“There’s rarely a straight line from here to better. But there’s usually an arc. The slog won’t last forever. And winning streaks aren’t endless, either. As we move through time, we’re often presented with opportunities that are carefully disguised as problems. And every day, we’re forced to make a choice. The default might be to hold back, but it’s not the only option. The chance to move toward better can become a habit.” – Seth Godin
When I look back at the major shifts I’ve experienced over my life, both personal and professional, the cause wasn’t a single decision or audacious goal that propelled me forward. It was the collection of small, oftentimes daily, decisions I made as a result that had the greatest impact. I love Seth Godin’s quote because it talks about the power of habits as the catalyst for moving toward better—habits, compounded over time, making a world of a difference.
In a recent interview for Greenhouse Culture’s podcast, I shared parts of my journey in starting Dotted Line and the three small, yet impactful, habits that have served me best through the ups and downs.
To set the stage, the idea for Dotted Line started years before I officially formed the company. I grew up in a family of small business owners. My grandfather, who owned an oil and gas company in a rural part of Virginia, held strong beliefs around business purpose and community enhancement, and I grew up with conversation about the subjects taking place frequently in my home.
I have often written and spoken about the impact his funeral had and how it shaped me as a leader. I have vivid memories of listening to the hundreds of attendees share stories about how he used his business, leadership, and resources to enrich their lives. Those stories, coupled with the behavior I bore witness to, are like a north star for me and how I run Dotted Line.
In the six years since the company’s inception, our team has grown and I’ve experienced my own opportunities for learning, personal growth, and leadership. Much of that type of growth starts with small habits. For me, moving toward better starts with better management of my time and the way I think.
Learning to manage stressors and distractions.
Throughout the day, distractions come up—childcare questions, team member challenges, sales prospect requests—so it’s important to have a system in place to put them aside for the moment and focus on the task at hand. I do that by allocating time in my schedule to work through just those sorts of challenges. And because the time is already on my calendar, I know they won’t build up and become a source of stress.
Setting intentions at the start of every day.
I used to think this was hokey, but now I’m hooked. Spending five to 10 minutes thinking through my schedule at the start of every day also helps me maintain perspective. I think through the ways I can be bold, drive excellence, and show up for those around me. I also jot down some of my responses to these themes. At the end of the day, I look back to see what progress (or sometimes lack of progress) I made.
Making time to think and dream big.
This is such a big one that people miss! It gives me a future to look forward to and keeps me energized in my work as I know I’m moving toward bigger, better things ahead. At Dotted Line, when we’ve looked to launch a new program or venture, this dedicated time has given me the space to think through all the possibilities without being interrupted.
When things feel out of control (like in a pandemic) or if I feel stuck (often because I’ve gotten caught up in things that aren’t part of the big picture), it’s hard to focus on moving toward better. I have found that this time at home the last few weeks can eat me up if I don’t maintain a focus on my small habits. So if you’re looking for ways to make the most of our current situation, I encourage you to think about one or two small habits you can start today that could have a lasting impact, far beyond a pandemic.