Create effective habits-Don’t let your upkeep become your downfall

Also available in (March-April) Wire Rope Exchange Magazine:

How many routine tasks must be performed daily to keep your business running? Some tasks are more unpleasant than others, but…, they all have to get done, and done properly, to keep your doors open. It’s challenging when you find yourself spending most, or all of your time on these necessary tasks, without time to focus on growth and innovation. This is common in both seasoned businesses, as well as startups. Regardless where your company falls on the continuum, one of the reasons businesses fail to thrive is because their upkeep becomes their downfall.

The amount of time owners and staff spend on the job is considerable. In our industry it isn’t uncommon to put in a 12-hour day. In spite of long hours many owners and managers still go home frustrated, feeling as though they fall deeper behind at the end of every day. You trade a large part of your life for a paycheck. A wise and very successful business owner once told me, “I’ve made a lot of money and have had much success, but it wasn’t worth the price I paid.”

Your business or job is a tool to fund your life. The goal is a quality life. That means doing the things that are important to you and your family. It’s having the income to cover the necessities with a satisfactory level of amenities, and the time and freedom to enjoy them. Regardless how many weeks of vacation and family events you pack into your annual schedule, you spend a tremendous amount of your life on the job; therefore, a quality life must include making time on the job enjoyable and rewarding. It’s best to have a plan to use work time effectively so we don’t find ourselves spending even more time on the job than is necessary. We want to ensure that when we finally arrive at home the person that shows up is in a positive state of mind and is a pleasure to greet.

Frustration breeds frustration. It destroys you on the inside, damages relationships on the outside and begets more of the same. How can we better manage ourselves and our day in order to accomplish all that is required to maintain and grow the business, while creating the type of experience we desire at work, which directly impacts our personal quality of life and health?

Things to consider:

  • Choose to control your thoughts. Respond, don’t react – especially when feeling overloaded. Otherwise, by default you’re allowing yourself to be a helpless victim of circumstance; vulnerable to the whimsy of external events.
  • Be realistic. There are only so many hours in a day. If you aren’t keeping up with the daily tasks and rarely have time to address important innovation and growth activities, nothing will change unless you change.
  • Daily there are things that will go undone. Decide which activities are a priority and do them first. (Yes, make a list.)
  • Outsource routine tasks. Determine what activities to delegate and make time to train or hire the talent to accomplish them.
  • Eliminate distractions. This will allow you to focus and use your time, energy and creativity most efficiently. You can’t be effective if people are walking in and phone calls are interrupting your work every few minutes.
  • Get excited about a compelling vision of the future. If you aren’t excited about where you’re headed, then others in your organization won’t be either.

I know…you’re probably thinking, “Try dealing with my day!”

It’s not easy; but you have to weigh the cost of regret (continuing as it is) versus the price of changing to accomplish what you desire. If it were easy everyone would do it. Business owners and leaders are exceptional people. Keeping up with the responsibilities and ongoing work level year after year sets you apart from most others. What we’re considering here is similar to obtaining a graduate degree. You can’t do it quickly or all at once. You have to be willing to progress to the next level and be willing to commit to change. It requires a modification of priorities and philosophy. It must become an ongoing process of continuous improvement, one baby step at a time. The key to success is to invest a part of each day to implement one small step toward achieving your clearly defined objective for that specific responsibility; before you undertake the next one.

Where to begin:

  • Get away from the chaos to have some time to THINK. It’s difficult to develop new solutions and generate innovative plans while at your desk, overwhelmed with a task list and people who are waiting for answers. In the beginning it may require making time in the evening or on the weekend. Either by yourself or with your management team, consider leaving a little early one day a week to talk or think over dinner, or come in early and block the first hour. It’s essential that you have the time to think without distraction. Every action is preceded by a thought; your actions can only be as good as the thoughts driving them. This is an inviolable fact. If you want better results from operational activities, you must THINK and PLAN before you act.
  • If you often feel stressed to the point of frustration, allow yourself time to relax. You’ll know you’re in a relaxed state when you’re enjoying yourself and lose track of time. Whether it’s getting lost in a book, going for a walk in the woods, taking a drive in the country, watching a movie, or some form of exercise. Running, Tai Chi, or Yoga can be an invaluable part of a healthy routine. Only you can decide what works for you. It’s important to find an activity to provide release – and give yourself permission to do it often. Ill health comes from imbalance. Make sure you eat well and get ample rest. Stress without relief builds, and if left unaddressed will reach an unhealthy level.

Plan for success:

Create an inventory of the major areas you’d like to improve. Begin the list and continue adding to it for a few days. You’ll be shocked by its length.

  • Break the list into categories
  • Prioritize the categories
  • Create objectives for your top one or two priorities. Ask yourself, “What has to happen for me to feel confident that I’ve developed a reliable long-range solution for this activity/responsibility?” Write it down.
  • Choose the sole objective that you feel is most important or has the greatest payback on your investment of time.
  • Outline the objective into daily steps. Invest at least 15 minutes daily and commit to completing that step before you head home. When you feel that you’ve established a habit you may choose to invest more time.

Creating new productive habits is effective, unlike most habits which are created unconsciously. A habit is one of the most powerful forces in life. Habit is your best friend – or your worst enemy.

What is a habit?

According to Encyclopedia Britannica a habit is any regularly repeated behavior that requires little or no thought and is learned rather than innate. The behavior becomes more automatic with each repetition. Habits, according to William James’ Principles of Psychology, are useful as the means for conserving higher mental processes for more demanding tasks.

You cannot create the habit of always generating good ideas. But, you can develop the habit of giving yourself time to think and strategize solutions to meet the challenges of maintaining and growing your business. If you’ve been working in this or any other industry for a number of years, you hold within your subconscious an incredible storehouse of valuable knowledge and experience. If you don’t schedule a little time to slow down and think, you aren’t allowing yourself to access that pool of resources that will benefit you, your customers and your employees. So, get in the habit of making a daily investment of your resources for innovation and growth in order to ensure that your upkeep does not become your downfall.