We all have bad work habits, and most of us are content to get away with them for the foreseeable future. Sure, they may make us a little less productive and they might not look great in a performance review, but they’re relatively innocuous when they creep into our daily lives.
When you step up to be an entrepreneur, everything changes. You’ll have more direction, more authority, and more freedom, but you’ll also have far more accountability for your decisions and habits. Not only will most of your actions have a direct and substantial impact on the health and future of the business, they’ll also set an example for the other people you work with, and set a tone for the entire organization.
Before stepping out fully as an entrepreneur, be sure to eliminate these 10 bad work habits:
1. Not planning your day (or week). You can get away with this in a job you can muddle through, but if your priorities as an entrepreneur aren’t clear, you may never be able to dig yourself out of that hole. Each day, and each week, you should recap everything you need to do and organize them based on order of importance.
2. Reacting to emails as soon as they come in. Prompt responses are almost always a good thing, so there’s no fault in wanting to respond as quickly as possible. However, responding to emails all day is an inefficient way to go about your tasks. Plan your projects and tasks in advance, and don’t let emails relentlessly distract you. One exception to this rule would be for sales personnel, for whom quick email responses are very important for landing the sale.
3. Communicating inefficiently. Inefficiently written emails or conversations in meetings might cause a slight hiccup in your day-to-day work, but in the context of a budding business, they could cause some serious headaches and make your company look unprofessional. Take inventory of your communication skills, and make improvements where necessary. Don’t rush through anything, and think carefully about what you precisely mean to say.
4. Settling into a firm routine. Routines are useful for productivity, especially for everyday tasks you might forget about otherwise. However, settling too deeply or firmly into a routine can put you in a poor position when things change abruptly (and they will in a startup). As an entrepreneur, you need to be flexible enough to change your approach when the situation demands it.
5. Never taking breaks. It often seems like a good idea to work through your breaks to get more done, since it’s basically a free hour or two to add to your total workday. However, working through breaks can take its toll on your psyche and productivity. As an entrepreneur, six hours of great work is better than eight hours of okay work, and you definitely don’t want to run the risk of burning yourself out.
6. Running late. As an employee coming in to catch up on emails, it usually doesn’t matter if you’re 10 minutes late. As an entrepreneur, meeting with prospective clients or otherwise setting an example for the team, running late can damage your image. It’s okay to set your own schedule, but when you say you’ll be somewhere, you need to be there, and on time.
7. Procrastinating tough projects. That monster project might do fine sitting on your desk in your current day job, but procrastinating the tough jobs as an entrepreneur usually only makes things worse. If you can’t handle something, delegate it or seek outside assistance. Don’t just set it to the side.
8. Delaying hard decisions. You probably make few decisions in your current position, at least compared to as many as you’ll be making as an entrepreneur. Hard decisions might take their toll on you, but you need to come down on one side or the other. Even a bad decision is better than no decision, so eliminate your habit of delaying decisions now.
9. Never saying no. In the lower rungs of the corporate ladder, the word “no” is taboo, and the habit of saying yes to everything seems to stick around in our careers for years. When you become an entrepreneur you need to get comfortable with saying no. Not every client is worth taking. Not every employee candidate is worth hiring. Not every idea is worth pursuing.
10. Multitasking. Multitasking is another one of those pesky habits that seems like it saves you time. In actuality, it distracts your mind so you complete all your simultaneous tasks less efficiently than if you completed them individually and with greater focus. You’ll need all the focus you can get when you become an entrepreneur.
These habits won’t necessarily destroy your business, but they could interfere with your ability to work productively and in a way that ultimately benefits your organization. It may take some patience to eliminate them entirely, but you’ll be in a far better position once you do.