Entrepreneurs like to say there are three kinds of people: The kind who make things happen, the kind who wait for things to happen and the kind who wonder “what just happened?”
Of course, we’re the first kind- movers and shakers, go getters, one and all. We believe to our core that we’re in charge of our own destinies. That our lives, our businesses, our realities are products of the decisions we make. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.
Research from Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness, shows that most people spend almost half of their waking hours with their minds wandering, detached from the real live exterior world, stumbling through life on autopilot.
The truth is our lives are not a product of the decisions we make. Our lives are products of the habits we create. We don’t decide how we’re going to tie our shoes, which route we’ll take on our commute to work, whether to spread the peanut butter or the jelly on our PBJ first. We do it the way we do it because that’s the way we’ve always done it.
We don’t have the time or the mental bandwidth to make each of the thousands upon thousands of decisions we have to make to get through every day, so our brain decides for us. It stores programming subroutines that tell us what to do in each familiar situation. Snippets of code that tell us what to do so we don’t have to waste energy thinking about it.
That’s all a habit is, a routine that develops over time, usually through repetition. The more often we do things the same way, the more likely we’ll continue to do them that way by course of habit.
Entrepreneurs are particularly susceptible to bad productivity habits, because we are the ones in charge. Or so we thought. Here are 3 bad habits that entrepreneurs fall into that actually decrease performance, productivity and personal effectiveness.
Multitasking–And Missing Out On Finding Your Groove
It is an unfortunate by-product of entrepreneurs’ go-getter mentality, our always on-call, smartphone-in-each-hand lifestyle and the far reaching cult-of-busy: If doing one thing at once is good, then doing five things at once is better. Look at me getting all this stuff done!
We think we are great multitaskers. And we keep on doing it despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. At the neurological level, we are all just one-at-a-timers just like everyone else.
Doing several things at once just slows you down because every interruption causes you to lose time “switching gears.” Research from the University of Utah has shown that even something as simple as chatting on the phone while driving will slow you down and cause you to reach your destination slower. True story.
More importantly, by jumping around from task to task you never get into the groove, the zone. Psychologists call it flow and it is the magic that happens when you become fully engrossed in just one activity.
Instead of trying to do everything at once, batch your activities, and spend concentrated blocks of time getting one thing done–returning emails, making sales calls, balancing the books, writing this week’s blog post.
It’s amazing what you can get done with 25 minute of concentrated effort. So for Pete’s sake, turn off all those notifications on your phone.
Concentrating On Outcomes, Not Activities
Entrepreneurs are salespeople at heart. We have to be. And salespeople have it beaten into us from the get go: Trying does not feed the bulldog.
This is not kindergarten anymore; nobody gets an “A” for effort. We have all got numbers to hit and the only thing that matters are results. But here is the thing: you cannot manage results, you can only manage activities.
Our sales quota, our bottom line profit, our results are affected by a million variables that are completely outside of our control, our sphere of influence. Concentrating on the outcome distracts us from the one thing that will always, always, always be entirely up to us: our effort.
How many calls we make, how many proposals we present, how many thank you cards we send. We are in charge of that. We can measure it. We can manage it.
I had lunch the other day with a Vice President of Sales who started his sales career going door-to-door with seven paper clips in his right pocket.
He figured out that on average he made one sale for every seven presentations he made. But instead of the sale, he focused on the presentations. After every presentation he moved a paperclip to his left pocket. When his right pocket was empty, he could take a break for lunch.
Every afternoon, he would empty his left pocket before he called it a day. Some days he made his two sales. Some days he made four. And some days he got bupkis. Nada. It happens to the best of us. But every single day he did what needed to be done. And that is all you can do.
Poor Personal Wellness
Entrepreneurs work 80 hour weeks, eating fast food in our cars, sitting on our behinds at our desk, smoking and drinking to relieve the stress.
We would not run our equipment this hard without downtime and required maintenance. And we sure would not try to fuel our machinery with diet soda and street corner hot dogs.
Our poor health and fitness habits come back to bite us in our rapidly expanding behinds through lowered productivity, missed days of work, increased health care costs and an overall run down, draggy feeling that we’ve gotten so used to that we don’t even notice it anymore.
Regular exercise, even as little as 20 minutes a day, will offer you better performance and productivity on the job through increased stamina, lowered stress, improved concentration and elevated mood.
When you feel better, you get more done. Exercise and real food make you feel better. Sitting all day eating crap makes you feel worse.
Take a 20 minute exercise break. Eat an apple. Drink some water. Your employees, your customers, and your bottom line will thank you.
Admitting you have a problem is the first step toward solving the problem. Which of these the three bad habits are a problem for you?