A Thought Process for Mastering Habits

Cultivating good habits are essential for success in all areas of life

We all know this, but while many of us have these excellent habits, it is still easy to fall short in certain areas.

A lot of us know someone with admirable habits when it comes to their family and career but can’t seem to get off the ground with diet and exercise. Why is that? Two fundamental driving forces behind the creation of good habits are sound systems, coupled with well-established life priorities. Let’s talk real-life examples and how to get these good habits and systems implemented into your life today. Habits are everything in life. Make good ones, and your sense of happiness, success, and overall life satisfaction can permanently benefit. Don’t just read this article. Take immediate action on it! Let’s review how to create sound systems and habits so that you can get the most out of this article.

Systems consist of a series of actions that get executed in a specific manner with a particular end-purpose. Having a reliable process in place makes the habits more likely to stick while helping deliver better results on the tasks being performed.

Let’s go back to the fitness example. If a client works with a personal trainer to design a workout program (also a system), that client will typically have a greater sense of purpose and motivation to fuel their workouts. The client has established goals and understands the value behind every minute they spend exercising. Being aware of this value will cause the client to have a greater sense of pride behind their efforts, thus strengthening the habits they are trying to establish.

Stuff happens, both in your personal and professional life. With that being true, good habits coupled with sound systems will help you stay on track instead of getting derailed. For simplicity purposes, I’ll group habits into two groups; Daily Habits and Weekly Habits. There is room for monthly practices as well, but most behaviors benefit from shorter, more consistent frequency.

Daily Habit Thought Process
The magic number is 1440.
1440 represents how many minutes are in a day. Take that number, tape it by your computer, in your office, and everywhere else you can. Why do this? 1440, as stated, is how many minutes you have in a day. The power behind 1440 is developing a thought process and mental awareness that every single minute counts. I find focusing on minutes is very doable with practice. Nothing in life is more important than how you spend your time. You can get sick and regain your health. You can lose money and make money back. Time is different. Once you give your time, it’s gone forever. You will never get it back. That is why the world’s most successful people typically value their time above anything else.

Your systems MUST consist of a calendar and guidelines. There is a difference between being busy and being productive. Busy people work a lot, but don’t have a strategic way of planning their time. I don’t care if you sit by a computer and work all day. There is no question that you will get further along, long-term if you work off a calendar. The world’s most successful people have schedules. They don’t merely work off a to-do list. You MUST treat the appointments in your calendar like doctor appointments. Do that, and you will grow in your discipline. When it comes to guidelines, you need to have rules in place. I encourage you to think big and start small with practices you can follow. As your habits improve, you can gain the confidence to become increasingly strict on your guidelines/rules if need be. Ask yourself some questions and think about these as examples.

  • When do you go to bed?
  • Do you have 30 minutes of exercise scheduled for exercise Mon-Fri
  • Which foods zap your energy?
  • Which foods make you feel great?
  • Do you drink coffee after 3 pm
  • Do you drink alcohol during weekdays

Weekly Habit Thought Process
Daily habits and raising my awareness of how precious each minute is, keeps me focused, inspired, and moving forward. Rather than allowing each day to dictate my priorities, I use strategic planning and my calendar to guide me. In recent conversations with entrepreneurs and business leaders, some of the weekly rituals I use to plan my week have been of particular interest. Here is my approach…

Before the momentum of a workweek pulls me in different directions, the following guidelines help things stay within my control.

Calendar policy is critical. Priorities are constantly evolving. Coincidentally, some meetings are scheduled weeks and months in advance. Before blindly attending, I evaluate its relevance and have the courage to cancel if it’s no longer necessary. Not only does this free up precious time, but it also respects the time of other attendees as well. If you need to cancel something in your schedule, make sure you reschedule the canceled event, provided it’s worth your time.

Have agendas! A business meeting without written agendas will lead to a lower return on the time spent in that meeting.

“Time is our most valuable asset, yet we tend to waste it, kill it, and spend it rather than investing it.” — Jim Rohn

Nothing will waste more time than arriving at an appointment without your details in order. Just having a few bullet points can help keep the conversation on track. As I’ve become more intentional about adding value to others, I’ll look over their social profiles and see what they’ve been up to. Doing so can frame a social interaction and illuminate where I can be more helpful.

“If You Fail to Plan, You Plan to Fail.” — Benjamin Franklin

Post-week planning is essential because one week can easily bleed into the next. A post-week ritual can reduce the mental load heading into the weekend. Knowing you’ve closed a week well can be the catalyst for weekend R&R.

Take time to experience gratitude.
People always say you get what you think, but more so, you attract what you are FEELING! Before following up with people I’ve met with throughout the week, I take time to reflect on who introduced me to the other people involved. Whether personal or professional, I’ll reach out to the person who made the introduction, express gratitude, and when appropriate, share about the meeting I had as a result of their generosity. This includes new and age-old relationships. Even after catching up with an old friend, I’ll send a quick note to the person who introduced us long ago. In a recent interaction, the friendship was over ten years old.

“How do you know if someone needs encouragement? If they are breathing.”
— Truett Cathy

Proper follow-up comes once I’ve experienced and expressed gratitude. I’ll follow up with the actual attendees from each meeting. Whether we exchanged a quick call or a monolithic meeting, I touch base, obviously touching on any commitments made in the meeting and passing along any additional thoughts.

When appropriate, I suggest next steps with clearly defined questions so they don’t have to struggle through their response. By the end of the week, some people will have waited for a 3–4 days for a follow-up. I’ve found this delay helpful actually to process our conversation. Also, it sets healthy and sustainable expectations for the future.

Generosity
After the follow-up, I’ll push myself to make introductions on the attendees’ behalf. Rather than asking for something, I end the ritual with a deliberate attempt to add value.

If the meeting were with a code school student, I’d introduce them to fellow graduates in the community or potential employers. If it’s a potential client, I’ll connect them to other professionals within their industry or people who they would like to appreciate getting to know.

This habit creates a great sense of accountability during our time together. As they talk, I’m actively listening for ways to amplify their interests.

“If you help enough people get what they want, you will get what you want.” — Zig Ziglar

Actively remove distractions!
“One of the biggest challenges of today’s world is isolating yourself from all the clutter of life. To remove distraction, I use noise-canceling headphones and do not listen to any music with lyrics. With fewer distractions, I find my concentration increases exponentially, and I’m much more productive.”

Spend time alone in the morning to set priorities for the day.
I always find time alone in the morning, whether it’s walking the dog or eating breakfast by myself, to clearly set my priorities, so I know what I need to accomplish each day. I make sure to outline not only my personal priorities, but also priorities for my team, so I can be sure both get done. Once I get into the office, my day becomes about how I can take any obstacles out of the way for my team, so they can execute at the highest level on their priorities. I like to call this working on the business rather than in the business. Empowering employees to do their best work has always been my key to success, as I am incredibly passionate about helping people reach their potential.

Software engineer at Polar Notion