What do you do every night before you go to bed? And every day when you wake up. Some of us even do it in the middle of the day too. And I even do it on nights when I’ve had a Guinness or two with my friends, or been out on a gig and got in at 4 in the morning and I’m so tired that my vision starts to blur.
We clean our teeth.
Why Do We Clean Our Teeth So Regularly?
We clean our teeth twice a day, or three times a day, because it’s a habit. It’s something our parents forced us to do when we were young. Before we went to bed: ‘Go and clean your teeth.’ In the morning when we woke up: ‘Go and clean your teeth.’
And we’ve done it so regularly that it’s become a habit.
Cleaning teeth? Online Business? What’s The Connection?
Well, if we want to get our online businesses off the ground we know we’ve got to invest some time, right? And if we’re honest with ourselves we know we’ve got to invest that time on a regular basis too.
And the best way of ensuring we work on our online businesses regularly is to make it a habit. So that it doesn’t matter if the thought of doing that work leaves us cold, or a friend calls and he’s got tickets to the game, or there’s a great show on TV.
If you’ve truly got the habit you’ll put your time in irrespective of how you feel about it, you’ll tell your friend that you either can’t go or you’ll have to meet him there later, and for the TV there’s SkyPlus (TIVO I think you call it in the US).
So How Can You Make These Activities A Habit?
I’d love to tell you there was a guy on the corner of Main Street in the shady part of town who sells 30-minute sachets of ‘habit’ in little plastic baggies. But instead what you’re going to have to do is a bit of work.
The first thing I want to tell you though is that acquiring a habit is something YOU can do. You’ve already done it. You clean your teeth twice (or three) times a day, right? And you’ve got other habits too (wearing a seatbelt when you drive, checking your front door is double locked when you leave the house, turning your cell phone off when you go to bed and/or putting it onto charge, etc etc).
The second thing you need to know is that there is a body of psychological evidence that says you can ‘train yourself’ to acquire a habit in a relatively short period of time (21-30 days).
So knowing that you can acquire a habit, and that you can do it in around 30 days, what you need to do is follow The Habit Plan.
What’s The Habit Plan?
It’s a plan I devised for myself based on an article I read on self-development blogger Steve Pavlina’s website. And although I used this Habit Plan to get me back into regular practicing on the bass guitar after several years of barely playing, you can use the Habit Plan to help you make a habit of just about anything.
So my original goal was to practice for 90 minutes a day for 5 days a week. I knew this was too big a goal to achieve in one step. So I split the Habit Plan into three parts.
Part One was simple. I made myself a wall chart for the next six weeks (6 weeks x 5 days a week = 30 days). For each day I practiced 30 minutes I drew a red line leading to the next day. And my mantra became: Don’t Break The Red Line (by missing a day).
Just so you know, the first time I attempted this I failed, partly because I was ill and partly because one of my kids was ill. But according to the rules I’d defined it was a failure – so I printed another chart and started again.
This time I got to 30 days without Breaking the Red Line. So it was time for Part 2. I printed another wall chart – again for six weeks. This time I had to practice for an hour to draw a ‘red line.’
When I’d completed this – which took THREE attempts, each failed time making me go back to the beginning – I printed the last wall chart. Again this was for 6 weeks – but for Part 3 of the plan I had to practice for 90 minutes before I would allow myself to draw in the desired ‘red line.
Part Three was completed on the first attempt. At the end of which I’d been practicing regularly for around 6 to 7 months and the ‘habit’ of practice had become firmly engrained.
How Do I Make A Habit Plan For Myself?
The first thing you need is realistically assess what are the fundamental business activities you need to do on a regular basis. This can include activities like content creation, forum marketing, blog commenting, etc etc. Then decide how much time you’d like to spend on these activities on a regular basis. Is it an hour a day? Two hours a day? Three hours a day?
My advice for this stage is not to be over ambitious when you start out. 90 minutes invested in your online business on a regular basis will help you achieve lift off. And 90 minutes is a good target because it divides nicely into three!
Let’s assume you’ve decided that you’d like to invest 90 minutes of activities into your online business 6 days a week. Stage 1 of acquiring a Habit Plan is to make yourself a chart that will last you for 5 calendar weeks (5 calendar weeks at 6 days per week), and start applying the seat of your pants to the seat of your chair for 30-minute sessions (30 minutes = 90 minutes/3).
Every day you successfully complete this, draw a part of your red line on your chart. When you’ve successfully completed a red line for 30 days, then move onto Stage 2.
Stage 2 is identical to Stage 1 – except you move to the next time increment, which is 60 minutes.
And repeat the process with 60 minutes of the fundamental business activities you identified prior to Stage 1.
When you’ve successfully completed Stage 2 then move onto Stage 3, where the goal is to implement 90 minutes of your fundamental business activities. If you can complete Stage 3 you’ll be well on your way to acquiring a really solid habit that will last you a lifetime if you cultivate it.
What Happens If I Miss A Day?
If you miss a day during your Habit Plan and you break the red line, there are no excuses you have to go back to the start. Whilst you’re trying to acquire the habit in the first place you have to adopt a zero tolerance policy.
But once you’ve achieved your final goal, and completed a red line that spans at least 30 days, then I’d say that you can cut yourself a little slack. Sometimes things will come up that you just don’t want to miss – and you’ll have to sacrifice some of your ‘business’ time to do them.
I keep a log of these things – and if I fall below what I consider acceptable then I print out one of my charts and go strict for 30 days. Just so you know, what I consider unacceptable is if I miss 2 work sessions in any consecutive 15 days.
Brush Twice, Practice Once
The Habit Plan is a systematic way to acquire the habit of working on your online business consistently and regularly. This is the ‘professional’ approach and the professional mindset. If you want to read more about the difference in mindset between professionals and amateurs I suggest that you go buy Steven Pressfield’s excellent book ‘The War Of Art.’
Remember that you brush your teeth twice a day – which if you think about it you’ll find is a nearly unbreakable habit. You can make a habit out of working on your online business, and make it nearly as unbreakable with the rigorous application of a Habit Plan.