Scientists studying habits in people have noticed some interesting things. If a person repeats a behavior over the course of 3-4 weeks the behavior becomes ingrained as a habit. While we form habits somewhat unconsciously in most instances, there is usually a loop of cue, behavior and reward.
Something as simple as brushing one’s teeth in the morning are habit: Wake up and shuffle to bathroom (cue), brush teeth (behavior) and tingly clean feeling (reward). When we create a new habit, we often must consciously make an effort to ingrain the habit but with repetition it becomes an automatic behavior after a short period of time.
Scientists have observed that certain habits have a wide effect on a person’s life in unrelated ways. They call these peculiar habits “keystone habits” because of the wide reaching effects they have.
For example, the keystone habit of daily exercise causes unrelated patterns of behavior to emerge. People who exercise at a minimum weekly generally eat better, are more productive at work, smoke less, show more patience with business colleagues and family, use credit cards less frequently and feel less stress. Families who habitually eat dinner together raise children with better homework skills, have higher grades and have greater emotional control and confidence. By habitually making your bed in the morning correlates to better productivity, a greater sense of well-being and stronger skills at sticking with a budget. These keystone habits cause widespread positive shifts in behavior spontaneously in a person’s life.
Keystone habits work in business as well. Just as daily exercise has a huge positive effect in many disparate spheres of a person’s life, so to do certain business behaviors cause the same ripple effect. By focusing on your business’s keystone habits you can increase productivity and morale, ensure healthy profit margins, reduce expenses and actually work less.
What are these business keystone habits?
1. Collect and review weekly performance data
• Business moves fast and decisions often need to be made more frequently and up-to-date data and information is critical. You can’t wait 30 – 45 days for the next set of financials to appear. Collect important metrics daily and post on a weekly scorecard for review.
2. Maintain a set weekly meeting rhythm of two meetings per week.
• Monday morning cash forecast, scorecard review and weekly update. If your business has a sales team they should meet later in the week to review sales forecast, sales scorecard review and weekly update.
3. Put your priorities in writing
• Have no more than 4 quarterly companywide priorities and post in a common area with progress reports visible. Often using a theme to characterize the effort is helpful. Shift priorities quarterly if it makes sense.
These three simple business keystone habits are key to growing your business. Even if your business is small and you are the only person working, by making these keystone habits part of your business routine will allow you to grow with less hiccups.
If you would like help in developing and implementing your business’s keystone habits, I would be happy to help.
David Oetken is the Director of the Louisville Small Business Development Center. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.