My personal habit plan for a successful entrepreneur and person!
Habits... Everyone has them. I’m not an expert, but I do know I have them: both positive and negative. A few years ago, I spoke to someone who coached me, because I felt I was having too much trouble with conflict-avoiding behaviour, especially in certain situations. During a couple of long walks (which I love anyway), she taught me a few things. First of all, some negative habits can make you successful. Worrying is a good example of that. I'm might going to write an entire blog about this, but “worrying” or “doubting” can be strong advantages. I sometimes say: “Doubt is your greatest friend, but fear your worst enemy”. “Doubt” and “fear” are very close together, so you have to embrace both and create your own balance between them. Besides negative ones, there are a few habits you have to be aware of, train, and cherish. Over the years, I have developed a few. I adopted some fairly easy and others I am still fighting with.
My goal with this blog is to give you a glimpse into how I'm dealing and working with my habits and possibly encourage you to do something with it. I often make the joke (and behind every joke is some truth) that I am not that smart. I haven’t completed any study (university degree) and without the help of people around me, I’m lost and certainly would not be successful. In many situations, I have nothing more than habits and discipline to show for myself, so these habits better help me to become successful 😉
I have eight conscious habits on which I focus; you’ll find them down below and I will explain them one by one. They don’t change every month, but once in a while one falls away or one is added: I don't believe you can change your habits very easily. Apart from these, I have a lot of habits that are just there with me, but they are very common and less noticeable.
Family and friends - I once read about someone who said that you get energised by family and friends. I think that’s very true, but I didn’t agree with the explaination. Whether it's my family in general or my family at home: I truly love them. That is not just a weak line: they are extremely important to me. I will save you all the romantic statements, but I really live for my family and close friends. Because my drive to be successful is also very large, this sometimes gets pressured, so I have built in the habit of being consciously busy with my family and friends. I discuss this with my wife, make choices to balance all relationships and, when I'm there, I give my complete attention and time (we even visit my wife's old grandmother regularly).
I find this habit possibly the most complex to explain, because I don't think I should speak as if my family deserves it. Or that I deserve it. It’s just: I really want it like this. My advice is to consciously plan time to spend with your family, relatives and friends. Many friends complain it doesn’t fit their schedule, but when I walk through the forest with my kids, they pass me running or cycling. If you get up get early in the morning or skip watching television in the evening, you can exercise then ánd still spend time with your loved ones. Try to change some of your routines for a few days, or a week, you will see new things and experience new ways of being in contact with those around you.
Start with the most difficult - It’s probably a Dutch saying: “The earliest birds catch the thickest worms”. I’ve got this from one person in particular (Rick Lauffer) and it’s true! I’ve tried to develop a habit around this: I put energy into the most difficult subjects in the morning. It doesn’t always work, especially if I work on customer projects, but I try! It feels good to cross off all the difficult stuff immediately in the morning. A difficult conversation with a colleague, an unwilling supplier, financial decisions, etc. Just confront and address them. After this, immediately start with the projects, tasks, goals that are the most difficult and have problems involved. Furthermore, I hate long emails; I really hate them. I read and respond to them right away, answer questions or advice on problems. I’ve taught myself to apply quick-fixes right away and no longer spend time on them afterwards. Of course, you also learn this on every time management training, but all of this works very well for me: I solve all negative and energy-consuming topics as early as possible in the day. Then my head is empty and I can spend energy on positive things. Oh. For the people I work with: if I have an early morning meeting with you, it doesn’t automatically means trouble, rest assured 😊 Most of times, I just have a busy calendar 😉
Build structure and routine - I believe in structure and routines. That’s remarkable actually: I also know successful people who hate this and don't want any part of it. But it works for me. I have fixed days for certain things. On Monday, I mainly have standard meetings. On Tuesday and Thursday, I visit customers, partners or other relations. I try to keep Wednesdays free for unexpected things. Fridays are for internal projects. This is my basic structure and is completed by a number of routines.
I do have an attention-problem and concentration is a challenge for me. I usually work on something for about 15 minutes and then I get a bit lost. So, I break up my tasks, which has become part of my structure. I’m a fanatic user of task lists, I keep notes of meetings (and process them every day!!!), I have notes with subjects or projects I still want to discuss with someone in the future, my mailbox is almost always empty before I go to bed, I check a lot of standard things every day (KPI’s) and most of all: I plan all of this!
I started this habit after reading a story from the book by Stephen Covey (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People). If you don't know it, I recommend you read it. One of his theories is that, if you want to be successful, you always work on important things that are not urgent. And you do this by planning. A metaphor story that he uses for this, goes like this:
A professor stood in front of the lecture hall. There were all kinds of things in front of him on his desk. When the lecture began, he picked up a large, empty glass jar without saying anything and filled it with large boulders. When the jar was filled to the brim, he asked the students if the jar was full.
