As entrepreneurs, we spend every working day trying to grow our businesses. We spend hours answering emails, making decisions, developing new products, and searching for sales. All of this work in the name of making our businesses a success.
Unfortunately, on the road to our business goals we often pick up some bad habits that slow down or even reverse our progress. In this article, we’ll lay out the 10 habits entrepreneurs should stop doing immediately if they want to be successful. But first, let’s take a look at why good habits are so important.
Goals are good; habits are better.
Are goals better than habits? You undoubtedly have goals that you want to achieve this year and in your life. You may have health goals, financial goals and, of course, business goals. Setting goals may be a great way to stay focused on targets, but I would argue that focusing on habits is better than focusing on goals.
One of the downsides of focusing on goals is the enhanced pressure on the individual or organization to reach those goals in the allotted time. Those pressures can lead to behaviors that are unhealthy and potentially damaging to the individual or company. An example of this is the recent criticism of quarterly reports by public companies.
The critics of quarterly reporting argue that it creates an overemphasis on short-term results which are not beneficial to the company and its investors. These critics believe that focusing on managing quarter-to-quarter reported results rather than on developing and implementing strategies can promote inappropriate earnings, management, and accounting.
The outcome of this is that over time the performance of a company is the result of a series of its short-term actions and not of a cohesive strategy aimed at building growth, profitability, and corporate value.
Think of it this way; you can lose 10 lbs in a year or you can lose it in a week. In order to lose 10 lbs in a week, you would need to take some extreme, and perhaps, dangerous actions. You may have to cut back on an unhealthy amount of calories in order to reach your goal.
But by doing this you may inadvertently cut many of the nutrients your body needs on a daily basis. So while you may lose weight, you may be doing long-term damage to your body.
Habits are mental or behavioral activities that we do without much thought or effort. They are the things that we do by default with consistency. They make everyday life possible—for good or bad.
Focusing on habits instead of goals creates a system that will eventually lead to the accomplishment of our goals. The difference is that by focusing on habits, getting to the goal is easier and takes less effort. Once the system is in place, we allow the possibility of achieving more than we planned. When we make habit-building a priority we prioritize long-term results.
10 Bad Habits Entrepreneurs Should Stop Doing Immediately
Historically, being able to multitask in the workplace was a highly sought after skill. But as we learn more about this habit, the more problematic it seems. While multitasking does have some benefits, they are only effective in the short term.
You might develop some resilience against distractions, but constant multitasking eventually spills over into your personal life. Soon you will always need to perform several tasks at once to feel “normal.” Initially you might think you are getting more work done, but the quality of that work can decrease drastically as your attention is divided into different directions at the same time.
This habit can also lead to prioritizing the wrong things and spending more time on smaller objectives than necessary. When you have to deal with more complex issues, you may procrastinate since you have grown accustomed to dealing with easier, quicker tasks.
Instead, give every objective the attention it deserves and eliminate distractions. Work smarter, not harder.
2. Comparing Yourself and Your Business to Others
Many times, we confuse comparison with competition. Competition is an independent effort or contest to secure a prize or, in the case of business, a customer base. Comparison is the examination of one or more things to identify the differences and similarities. Not understanding the difference can be very detrimental to your entrepreneurship effort and your own happiness.
Social media has made it easier to get caught up in the comparison trap. Platforms like Instagram and Facebook allow people to create a virtual life that may not be anything like their real life. However, that doesn’t stop their hundreds or thousands of followers from comparing their lives to the lives of social media celebrities.
With entrepreneurs, it is no different. We hear stories of businesses that go from zero to one million dollars in 30 days, see Facebook ads with an entrepreneur on a beach, and Instagram feeds filled with perfect scenes of entrepreneurship bliss. But things are not always as they appear.
In a review published by Lancaster University, researchers analyzed studies of 35,000 participants between the ages of 15 and 88 from 14 countries. Their findings presented the link between depression and “rumination” after logging off of social media. The review found that frequently posting on Facebook was linked to increased rumination and depression. And so was negatively comparing oneself to others on the site.
You’ve got to ask yourself an important question when you compare your life or business to others: What good is this doing? Not every business is supposed to scale to millions right away, and not everyone can be a fitness model, mountain climber, TEDx speaker, and the perfect parent. And trying to do those things because you see others doing it (or pretending to do them) isn’t going to get you anywhere.
