We may think we’re always in control of our actions, and that our behaviour can be changed by sheer willpower. But the reality is that behaviour is a product of unconscious habit.

Many savvy business owners will tell you that running a successful business is in large part a reflection of their own diligence in establishing good personal and professional habits.

If you took a moment to think about it, how many actions during your day are a result of unconscious habit? How many could be improved with better habits?

Doing so takes motivation and patience, but also a willingness to re-establish your priorities. It’s not viable to try to force ourselves to change a habit if that’s not really something we want to do – we have to change our priorities. Change the way you feel about something to make that habit stick.

You can’t be someone you’re not, but you can incorporate good habits for long-term professional success. Here are 3 ways to make that happen.

1. Manage your time

Find your own “hour of power”

Tony Robbins has made the “Hour of Power” famous. But we all have our own personal hour of power. Whether you’re an early bird or a night own may depend on structural brain differences—and the reality is that most people fall somewhere in between. What’s really important is finding your own personal prime time, when you’re at your sharpest every day. That’s the time to get the most amount of things done.

Learn to say no

Business owners rarely have a moment to spare. Your time is precious, so don’t let others dictate your schedule: set goals for yourself during your “hour of power”, block off time in your calendar by setting certain hours to “busy” to get work done, meet only when you need to, and learn to say “no” to non-essential tasks (and people’s demands for your time).

Be punctual

Being late in business is a serious marketing blunder. It can be hard to keep it all together when you’re a business owner, but being punctual is still a mark of respect. And it’s also a mark of trustworthiness. One way to incorporate this habit is to plan ahead, give yourself a 10-minute meeting buffer to arrive on time, and be diligent about ending meetings on time so you can attend the next one.

Make your health your priority

Sleep

Business owners are busy—and often tired—people, and long nights are often part of the job. But a good night’s sleep is essential to productivity. If former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen can do it during an economic crisis, so should we.

Take a break

It’s important to not overdo it, especially when there’s a lot to do. Sounds counter-intuitive? Perhaps, but taking more breaks can help replenish your brain with energy and improve your work performance. Active rest periods, where you do something interesting that’s not work, can be key to increasing your productivity. Recent studies have shown that working fewer hours leads to better productivity. When you’re faced with demanding tasks, schedule inactive downtime for your favourite hobby. You’ll be re-energized for the hard work ahead.

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Don’t do it all yourself– get help

This one’s a gem, often learned too late in business life. So many great business leaders will tell you that delegating is a delicate art form: too much and you’re not in control, too little and you’re overwhelmed. Learning to not do everything yourself is key to staying productive. Start small: delegate non-essential tasks, verbalize your expectations, understand that others will probably do things differently, and don’t swoop in to save the day—give them time to figure things out on their own.

Stay inspired

Inspire your creativity

Make sure you’re running at full power: studies show that resting and taking active breaks can boost your creativity, key for business success. Creative thinking—finding new ways to solve old problems—can make you stand out from competitors. Create a safe, non-judgemental culture of creativity in your workplace, and start by scheduling brainstorming sessions and breaks to boost your creative thinking.

Stay positive

Stress and negativity can hinder a workforce, and studies have shown the benefits of a positive work atmosphere. Positive thinking at work affects your productivity and your success. Your attitude, whether positive or negative, is an expression of who you are. It’s not about being happy or peppy all the time: it’s about creating value and strong relationships that open your mind to new possibilities. Start with small steps to stay positive with your entire team in the workplace.

Stretch your comfort zone

Our brains and bodies are wired to get us to where we need to go by expending the least amount of energy. So it’s normal that we can feel like we’re in a rut: that’s just evidence of our systems working perfectly well. But getting too comfortable at work can make us lazy and stop us from venturing out to the realm of new possibilities, increased confidence, boosted creativity, and improved positivity. Expanding your comfort zone by doing one new thing every day will stretch your imagination and your skills without adding unnecessary stress.

Volunteer

You may feel as a business owner that there’s already precious little time for yourself, and that volunteering will take up even more of that personal time. But there are plenty of reasons why this investment of time is worth it:

So a little time can go a long way, and by managing your time with better habits, you’ll find those extra hours you need to give back to your favourite cause. The return on investment is sure to be worth it.

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