Like other small business owners, you know you need to work hard for success. Building and growing an outstanding business relies on developing and strengthening your good habits. There’s plenty of great advice out there on finding customers, adding value, and seeking opportunities—but we want to focus on a slightly different area: the habits you need to manage the day-to-day operations and growth of your small business.
We’ll share five practical approaches you can start using right now. Successful people use these daily habits to build rewarding businesses and stay on top of everything they need to do.
Although it can take some effort to get these habits in place initially, over time you’ll see what a positive impact they have on your success.
How to Develop Successful, Practical, Everyday Business Habits
People who create successful habits rely on several areas:
- Motivation: You have to want to create a habit in the first place, and that comes from understanding how it can benefit your business right now or in the near- to mid-future.
- Remembering: It takes a while for business habits to become automatic. Until they do, you may need to set up reminders and memory aids to prompt action.
- Repetition: Good business habits come from practicing them whenever you can. You’ll start by consciously practicing these habits, and as you develop them, they will become second nature.
- Ease: Start by building the business habits that are easiest for you. Focus on one habit at a time, get it down, and then move onto the next one. You might begin with habits that are close to your personal strengths right now, then expand over time.
- Reinforcement: As you take small steps with good habits, it’s important to celebrate your successes and build on them.
- Forgiveness: You will forget to practice habits every day. Some days, you won’t get the outcomes you want. In these cases, it’s important to take a step back, realize you’re human, forgive yourself, and do better tomorrow.
Highly successful people understand how to focus on their habits. These develop into everyday ways of doing things that will make you more efficient, effective, and creative.
Here’s some great advice on developing good habits:
- How to Make Good Habits Stick: 7 Secrets From Research
- How to Build Good Habits
- How to Build Good Habits: a Playbook for Lasting Change
Let’s get into the business habits themselves.
Success Habit One: Get Everything You Need to Do for Your Business Out of Your Head
Whether just starting out or fully in the swing of things, there’s an enormous amount to do to take care of your business. Keeping track of everything you need to do in your head is exhausting, so one of your first habits is to get those tasks out of your mind and put them somewhere you can refer to them later. This has several benefits:
- You’ll start to develop a “trusted system” that contains all your tasks, so you’re not just relying on your memory, email inbox, alarm reminders, or calendar.
- This removes much of the stress, mental overload, and concern that you’ll forget something important or fail to follow up.
- It will create some headspace for you to think more creatively so you can concentrate on high-value ideas, rather than low-level administration tasks.
Here are the essential principles to putting this habit in place.
- Create a place where you can capture all of the things you need to do, notes, and other tasks. There are plenty of applications that let you do this, like Trello, Todoist, TickTick, Taskful, or Things. If you don’t want a technology solution, a pen and paper, whiteboard, or bullet journal will work just as well.
- Ultimately, you will want to choose a tool that you like and is easy to use. Many of these apps have trial and free versions, so try them out and see what works for you. Once you’ve found a good tool, you will want to capture all of the things you need to do to run your business. This is one of the key steps to successful habits—finding friction-free, easy ways to put them into practice.
- Brainstorm, write stuff down, review your calendars and appointments, look through your email and correspondence. Whatever it is, turn it into a task and get it into the system. Once you’ve done this, you’ll feel a huge sense of relief.
It can be hard to do all of this at once, so instead start by focusing on one specific area, for example, marketing or financial management. See how it works for that area and then expand to other business areas over time.
Success Habit Two: Continue Adding Business Tasks to Your System As You Get Them
Capturing your business tasks isn’t a “one-and-done” thing. As new tasks come in and you need to do more, continue to add them to your system. Take five or ten minutes at the start of each day to go through any new admin or requirements.
As you do, add them to your task system, so you’ll never be out of sync and you’ll always know what you need to do next. To start, limit this only to the tasks and topics you have in your trusted system. As you expand, you can capture more and more.
Success Habit Three: Focus on What Really Matters to Your Business
Alright, now that you’ve captured what you need to, it’s time to start deciding what’s next. Your success here starts with prioritizing.
Many systems will tell you to focus on urgency, importance, and impact, or the “Eisenhower Matrix.” While these can be useful, it’s best to start simple. We suggest prioritizing tasks according to the impact (positive or negative) that they may have on your business. This can vary depending on what your circumstances are, but one suggestion might be:
- Legal requirements: These can include things like preparing, filing, and paying your taxes, renewing your business licenses, filing necessary documents with government bodies, following regulations, and so on.
- Financial management: This is stuff like sending out invoices, doing your bookkeeping, staying on top of your bank account, paying your staff, keeping up with your bills, ensuring your business is financially healthy, and maintaining good relationships with providers.
- Providing goods and services to existing customers: This could be areas like managing customer orders, ordering new stock, providing services, and customer support.
- Expanding your business and marketing: This is about developing new products and services, breaking into marketplaces, advertising, promotion, marketing your business, and attracting new customers.
- Administration and operations: This is all the other stuff you need to do to keep your business running smoothly.
Review your tasks on a regular basis, and give them a priority based on what’s most important. A great habit for success is to take a step back from the “noise” of what needs to happen right now, and instead look at medium- and long-term business needs, and how you can work towards them today.
Success Habit Four: Realize You Don’t Have to Do Everything Yourself
One of the most common habits of highly successful people is to realize they are not experts in everything, and they don’t need to do it all. You’ve got strengths in particular areas—perhaps it’s selling products, or building relationships, or staying on top of your financials. You might feel that once you’ve started a business, it’s all on you—but a big secret to success is asking for help. Here’s how:
- Become involved with business communities: Whether it’s face-to-face or online, there are hundreds of communities and forums where you can ask questions and get guidance. You don’t need to figure it all out—there are many people who have successfully overcome challenges like yours, and are happy to share their knowledge.
- Find professionals you trust: A good business accountant or lawyer can remove so much stress. Look for qualified professionals you can build rapport with and understand what you do. In the end, they will save you money and ensure you don’t run into financial or legal issues.
- Build a team that complements your business: You know where your strengths, weaknesses, and priorities are, so hire a team that can plug those gaps or build on those successes. Even if you don’t want to take people on full-time straightway, it’s easy to find freelance and temporary help. Marketplaces like Upwork and Fiverr will let you hire professional freelancers, virtual assistants, and other specialists to take on the tasks you don’t want to.
Success Habit Five: Get Stuff Done!
This is the most important step—choosing what to do and then actually doing it! Start each day by looking at your most important tasks, then choose between one and three things that you’re going to get done. Don’t be tempted to choose more than three—just ensure the ones you pick are the most necessary or will have the biggest impact. As you go through each task you will need to:
- Do it: Complete the task yourself by focussing on it exclusively until it’s completed. Successful multitasking is a myth, so pick one thing and go for it. Identify the very next step you need to take to move the task forward and do that.
- Delegate it: Remember the previous habit? This is where you ask for help and delegate the task to someone else you trust. That might be a team member, a freelancer, or another professional. Set clear expectations about how and when you want the task done.
- Delete it: Some tasks are not that important. If the task isn’t necessary or isn’t going to add value to your business, think about deleting it. If it’s something you’ll get to “someday,” then capture it in your notes.
- Defer it: If you’ve passed a task off to someone else, or you need some time to gather your thoughts, you can defer a task until tomorrow or later in the future. Be aware of the deadlines you need to meet, but if you can defer and focus on more important projects in the meantime, that can help.
Remember that you don’t need to develop all of these habits overnight. Start with a limited area of your business and test the habits out. As you start to practice them, they will get easier, and your life will become less stressed. Over time, you’ll build strong, daily, successful habits that will propel your business into the future.