Better habits lead to greater business success

Janet Arrowood

Have you set goals for your business? Have you planned how you’ll achieve those goals? Consider this simple, five-step process to help you focus and get ready for a great new year.

Create a specific, measurable goal or set of goals. Such goals as joining more organizations, attending chamber of commerce business after-hours events, or become active in a professional association are too vague. It’s too easy to come up with an excuse for not meeting such nebulous goals. 

Consider these goals instead. And write them down so you can monitor your progress. 

Chose and join two organizations — one civic and one professional—by Feb. 1. Attend at least one function, committee meeting, conference or similar event each month for each organization

Volunteer for at least one committee for each of the two organizations and attend at least three out of every four meetings. Schedule these meetings in your calendar or electronic organizer system.

Make quantifiable goal-setting and writing down these goals a habit. Do it right away. One approach I’ve used for years is to set aside the first 30 to 60 minutes of each workweek to write down my goals and tasks for the week, check them off as I complete them and then review these accomplishments at the end of the week. Anything that’s not completed can be either deleted as not important or carried over as a priority for the next week.

Use cues to keep yourself focused on your goals. Writing down goals and tasks provides a cue to ensure you actually do what you intended. Using such electronic reminders as a calendar alarm helps get you where you committed to be and on time. Another example of cueing harks back to the “write it down” system I just mentioned. If you make time to quantify your goals and tasks, log them and validate their completion, you form a valuable habit that will make you more focused, productive and far more effective at work.

Setting and following cues leads to specific plans and goals and ensures task completion. This focus helps you anticipate issues and problems and work around them or push through them.

Emphasize consistency and repetition. Repetition can be boring, but also makes tasks easier since they become less complex with each repetition. 

If your goal is to develop and implement a living business plan, having a set schedule for reviewing, validating and updating that plan is essential. Rereading what you’ve already seen several times isn’t very exciting. But making this a regular, consistent task creates a process. This process leads to a habit of regular reviews and updates of your plan, in turn making it a truly useful business tool. 

Remain flexible. You need focus, routine and repetition to form effective business habits. But at the same time, you must remain flexible enough to adapt to and thrive with change. A consistent routine usually equates to efficiency. But if the activity becomes too rote, you could lose sight of other opportunities, focusing on efficiency instead of effectiveness. Adding flexibility to your business routines, but still focusing on quantitative goals and tasks, can increase both effectiveness and overall results. 

If you regularly schedule a team meeting for 8 a.m. Mondays, change the time and day to 1 p.m. Tuesday for one or two weeks. Consider adding a few extra people or a short business-building presentation by an outsider to shake things up without breaking the habits you’ve formed.

Build an outside support team. Outside advisors bring different perspectives to your business. These advisors might include your accountant and lawyer, but also could include other business owners, mentors or members of you social network. A team approach is often key to business success.

Consult with these people to discuss problems or exchange ideas. Meetings should be regular, structured and scheduled.

The bottom line?

Highly effective, successful business owners develop and implement productive habits to focus and streamline their business activities. Developing a new habit isn’t easy since it goes against the grain for so many of us. But the end results are so worthwhile.

A new year is starting, so maybe now is the time to lay the groundwork for greater business success through more effective, focused habits.