Someone asked me recently how the heck I’ve managed to write several ebooks and build my content creation business over the last five years, while homeschooling two kids. The answer is I’ve worked my butt off to create good habits that enable me to be as productive as possible, most days, even though I don’t always feel like it and some days I don’t feel like it at all.
Habits are key when it comes to productivity, because they’re stronger and more predictable than willpower, which is the other thing we rely on to help us get stuff done.
Getting into good habits isn’t easy. We seem to acquire bad habits effortlessly, but getting into good habits is more challenging. Once established though, good habits are as natural as bad habits. You’re unlikely to break them for no good reason, any more than you’d suddenly quit smoking by accident.
There’s a four step process that can make it easier to follow a new habit until we’ve internalized the new behavior and made it a true habit – something we do automatically without having to think about it.
Define Why This Habit is Necessary
Sometimes the habit is hard to establish but the reward is great to have. If you’re working towards business success, health, or wealth, focus on the end result.
Why do you want your new online business to be a success? You probably want freedom, flexibility, autonomy, and money for doing something you enjoy. Keep your eye on the end goal when motivation is low.
Decide (Exactly) What You Want To Do
Habits are specific actions, so define exactly what your new habit is. Don’t just decide to work on your blog. Commit to something like ‘I will spend 45 minutes every morning creating new blog content’ and/or ‘I will spend 20 minutes every evening promoting my blog content on social media’. Deciding what your new habit will be and committing to when and how you’re going to do it, is half the battle.
Use a Few Mental Tricks To Get It Done
The next few days may be smooth sailing. You’re motivated and excited to get this done. Sticking to your new habit isn’t an issue. But a few days in you’ll notice that it’s easy to slip back into old habits.
Maybe you’re tired and you want to sleep in. Or maybe your day just gets away from you. This is when it’s important to have some mental tricks set up. Here are a few tricks you can consider.
- Set an alert on your phone and commit to dropping everything to do your new habit
- Put the new habit on your daily to-do list every day for a while (you know you love ticking stuff off on that baby)
- Enlist a friend to do it with you (I used to have ‘writing sprints’ with an online friend where we’d both drop everything and write 500 words at a certain time each day. Then we tweeted each other our word count. It was always more than 500 words.)
- Join a group challenge (I’m starting the Stretch Yourself Challenge next month. Join me.)
- Change your language in your internal dialogue
This last one can be surprisingly powerful. One that works for me is switching out ‘I can’t’ for ‘I don’t’. As in changing ‘I can’t skip my workout’ (all about obligation) to ‘I don’t skip my workout’ (all about what sort of person I am – one that doesn’t skip her freakin’ workout, ever!).
Other people like switching ‘I have to’ for ’I get to’. ‘I have to work on my blog today,’ becomes ‘I get to work on my blog today’ (though in that sentence I’d swap out ‘work’ for ‘play’ as well, but that may just mean I have an unhealthy obsession with blogging).
Make It Part Of Your Routine Until It Becomes A Habit
It takes time before a new behavior becomes a true habit. Until then, a routine will give you the edge. Even before the new behavior becomes automatic, building it into your routine (and doing it at the same time every day) will help you get it done without having to use a ton of willpower.
Make scheduling your social media posts part of your after dinner routine. Make planning your weekly tasks or client calls part of your Sunday evening routine. Make writing 1000 words part of your morning routine. Make a call to a potential client every afternoon as you sit in your car waiting to pick your kids up from school. Brainstorm ideas for your business every week while you wait for your daughter to finish her music class (yep, that last one is specific – it’s one of my personal habits).
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