As a business owner, I’ll bet you’re incredibly busy and find that there never seems to be enough hours in the day to complete all your work.
Have you ever noticed that some of your everyday activities are just deeply ingrained habits — driving your car, putting on your watch, brushing your teeth or taking a shower? You wouldn’t dream of not doing them, they are part of your routine and they just seem to happen automatically.
In your business you also have habits — such as checking your website, opening the mail, reading emails, grabbing a coffee and glancing at your diary. You do them without conscious “thought” and they seem to fill up hours in your day…
But what about all the actions you need to take in order to build a more profitable and efficient business? Like following up with your best customers, asking for referrals, strategic planning and goal setting to grow your business? When do you do these activities? Do they often get relegated to “tomorrow” or “sometime soon”?
If you’ve ever spent your day stuck in back to back meetings, answering routine questions from your team, responding to emails, helping other people, doing paperwork or tidying your office, you already know that these are “make busy” activities and they will keep you trapped where you already are — simply maintaining, not growing, your business. By filling your days with these tasks, you are in effect avoiding the very activities that you know will really move your business forward and produce tangible results.
Your “make busy” habits create the magnificent illusion that you are hard at work, simply because you feel “flat out” and your day is full of tasks. Let’s be honest, you would actually rather do anything than face the activities you know would radically accelerate your business success NOW! In fact, you often get to the end of the day and say to yourself, “It’s OK, I was really busy, I’ll just get to that marketing plan tomorrow.” Or, “I just couldn’t find the time today to make that seminar on leadership or customer loyalty.”
If you are waiting for the right or best time to do these critical activities in your business, it will simply never come! There will always be other “busy work” to fill all of your available time. You need to find a way to make your business-building activities an ingrained habit too, if you want to grow your bottom line and live the lifestyle of your dreams.
Do you relate to or identify with any of these common sabotage habits?
- Perfectionism. This tactic is insidious. It often immobilises us from making a decision, starting a project or activity and signing off on a piece of important work. Most tasks don’t have to be 100 percent perfect; they just need to be good enough. The other way this manifests is when you deceive yourself into believing that no one else can do the job (even simple routine tasks) to your exacting standard, so you must do it all yourself. Follow the 80/20 rule, delegate what you do not have to do yourself and give yourself permission to be human!
- Refusing to let go of the past. Have you ever heard yourself say “last time I tried that, it didn’t work”? Or have you ever simply avoided doing something that you know you should or need to do but were afraid to do because “last time it didn’t work out the way you wanted it to”? Even though it’s a good idea to stop doing what clearly doesn’t work, it’s important to remember that the past does not necessarily equal the future. If you catch yourself finding reasons from the past to justify why you are not moving ahead toward your compelling future, stop now and take a good hard look at whether these are just cleverly disguised forms of self-sabotage.
- Lack of Accountability. Who is holding you accountable to the decisions you make and the actions you take in your own company? Isn’t that why you went into business for yourself in the first place — so that you could be the boss and do things your way? Find someone outside your business — a coach, mentor or trusted advisor — that can act as a sounding board and hold you accountable to staying on track.
- Lack of vision, planning and specificity. If you don’t know where you are going, how will you know when you get there? Enough said. If you don’t have a 90 day, one year and three year business plan, you need to make this your number one priority in your business. Set a weekend aside and find a place where you will not be disturbed by anyone or anything. Set down your goals clearly and succinctly. Get clear about the specifics (who, what, where, when and why) and set realistic deadlines for completion. Goals need to be written down in detail to allow your mind — a goal seeking mechanism — to do its magic.
- Lack of focus. Stay focused on the important task you are currently working on and only allow yourself to be diverted by real emergencies.
- Fear of financials. You cannot have a truly successful business if you don’t know your numbers. Not knowing your numbers has already cost you time and money. Find someone who can explain your financials to you in plain English. Learn the key drivers and indexes in your business (such as break even, productivity ratios, inventory turns, gross profit margins, etc.) and track them daily.
- No USP. The greatest product or service in the world will not sell if you have not clearly defined why someone should buy from you instead of your competitors. “Build it and they will come” is a fallacy. If you have not yet figured out what is unique about your product or service and found a compelling and cost-effective way to communicate it in everything you do, you are literally flushing your marketing budget down the toilet.
- No testing and measuring. This is the most-often overlooked activity by small business owners. The simple act of testing and measuring everything in your business — and I mean everything — will save you thousands of dollars this year. No matter what ‘it’ is, if you haven’t tested and measured it, you don’t really know if “it” works. And until you know if it works, you don’t have a reliable, predictable business that will run without it.
Unfortunately, there are no quick fixes. As already discussed, some of the most common forms of self-sabotage are habits, because they are deeply ingrained behaviours that take time to establish or eliminate. In the 1960s, a highly regarded plastic surgeon, Dr. Maxwell Maltz, discovered that it took 21 days for amputees to cease feeling phantom sensations in their amputated limb. From further observations and significant research, he established that it takes 21 days to create a new habit.
Brain circuits take engrams (which are essentially “memory traces”) and produce neuroconnections and neuropathways only if they are bombarded for 21 days in a row. This means that our brain does not accept new data or information for a change of habit unless it is repeated each day (without fail) for at least 21 days. Changing habits (whether positive or negative) can be done, but it takes time and consistent effort.
Do yourself a favour and identify today which form of self-sabotage is the primary one that is holding you back from having the business and lifestyle of your dreams.
Make a plan on paper containing specific decisions and actions that you can take to move forward in this aspect every single day for the next month. It is imperative to track your progress each day and I highly recommend finding an objective person outside of your business to hold you accountable to your plan, actions and results.
Rhondalynn Korolak is a lawyer, chartered accountant, clinical hypnotherapist and Master of NLP and is an expert at business acceleration and the power of influence. She is the author of On The Shoulders of Giants and Financial Foreplay.