“I know what I want to do, but I just don’t have the time,” said a young leader we were working with. Fast forward 6 months and she’d managed to do great things. How? By making a commitment to NOT open her email at the start of the day, and instead, to do important things.
When she started her day with email, the whole day disappeared. When she put off opening her email and focussed instead on important things for the first 30 minutes of her day, things changed. And to remind herself to devote the first 30 minutes of each working day to important things, she took a selfie of herself doing just that, every working day for 4 months, by which time she no longer needed to take the selfie as a reminder. What a wonderfully creative way to remember.Habits have such a powerful impact on what we achieve. Many of them are unconscious, for example:
Other habits are more conscious: we know many organisations for example that spend ages focussing on the next big thing that will transform the business, as they’re sucked in by the allure of transformational strategy and put this to the fore as part of their plan to move ahead. No bad thing in itself, and often it’s very important, right? Well yes, but less so when very often it’s at the expense of doing the small things that have a disproportionately large impact right. Focussing on the regular, important basics with ruthless consistency and tenacity will often likely bring about the excellent results such companies seek, yet they are blind to them.
For many highly qualified, experienced leaders, focussing on the basics and doing the small things consistently right often seems unworthy. People are easily drawn in by big sparkly, head turning things, for example, developing the airline app that shows you where your delayed plane is (still 90 minutes away) - a really useful development, but far less impactful when the information board in departures repeatedly says ‘gate advised in 5 minutes’ for the same flight. Rory Sutherland has given an excellent TED talk on this very tendency to ignore the small but hugely important in favour of the big and expensive. Well worth watching (and very amusing too).
Habit is the breakfast of champions, but also the undoing of us when we unconsciously get sucked into less than useful habits. So where’s your focus (consciously and unconsciously)?
Over the last 14 years we've personally learned a lot about changing personal habits. Some seemed impossible at the start, but by changing some simple things and creating rituals and activation triggers that support new ways, it’s actually been quite easy. If you’d like a summary of the things that have helped us the most, drop us a line.