Oftentimes when we compare ourselves with others, we are comparing what we see, not what is reality. In order to stop this madness, here are some things you can do to stop the comparison habit.
Stopping the comparison habit:
• Keep track of your own accomplishments. Keep a log of your daily, weekly, and monthly accomplishments whether they are professional or personal. Seeing what you’ve accomplished will help you focus on your progress and not the progress of others.
• Limit social media and other triggers. Understand the things that cause you to compare yourself to others and limit your exposure to those things.
• Publish positive posts. Lancaster University researchers also found that posting positive statuses on Facebook caused individuals to ruminate less.
• Learn to be grateful for what you have. Practicing gratitude improves your ability to limit comparison.
• Remind yourself that perception is not reality. Keep in mind that just because it looks real, doesn’t mean it is. See image below.
3. Getting Distracted by Emails
By now, we are used to notifications on phones and social media where sending a message takes a fraction of a second. But even so, micromanaging your email account is a huge confidence killer. Not only are you sitting on your hands waiting for a response, you are not getting important work done.
An experiment conducted at the University of London found that we lose as many as ten IQ points when we allow our work to be interrupted by seemingly benign distractions like emails and text messages. A paper called No Task Left Behind? Examining the Nature of Fragmented Work published by University of California, Irvine stated that regaining momentum following an interruption can take, on average, upwards of 20 minutes. Seems like a waste of 20 minutes to me.
During our workday, it is important to minimize all types of interruptions and distractions. Develop self-control by designating one hour each day to read, respond to, and send emails. You can even extend this to only four hours a week or twice a week. Not only will you develop self-confidence in what you write, you will organize your thoughts more clearly since you are communicating less frequently. You will also appear more difficult to reach to those trying to contact you, increasing your value tremendously.
4. Saying “Yes” to Everything
Do you remember the Yes Man movie starring Jim Carrey? It’s a dramatic example, sure, but saying “yes” to everything is very disingenuous and makes you look weak and overly accommodating. If a deal or proposition is presented to you that you don’t like or that you wish to discuss further, open your mouth and voice your opinion.
Negotiation is your biggest tool as a business owner and will earn you respect as an individual among your partners. By honestly asserting your needs and learning to compromise efficiently, you develop self-respect, build interpersonal skills, and form lasting partnerships.
Saying yes to every offer, opportunity, meeting, and employee request will eventually cause your calendar and brain space to fill with things that distract you from your goals. Instead, learn to say no more often to good things so that you can make room for greater things.
5. Procrastination on the Wrong Things
Everyone procrastinates to some degree. However, successful entrepreneurs and those who are not successful tend to procrastinate differently. Successful entrepreneurs tend to prioritize the important things and procrastinate on things that must be done but do not have a major impact on their businesses. Unsuccessful entrepreneurs tend to procrastinate on important things and prioritize the things that have little or no effect on their businesses.
For example, the most effective entrepreneurs have learned that they may procrastinate on things like administration tasks while prioritizing sales. New entrepreneurs and those who tend to struggle will often put off doing difficult tasks such as cold calling while getting lost in the minutiae of answering emails. Both tasks have to get done eventually, but one should come first.
The day of or before your deadline is NOT when you should begin working on your project. That rush you get doing a project last minute is not excitement; it is panic. No one makes wise decisions while panicking. You will burn an entire day and night for a first draft, and first drafts are never your best work.
Respect yourself, your team, and your client and dedicate appropriate time for every project. Many ideas flow after staring at the first draft, and you need even more time to add and refine them. How will you properly implement all of your secondary insights hours before the final project is due for presentation?
Here are some things that you definitely DO NOT want to procrastinate on:
- • taking action
- • investing in yourself and your team
- • analyzing data
In this modern world it is tempting, sometimes exalted, to overwork yourself for your company. But research has proven that overworking is dangerous to the body and mind. Studies have shown that people who work more than 10 hours a day have a 60 percent higher chance of a heart attack. In addition, their immune systems weaken, they lose hours of sleep every night, their libidos take a dive, and they report a lower satisfaction with life overall. They become irritable and their relationships with family and friends suffer.
People who overwork typically sacrifice sleep and time for themselves, relying on coffee or other substances and risking addiction. Some feel it’s necessary for the big payout, but what good is that if you aren’t healthy or happy enough to fully enjoy it?
