6 Daily Habits That Help Me Stay On Track With My Plan
There’s one more thing that is critical to your success. You not only need to create a plan, you need to create habits as well. Your daily habits should move you towards the fulfillment of your goals, whether they are personal or business-related.
What I’ve come to realize about online business is that the difference between one business owner’s success and another’s is execution. You might be highly educated, infinitely capable of doing the work and the smartest Mensa member out there, but if you’re not executing on your plans and ideas, you might as well be a mannequin in a shop window, advertising the good life.
I’ve extolled the virtues of creating a plan, provided examples of how to build one, and even waxed on about setting yourself up with a routine. Great! You’re ready to go. Once you start, you should be able to work out the kinks in your plan and adjust a bit to what makes sense for you.
But there’s one more thing that is critical to your success. You not only need to create a plan, you need to create habits as well. That’s why our friends at the Best Self Co. (my favourite daily scheduling journal) have built in areas for you to track and plan for building habits as well as ticking to-do’s off your list as you careen towards your goals.
A habit is defined as “an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary” (Dictionary.com). Your habits are not activities that have a start and an end date or have specific conditions for being “done”. They are ongoing, regular behaviors that you create by practicing them in your daily routine over and over again.
Your daily habits should move you towards the fulfillment of your goals, whether they are personal or business-related. If you know that in order to build your online business, you have to keep creating content, then you need to make writing into a habit. If you know you need to become more physically active, then you need to make physical activity into a habit.
I have worked on developing habits over the past few years, and I have found they have been critical to keeping me on track with my own plan. I’ve seen more progress in the last few months since I have been tracking these habits, than I have in the last few years. While each of us will develop our own take on habits that align with our own goals, here are six that I think will help anyone keep moving on their plans, whatever they may contain.
1. Get Up Early
Oh, it’s a bitter pill to swallow. I’ve never been a morning person and I really need my sleep. I also have two kids so the morning routine can sometimes be rushed and hectic on school days. I was finding myself stressed and anxious every morning when I would get up at 7:00 am and that carried on through the day as I played catch-up.
I started scheduling my wake up time at 5:45 every morning and it’s made a world of difference to how I approach my day. My stress levels have become far less and I can approach each day with a level head. My clients aren’t reaching out to me for a few hours yet, so I can sit down and do some thoughtful work without interruption or crisis.
I have scheduled my routine so that the first thing I do in the morning is write, before I spend any time showering, or getting coffee. It’s the time I have the clearest thoughts and feel the least distracted. I also enjoy writing and I know it’s important to my business, so I don’t feel as resentful towards my alarm clock in the morning. I get up looking forward to doing something I enjoy.
I schedule 30 minutes each morning for writing, no matter how far I get. At this pace, I can usually average a blog post or two per week, which is far more than the blog post or two per year that I was achieving before. In fact, I’m writing this at 6:30 am!
3. Read Fiction
My days are filled with business. Business I am doing, business I am helping others do, engaging with others who are also doing business, building programs and communicating and ahhh! All the things! My mind had become so focused on business and doing my work that I was missing a big, important skill that is vitally important in building a business but also to retaining balance in your thought patterns – storytelling. Your brain needs a break from the one track it’s on for most of the day.
Reading fiction is the perfect escape because it not only lets you think about something totally unrelated and fantastic, but it also helps you develop your own skills in storytelling – a building block for copy writing, which is one of the top skills you need as an online entrepreneur.
4. Work-Free Evenings
I used to consider every waking hour an opportunity for being productive. I beat myself up every night that I would fall asleep with my kids at bedtime. Sometimes I would crawl out of bed at midnight and sit down at my computer, anxious that I had missed a few hours of precious work time. But you know what? None of that work needed to be done that night. If I had scheduled myself properly and created a plan for myself, I wouldn’t have crushing deadlines or anxiety about completing tasks I didn’t have to prioritize.
I started scheduling work-free evenings so I could stop working after dinner and allow myself to do something fun, just hang out with my kids or exercise. The amount of stress this has alleviated is considerable and I feel so much more relaxed now. Part of this relief is due to eliminating the expectation of myself that I should be using that time for work. The other part is that I have given my brain a break, to allow it to focus on other things and actually have some fun. I now feel refreshed and prepared in the morning because I didn’t go to bed in a state of heightened anxiety.
