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The importance of small habits to power leadership

Small, daily habits act as building blocks in creating a disciplined and focused mindset, and can improve creativity

Small habits can make a meaningful difference,
Small habits can make a meaningful difference, (iStockphoto)

In a global, digitalised world, complexity is a challenge for business leaders who face a surfeit of stimuli from multiple channels that impact productivity and innovation. Business leaders often find themselves weighed down by responsibilities that sap their energy and make it difficult to perform at their best. This affects drive, creativity and resilience. What is needed is a simple solution that is easy to comprehend and put into action with consistency and discipline. It is here that small daily habits can come into play.

The power of small

Habits, by definition, are actions we perform automatically or with little effort due to regular repetition. Habits are the small actions we take daily, almost without thinking, actions that become second nature to us. These range from the first thing we do in the morning to how we wind down at night. While big habits get a lot of attention, it is the small, daily habits that truly shape a leader’s effectiveness. Just as small investments grow to give big returns, small habits add up to create exponential outcomes.

Paraphrasing James Clear’s words from Atomic Habits, small habits can make a meaningful difference, and anything meaningful is not small but significant. Meaning, daily habits hold the key to unlocking leadership potential and sustaining long-term success. By recognising the transformative power of daily routines, leaders can cultivate a reservoir of energy and resilience to thrive in the face of challenges and drive meaningful change.

Also read: How to get a productivity boost from your to-do list

Small habits can transform a leader’s energy, focus, and resilience. For instance, a simple habit like starting the day with some time to plan strategically instead of wading into your email inbox can set a positive tone for the day. Similarly, taking short breaks to stretch or walk around during the day can help you feel active both in mind and body even in the post-lunch period. These habits might seem insignificant on their own, but together, small habits act as building blocks in creating a disciplined and focused mindset.

Instilling habits

It is our habits that make us who we are to a large extent and affect how people perceive us. However, changing or adopting new habits is not easy. Studies over the years have shown that while people are open to new experiences in their youth, they become resistant to change as they age. We may like something new, but we find it difficult to make fundamental changes in our routines. As leaders, the challenge multiplies. Our schedules are packed and responsibilities weigh heavily. Trying to fit in something new can feel like moving a mountain. The real test is coming out of our comfort zone and overcoming the initial resistance to incorporating even small habits into our daily schedule. Overcoming this resistance is essential for leaders who want to stay ahead and maintain their energy and creativity.

Forming new habits isn’t impossible but requires more effort. Self-awareness helps as does starting small. Don’t rush to overhaul your entire routine in one go! Instead, focus on one small habit you want to change or adopt. This could be anything from dedicating the first hour of your morning to planning your day, to taking five minutes every evening to reflect on what went well and what didn’t. Consistency is crucial; the more you repeat a behaviour, the more it naturally becomes a part of your routine. The goal must be an incremental improvement, not an overnight transformation.

Using technology to stay on track

Integrating habits into your daily program requires consistency and patience. To ensure you stick to your new habits, accountability is key. This could mean tracking your progress, setting reminders, or even sharing your goals with a colleague or mentor who can check in on your progress. The idea is to make these habits a non-negotiable part of your day, something as routine as brushing your teeth.

Technology can be a powerful ally in embedding new habits into your daily routine and encouraging you to sustain them in the long run. In today’s digital age, there are countless apps and tools designed to help you follow and sustain habits. Online calendars for a daily routine with reminders, and apps that track nutrition, monitor sleep patterns, or give reminders for hydration are helpful. Apps to promote mindfulness ensure you take time to reflect each day and fitness trackers monitor physical activity. Even a simple app that lets you create and track a to-do list to keep your tasks in check can be a game-changer.

The impact of small daily habits has a ripple effect beyond leadership effectiveness to personal well-being. It keeps you physically fit, mentally sharp, and emotionally resilient. As a leader, you become better equipped to inspire and lead your teams, drive innovation, and steer businesses through challenges, both known and unknown. Small daily habits can be powerful catalysts for change, transforming your leadership energy into an unstoppable force!

Mayank Kumar is co-founder and managing director of upGrad.

Also read: The office needs smart workers, not workaholics



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