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Russ*an composer Igor Stravinsky reportedly performed a 15-minute headstand Every morning. Inventor Nikola Tesla performed 100 toe curls every night. Only the poet and writer Maya Angelou wrote in hotel rooms.
We may laugh at the quirks of famous authors, but we all have ingrained habits, whether we know about them or not. In fact, studies show that about 43% our daily activities are habitual. Your morning espresso? Habit. Choose an aisle or window seat? Habit.
Habits are strong – and they run a wild subjective gamut from good to bad, with lots of gray in between. However, the fluid nature of entrepreneurship can make it difficult to create and maintain constructive habits. “Think of the almost daily schedule changes that require us to abandon what we are doing or planned to do and choose the best response. right now,” writes researcher Michel Segar, author of the book Choice of Joy.
Segar says that people with busy lives and ever-changing roles, schedules and responsibilities often find it difficult to put complex behaviors on autopilot. In the 17 years since I started Jotform, I have adopted some key habits, like spending an hour with my personal trainer before work. At the same time, I am a classical founder. My attention wanders and my calendar often looks like a chaotic LEGO tower.
While habits are important, there is another tool entrepreneurs should use to maximize their time and focus: automation. I’ve spent the last decade automating my most repetitive, manual workflows and building a team that does the same. If you want to start a habit, like checking email only once a day, automation can minimize the mental bandwidth required to make changes. Or he may take over the task entirely; you don’t even have to think about creating or breaking a habit.
Let’s take a look at three common habits that confuse entrepreneurs and how automation can make the path to success easier.
Related: 3 Ways to Automate Your Busy Job and Boost Your Productivity
1. Let your to-do list rule your life.
Most of us develop the habit of making a list at an early age. Teachers, parents, and coaches advise us to deal with overload by listing tasks and crossing them off one by one. But the list does not reflect what is important and what is urgent. That’s why “buy printer paper” ends up on the same list as “launch a new website.” And if you can’t do it all – a truly unattainable goal – it’s easy to feel like you’re failing or falling behind.
You don’t fail. The only problem is that you think you have to personally take care of everything on your list. Instead, take a cool look at your calendar and to-do list. Pick the most important element—the activity that can change your business—and give it your full attention. Later, review the remaining tasks and consider what you could automate. For example, allow the software to schedule (and reschedule) your appointments. Set invoices for automatic payment. Use automated tools to analyze reports and organize social media posts.
The more you start automating, the more options you will find to let machines do the hard work. Adopting an automation-focused mindset will give you more time to think strategically and grow your business.
Related: From the Ordinary to the Magic: The Incredible Benefits of Automation for Small Business Owners
2. Do it all yourself
Founders know they need to delegate authority. But what if you’re just getting started? Before there is a team to share the workload, you have to cover sales, IT, marketing, operations and maintenance. With the latest advances in technology, they can now be your assistants, and they have in-depth knowledge of almost every function your business requires.
With AI and automation tools, you can monitor your online competition, get daily search trends in a custom spreadsheet, use chatbots for customer support, and more. For every task you’d like to delegate, there’s a good chance someone has created a free or low cost solution to meet your needs.
Research from Columbia Business School also shows that women are socialized to feel more guilty when they delegate tasks than their male peers. In my experience, aspiring founders (either gender) often struggle with delegation too. They identify a need and immediately begin to satisfy it – whether they have to do it or not.
Thankfully, automation doesn’t have feelings and doesn’t appreciate your deep self-sufficiency. He doesn’t mind backing up the server at 3am or adding another row to the spreadsheet. Most importantly, delegation is a habit that you can reinforce over time. Just like editing a to-do list, reassigning manual and repetitive tasks gets easier with practice.
Related: 5 ways automation can help you manage your team
3. Keep saying yes
As an entrepreneur, you have already said yes to an idea or opportunity. Chances are, you’ve also accepted a lot of requests, from introductory meetings to exploring new directions. Are you ready to say yes. As author and habit-forming expert James Clear explains, saying no is just as important. When you say no, you only say no one option,” writes Transparent. “When you say yes, you say no” every second option.”
Sometimes “no” is the best choice for your business. Automating tedious tasks saves you time, attention and energy and opens the door to innovation. While I was writing my upcoming book, I realized that today’s business needs a car to be successful. When you automate your busy work, you build that machine and then refine and improve it over time. Instead of spending all your time baking pies, you can develop ever better recipes.
Whenever I subscribe to this principle, someone inevitably assumes that saying no is a luxury reserved only for founders with money, power, and established businesses. These pieces of the puzzle certainly make things easier, but “saying no is not just a privilege reserved for the successful among us,” Clear says. “It is also a strategy that can help you become successful.”
I couldn’t help but agree.
Related: How to Improve Business Automation and Unlock New Levels of Operational Efficiency