How to Harness the Power of Habit to be More Successful

If you’ve ever had a habit — good or bad — you know how powerful they can be. That’s good news, because when we tap into the power of habit, we can have more consistent success as a B2B writer or copywriter.

Now, I know you're thinking, "I've heard this before, I know all I need to know about habits."

But, I want you to stick with me because I'm going to walk you through exactly what a habit is, and exactly how to develop and apply good habits to your B2B writing or copywriting business.

Let me give you an example of a positive habit in my own business.

Each morning, I start work at 7:30 on the dot. It’s such an ingrained habit for me to start at 7:30 that I don't even think about it. If I happen to be running late in the morning, I can actually feel myself getting a little agitated, because the clock is ticking towards 7:30 and I'm not at my desk yet.

I start at 7:30 and I work on a writing project for three hours. And then, around 10:30, I take a mid-day break and go to the gym. After I work out, I have lunch and come back for my afternoon shift in my copywriting business.

I’ve discovered my morning writing time is the most productive three hours of the whole day. It’s not the most productive simply because I'm writing for three hours or because it's the morning and I'm more productive in the morning.

What makes that time so productive is the fact that it's become a habit. I don't even think about it. I do it every single day that I'm working at my office. The payoff is that I have consistent productivity for every writing assignment I'm working on.

Now, of course, habits aren't always good, you can have a bad habit. For example, you might have a habit of leaving client projects until the very last minute. Then you panic, and pull an all-nighter to get the project done because the deadline is looming. That may not be a positive habit, but it's still a habit.

The Three Characteristics of a Habit

Habits are very, very powerful, and if you can form good habits in your business, you’ll reap the benefits.

There's a wonderful book by Greg McKeown called Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. I encourage you to take the time to read (or listen to) the book.

McKeown explains that a habit has three characteristics: a cue, an activity, and a reward. And if you look at the habit that I told you about in my business, you’ll see my cue is the time, 7:30. The activity, of course, is writing. And the reward is twofold, I get a sense of satisfaction of having completed a lot of writing work and I get the reward of taking a break and going to the gym.

So, think about the habits you have in your business. What habits do you have that are helping you? And also, think about the habits that aren't supporting you, the ones you need to eliminate.

An Example from My Own Business …

Let me tell you about a habit I recently created, that has helped me.

For a long time, when I would get an email or a phone call, I wouldn’t respond right away. If I got an email or phone call in the morning, I waited to return the email in the afternoon. Or, if I got an email or a phone call in the afternoon, I figured whoever it was could wait until the next morning. I didn’t think it was too much to ask to have someone wait no more than one business day to get a reply from me. But here's what happened …

Last year, I hired a graphic design firm to do some work for me on a website. I was really impressed by how quickly this graphic designer got back to me every single time I had an inquiry.

She has dozens of other clients. Yet, every time I had a question, she would get back to me quickly, sometimes in just minutes.

I asked her about returning calls, and she said that it was a habit she formed when she realized it made her clients feel like they were getting great service from her. It resonated with me, and I realized it was something I wasn’t doing for my clients.

Now, when I work with clients, I want to give clients a top-shelf experience. I want them to think, when you working with me, you're working with a first-class copywriter.

And yet, I wasn’t giving clients a first-class experience when it came to my responsiveness to their inquiries. I would take hours or even a day to return a call or email. Sometimes, a client would email me twice before I got back to them. I knew I wasn’t serving my clients as well as I could.

So, I decided to create a new habit of responding to clients quickly. I made it a policy that when clients I'm working with called, I would return their call immediately if I could. If they emailed, I would return their email as soon as possible. My standard was to return their email or phone call within an hour.

Now, you may have heard the expression that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. I don’t know if that's true or not, but I suspect it’s close. Sure enough, this new policy took some time for me to form as habit.

I found myself quickly falling back into my old ways, but I kept working at it, and now I have a habit of getting back to clients very, very quickly. In fact, when a client calls or emails, I feel a sense of urgency. I see the client’s email and think, “I’d better get back to them right away." I stop what I'm doing and I get back to the client.

My clients now have a higher level of service and a greater satisfaction in working with me. They get a better client experience, which is important to me.

Now, I don’t get back to every email and every phone call I get from anyone within an hour, but my clients have a high priority. And I do get back to most of them within an hour, and it has made a difference.

What Habits Would Improve Your Business?

So take a look at your own business, and look at habits you'd like to form, and perhaps, bad habits you'd like to break.

Let me give you some categories to consider.

One category to look at is productivity. Do you need a morning ritual? Or to form a habit around when you write? What habits can you establish to be more productive each day?

I also recommend that you have a prospecting habit. By that I mean, something you do consistently every week, to reach out to brand-new prospects. A prospecting habit can make a huge difference in your freelance business success.

My friend Michael Katz, a very successful writer and marketing consultant, has the habit of meeting a brand-new contact every single week for lunch. It’s become a habit for him, and it brings him many new clients each month.

Another category of habit is a performance habit — getting better at what you do. For a long while, I had a habit of reading a business book every single week. That's how I came to read every single copywriting book ever written, because I would read a book every week in my field. Reading books became a habit that helped improve my copywriting.

There are many different habits you could form in your business. Remember to include all three parts: a cue, an activity, and a reward.

Forming good habits will help you keep your business growing and thriving consistently. And the nice thing is, you won’t have to work hard at it, because that’s the magic of a habit — it becomes easy to do.

So, look at your business, and decide what habits you should be breaking, and what habits you should be making. Use the power of habits in your business, and enjoy the success it will bring.

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Published: October 5, 2017

1 Response to “How to Harness the Power of Habit to be More Successful”

  1. Great article, Steve. As with everything you write, it is very helpful, and you give a thorough, step-by-step approach to self-assessment regarding our habits. Thank you for all you teach us.

    Marian MientusOctober 5, 2017 at 6:43 pm

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