Small changes lead to remarkable results.
That’s according to James Clear, author of Atomic Habits.
He teaches readers how to create effective personal and professional habits and reap the rewards over the long-term.
“The same way that money can multiply through compound interest, the effects of your habits multiply as you repeat them throughout time,” said Clear.
“If you have good habits, then time is suddenly your ally, and you’re accumulating these little improvements each day. And if you have bad habits, time becomes your enemy, and with each day that passes, you put yourself a little deeper in a hole.”
So how can a struggling entrepreneur or executive stay out of the hole and turn little improvements into real rewards like a promotion or a six-figure business?
Start With One Sales Call
Ambitious entrepreneurs and executives often have lofty goals like building a six-figure business or winning a coveted promotion.
Then they look at their current position in the office or marketplace and find the gap between dreams and reality off-putting.
“People either sabotage themselves or never get started. Then because they don’t have the outcomes they want, they feel guilty or judge themselves,” Clear said.
Instead, Clear recommends picking a habit related to a desired outcome and then simply show up, at least at first. For example, an aspiring marathon runner could run one hundred meters while an entrepreneur could arrange to meet just one customer.
If you haven’t done it before, the prospects of running 26.2 miles or calling 25 customers will induce procrastination, but anyone can work on a difficult project for just two minutes.
“Read 50 books a year, becomes read one page, or build a six-figure business becomes make one sales call or write one email,” he said.
“If you scale it down to just something that you can do in two minutes or less, you give yourself an opportunity to master the art of showing up.”
Get Your Trajectory Right
Showing up to eat one salad for lunch won’t help you lose weight, just as calling one customer won’t help you build a six-figure business, at least at first.
Similarly, putting off dealing with an ongoing customer support issue probably won’t cause any problems, for now.
However, much like an archer taking aim, these daily decisions represent your trajectory toward an outcome, desired or otherwise. Get them right consistently, and you will gain a little advantage each day that accumulates over time.
“If I eat a burger and fries every day for lunch, I end up in a very different spot. If I make three sales calls a day every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, well then all of a sudden the business is thriving,” said Clear.
“It’s only after you’ve compounded those choices over two or five or 10 years that you look back, and you realise, ‘Wow, my daily choices actually make a very significant difference.’”
Track Yourself With Paper Clips
An old productivity maxim states what get measured gets managed, and what gets managed gets done. It applies to cementing a new habit at work too.
Clear instructs his readers how to use the paper-clip strategy to track their habits like placing sales calls and even writing pages of a business book.
Let’s say you want to contact 25 people on a given Monday. You show up and you know where you’re going. Next, track your progress by putting two cups on your desk and filling one with paper clips.
“Whenever you make a sales call, move [the clip over to the second cup]. You just keep calling until you get all the paperclips across to the other cup,” Clear said.
“It’s a visual form of measurement. You can’t really lie to yourself about it. You can see it sitting there right in front of you.”
Understand It’s A Results Business
Changes at the molecular level can have massive consequences, just like getting your work habits right can help you achieve remarkable results.
“If you make changes that are small and easy to do, and you layer them on top of each other, like units in a larger system, then you can end up with some really powerful or remarkable results,” said Clear.
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