Article By: Jonathan Moerbe, CEO and Master Coach, Rialto Academy
Habits are the foundational building blocks for our productivity—as individuals, as groups, as companies. In his recently published bestseller, “Atomic Habits,” James Clear writes, “Your life today is essentially the sum of your habits.” Whether your physical health, your business productivity, the strength of your relationships—it’s all about habits!
Habits are great because they allow you to make one great decision—and then just live it like crazy. However, it’s not inevitable that we keep, improve, and focus on the right habits. In fact, when we are stressed or our willpower is low, it can be really challenging to nurture habits that work for us instead of against us.
Let’s explore four ways that habits can undermine our success—and how we can turn that around!
#1: You are ignoring proactive habits.
When I think about habits, my gut reaction is often to think of reactive habits. Whether I react with frustration or patience when my 2-year-old pours her water on the dog “to give her bath.” Whether I take a call from a teammate when I am writing a blog. Whether I check Twitter 90 times an hour while in my time block.
These habits matter! Yet they are only half the story. Proactive habits—those we consciously trigger by controlling a stimulus—require our attention as well. You can set a calendar reminder to contact a business associate or to start lead-generating. Another great option is the Pomodoro Technique. Set a timer for 25 minutes. During that time, only focus on your most important task. No notifications or distractions. After 25 minutes, take five minutes to catch up on notifications, stretch, or grab water. Then do it again! Anytime you are controlling the initial stimulus, you are leveraging proactive habits. The pattern is always trigger, action, result—the only question is, who controls the trigger?
#2: You’re in the wrong environment.
Many companies are embracing the “open office” trend. Collaboration! Creativity! New conversations you wouldn’t have otherwise! Yet there is also the challenge of noise and finding places that actually sync with our ideas of what a place we’d like to work in should be.
Habits are lingering right at the surface of the issue. If we can’t hear (or see/feel/notice) the triggers, it’s challenging to build proactive habits. And it also tends to lead to unproductive, reactive habits. If we’re supposed to be open to collaboration, whether it be a conversation we get drawn into, a Slack notification, or a vibrating text message, open offices tend to make collaboration harder. Yet, if you’ve ever worked at home and had an unnerving urge to unload the dishwasher, you know what it’s like to be impacted by distractions at home as well.
To address this, make your proactive habit trigger louder than the noise that’s distracting you—repeated signals until you finally pay attention. Second, choose a time to focus and commit to protecting it. Let other people know you’re focusing. If possible, have a specific place you go to focus, and turn off as many notifications as you can. Defend this time! Be willing to fight for your habits.
#3: You don’t take time to reflect.
If you ask most professionals how they are doing, they will almost instinctively say, “I’m busy.” It’s almost a necessity in our modern life—to have at least 10 percent too much going on at any time. Maybe it’s a defense mechanism—if I say I’m busy, they can’t give me more to do!—but most likely, it’s a symptom of the “get it done, move quickly” society we’re living in. Do you ever stop and reflect why?
In “Smartcuts,” Shane Snow dives deep into the possibility of working smarter, not harder. How do some people skip rungs on the corporate ladder? How do some companies grab market share like an industry-size game of Hungry Hungry Hippo?
Habits are an essential smartcut. It takes so much less energy to live out of habit versus continually reinventing what we need to do to succeed. Schedule time to reflect. What habits are working? What habits need to be reinvented, replaced, or upgraded? By scheduling time to reflect on your proactive and reactive habits, you can stay at top efficiency and save energy. Master your habits, and when someone asks how you’re doing, you can respond that you are “pleasantly busy.”
#4: You go it alone.
When we are journeying out into the business wilderness, we need to have support. Lewis had Clark. Woody had Buzz Lightyear. I had my whole family with me on the Oregon Trail, until I tried to ford the wrong river. Too often we think we have to go through it alone.
It takes a village to raise a habit. Mentors and experts can teach us what habits are most effective. Others have gone there before: Don’t reinvent the wheel when race cars exist! Once we’ve established the right habits—both proactive and reactive—we need to identify who can be the bumpers in the bowling alley we call our career. Who can hold us accountable for our habits? At Rialto Academy, we train each of our coaches in the magical effect habits can have on productivity. If you are alone in your habits, no one will notice if you start to slip.
Habits are the secret weapon driving the success of most business superstars. Whether it’s our habitual Miracle Mornings, or how habits help us focus on our ONE Thing, patterns of activity are easier to maintain, easier to track, and highly correlated to success. Good luck on your habit journey!
At Rialto Academy, we’re pretty nutty about habits. Cultivating the right ones is the secret weapon to better personal and business productivity, not to mention a happier life. We want to share these secrets with you.
Join us for a free webinar on February 14 to dive deeper into this fascinating subject together.