Every entrepreneur is different, but surprisingly, their habits are not. We interviewed entrepreneurs, professors, and alumni from the Lassonde Entrepreneurial Institute and David Eccles School of Business to learn about the daily habits that have led to their success. Below are the 10 most common habits we heard. Read more about them, ask yourself how you your current routine lines up with these habits, then go try them for yourself.
1. Scheduled problem-solving time
First decide when you are most productive. Then determine when in your day you consistently have an uninterrupted 10-20 minutes. Structure your designated problem-solving time by introducing yourself to the problem or decision, thinking it over during your uninterrupted 10-20 minutes, and then using your most productive hours to execute the solution. Giving yourself a bounded period of time will force you to be decisive and execute without hesitation, thus, increasing your productivity. One of our entrepreneurs does this by reviewing their schedule first thing in the morning, then showering while contemplating the day’s biggest decision, before heading to work and starting on the solution.
2. Minimizing negatives, rather than adding positives
What is bothering you at work? Is your chair uncomfortable, your Wi-Fi slow, your meetings running far too long? Rather than bringing a new houseplant into the office or scheduling a fun team-building event, ask yourself: what can be improved immediately? So much of our attention can be drawn into what else we need, when our general satisfaction can be more easily satiated by improving what is already there. So adjust your desk chair, get a new router, and set time limits on your meetings before you implement bring-your-pet-to-work day.
3. Saying yes … and saying no
As an entrepreneur, your time is your most valuable asset. Determining how you spend your working and free time will directly influence your productivity and overall sense of accomplishment. Sometimes to protect your time or promote your productivity, you need to force yourself to say yes … or no. Our entrepreneurs said that they will always say yes to a networking opportunity, but no to something that requires too much commitment and will overextend themselves. Find what energizes you, and what drains you, and answer accordingly. If you need help deciding if you should do something or not, just remember: if it is not an excited and enthusiastic yes, it’s a no.
4. Planning with and from failure
Every goal has steps to success, so identify them! Pivot your mindset to that of “what next” and create action plans based on what went wrong, and what went right. When you write out your first step, build the next steps in terms of what you can tangibly do if things go well, or if you fail. Failure is an opportunity to grow, and preparing for it will allow you to capitalize on that growth. Of course you cannot prepare for every failure, but pre-determined next steps will soften the blow.
5. Taking time off
As many a math professor has said, garbage in means garbage out. Prevent yourself from putting garbage in by allowing yourself to reset. Consistently overworking eventually leads to a diminished return. Just like an athlete builds in daily, weekly, and monthly recovery, you as an entrepreneur need to do the same. Develop your training schedule, build up to your race, but take time off afterwards so you can compete again. Many of our entrepreneurs shut off their work email at 6 p.m. Building boundaries with yourself and your coworkers will actually lead to a higher quantity and quality of work done.
Self-awareness is a virtue. Being honest with yourself about how you and your project is doing can be daunting. However, it is necessary if you are going to improve yourself and your business. Don’t worry if you’re not the journaling type, you can still productively reflect. Show up 5-10 minutes earlier than you normally would for your meetings and appointments. Use that time to jot down a couple of notes in your phone about how you’re feeling, how the day and week have gone, and your desired outcome for the meeting that is about to start. Checking in with yourself regularly, but in small doses, will allow you to be a better leader, coworker, entrepreneur, and human.
7. Surrounding yourself with experts
As the saying goes: if you want to get better at chess, play someone who is better than you. When you encounter an individual who posses a skill or quality that you hope to build, continue to simply be around that person. Not every conversation or interaction needs to be focused on their expertise. Learn how the type of person that you admire operates in all aspects of their life, and start to include them in yours. Eventually, you will not only gain some of their technical knowledge, but understand and perhaps implement the habits that led to their success.
Exercise is not a shocking recommendation by any means; however, our entrepreneurs reframed exercise as simply movement. Rather than talk about exercise as a program or activity, our entrepreneurs called it a daily movement that allowed them to clear their minds, go outside, and spend time with others. Maybe you already exercise daily, but are you using it as a respite?
9. Encouraging those around you
Show your appreciation! Our entrepreneurs remarked how genuine thanks and encouragement lead their teams (and friends) into thinking more creatively. An environment of psychological safety not only validates the people around you, it creates a culture of anti-resentment for originality. Some ways you can encourage those around you is calling out good work both in group settings and in private. Take note of real, insightful metrics and your team will start to think more independently and increase in productivity.
10. Batching your workload
The father of batching is Tim Ferris. He developed a method to optimize work-life balance and productivity; although he has reconsidered some of his approaches, the idea of batching has become a quintessential habit that our entrepreneurs use in their daily lives. Batching involves completing a set of tasks that are similar in nature during one designated session. Batching prevents you from switching contexts and juggling various responsibilities all at once. Our entrepreneurs batch by how strenuous a task is, but you can organize your batching by content, application, or format.