5. Social Lockdown
It’s easy to keep Facebook open, and watch new tweets as they come in. Even email notifications constantly distract us from our tasks. I turned off all notifications for all of my media channels and I adopted the habit of scheduling my time on social, and only checking email at specific intervals in my day, prioritizing those related to the work I am currently doing.
I’m not saving lives and no one is going to end up suffering if they have to wait to hear from me for a couple of hours. It took a long time to become disciplined enough to stay focused on one task at a time but it’s made a world of difference to the rate at which I am accomplishing things. Additionally, when I do turn my attention to social engagement, I treat it like another task and am therefore far more focused and intentional about what I am doing.
6. Use Your Hands
I’m a technophile. I love technology. I love its capabilities and I love creating systems that work so efficiently that I never have to touch them. However, I could never quite find the right app for my daily task scheduling. I’ve tried everything but nothing stuck. Finally, I realized I wanted to do my daily scheduling on paper. I could reference my plan in the apps I used, but I wanted my more dynamic schedule to be something I can write down, cross off, add notes to, etc. Technology just didn’t work for me.
There is something about writing with your hands that stimulates another part of your brain. It feels more fluid and personal, and therefore increases your commitment to what you’re writing. It also reinforces your understanding and processing of the things you are writing down. That’s why it is still better to take handwritten notes when you are studying something. I use my journal to do my daily scheduling and reflection because it feels more personal and I can better absorb and consider what I am writing.
I hope these six habits have helped inspire you to get and stay on track with your plan. The transformation I have experienced since becoming disciplined about my habits is significant. Let me know in the comments if you have habits you have created that help you stay on track every day.
Tell me in the comments…
Doyou have habits you have created that help you stay on track every day?
Get Down To Business
You’ve been looking for a lifeline – here it is
Sign up for the Get Down to Business newsletter and I’ll send you weekly articles, tips and tools that you can use on your entrepreneur’s journey. I promise not to fill your inbox with anything other than useful, actionable, timely stuff.
I’m picking up The Power of Habit from the library this week, so this article is timely! As a writer, reading fiction is one of my creativity hacks — too much business-brain isn’t good for the muse. In our digital age, I’m also a huge fan of writing things down using a paper and pen (love my planner). I still refuse to get a Kindle because there’s something special about holding a book in your hands. 🙂
Oh, I absolutely agree, Janine. I am a major techy and grew up working as a technology consultant and I LOVE me some integrated systems but once I finally realized and admitted that I want to make my daily to do’s more dynamic and write them by hand my planning became a lot easier and felt more natural. I love writing in my book at night and in the morning. I also agree on the physical books though I have one foot in the Kindle camp now that I’ve seen how the new ones look and feel. Maybe?
Great tips! It has taken me years (and it coincidentally (!) happened when I had children) but I can honestly say that I LOVE waking up early and I feel so productive – even when noon rolls around! I can also relate to #6 as I am old-school and still write in my agenda, read the newspaper and give hand-written notes. I am definitely still working on #5 – social media lockdown!
Thanks so much, Julie! I agree – by early afternoon I am usually in my less productive state. Front-loading my morning has worked really well. I usually save 7-9 am to deal with kids getting up but having the time before has drastically reduced my stress.
I love the idea of a social lockdown! When I make a conscious decision to shut down on social and even get rid of email notifications, its amazing what I accomplish! The rest of your ideas are great too, I am going to try writing my thoughts down first thing in the morning. Thanks for sharing!
So glad you enjoyed the article, Carina! It takes a lot of willpower to shut down social but it sure makes a difference to my productivity and the quality of my social engagement when I finally get to it. 🙂
Love.this.post! I have an awesome plan… but, I’m yet to practice it daily for long enough that it becomes habit! My intention is once I return from holiday, my brain and schedule will reset, and I’ll commit to my planned tasks and stop feeling guilty about it! Thank you for the reminder 😀
Thanks for the nice comment! You go for it and punish that schedule! 🙂