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Ask the Entrepreneurs: 8 Things Founders Should Take Care of Before Shutting Down for the Holidays

Ask the Entrepreneurs: 8 Things Founders Should Take Care of Before Shutting Down for the Holidays

Ask The Entrepreneurs is a regular series where members of the Young Entrepreneur Council are asked a single question that aims to help Lifehack readers level up their own lives, whether in a area of management, communication, business or life in general.

Here’s the question posed in this edition of Ask The Entrepreneurs:

What is one thing entrepreneurs forget to automate, systemize, or build processes around before they shut down for holidays?

1. Finances

Kelly Azevedo

    Before you take off, ensure that the finances of your business are handled, including paying employees, accepting automated payments from clients, handing pay failures and paying your own invoices. By automating, you won’t return to an empty bank account and overdue bills.
    Kelly Azevedo, She’s Got Systems

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    2. Time Management

    Grant Gordon

      Entrepreneurs and business owners don’t plan on not being busy. Holidays are meant for friends and family, and although we need to see business boom, you can still plan to focus on your social time without the distractions of a phone, tablet or laptop. Plan your days to be carefree, and “budget” time to check in with work — not the other way around.
      Grant Gordon, Solomon Consulting Group

      3. Social Media Posts

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      Ronnie Castro

        Using a message scheduling tool such as HootSuite is great for planning tweets and other social media posts to hit over the holidays, so you don’t have to. You can rest easy knowing that your followers will automatically continue to get consistent updates and messages from your company during your down time.
        Ronnie Castro, Porch

        4. Holiday Shipping and Returns

        Brett Farmiloe

          Clearly communicating holiday shipping and return information before shutting down is crucial to customer conversions and satisfaction. You can do this in several ways. Your can use language such as, “final day to order to receive by Christmas” on product descriptions and shipping pages. You can also set up an email autoresponder for the emails typically associated with customer questions.
          Brett Farmiloe, Internet Marketing Company

          5. Customer Support

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          Thursday-Bram 2

            You can’t assume that your customers aren’t working just because you’ve taken off for the holidays. You can’t even assume that your customers celebrate the same holidays that you do. So make sure your customers can at least get a basic level of assistance while you’re away. Even writing up fixes for the most common problems they might encounter is a step in the right direction.
            Thursday Bram, Hyper Modern Consulting

            6. Proper Notifications

            Andy Karuza

              Make sure you clearly communicate to people that you’ll be out of office, whether it’s through an email autoresponder or a message you post on your Facebook page. As long as you take the due diligence to announce your impending shut down, your customers and partners will be mostly satisfied with their inability to reach you.
              Andy Karuza, Brandbuddee

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              7. Signed Contracts

              russ oja

                Many companies have a new budget starting in January of each year, which means you should be rather proactive with closing deals in November and December before everybody leaves the office and comes back at the start of the year. Proactive sales in the last few months of the year will help you launch big at the start of the new year.
                Russ Oja, Seattle Windows and Construction, LLC

                8. Team Vacation Tracking

                Nanxi Liu

                  Because our teammates have different dates they are taking off during the holidays, we wanted to be respectful of everyone’s days off. So, we had everyone update the company calendar with the dates they will be available and unavailable during the holidays.
                  Nanxi Liu, Enplug

                  More by this author

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                  Last Updated on March 21, 2019

                  11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

                  11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

                  Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

                  You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

                  But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

                  To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

                  It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

                  “What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

                  The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

                  In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

                  Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

                  1. Start Small

                  The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

                  Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

                  Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

                  Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

                  Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

                  Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

                  It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

                  Do less today to do more in a year.

                  2. Stay Small

                  There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

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                  But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

                  If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

                  When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

                  I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

                  Why?

                  Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

                  The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

                  Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

                  3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

                  No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

                  There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

                  What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

                  Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

                  This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

                  This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

                  4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

                  When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

                  There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

                  Peter Drucker said,

                  “What you track is what you do.”

                  So track it to do it — it really helps.

                  But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

                  5. Measure Once, Do Twice

                  Peter Drucker also said,

                  “What you measure is what you improve.”

                  So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

                  For reading, it’s 20 pages.
                  For writing, it’s 500 words.
                  For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
                  For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

                  Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

                  6. All Days Make a Difference

                  Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

                  Will two? They won’t.

                  Will three? They won’t.

                  Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

                  What happened? Which one made you fit?

                  The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

                  No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

                  7. They Are Never Fully Automated

                  Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

                  But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

                  What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

                  It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

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                  The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

                  It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

                  It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

                  8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

                  Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

                  Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

                  When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

                  The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

                  Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

                  9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

                  The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

                  Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

                  You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

                  But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

                  So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

                  If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

                  This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

                  The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

                  Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

                  10. Punish Yourself

                  Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

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                  I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

                  It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

                  You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

                  No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

                  The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

                  But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

                  11. Reward Yourself

                  When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

                  Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

                  The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

                  After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

                  If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

                  Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

                  If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

                  In the End, It Matters

                  What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

                  When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

                  And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

                  “Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

                  Keep going.

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                  More Resources to Help You Build Habits

                  Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

                  Reference

                  [1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
                  [2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
                  [3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
                  [4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

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