The Power of Habits

I was struck by something while attending the B2B Copywriting Intensive back in June …

All the speakers used a technique to convey ideas. They called it ‘a formula.’

A formula is a step-by-step process for achieving a goal — be it writing a successful white paper, or creating a lead-generation campaign.

The idea is that, by always following the formula, you’ll have a foundation for success because the formula is a best practice, and sooner or later, the formula will become second nature.

In other words, the formula will become a habit of excellence.

We’ve also heard a lot about habit. Steve Slaunwhite (an industry-leading B2B copywriter), kicked off the event by presenting “12 Habits of Highly Successful Copywriters” — with a call-to-action that, to succeed, we have to transform.

His point, which I’ve found true in my own experience, is that we have to establish new habits in order to transform ourselves. Old, bad habits hold us back.

You’ve come to AWAI for some kind of change. You’ve found the status quo somewhat lacking. You want a different life, a different career. To become different, you need different habits.

When I left my corporate employer a couple of months ago, I spent the first month breaking habits …

  1. I didn’t commute anymore but started work in my office at 7 a.m.
  2. I didn’t refer to the corporation as “We” but started talking about “my business”
  3. I didn’t check my email 20 times a day but spent three hours in straight productive work
  4. I didn’t schedule meetings to discuss meetings, but only scheduled them to help myself or a client

So, I thought to offer seven tips I’ve found useful on making and breaking habits. If you’re trying to become a copywriter, they ought to be useful.

  1. Focus on one change at a time. Changing one old habit is hard enough, but changing five at the same time is nearly impossible!
  2. Start on the smallest change, then once that’s a habit, start work on the next smallest, and so on. Focusing at first on small changes boosts your confidence to pursue larger changes.
  3. Launch your habit as strongly as possible. Go cold turkey, sign a year contract with a personal trainer, hire a copywriting mentor, whatever. Just make a big deal out of it.
  4. Track your habit. Recent research tells us that, on average, it takes 66 days of consistent, daily effort to make a change into a habit. There are tools on the Web for tracking habits — I use but there are others like You can easily use a desk calendar or a piece of paper — but keep tracking the change — consistency is essential.
  5. Keep yourself accountable. There’s nothing more motivating than an Accountability Partner. That’s something AWAI encourages — and you’ll find many emerging copywriters who want to help you build new, productive, effective goals.
  6. Build a good habit atop the bones of a bad habit. My first job out of college, I worked for a recovering alcoholic who had an interesting trick. When he felt the urge for a drink, he made a mad dash for his liquor cabinet, which now had eight varieties of fruit juice instead of spirits. He’d pour a big glass of fruit juice and chug it down, smiling all the time — because he had built a good habit on the bones of a bad habit. The motions were similar — but the outcomes were completely different.
  7. Finally, don’t be afraid to get help from others’ work. Every AWAI program is full of advice on crafting good habits for a successful copywriting career. In a sense, what AWAI tries to do is turn best practices into habits.

So, if you are serious about becoming a successful copywriter, I urge you to ask yourself: what habits stand in my way? And what am I going to do to change them?

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Published: July 10, 2012

3 Responses to “The Power of Habits”

  1. If you really are interested in forming a good habit, please try meditation.

    Meditate first thing in the morning, but make sure you have cleaned yourself up.

    In other words, brush your teeth, visit the loo, take a shower, wear loose and comfortable clothes.

    And now you are ready to start afresh.

    If you make a daily habit of meditation, you will see positive results in no time.

    The benefits of meditation have been well-documented by medical science too.

    Meditation can do wonders for copywriters and creative people like you.

    Archan Mehta

  2. Thanks for writing this article. I appreciate your contribution.

    However, I think we create our own obstacles.

    If we perceive an event X as an obstacle--and word that event as such--that event then will become an obstacle in our life.

    Truth be told, it does not have to be that way.

    We do not have to impose terms and conditions on events at all.

    Let the event be, deal with it objectively, go with the flow and move on with your life.

    An exam just is, so let it be. An exam is just a part of the process we call life.

    Archan Mehta

  3. Great article, Brian.

    I left a corporate job 4 years ago, never knowing exactly what was next, but feeling immense relief. It's always been that way. The brain numbing culture was killing me.

    The challenge is staying focused.

    Having a system is a great idea. Creating a system is the challenge. I'd like to propose an article on creating a workable home business system.

    I have a few techniques, including my good old Priority Matrix. Pulling it all together is key.

    Thanks, Brian.

    Guest (Nancy Lamb)

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