Edit the Old Habits from Your Story

This is Day 8 of my new adventure, and I’m on a mission to rewrite the story of my work life. Dell was the first major draft, now it’s time to get out the red pen, start marking it up, and adding new chapters.

And right now, I’m circling a lot of old habits for editorial review.

Some habits I chose for myself. For example, years ago, I chose to start skimming business reports instead of reading them fully. My wife thinks it’s lunacy but I like it. It’s a quick and effective way to find the key ideas and conclusions without wasting time.

And some habits were forced on me. At my prior employer, everyone in the business walked in, got a cup of coffee, and started working through their email inbox. That was part of the culture that couldn’t be challenged.

In corporate life, my work had a rhythm set by the shape of the business — endless meetings, review cycles, legal scrutiny, design team discussions, and launch dates. There was lots of room in the process to be inefficient, or ineffective.

To some extent, my employer was writing my story.

It’s obvious with my recent leap that I wanted to tell another story. It’s also obvious that some of my old habits from corporate life are getting in the way of my new success story.

My advice to myself this week is simple: edit out old habits that get in the way of my new story.

My old habits might have been effective or efficient in other jobs. But some of them aren’t useful now, and I have to go through my work habits and edit out habits that are getting in the way. I have to be the author of my story. I can’t let old habits wreck the plot. Inefficient or ineffective habits might kill my new business. If I’m not building my skills every day, having a structured prospect nurturing plan, or start missing deadlines, my business might fail.

Here’s a partial list of habits I’m trying to kill:

  • Having a pile of mail cluttering my desk — if I don’t stay on top of this pile, I will miss opportunities.
  • Checking email before I do any work — this is a huge collection of rat holes that I have to push off until I’ve done productive work.
  • Letting social media notifications interrupt other work – social media is important for my marketing, but less important than producing work
  • Doing creative work in the afternoon — my afternoons are not creative times. For me, they’re ideal for administrative work.
  • Working in the late evening. My work quality suffers after 9 p.m., and doing work late is a sign that I’m not being efficient or effective.

Killing old habits isn’t easy. To be honest, it’s a frustrating thing because these are ingrained, familiar, comfortable activities, and removing them makes me feel like something’s missing. But it’s essential to making sure my story, like my copy, is clear, focused, and as meaningful as I can make it.

We all want a success story, don’t we? It doesn’t really matter how big or small that success story is. It’s our story. We have to write it, edit it, polish it, and make it the unique story of our writer’s life.

Getting rid of old habits is a lot harder than editing copy — but it’s essential to success.

I’d like to hear from you — are you finding it a challenge to rework how you work? Are old habits cluttering your story? What story do you want to tell?

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Published: May 10, 2012

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