Career Woman

The missing ingredient in advancing your career


How can you effectively propel your career and business?  What if you have a family and your time is limited? Even if you don’t have kids, we all occasionally see motivation exit the door, and have procrastination take its place.  I’m convinced the founders of Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube and Netflix all have an anti-productivity agenda.

Despite all the distractions, as a busy mother of two young children, I have a secret that has helped me move upward in my businesses.  Two words: HABIT MANAGEMENT. You too can implement this in your working life.

We’ve all heard of common advice on how to get things done: “turn off your phone”, “reward yourself after you complete a task”, “take a 10 minute break for every hour of work”, “close your Facebook tab”, etc.  While all those tips are useful, here’s a guide to habit management that will really kickstart your career.

So what is HABIT MANAGEMENT?  In a nutshell, if you’re deliberate in doing something, but you keep on repeating it on a daily or weekly basis, that task turns into a habit, like brushing your teeth. Effortless and routine. Let’s dive further in.

Task management

Every morning before you start your day, write down 5 tasks related to your business you’d like to accomplish for the day.  Each task can be as small as “reply to emails” or as large as “go to network meeting”. The goal is to complete all 5 tasks, but if one or two of them have not been completed, they can be carried over ONCE to the next day, and added to the 5 new tasks.  Repeat every morning.

Here’s the caveat: don’t make all 5 tasks big goals.  You’ll set yourself up for failure in the long run, as very few people have the stamina to tackle 5 big jobs every single day.  Choose up to 2 harder ones, and make the others manageable.

Here’s a sample one:

Task 1 – respond to 5 business-related emails

Task 2 – update website header photo

Task 3 – attend continuing education seminar

Task 4 – call or email a company regarding their product offerings

Task 5 – fill out one due diligence form

Another takeaway: make sure the tasks are SPECIFIC.  If you write something like “research XYZ”, the vagueness of that statement gives you leeway to slack off.  You might even convince yourself that aimlessly browsing on certain sites constitutes research, but nothing of substance was actually accomplished.  Instead, write “research XYZ and complete list of keywords” (or whatever your goal is).

This now brings us to:

Time management

We’ve all heard of effectively managing your time in the business world.  It’s doubly important if your personal life is also demanding. Taking your kids to extracurriculars, making dinner, packing lunches for the next day, etc. all suck up a lot of time and energy.  And that’s why your business time management skills have to be up to par.

Here’s an effective tip:

Associate each completed task with a “reward”.  “Reward” is used loosely because they also encompass things you would normally do, like eat.  For example, task completed – eat lunch. So if you’re taking a long time completing a task because you’ve been browsing on Facebook all morning, you will pay for it with a grumbling stomach.  It’s best to choose “rewards” that are somewhat time sensitive, like eating, going to an appointment, meeting up with a friend for a scheduled get-together. Those things get delayed if you aren’t efficient in completing your business-related task.

I personally go a little extreme in my “rewards”.  If I have to go to the washroom, but I’ve been procrastinating making a phone call I know will take at most 2 minutes, I will make that quick call before I allow myself to go to the washroom.  That example is not for everyone, and I don’t want to encourage UTIs for the sake of furthering your career, but the takeaway here is to choose a “reward” that if denied, feels uncomfortable or makes things inconvenient for you.

Finally, to really maximize the benefits of habit management, I want you to complete the following challenge, which I’ve appropriately termed:

Discomfort zone challenge

Once a week, choose to do ONE thing that’s out of your comfort zone.  We need to distinguish between being lazy and uncomfortable. If you just don’t feel like responding to emails, for example, that wouldn’t qualify in the discomfort zone challenge because responding to emails is something you would normally do.  If, however, you’ve never made a cold call before and dread the idea of doing it, that would count as part of the challenge. If feasible, each challenge can be repeated the following week, and a new challenge added. Eventually, all those uncomfortable tasks will become second nature if repeated enough times.

Start implementing the habit management tricks outlined above, and you’ll see in no time that your career or business with be in a forward trajectory.  Make the hard tasks as routine as brushing your teeth, and you’ll enjoy substantial gains in your career over time. Close the Facebook tab and start right now!

About Debbie Chan'

A mother of two young rambunctious girls, Debbie Chan is a Canadian optometrist who has successfully ventured into businesses outside of healthcare, including real estate. Her most recent undertaking has been lead generation through website search engine optimization, brokering customers with service providers such as electrical contractors. When she’s not working on her businesses, Debbie enjoys hiking, fitness and travelling.

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