Being your own boss makes it difficult to stay motivated sometimes. If you work from home, distractions are all over the place. One way to overcome distractions and a lack of motivation is to form good habits. Because habits are done without any conscious thinking, they are much harder to break than things like daily “to do lists”.
In this months issue of Success Magazine, Jennifer Chang has an article discussing BJ Foggs “when I do this, I do that” method for forming tiny habits that help us in our everyday lives. I believe that for small business owners, especially those who work from home, this advice can dramatically increase our productivity.
The Power of Habits
Everyday, I have things I want to accomplish in my business. Sometimes I write them out in the form of “to do lists”. Sometimes I simply keep them in my head and hope for the best. Either way, I usually end up not accomplishing near as much as I planned to. I end up surfing the internet a little too long, watching a little too much TV or taking a little bit of an extra lunch. Sometimes a simple phone call is enough to ruin my whole morning plans.
Forming habits are a great way to stop letting these little distractions hurt our productivity. When something becomes a habit, it is hard not to do it, regardless of what distractions come up. Realizing the power of small habits, Fogg came up with an easy way to start forming them called “when I do this, I do that”. Basically, any time you do one activity, you automatically do a different activity.
He came up with the idea when, wanting to get into better shape, he decided to start doing two pushups every time he went to the restroom. Two pushups may seem like nothing to you, but once the habit of doing them was formed two pushups became four pushups and then eight pushups and then 15 pushups. Now he is doing hundreds of pushups a day without thinking about it.
After seeing the success he had with the bathroom/pushup combo, he began trying to form other exercise related habits. Every time he talked on the phone, for example, he would walk in circles around whatever room he was in. Because his business required a lot of phone time, he was soon spending several hours a day walking.
When I Do This, I Do That
Fogg says there are three steps for incorporating the “when I do this, I do that” model for forming productive habits:
1. Start Small
Doing two pushups every time you use the restroom sounds incredibly easy for most people. And that’s the point. By starting with something super simple, you begin to form the habit without the worry of talking yourself out of doing it. Had he started at 15 pushups, he likely wouldn’t have lasted very long. But two pushups got the ball rolling and he was able to increase the number as the habit became more ingrained.
For me, writing articles like this is a major part of my day and one of the things most susceptible to distractions. I’m going to try to form a habit of writing a small amount of words every time I do something else.
2. Find an Anchor
In order to form the habit, you have to have something to tie the positive activity to. For example, Fogg couldn’t form a habit by just randomly doing two pushups out of the blue. Instead, he tied it to an activity he knows he does several times a day, using the restroom. By creating an anchor, he has something to prompt him to do the positive activity several times every day.
In my case, I need something that prompts me to write a certain amount of words every day. Maybe it’s every time I check Facebook or look at/answer a text message, I have to write 50 words on my website.
3. Celebrate Immediately
One of the crucial parts in forming a new habit according to Fogg is to reward yourself in positive ways that are as small as the habits you are forming. In his case, Fogg would simply smile in the mirror at himself every time he completed his pushups after using the restroom. Other suggestions he gives are giving yourself a thumbs up or a pat on the back.
They don’t have to be big rewards, but our brains can’t distinguish between big accomplishments and small accomplishments and by rewarding yourself you can trick your brain into thinking you achieved a huge feat. This will then make you more likely to keep completing the task every time in order to continue getting the small reward.
Creating Forward Progress
I’m sure some people are reading this and laughing at how small and silly it may seem. No one became physically fit by doing two pushups seven times a day. But Fogg says the key here is that reaching small goals builds confidence and makes us more likely to achieve larger goals.
By finding tiny habits to form that will make you more productive in your business every day, you will also be subconsciously paving the road for much larger accomplishments later on.
Discipline is a huge factor for any small business owner. It is also something that can be developed and improved. By incorporating Foggs “when I do this, I do that” method for forming small habits, you could be setting yourself up for much larger victories later.