Little Habits Add Up to Big Outcomes
We often look at people who have achieved outsized success as somehow untouchable, especially when it feels like they’ve done something we ourselves could never do. And we often attribute that success to luck, innate ability, or privilege. While I will always acquiesce to the point that outlier outcomes generally rely on a healthy portion of being the right person in the right place at the right time, none of us are going the next Mark Zuckerberg, and don’t need to let that realization defeat us out of the making the strides that we can in our own businesses.
In other words, there ARE things that we, as everyday small business owners, can do to make our own luck.
Big outcomes are always the result of many small efforts working in concert. The most successful people are focused on making a few small efforts every day. Breakthrough “lightbulb moments” get all the love, but they tend to come on the back of hours of learning and focus. In the same way that a professional dancer might spend hours drilling one specific turn so that she can just let go and dance (flawlessly) while she’s on stage, we as entrepreneurs need to cultivate our own daily disciplined practices as a base for our brilliance.
For the most successful entrepreneurs, these daily practices become essential. And while everyone has a bit of a different routine, there are generally some common threads. Here are some of habits that I recommend any entrepreneur work into their daily routine:
- Mindset Work: This takes a bit of a different form for everyone, but the crux is the same: it’s essential to take a few minutes at the beginning of the day (and sometimes several times a day thereafter) to remind yourself who you are, what you do, why you do it, and what you’re going to do today to move closer to your goals. It’s too easy to stay busy by reacting to things all day – this work provides the focus you need to stay in a proactive mode.
- Meditation: While you might be tempted to lump this in with your mindset work, it’s a completely separate discipline and as such, must be practiced separately. Meditation teaches us to clear our mind and observe and be present with whatever we’re currently thinking or feeling – an extremely important skill when the success of a business hinges on your ability to make rational decisions quickly.
- Timeboxing: As a business owner, you’ve got a LOT on your plate (and this goes double if you also happen to be a parent). For anything in your life to happen, you’re going to have to make it a priority. So make that calendar app your friend and spend some time at the beginning of each week carving out specific time slots for work projects, exercise, social time, learning, time with your kids, date nights, self-care, and rest….or watch some or all of those things fly right off of your schedule entirely.
- Physical Exercise: Getting regular exercise is important for anyone to stay physically healthy, but for entrepreneurs, it becomes essential to our stress management as well. Trust me, running a business gets more stressful the larger it gets, and there is a ceiling on how much stress any human being can manage without healthy outlets. If you don’t currently have a way to regularly move your body that helps you unwind, find one NOW.
- Continuous Learning: Entrepreneurs are generally subject matter experts as well as general managers. It’s important that you continue adding to your knowledge base, both about whatever it is that you specialize in, and about business in general. Block off time to read, every single day. (I often multitask by listening to books and podcasts while I’m commuting, folding laundry, grocery shopping, or getting my nails done.)
- Risk Challenge: Risk tolerance is essential to being able to do what it takes to grow a small business. Some of us have a naturally higher risk tolerance than others, but anyone can grow and sustain this trait by taking on a regular and deliberate practice of doing things that terrify them. Try to find at least one thing a week to do that scares you, and then do it anyway.
- Beginner Mind: This one is akin to continuous learning, except that instead of deliberately learning about things that are relevant to our business, we practice learning things that seemingly have nothing to do with our lives and are completely new to us. You might decide to learn to cook, or to dance, or to take up a new sport or musical instrument. The upshot is the same: learning something new keeps us openminded, curious, and humble. It also provides a necessary mental break from obsessing about the business.
Cultivating your own habits into your own daily practice will not only make you a better entrepreneur with a more successful business, it will also make you a more well-rounded and interesting person.
Michelle Coyle is founder and CEO of BGSD Strategies