“Yes”, they said.
The professor then picked up a box with small pebbles and poured it into the pot. He shook the pot a little to and fro and the pebbles rolled in the open spaces between the large boulders. Then he asked his students again if the jar was full.
“Yes”, they said.
Now the professor took a box of sand and poured it into the pot. Of course, the sand filled everything up. And again he asked if the jar was full.
Again the students said: "Yes, now the pot is really full."
The professor then took two glasses of water from the table and poured them into the pot. And the water filled the space between the grains of sand.
The theory behind this story is that if you have properly planned your structure and routines (the large boulders) then there is enough room for things that are urgent.
Keep on learning - The title of my blog site is "Speed is the new currency" and the habit “Keep on learning” is my way of surviving the speed 😊 I am naturally inquisitive, but as I said, I am not really a student. Reading costs me a lot of energy and complicated theories take energy for me to understand. But if you want to be successful, it's not an option: you have to keep on learning.
Although I might not be a natural, I enjoy learning and I do a few things. First, I open up to others who possess knowledge about topics I want to learn about. I ask questions and listen to them; even to the parts I don't understand. Most of times, if someone wants to teach you something, they find a way to explain it, one way or the other. In addition, I also accept that I do not always understand everything immediately. And when this happens, I continue to investigate how it works. Certain concepts in IT can be extremely simple, but sometimes it’s really complex; then I try to understand it step by step.
Second, I have built-in routines in my daily life with learning moments; approx. 2 hours per day. Podcasts, YouTube videos and audio books are a big help. I reserve time for this and create reading and listening lists. My attention-problem also applies here: I rarely listen to a whole podcast in one go. I break it into pieces and think about it for a while, make up my mind about it and then continue listening. Here too, structure and patience work for me.
Work out and adjust your mindset - This is my newest habit since August 4, 2019. I no longer drink alcohol and work out five mornings per week. I might write another blog about the “stopped drinking thing”, because it goes a bit deeper than these few lines. In short, I decided not to drink for a year. I usually only drank at the weekend, but I noticed I did this only to get relaxed, and then usually drank just a little too much. The first three months were tough, but I now enjoy it so much I even doubt whether I will ever drink again. It has been extremely good for my mindset. In addition, I train at least one hour every day. I have lost 20 pounds, but is not enough yet. However, the purpose of training is not necessarily to lose weight, it is to get my mindset right: this life style is healthy and I actually really like it 😊 By the way, I do this at 8 o'clock in the morning and when I am traveling (which often happens) I do it 2 hours before my first meeting. Sometimes, this is really early in the morning, but again: it’s all about planning and execution 😉
Encourage everybody around you - I actively try to encourage teams and individual characters. I do this in my own way and I learn continuously. I have 5 starting points:
1 - I encourage everyone to come up with solutions and not with problems.
2 - I try to get people off their chairs and put them in action mode, which is sometimes very difficult.
3 - I try to be as clear as possible in a nice way and with respect.
4 - I try to let people see how they can best deal with me and I try to understand as well as possible how to deal with them.
5 - I try to make myself as vulnerable as possible, so as not to be a threat.
I think this habit is the hardest for me, since I know I can improve on a daily basis. In addition, this habit is never ‘mastered’, since new people ask for new encouragements and approaches.
Track progress - When I’m in a meeting and we agree on certain things, I write them down and either I execute or follow-up. I think this is normal behaviour everybody has. However, I’ve learned not everyone is like this. I don’t like it when I have to remind people of certain agreements. It feels disrespectful: we agreed we would do certain things and you just refuse. I’ve learned not to say this, but sometimes I have to and it certainly colours my opinion about someone. However, when I ask again, most of times it will be done eventually. Most people don’t do it on purpose: they simply forgot or lack a system like notes and tasks. Also, I can imagine, some think I already ask a lot from them. In addition to agreements and questions, you should also monitor goals, projects and other important activities. My habit here: I monitor most of my activities and the activities of those around me. By doing so, it allows me to offer help where needed and it shows people their actions are important. In the end, a successful business is the sum of actions executed by all working there and this way, you make sure you empower the execution of the teams and people.
Make room for new things - I consciously make room for new things. It could be anything! I am very interested in marketing, so I am happy to go to an event about marketing. Researching new business models, meeting new people, new companies, new habits 😊 As an entrepreneur, I’m obligated to make room to investigate things. Especially things that are not directly in my comfort zone. That's why I make room for it in my agenda. These things always are the most prone to cancellation, when other things seem more important, but you should continue anyway, since it offers you fresh ideas, insights and new perspectives.
So. There you have it. The eight main habits (in random order) I tend to live by for now. If you have any questions, or want to share your opinion with me, feel free to drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org