How to Build Strong Business Habits to Grow Your Side Hustle

Good habits are the foundation of success.

In my last article, I shared my goals for 2016 and I declared this to be the year of habits for me.  Since that article, I’ve been working hard to create new habits that would help grow my business and take me to another level.

Here are just a few habits that I’ve been working on…

  • Read 10 pages a day.
  • Reviewing my Finances Once a Week.
  • Jog for 30 Minutes a Day.
  • Spend 1 focused hour on my business 5 days a week.

Now don’t think that things are anywhere perfect for me yet because they’re not.  However, I’ve been doing a lot of research on how habits work and I’m currently reading a great book on this as well called The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg . (Affiliate Link)

This book goes a lot deeper on the topic and if you would like to learn more about habits I highly recommend this book.

In this article, I’m going share why I decided to focus on habits, and how habits are formed, and finally, I’m going share my top tips on building strong habits in your life and in your business.

Why Focus on Habits

As I mentioned at the beginning of the article good habits are the foundation of success and after reviewing what I achieved in 2015 I realized that I had a major flaw in my business,  I had no strong habits that I could rely on.

Without good habits in place, my chances of having any kind of great success with my business is pretty much not going to happen.  Contrary to popular belief a lot of people think that success can happen overnight.  While that might be true for a small percentage of people it just doesn’t work like that most of the time.

Achieving success takes focus, consistency, hard work, and most of all good habits in place to hit your goals.  One of my old mentors, Bill Mitchell, used to say that if you do the right things long enough you’ll eventually be successful.

What he meant by that was that if you have good habits that you do regularly, over time you’ll likely see success.   This is really the only difference between people who are successful and who are not.  The people who are successful are constantly taking action over time leading to a certain result.

How Habits Are Formed

Once you understand that habits are a key part of success the next thing you need to understand is how habits are formed. Habits a made up of three parts, a cue, a routine, and a reward.

  • The Cue.  The cue is something that triggers the habit to take place.  For example, it could be a smoker simply seeing a pack of cigarettes that causes him to light up.
  • The Routine.  This is the second part of the habit.  Going off my example this would be the person actually smoking the cigarette.
  • The Reward.  The reward is the final step of the habit which in this example would be the rush of nicotine the smoker gets from the cigarette.

Now that you know what a habit is made up let me share an example of how I apply this in my daily life.  One habit I have is reading 10 pages of a book a day.

So the cue, routine, and reward would look something like this for me.

  • Cue.  Supper is over and I want some sort of mental stimulation.
  • Routine.  Normally I would grab my smartphone and flip through Facebook but now I read 10 pages a day out of a popular business book.
  • Reward.  The reward for me would be the mental stimulation, knowledge, and ideas I gain as a result of doing it.

In the end, the goal is to make the habit a normal unconscious part of your lifestyle where you literally do it without thinking.

Once you can get a habit to that stage you won’t even think about whether you need to do it or not because your mind will automatically just do it.

9 Tips for Building Strong Habits

Since I’ve started down this road of focusing on habits this year I’ve learned a lot of great things already.  In this section, I’m going to share what I’ve learned so far.

#1 Start Small.

The first tip is to start small.  I think this is why so many people fail at goal setting especially at the beginning of the year.  We set all these big goals for ourselves and when we don’t achieve them we’re ready to scrap the whole thing.

This has happened to me more years than I care to count.  Instead, start simple and then expand.  For example, in my case, I wanted to read more books throughout the year.  Normally I would set the goal to read 12 books a year but when I wouldn’t get the first book done by February 1st I was ready to give up on the whole thing.

Instead, break things down to the underlying habit.  For me, that was reading 10 pages per day.  I knew I could handle that goal and if I could keep it up over the year I’d read more than 3600 pages a year.

