July 02, 2014

How to turn bad habits into best practices

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The power -- and danger -- of habits


Habits make all our lives easier. When something is second-nature and we no longer have to think about doing it, we can spend time and energy on more important things. If your workflow consists of highly productive habits, you'll be able to hit your mark seemingly without effort, and even find yourself being proactive and latching on to new opportunities. Conversely, if your workflow consists of unproductive habits, you'll be dragging your feet and constantly in a reactive mode, probably losing opportunities that come your way as you attempt to make ends meet.

Bad habit! BAD HABIT!!!


Habits are powerful. As a young lad, I was involved in door-to-door sales and marketing. My manager was not the most organized--he was in the habit of mapping our route through the neighborhood when we arrived, which wasted 10-15 minutes each day. I suggested we make a small change--let's have someone else in the vehicle do the mapping during the ride, that way we can hit the ground running. When that became a new habit for our team, everyone gained a quarter of an hour more time making sales each day, which means our team of eight gained two hours more each day, 14 hours more each week, and 56 more hours each week. That adds up.

Habits are dangerous. Just as finding a spare 15 minutes a day will add up to something great, losing that same amount will add up to lost opportunities. Where are your small time-sinks during your day?

  • Scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed for 10 minutes?

  • Checking your email compulsively throughout the day, instead of a few times all at once?

  • Tasking difficult activity during your least productive times of the day (e.g. after lunch, COB)?

  • Catching up on news during your morning coffee instead of your commute or lunch break?


So how do you make your habits work for you? There's no one answer to this question--everyone's day is different!--but the process is certainly the same. Take a look at your workflow from start to finish--from the moment you're getting ready for work, to the moment you're leaving the office. Ask yourself where you can do better, and focus on improving that until it becomes ingrained and effortless.

  • When do you prepare for the workday? (Morning of or night before?)

  • When and how often do you check email?

  • Are all your reports useful?--get rid of them if they seem to be use-less

  • Are you getting sufficient sleep? (Consider adding 10 more minutes of sleep to get 10 more productive minutes in the day)

  • Can you streamline your usage of Microsoft Office through simple changes to spreadsheet workflow, macros, making custom Word and Powerpoint templates, etc.?


With a few simple changes, you'll soon find your business and therefore quality of life improving, and that you're turning habits that were once dangerous liabilities into powerful tools that make your life easier and better.