Inspired by the story of a simple daily habit we can all adopt, Margot (aka The Career Diplomat) explores how our daily patterns shape our lives and career success.
“Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken”
– Warren Buffett
I was recently reading an interview with Diane von Furstenberg (renowned fashion designer) and Jack Dorsey (co-founder of Twitter) about their daily habits and routines. I was particularly taken with Diane’s response to the question of how she started her day: ‘I start by sending one email each day that does not benefit me at all’. She went on to explain that it could be an introduction, a note of congratulations or a simple compliment.
What an incredible, simple act of generosity and influence and one that has an enormous capacity to impact individuals, workplace culture and broader networks!
Whilst this daily habit does not immediately or directly benefit her day-to-day responsibilities, I do believe that over time it has the potential to greatly impact her business and career success. Her personal and professional reputation, the quality of her networks, the engagement of her staff, the potential for new opportunities and least of all the shaping of a positive and grateful mindset are but a few of the long term benefits to be had from this simple action.
We all know that success can be made or broken by the habits we form. They either become the major obstacles or the greatest foundations to all that we do. In short the actions (big and small) we take or don’t take today, do shape our tomorrow.
In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg, a highly regarded New York Times business journalist explores why some people and companies struggle with change while others seem to effortlessly reinvent themselves overnight. The answer he says is in our ability to understand how habits work and to focus on the daily patterns that shape our lives. Knowing what triggers our routines and what rewards we are really seeking is critical to changing or motivating our future actions.
In his book, he uses the example of how every day at 3pm he would stop what he was doing, head for the office cafeteria, grab a biscuit and chat with colleagues before returning to his desk twenty or so minutes later. Whilst he knew that he was putting on weight, he just couldn’t seem to break the habit.
When examining his habit he established that the time of day was his ‘cue’, the trip to the cafeteria was his ‘routine’ and the cookie was his so called ‘reward’. However when he really looked at it further, it wasn’t the cookie that was his reward it was the opportunity to engage with his colleagues. When he realised this, he was able to create new practices or habits that gave him the same reward. In doing so, he also saved both time and money whilst also greatly increasing productivity.
In essence we need to identify habits that serve our purpose. To eliminate or change those that are not we need to develop the ability to diagnose why we continue to do what we do. When we can effectively diagnose them, we can influence them. With this in mind, it is worth asking what patterns am I focusing on to shape my current and future career success? What daily habits am I taking (or not taking) to support how I effectively deliver on my role, grow my capability and brand, and to develop my team and myself?
I would encourage you to think about some of the daily actions below that are widely regarded as the key habits of successful leaders and ask yourself how they could reward you and your career:
So maybe tomorrow before you open up your to-do list, tackle your inbox, or dive head first into your day, take a moment to consider how your daily patterns and habits are setting you and your team up for career success.
For me, I am going to try and adopt Diane von Furstenberg’s daily practice of sending an email that doesn’t (immediately or directly) benefit me at all.
As always I would love to hear your thoughts.
Margot – The Career Diplomat
The roots of courageous leadership are firmly planted in self awareness, ownership and accountability.
Work on strengthening two different aspects of resilience.
When at a career crossroads, give yourself room to imagine what’s possible without any guilt.
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