We are inundated with information on business process improvements, or productivity hacks to increase performance, but unless they are tracked and become new habits, they won’t work.
During 2013 a colleague suggested I add value by producing publicly available content, and since then I’ve had a hankering to write. Although I could write a decent proposal or letter, writing usually happened at work. As a starting point I needed to develop a writing habit.
A new habit
A few years later I read a post by Kiruba Shankar who, after witnessing a playful writing exercise at his young daughter’s school, decided to establish a daily routine of writing 500 words before 9am. I loved this concept and introduced 15 minutes of writing to my morning routine. I’m a long-time Evernote user so my process was simple. I created a tag called 500by9, and started writing. Most days comprised of free writing – a dump of my thoughts, ideas and challenges. If I got into a flow state I would write more. However, the habit wasn’t forming and writing got pushed from my routine, especially when travelling. Most weeks I would be lucky to get two writing sessions completed.
Sticking to it
The breakthrough happened when I started using an application called Way Of Life. Way of life is simple habit-tracking software. You set good habits you want to establish and bad habits you want to break, and track them every day. Score green for hitting a goal and red for missing one. The magic was in the reports. After a few weeks of tracking, I found patterns emerge. If I was travelling, I’d break habits, and when I got an early night I’d have more chance of succeeding.
750,000 words later, today my Way of Life tracker is displaying a 25-day streak of writing (my record is 34 consecutive days). I can comfortably say I have developed a daily writing habit. Now, turning that writing into producible, sharable content is debatable, but thankfully a recent book recommendation by Matt Mullenweg (more on Matt in my post on Distributed Workforces) will help me improve my writing style. The book was written by the late William Sinsser, is called On Writing Well and is a must read for any aspiring non-fiction writer, or regular email sender!
Apply to your business
So what’s this got to do with work, or your business? Right now you are not commuting or not rushing off to a gym-class every day so you might have additional time at home to think about your business. Why not introduce a new habit? First, ensure that you implement the right tracking metrics.
To give you an example, a business wants to improve its sales process – their sales reps spend too long completing sales proposals. There is an established weekly meeting where managers review the proposal pipeline, but the time is always spent discussing large deals and not the actual proposal process. The business needs to create a new habit and track proposal activity. They follow the steps below:
Step 1 – Implement new data points
Design and implement a short survey in the Customer Relationship Manager (CRM) workflow before any proposal can be completed. Ask process related questions such as:
- How long did the proposal take to complete?
- Did other departments have documented information ready to include in the proposal?
- If not, was a meeting needed with another team to gather this information?
- What suggestion would they [the sales rep] recommend to improve the proposal writing process in business.
Step 2 – Build a report
Create a productivity report using the new survey data points and automatically send to sales managers.
Step 3 – Create a new habit
The business makes a process change in their weekly meeting to spend 15 minutes reviewing the report before moving on to discuss specific sales deals.
Step 4 – Review and iterate
Over time the business will gather new insights such as time of day/week/month when sales reps are most productive at writing proposals. They will know which departments are not automating information flow to the sales teams, delaying the sales process. The business can iterate on these processes and improve sales productivity.
The lesson here is simple. Identify processes you need to improve on. Then introduce new working habits, and ensure you are tracking them. Also, make sure that you compare results to your existing processes to determine what needs to change. If you are looking to transform your business and need help introducing new habits that can be tracked, then Saltwater Consulting can help you navigate this change. Book a discovery session now.
Thanks to the lack of international travel during 2020, I added a new habit to my Way of Life tracker. To learn a European language. A new habit has become well established over the last eight months. When our skies re-open I’ll be ready to have a conversation with a Lisbonite over an ice cold Super Bock.
Please also read The Economics of your Business to find out what questions you need to be asking yourself to remain competitive and productive.