Instead take part of your day strictly to care for yourself. Make personal time everyday to rejuvenate, whatever that may be for you.
7. Focusing on the Wrong Metrics
As entrepreneurs we are responsible for every aspect of our businesses and the people who work in them. We often need to monitor a lot of things pertaining to our business’s growth. That may mean looking at every part of our business including social media marketing results, users, and sales. But it is easy to focus on the wrong set of metrics.
Metrics help measure what works and what doesn’t with your business. But caring too much about “feel-good metrics” can be a mistake. Feel-good metrics are metrics that make us feel good but may not be an indicator to how well our business is doing. These may include email open-rates, number of downloads, or website visits. These things may be great, but they may not add to your bottom line.
You want to focus on customer engagement; content shares, conversions, and number of comments to name a few. These metrics offer substantial feedback so you understand what your audience responds to the most and clarify how you should move forward with your business plan.
If you lead a team, you may want to focus on employee retention, overall productivity, and other things you are responsible for as the founder of your business.
8. Trying to Control Everything
This is similar to micromanaging. Instead of being on top of everyone, you vow to control every little detail to make your business as perfect as you envision it. Trying to control everything in your business seems like a great thing, but it actually stifles growth and creativity.
You cannot account for every single variable in your business. Each customer will have his or her experience, and that’s okay. What you need to learn is that you cannot please everybody.
This can alternatively be a habit of carrying the burden of the entire business on your shoulders alone. But you are only one person, not a pack mule. Learn to ask for help from your team, and designate tasks to your workers. They want to work with you and gain their own experience, so give them a chance to earn their paychecks.
You don’t have to be completely hands off, but neither your business nor your health will benefit from holding a tight grip over every aspect of your company. Part of being a leader is being comfortable with assigning things to your team and trusting them to help you rise to the top.
Here are some ways to begin to let go of some of the control:
- Know your role. You already know that you are the owner/founder of your business but you don’t need to be its designer, accountant, operations manager, social media strategist, and head of sales. With so many freelance virtual assistants ready and waiting to help you for a reasonable price, there is little reason why you can’t delegate some of your tasks to others. Even if you are a one-person business.
- Schedule time away. It is hard to control something when you are nowhere near it. Schedule time away from your business and see how well it does without you. You may find that parts of your business may not need constant supervision.
- Have someone call you out. Find a friend, mentor, or employee to call you out when you display controlling behavior. This should be someone you will listen to and can take criticism from.
When you get too involved with the tasks given to the team, it slows everything down. This shows a lack of trust in your workers which can frustrate and demoralize your team. Keeping an eye on their progress is certainly understandable, but monitoring every step and offering critique and advice at every turn will land you on their bad side fast.
Learn to let go and trust in your crew. You hired them for a reason. Micromanaging them also distracts you from finishing your own work as manager.
9. Stop Chasing Others’ Ideas of Success
Similar to comparing yourself to others, many entrepreneurs fall into a habit of chasing others’ ideas of success. You may see other businesses featured in media, growing their staff, or even getting funding, but does that mean that you should too?
This has been an issue that has plagued many hubs for startups including Silicon Valley. Throughout the 2000s and 2010s, one of the most coveted prizes for founders was funding from a major venture capital firm called Andreessen Horowitz. But the firm reported that the odds of receiving an equity check from Andreessen Horowitz is just 0.7 percent (see below), and the chances of your startup being successful after that are only 8 percent. Combined, that’s a 0.05 percent or 1 in 2000 success rate.
Many startups chased venture capital dollars and saw that as success. But ultimately their businesses failed. This type of goal chasing is prevalent in all types of businesses. Learn to clearly identify your definition of success and not someone else’s.
10. Chasing Every Idea
As an entrepreneur, one of your greatest assets is your ability to be creative in your business and come up with new and exciting ideas. However, a problem arises when you chase every idea that comes your way. Some ideas should be chased and others should be seen as distractions.
Chasing everything ensures that you catch nothing. Energy and time are limited resources. There is no way that you can succeed at every idea that comes your way. Decide which ideas will help you reach your ultimate goal.
In business, we are conditioned to be goal-focused. We have revenue goals, sales goals, user goals, and the list goes on. Although goals are important, we too often see the finish line without paying attention to the track. Develop and maintain the right habits and they will take you where you want to go.