I’m a creature of habit. There is both some good and bad to that fact. Habits can be easy to fall into and difficult to break. And since companies are made up of people, companies can end up having both good and bad habits as well. There are things that we do with little apparent thought as to the reason. There should be reasons for our actions. Now, not every action has to result in productive activity. Leisure time, for example, is both a valid and, in fact, necessary activity. But for those habits that don’t’ have a valid reason (maybe they once did) I’ve found the best way to break a bad habit (there’s no reason to break good ones) is to interrupt the pattern.
For example, I’d recently fallen into the habit of checking in on social media. For years, I didn’t even have an account but then got one for some client research. It sat dormant for ages after that and then somewhere along the line, I started to use it occasionally. I think it was to try to find an old friend. And then you get a message that a friend posted something. You comment. Someone replies. You reply to that reply. Next thing you know, it’s five minutes here and ten there which adds up to several hours per week that could have been better used are frittered away.
Social media is designed to be a time waster (watch The Social Dilemma or read The Tyranny of Big Tech) but I decided to allow the habit to persist for another week or so until vacation. Being in a different location and away from my desk was the perfect opportunity to break the habit. When I returned, the habit had already been broken. I haven’t missed it and I’ve been more productive since.
You’re probably thinking, “Ken, that’s interesting, but how does that help my business?” A couple of answers to that. First, if you’re a business leader, anything that helps you personally is likely to have positive impacts on your business. In addition, there’s the multiplier effect. If you lead people and they mirror your good habits, then it counts twice, three times, or perhaps many more.
There is also an opportunity to ask about habits within your organization. This happens naturally when a new employee takes over from someone who has left. If they’re any good, they’ll replicate important parts of the job but AFTER they understand the role, they’ll start to toss out pieces that weren’t useful (bad habits, if you will).
But don’t wait until an employee moves on to make this change. Take the initiative now and start to root out bad habits. Ask about the “why” of various tasks and processes. I recently learned of someone taking the time to print electronic documents and stick them into file drawers just in case they were ever needed (at this point, I think we can rely on electronic versions).
And don’t forget to reward some good habits. I used to wake up, grab my laptop, and head to my favorite coffee shop nearly every morning. I wrote an entire book sitting at a table with an endless supply of coffee nearby.
If your business could benefit from fractional CFO services, I would welcome the chance to speak with you. Please give me a call at (314) 863-6637 or send an email to [email protected]
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