little more about who you hang around with but if you've any further thoughts on this then please let me know in the comments section.
Everyone is in sales. Yes, everyone, including you.
Now it may sound a little daft to say since very few of us think we actually sell anything. But I'd like to show you just how wrong we all are on this score. And wrong just about every single day.
You see, from the moment you're born you're trying to sell something. And that something is you. You smile to get a positive response, a response that is repeated and affirmed throughout our whole lives. If you smile at folks as an adult, most of the time you will still get a smile in return.
When you get a little older you start to realise the value in asking for things and then demanding things and then kicking up a fuss when you don't get what you want. How many times do kids ask for ice cream before they either get want they want or realise that it's not going to happen? Quite a lot, right.
So we move on in life and by the time we get to our teen years you've (hopefully) stopped throwing yourself on the floor screaming when you're not getting what you want. But then you go into a different kind of selling: selling yourself to the opposite sex.
And this is when sales skill starts to develop. You preen yourself to look and smell good, you try and be on your best behaviour, you aim to say the right words. All in the hope that when you finally ask he/she will say yes to going out with you.
But what happens when all this effort comes to naught? What if she said no? Do you go home and sulk, cry, vow never to ask again? Or do you try a dating site in the hope that you won't have to ask anyone face-to-face?
Or do you realise that the word 'no' doesn't really hurt that much at all and try again with the same or a different person?
Eventually you get to job interviews. Again you're having to sell yourself to someone who might hire you. You go through a similar kind of process as you went through asking for a date: preen, polish, best behaviour, the right words etc. In the hope that the interviewer will see you as the person they need and offer you the job.
But what if you're turned down? Do you go home and pull the emotional Huggies over your head, vow never to apply for another job? Go to a different job site hoping that you'll never have to confront an interview again?
Or do you realise that being turned down here and there isn't a life-threatening condition and you try again with a different approach?
You might even have made some friends along the way. Did they just turn up and instantly become your friend or did you go through a kind of 'getting to know you phase'? The part where you're doing your best not to be the jerk/bitch you know you can be. This bit is the selling bit, you're still trying to win friends and some approval by presenting the best you.
Perhaps you managed to get a job. I'll bet you're still selling your worth to someone and this someone is now a boss. You may be trying win promotion, get that bonus, win employee of the year. You're still selling.
So life moves on, maybe you got lucky and have a (dare I say it) wife or husband (or partner or whatever the fashionable term is). You would still have gone through a selling process to try and impress etc.
And now you may even have kids. And I promise that they'll be selling to you in the same way that you did to your parents.
So, now that you realise that everyone is in sales, my question to you is:
What's your kids' closing ratio on you?
Many folks have heard about having a positive attitude but is that all there is to being successful? The old addage 'Believe it and achieve it' seems to have been kicked around a little too much in my view. And if it were strictly true then many more people would achieve success in their chosen endeavour.
But having said that, having a fair bit of simple belief and motivation can carry you a long way. Your reasons for what you're up to mean a heck of a lot, especially when you're self-employed or running a small business.
And in few other areas is your belief and motivation tested more than when you run a business.
When you run a business you have to absolutely believe that what you are doing is going to work, And that you will be able to make a success of your activities.
But have a think about this:
If you've ever been in any kind of sales role you will understand that believing in the product that you are selling is vital. You also have to have confidence and belief in your ability to make sales. Without any of these key components you will not likely succeed, in all honesty selling is very much about belief and confidence (more than skill much of the time).
But there is a huge difference between working in sales role and running your own business. That difference is that when you work for someone else you normally have a boss who will help you and support you and usually guide you in the right direction. When you run a business you simply don't have that, you are the boss, you have to find your own motivation, belief and encouragement.
And that's where many people who start their own business fall down. When things get tough, and they undoubtedly will, unless you have strong motivation and absolute belief in your enterprise you will almost certainly start to flounder (and in all probability).
So, what can you do to try and ensure that you believe in what you're doing and have faith in your business and/or abilities?
One of the most important things to realise very early on is the reason or reasons why you're doing this in the first place. This is fundamentally your motive, from which motivation comes. Without this motivation you are at a disadvantage to begin with.
Now your motive doesn't have to be anything high and mighty. It could be as simple as “I don't want to work for anyone else”. But whatever reason you have for doing what you do it needs to be very clear in your mind. Because in the tough times this should spur you on to take action despite how you feel at the time.
Personally I have a number of reasons for having a business, one of them is that I really don't want to work for anyone else. Another is that I love having the freedom to steer my own career rather than having to rely on someone else's pay or promotion structure. I like being the captain of my own ship, so to speak. And last summer I was able to just have a few hours off to watch our oldest daughter compete in her school sports day. I was only one of three parents there but it was great not having to ask for permission.
But do I struggle? Are there times when my motivation and belief aren't so great? Do I sometimes think that maybe I should just get a job? The simple answer is yes, like everyone else I have times of doubt. I don't want to scare you off if you want to start a business but it really is like an emotional rollercoaster at times.
But when I get a big hug my three-year-old daughter or a welcome-home kiss from my partner I'm reminded that there are very good reasons/motives for putting up with the stress that having a business can sometimes bring. And these reminders give me the motivation to work hard, to focus and to have belief that what I'm doing is worthwhile.
And the key element here is knowing what it is that drives you. Without this there will be little motivation and you will struggle to truly believe in what you're doing. And those reasons need to be your reasons, you won't find much motivation and faith in someone else's.
So, if you want to “believe it and achieve it” it you need to start with the reasons why you would want to achieve in the first place.
For a little more on belief and achievement read my piece called "you have to make change happen, not just hope for it"