Contributors To Success 2016 Pt 2: Habits
In part one of my summary of what contributed to all the good things that I was able to create in the past year (starting a business, quitting my day job, being able to travel and live abroad while running and growing said business) I focused on absorbing as much content as possible and learning from it. In this article, part two, I want to focus on a number of habits that I established. As huge a role as I think taking in all that information had on my success last year, I think that without these accompanying habits and the accompanying mindsets that I’ll go over in part three, that information may not have done much for me.
I’ve always been a self-starter and haven’t had a problem with motivation – at least as long as I was working toward something I cared about. Despite this, it’s easy to wile away time and realize at the end of the day that you haven’t really accomplished anything without any sort of accountability.
Early on in the year, I established an expectation of myself that I would move myself one step closer to my goal of self-employment every day. I used an app called Habit Bull to set up daily goals for myself, including reading a certain number of pages per day, writing a certain number of blogs per week, eating healthily, and more.
The most important goal was the last one, the bottom of the screen in the app.
“DID TODAY MATTER?”
As we’re all aware, there’s no lying to yourself and at the end of every day I looked over this question and answered either yes or no. The thing I love about the Habit Bull app is it’s set up in such a way that gamifies the process of building streaks of accomplishment. I loved watching the days build up as I checked “yes” at the end of every day, and felt crushed on a day where I was forced to check “no”.
Some people may need other people to keep themselves accountable, which – if you have a good accountability partner or group – is even more effective. For me however, the expectation of taking a tangible step forward every day was enough, and propelled me forward throughout the year until all those steps added up and I had arrived.
This is a pretty obvious one. If you’re setting goals that don’t require focus and organization you’re aiming too low. For me, organization was a habit that I needed to develop more thoroughly to get where I wanted in the past year, and in the end I came up with some habits that really work well for me.
The key first step here is establishing an end goal, or knowing what it is you want. From there you can break the big goal down into its component parts and then break those down into their component parts, and repeat as necessary until you have some manageable chunks that you can accomplish over a day/week/month/whatever.
My process usually involves starting with my big yearly goals that I plan and layout every December, breaking them down into parts and then scheduling into my calendar when I want to be focusing on certain goals, and any milestones I want to hit by certain dates.
At the start of every week, usually on a Sunday night, I’ll write down on a piece of paper in big, permanent marker what I want to accomplish in that week, and then grade each goal with a letter denoting its importance. A is a top level priority, B is a step down and so on. This list gets posted on my wall behind my computer where I can reference it constantly, right beside my yearly goal list.
From there every night during the week I’ll make another list of the things I want to get done the next day with the same grading system. This also gets posted on my wall beside the weekly list, which is beside the yearly list.
I adapted this habit from a fantastic book called Eat That Frog, by Brian Tracy which is a really quick but enlightening read on goal setting, planning, and execution.
Making these lists ensures I always know where I should be focussing my energy, and offloading the lists from my brain onto something physical I can hold and look at frees up my brain to be more creative and productive. Seriously, I can actually feel the difference immediately after getting lists and other thoughts out of my head and onto paper.
3. Making use of sounding boards
I’m an introvert, there’s no doubt about it. I have no problem locking myself up and not talking to anyone for days on end. Actually, at times I would prefer that to anything else. However, I found this past year that talking with other people who are in a similar situation to you, talking through your plans and goals can bring clarity that you would never have achieved by thinking through things on your own.
I had many long talks with my mom, who also has her own business, as well as phone and skype calls with many of the people from my online business communities. As much as I like to think that I can figure it all out myself, I’ve had to admit to myself that talking over ideas with others always seems to benefit the idea and open me up to a direction or solution that I would not have thought of myself.
This is one of the habits I’m looking to develop more in this new year, finding new people to sound off with both online and in person.
4. Making time for friends
After spending much of the previous two years away from my home in Vancouver, when I finally came back with the intention of sticking around for a while in late 2015 my friends there were excited to have me back.
I was working so hard on my business however over the winter that we didn’t actually get to meet up that much. Part of it was living on opposite ends of the city, but part of it was the fact that I was devoting almost every minute that I wasn’t sleeping or at work to building up my online business.
There came a point however where all that work was catching up with me, and I realized that it was time to scale back, just a bit, and actually have a life. This really changed the second half of the year and I felt that despite spending a lot more time with friends, I was able to prioritize better and accomplish almost the same amount of work on my business as I had been before. This also put me in a much more positive frame of mind which is always better for inspiration and creativity (unless you’re writing angsty songs…)
All that without the burnout! Hooray for friends!
5. Celebrating The Wins & Staying Positive
No big goal is going to be easy. Nor is it going to be fun throughout the journey – I’m sure even a quest to eat the best ice cream in every country in the world would have it’s low points (I better add that one to my quest list).
It’s soooo important to develop the habit of taking a step back now and then to appreciate where you were one month, six months, a year ago and how far you’ve now come. One of my favourite habits for doing this was to create a “Success Journal”, a distinct journal where I would write down every win I had, every accomplishment big or small that told me that I was on the right track.
I would note the date and the achievement in the journal and would reference it every so often just to remind myself that I was moving in the right direction and that things were coming together for me. This kept me both positive and motivated to keep making more good things happen, to chase that next win. I can’t say enough about the advantages of a positive attitude when it comes to creating anything, and this is one little trick that I use to help keep me in the right mindset and remind me that I’m on track.
While there are numerous other habits that I picked up and applied over the past year, these were the one that I feel did the most good for me in helping me achieve the goals I had set out for myself. In part three coming up next, I’m going to lay out what I think are the most important mindsets that helped me during the past year, and continue to propel me forward today.
Do you have any habits that you’ve found really helpful in achieving goals, staying focused, or for living a fulfilling life? If so I’d love to hear about them in the comments.
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