Posted on September 9, 2020 · Posted in Blog, General, Memo Plus Gold, Personal

An atomic habit is a regular practice or routine that is not only small and easy to do but is also the source of incredible power; a component of the system of compound growth. Bad habits repeat themselves again and again not because you do not want to change, but because you have the wrong system for change.

Atomic habits provide a compelling rationale for why frequently practicing small and easy habits consistently compounds in benefit to ultimately generate incredible results. You may then go on to reliably form such atomic habits, regardless of the level of self-discipline or willpower, you may naturally have. While many of these ideas naturally appeal to those seeking to develop lifestyle habits like exercising, losing weight, or quitting smoking, you will find these ideas are equally relevant for managers looking to accelerate their career.

There is a whole host of skills that managers seek to develop that can only truly be built through deliberate practice. This includes everything from honing your analytical rigour, to building your product intuition, to becoming more strategic. You cannot just attend a class or read a few blog posts and expect to become great at any of these. At the same time, simply doing your managerial role the same way you have always been doing it is also unlikely to help you develop the specific skills you are after.

Instead, the formula for mastering these types of skills requires first developing atomic habits to encourage daily or weekly practice and then performing the habit with deliberate practice. For example, building your analytical rigour requires setting aside time every day to critically review dashboards and form hypotheses from the trends that you see, running weekly ad-hoc queries to deep dive into specific user behaviour, putting together metrics recaps a week after every feature launch, as well as spending time each month determining how to improve or augment the dashboards you currently have. Yet the daily demands of a management role are already so taxing that if you are not already performing these activities, you will find it difficult to incorporate them into your weekly routine. That is why to successfully build any of these skills you will need to first develop the right atomic habits to support them.


Start with a ‘habits’ scorecard

The right way to start any new habit is to first put together a ‘habits’ scorecard of your existing habits. The idea is to detail every activity you do on a given day and then to score each as positive, neutral, or negative. For managers, the best way to do this is to spend one week tracking every activity you do on your calendar. This means beyond your existing meetings, add events for every single thing you spend time on: checking email, grabbing coffee, writing specifications, reviewing designs, lunch, etc.

Once you have put this together for an entire week you can score each activity and develop a clear picture of where your time is being spent. This creates the necessary awareness to help you figure out where there may be a time you are spending on negative habits that you can re-purpose to the new habits you are seeking to build. Maybe you feel like you are spending too much time in unproductive meetings and you can look at ways to either make them more productive or remove them altogether. Maybe you are spending too much time checking email and you can instead batch it into a few email sessions a day.

Leverage habit stacking to build the practice

Now that you have created some space for your new habits, it is time to figure out how best to incorporate these new activities into your daily routine. One of the best ways to do this is via habit stacking, which is attaching your new habit to an existing habit that you are already doing. By doing so, you can more easily incorporate it into your existing routine. For example, let us say the first thing you do every morning is grab a cup of coffee. Maybe as part of that ritual, that is the time you take to review your daily dashboards. You have now incorporated a favourite activity, grabbing coffee, with a new habit you are trying to build. Or let us say you already have a weekly team meeting to discuss the backlog. Maybe you add a 10-minute agenda item at the beginning to review the past week’s metrics. This serves as a forcing function to require you to prepare the metrics analysis and engages the entire team in the metrics each week.

Focus on frequency over the duration

With habit building, it turns out the frequency with which you perform the habit is far more important than the duration of performing it. For example, running 75 minutes on Saturday is not nearly as helpful for habit building as running 3 times a week for 25 minutes each time. So, when you are thinking about initially building a new habit, find a way to do it frequently, ideally even daily. And do not worry so much about the duration. A five-minute daily metric review and a 10-minute metrics discussion in an existing weekly meeting is both great examples as well as reviewing metrics a week after every feature launch instead of doing a longer end-of-quarter metrics review of all features together.

As usual, we remind you to take your Memo Plus Gold daily. It will help to make you alert and mentally sharp.Natural memory enhancer