A simple way to work on your business. Every day.

- March 16, 2015 4 MIN READ

One of the things soloists find hardest is working on their business as opposed to in it. Is the solution for this problem as simple as looking at your future business self?

I’ve been doing a lot of reading on the subject of habits in the past year and one of the things that’s most captured my imagination is the concept of keystone habits.

What’s a keystone habit? It’s a habit that leads to a cascade of other actions.

I’ll let James Clear explain:

A few months ago, I started to notice a funny thing.

When I worked out, I wanted to eat better. Even though I could have rewarded myself with chocolate bars and ice cream, I felt like eating real, healthy foods.

I also slept better. And when I was awake, I seemed more productive. Especially in the hour or two after working out, when my mind seemed to think clearer and my writing was crisper. Thoughts flowed easily.

When I didn’t exercise, however, I was more prone to eating junk food. I would stay up later working on unimportant tasks. I started to feel tension in my back. I didn’t check it, but my guess is that my blood pressure raised as a result of additional stress and no place to release it.

In other words, fitness is the keystone habit that puts the rest of my life in place. When I work out, other things naturally fall into place. I don’t have to think about eating better. I don’t have to force myself to focus on getting things done. Exercise naturally pushes me towards my best self.

Wow, so keystone habits can be pretty powerful right?

And it got me thinking, what would be a good keystone habit for someone with their own business?

Well the thing I hear most from soloists is they never have time to work on their business because they’re so flat out working in it. We’re all so caught up dealing with the urgent + important stuff (like emails and phone calls and deadlines) that we never get the time to do the non-urgent + important stuff (like setting up systems and marketing our businesses).

So is there a keystone habit we could develop that would have the cascade effect of growing our business (or even simply helping us be less reactive)?

I think there is!

I’m calling this habit “Flying Solo Future Self”.

What it involves is very simple. Every day (yes, every single day) I want you to do something your future business self will thank you for. And by future I don’t necessarily mean the distant future. Sometimes a midday action can dramatically simplify your afternoon (like when you take 15 minutes to eat lunch away from your desk – the mental break makes you more productive later.)

Here’s an action I’ve undertaken in my role as Flying Solo Editor: instead of trying to edit a month’s worth of articles over the course of two days (like I did last month!) I now edit each one on the day it drops in my inbox. My future self is so grateful! Plus my brain appreciates this and so too does everyone who reads the site because it means each article is better edited.

In my role as a business owner, my future self loves that instead of trying to set aside a day (that will never come) to create the fancy pants new briefing form we want to send to website design clients, I’ve been creating one section of that form a day for the past three weeks. Which means in another week, it’s actually going to be done.

The task you do for your future business self each day need not be big, nor involve a lot of time. But do something and you’ll find all those little efforts are going to add up to something big pretty quickly.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Get to bed at an appropriate time. Your next day business self will appreciate the clear head.
  • Write down the steps for a task you do every day. When your ‘next month self’ decides to hire an assistant, they’ll appreciate being able to hand that task straight to the assistant!

Are you getting the picture? Here are some more thoughts:

  • That e-book you’ve been wanting to write for ages but can’t find the time? Write one paragraph today.
  • That great client meeting you just had? Write a summary of the key points from that meeting as soon as you get back to your desk.
  • Did you just listen to a great podcast? Write down your one big takeaway in a notebook. Do this every time you listen to a great podcast.
  • In the morning when you first get to your desk, write down on a post-it note the one thing you need to achieve that day. Stick it on the corner of your screen or desk.

As you can see, there are myriad ways to help out your future business self. But in order to make this a habit, you’re probably going to need some accountability.

Here’s where we come in.

Each day this week, you’re going to post about the one thing you did for your future business self on Instagram or Facebook and you’re going to tag that post with the hashtag #fsfutureself.

And that’s it! (Why the hashtag? It’s so we can find you and give you a virtual high five.)

I reckon it will only take a few weeks before the above becomes a very natural part of your day … at which point you can safely say you have developed a shiny new habit that’s going to have a very big impact on your business.

Are you in? If so, leave a comment below and tell me the one thing you’re going to do for your future business self today. And feel free to follow us on Instagram and Facebook as we’ll post daily reminders there.