Resource:  If your interested in learning more about starting a small habit I recently took this great free course called Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg PhD, which you can check out here.  (Not an affiliate link)

#2 Start with One Habit

The second tip is similar to the first one but that’s to start with just one habit at first.  You don’t want to add too many habits at first.  Adding too many new habits all at once is just like adding too many goals at once.

Once you get one habit in place and it becomes a part of your lifestyle then you can begin to add the next habit.

#3 Action vs. Time Habits

Another thing to think about is the way you want to do a habit.  I know this is getting a lot more in-depth but there are two basic ways to do a habit.  It can be based on an action such as reading 10 pages a day, or it can be time-based such as jogging 30 minutes a day.

It’s up to you how you want to structure your habits but for me, I personally like action-based habits versus time-based habits.  I prefer this because it allows me to get things done as fast as I want or take as long as I want.

So if it takes me 10 minutes to read 10 pages out of my book or takes 30 minutes it’s really up to me.

#4 Stack Habits

Tip four is to stack habits on top of other habits.  My book-reading habit is done this way.  My normal habit when I come home from a long day of work is to eat dinner first and after that, I stacked my reading habit right after this.

I did this because it gives me that mental cue once I’m done eating to go read 10 pages from my book.   So if you are having a tough time keeping your habit going try stacking it on top of an existing habit.

If you want to learn more about this topic SJ Scott has a great book called Habit Stacking to help you out.

#5 Be Consistent

Once you get a habit started one of the easiest ways you can go about ingraining that habit into your lifestyle is by doing it at the same time in the same place every time.  Doing this just reinforces the habit and the mental cue in your head.

My book-reading habit is done this way.  I read it every day right after supper.

#6 Diversify Your Habit

Another point I want to make is that you’ll want to split your habits over different parts of your lifestyle and not just in one area.

If you look at the habits that I shared above all of them cover different areas from finance, business, and health.  This might sound odd because all of these habit don’t have to do with business but what I’ve found is that these other habits can help with my business habits.

More on this in the next tip.

#7 Develop Keystone Habits

Going along with diversifying habits you’ll also want to look into developing keystone habits.  Keystone habits are habits that influence multiple areas of your life.  Reading is a good example of a keystone habit.  Reading is a learning habit that feeds new ideas that could be implemented in different areas of your life.

Not everything I read will be implemented into my life but at some point, something I read will become that light bulb moment for me that will influence an area of my life.  It could be a way to eat healthier,  run my business better, or even improve my financial situation.

So what are a few keystone habits…

  • Exercise.  Exercising is a great way to increase your body’s energy level which in turn will lead to a better lifestyle.
  • Reading.  Reading will lead to more ideas that could help you improve a number if different areas of your lifestyle.
  • Masterminds Groups.  Finally, being a part of a mastermind group is a great keystone habit that will help you filter your thoughts and ideas and even help you realize new ideas that you could potentially take advantage of.

So think about adding one or even all three of these into your lifestyle.

#8 Get Specific

Number eight on the list is to get specific with your habits.  With my book-reading habit, I just don’t say I want to read.  Instead, I say I’m going to read 10 pages from a business book every day right after I’m done eating supper.

That is a lot more specific and it also lets me know exactly what I need to do and when I need to do it.  Structure your habits this way and you’ll likely stick to it.

#9 Nothing Perfect

Finally, the last tip I want to give is that nothing is perfect when you’re doing this.  I know it sounds like I got everything figured out but I don’t.  So don’t give up or quit when things don’t work out the first, second, or even third time.

The key is to try something and see if it works for you and if it doesn’t adjust it until it does work.  In my case I’ve found doing time-based habits don’t work for me as well as action-based habits.  Reading 10 pages a day works much better than reading 15 minutes a day.

I also starting to test this when it comes to exercising and the same thing happened as well.  However, I’m in the process of trying a specific workout routine that I need to complete versus working out for 30 minutes.

What Kind of Habits have You Developed

In the end, good habits are the solid foundation you need to build a successful business.  Without them, it will be much harder to achieve.  

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