Routine: Every Successful Entrepreneur’s Secret Weapon
Most of us understand the importance of organisation when it comes to business. Many of us will put all our effort into a well-managed, smooth-running work day. Yet you are part of your own business empire, and how you manage yourself personally could be the key to your success.
Many successful business men and women call their own personal routines and habits, their secrets to success. Bill Gates spends an hour on the treadmill watching courses from the Teaching Company, and David Cameron, former British Prime Minister, has a ‘no TV’ rule in his house in the mornings in order to spend quality time with his family before work.[i]
A Scientific Morning Routine
Routine and habits help us deal with the unpredictability of daily life. They give us head space to think, and come up with innovative new ideas which is vital if we want to succeed in a changing and competitive marketplace.
The part of the brain responsible for the execution of habitual behaviour, is different to the area involved in active thinking and once triggered, it doesn’t require much deep brain stimulation.
Having a habitual routine to wake up to, reduces the effortful decision making that our sleepy brains may not be able to handle at 6am. Snoozing the alarm and going back to sleep, however, can cause us to feel more tired throughout the rest of the day.
Sleep expert Dr Neil Stanley suggests that we should only set our alarms for when we need to get up and then get up!
“We start waking up an hour and a half before we actually wake up, so if your body knows what time it’s going to wake up, it can prepare for when the alarm goes off.”[ii]
If you keep pressing the snooze button, or set multiple alarms, the body becomes confused about whether it should be asleep or awake. This can alter your body’s biological rhythm, can make you sleepy during work hours and even lead to insomnia and other health problems.
A good routine in the morning helps you hit the ground running and while you are pacing through your habitual activities, the brain is free to be creative and contemplate the day ahead.
We exercise will-power and self-control daily, in order to achieve goals and restrain impulses we know may negatively affect us. Resources from the American Psychological Association, suggest that our ability to exercise will-power decreases after repeated use, much like a muscle fatiguing during exercise. Having a few healthy habits, early in the day, can help us maintain the effective use of our will-power at times when it’s tempting to procrastinate or revert to bad habits. A positive mood can buffer the effects of repeated use of self-control, making achieving this an important aim of your morning routine.
The brain is a high energy system and a lack of fuel has been shown to reduce its capacity, particularly in relation to will-power. Start your day right, with the right food to fuel your day. If you breakfast on foods with a high sugar content, you’re body will experience a dip in blood sugar shortly after, making you feel tired and lacking in energy. Cravings for more sugar to replenish the fuel supply will allow the cycle to continue. Try eating unprocessed foods for breakfast, like plain oats, fruit and yoghurt and if your food has a label, always read it.
If your primary driving force is to please other people you may be exhausting your will power more than those acting on intrinsic motivation. Being more in touch with your motivations and actions can help improve productivity and personal well-being; meditation and time for personal reflection can be useful for this. ‘Headspace’ is an excellent app that guides you through the basic tools needed to focus the mind.
Every morning, Steve Jobs would look in the mirror and asks himself “If today was the last day of my life, would I be happy with what I’m about to do today?”. If he answers ”no” too many days in a row, he knows it is time to make a change.
Changes in routine are essential, because habitual activities lack a deep brain stimulation essential for generating new ideas. There needs to be a balance between habit and active thinking. Businesses that are unable to change in accordance with the demands of the times are likely to fail. A habit, like Jobs’, that can spark change is a useful inclusion for your routine. Your goals will change as you progress, so align your habits with new aims in order to prevent hitting a road block in life. Good habits align with your goals, bad habits go against them.
Charles Duhigg, author of “The Power of Habit” explains that, “Once you have the habits that you genuinely want, at that point your life kind of becomes this wonderful place because you have all the mental energy you need to concentrate on the things you really want to concentrate on.” [i]
You’re routine, however, will differ from the routines of almost every other person you meet. To aspire to the examples of successful individuals, is not to copy their every move but to learn lessons about how to craft your own routine. Fancy yourself an entrepreneur? Why not consider an MBA to sharpen up your management and entrepreneurial skills?