The Power of Habit for small business owners

March 6, 2018

Cue, routine, reward. That’s how habits work, and that’s the key insight from Charles Duhigg’s bestselling book The Power of Habit. We get a cue, like that groggy feeling we have when we first wake up, and it prompts us to begin a routine—stumbling into the kitchen to get coffee. The reward that we get when the caffeine hits our system reinforces the habit, ensuring that we’ll repeat it day after day.

Duhigg also teaches us that we can harness the power of this automatic system to break destructive habits and deliberately create new, beneficial habits. If, for example, you wanted to give up caffeine, you’d need to substitute a new routine and reward in the habit loop, like making a delicious decaf beverage or going for an early-morning walk to wake yourself up.

As a business owner, you’re probably overworked and constantly pressed for time, which makes it all too easy to fall into bad habits. If you’re a chronic procrastinator, if you feel like you’re always scrambling to put out fires, if you never have time to relax, harnessing the power of habit can help you remake your work life to be more efficient and less stressful. All you need to do is create some new routines-—and reward yourself for keeping up those good habits.

Here are three ways to put the power of habit to work for you and your business:

1. Prune your to-do list.

Procrastination can be a tricky habit to break, but it can be broken. Start by eliminating any tasks you don’t actually need to do yourself. Hire an accountant to take some time-consuming paperwork off your desk. Can you delegate something like scheduling employees to a manager or another trusted employee? Set that person up with an app like Timeclock that makes scheduling a quick and easy task, so they don’t get behind on their other work. Then automate or streamline anything you can’t delegate. For example, the DAVO Sales Tax app will automatically set aside your sales tax every day and even pay it for you!

2. Create new routines to help you stay on top of your work.

The power of habit can help you find the time to tackle the tasks that always seem to fall to the bottom of your to-do list. For example, if you’d like to make more time to dig into the data and keep track of your business’s performance, routine can help. Choose a simple, centralized app that will show you a lot of information at a glance. Clover Insights can show you how your performance compares to similar businesses in your area, tell you what your most popular products are, and help you better target your advertising by showing you where your customers come from. Create a new routine where you take five minutes to review this data every morning while drinking a cup of coffee. Use the cue (arriving at the office or opening up your computer), routine (check out one or two data points), reward (delicious coffee!) cycle to help you turn this task into a habit.

3. Create a self-care routine.

It’s easy to neglect yourself when you’re overwhelmed, but putting off taking care of yourself will eventually lead to burnout—and that’s no good for you or your business. Add self-care to your to-do list and make it a habit using the cue-routine-reward cycle. For example, a device like a Fitbit that tracks your steps will create an automatic reward for walking more by showing you your progress. But creating good habits doesn’t have to cost money. If you have a daily or weekly meeting that usually involves coffee and pastry, try turning it into a walking meeting so you get outside and get moving. If you usually look at your phone first thing in the morning, try setting a journal right next to your bed, to cue you to take five minutes to think about your goals for the day instead of diving right into the day’s problems. Taking time for yourself, even if it’s just a few minutes a day, can make you happier and more productive—and healthy habits can help.

[image: business office morning coffee by perzon seo on flickr]

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