Good new habits don’t come automatically
Now that my agenda was empty, it was time to get going again. But eh, with what? I had no deadlines, no pressure, no external factors pushing me, like clients. I noticed that something crucial was missing in my agenda: Routine.
According to an article by the Harvard busines review, a routine is not the same as a Habit. In their article they make a useful distinction between 2 things:
- A routine – a behaviour executed frequently and intentionally, for example: working out
- A habit – a behaviour executed with little or no thought, for example: brushing your teeth
The above distinction helped me realise something important: If I want to get back to effortlessly doing my work through well developed habits, I had to actively work on creating a routine first.
An office ritual
When I had just started Funk-e with Joost, we also went through this awkward phase of not having a clear routine yet. We worked from my apartment or from Joosts student flat.
Our days felt random, but more creative. We had many brainstorms, we would try many new things and spend too much time on things that were not necessarily the most important at the time, but at least fun.
One thing that helped bring more focus was moving away from working all over the place, and really investing in an office. Even though it was far away and small, it helped normalise our working routine.
Once we got our first office, employees and customers, we slowly built more structured behaviours that would resemble a more typical routine.
Planning for habits
Around the time I had started my company I also followed a course in personal effectiveness. With more and more of my hours being dedicated to working on the company I needed to actively counterbalance other activities like sports.
I started reading books like the Power of Habit for improving things like my workout habits. It helped me understand that habits need a long time to enter your system, and if you really want to keep them going you need to find a way to trick your own mind.
Planning key activities was something I had completely stopped doing, and I started making sure that I actively planned the weekly exercises at the beginning of every week.
Once I had my calendar more planned with key activities I noticed that I needed something to group bigger chunks of work and proactively drive forward on them. This was the last piece of the puzzle for me at the time to complete my routine.
Objectives and Key results (OKR’s for short) were a huge help for me.
Beneath the Objectives and Key results methodology is a very simple underlying idea to keep the more vague objective in the back of your mind. The focus on achievable clear tasks are easier and more motivating.
John Doerr, has been a massive influence in getting Google to adopt this way of thinking and many many resources can be found on his website.
So let’s say my objective is to close 10 more clients this quarter. It is quite demotivating to only keep track of that goal as I am not the only one that can control that goal.
However I can control how many emails I send out. So a Key result can ben that I sent 100 personal emails to clients throughout the month. It is likely to assume this will increase the chance of closing a new client, however it is not a guarantee of the objective.
Now it’s time to apply it
Now that I have revisited those learnings I have sketched out how I wanted to build up my new routine.
- Finally I got my own office rather than only working from home. This has helped me create some rituals that make a routine easier to develop.
- Also I started putting weekly activities in my calendar, such as deadlines for posting articles and podcasts. Wednesday is the deadline for the article, so I need to post this message soon.
- I started by setting out my yearly objectives which revolved around creating much more content. I set a bold key result of making 100 podcasts.
Of course this is still not an established routine yet, but, you know, it’s a start.