Daily Habits to Make You Happy and Successful
Originally published: 01.01.16 by Pete Grasso
Ensure your business and your life are on the right track for the New Year
Successful HVACR contractors aren't successful by accident. They work hard to achieve that prosperity on a daily basis and everything they do, they do for a reason.
Whether it's getting up early, making sure they spend time with family or simply conducting meetings a certain way, successful contractors all have certain habits that contribute directly to the betterment of their companies.
A custom, a practice, a routine — whatever you want to call it, the things you do ona daily basis effect every aspect of your life and the lives of the people around you. Understanding why you do certain things (and why you don't do others) is important to developing those daily rituals.
"It's not what you do, it's why you do it," says Ray Isaac, president of Isaac Heating & Air Conditioning in Rochester, N.Y. "If you're just going through the motions on a habit, that's not as good as knowing why you do that habit in the first place."
Ten years ago, Isaac's company decided to change the way they did things. Management "tore apart" the company and evaluated everything they did and asked why.
"We didn't know it at the time, but we found the most important thing we cared about was creating enjoyable experience," Isaac says. "It comes down to a passion for the organization and it's mission, and every habit you have works toward that."
Isaac isn't unique in how he views the reasoning behind his daily habits. Many successful contractors and business owners focus their efforts on achieving success one habit at a time.
Waking up early is a fairly common habit among successful people. There's something about the quiet morning hours that seems to help when focusing on the day ahead.
"I usually wake up between 4 and 5 a.m. and the first thing I do is check the weather," says Winston Hancock, owner of Gilman Heating and Cooling in Ashland, Va. "If the weather is nice, I go outside and take a walk around the house."
Hancock says this practice helps him clear his mind as he enjoys the sound of the birds at first light.
"I like to hear my neighbor's air conditioner running, I like to hear my air conditioner running … I like to hear whatever else is going on out there," he says.
Isaac too is an early riser; typically up at 4:30 a.m. and at the gym by 5.
"I like to be up and at it before anyone else, but I also don't want to forget about myself," Isaac says. "That gym time is all about me."
Isaac does check his email in the morning, as a way to clear the slate so he can focus on his workout.
"People sometimes wonder why I'm sending them an email at 4:45 a.m.," he says. "If I don't respond right away or send it then, I'll think about it the whole time I'm at the gym and won't get a good workout."
Checking email throughout the day, especially in the morning, is a habit most find important to staying on top of the business.
Wendy Staso, president of Huckestein Mechanical Services in Duquesne, Pa., also reads through her email in the morning before leaving for the office, ensuring she's on top of anything that happened between when she went to bed and when she wakes up.
"The first thing I do, however, is read my prayer book and get my head situated for the day," Staso says. "My faith is important to me, so I start my day talking to God."
Staso continues her preparation for the day by making a mental list of everything she needs to accomplish that day. When she arrives at the office and assesses what's happening, she combines that mental list with a written list of things that absolutely need to get done.
While Staso begins her day with prayer and Hancock enjoys the peaceful environment outside his home, Isaac also does something that helps keep things in perspective.
"The first thing I do every morning is remind myself it's only heating and air conditioning," he says. "We're not creating world peace, solving world hunger or curing cancer — those are the things that matter."
First to the Office
Isaac continues his pre-work relaxation by listening to books on tape during his morning commute — whether a business book such as "Good to Great" (his favorite) or something on American history.
"Listening to books calms me down," he says. "Sometimes, I'll sit in the parking lot for five minutes until it gets to end of the chapter. Talk about relaxing yourself when you get in to work."
In addition, Isaac says it gives him something different to talk about with employees and customers rather than the disingenuous topic of the weather.
"Most people have great intention when they leave home, but so much can happen on that drive in to get you all wound up," he says.
Staso also uses her morning commute time to stay relaxed — but has had to change her habit of listening to the news to keep it calm.
"Lately, listening to the news has gotten me worked up by the time I got to the office," she says. "So now I listen to music, and that helps get me in the right frame of mind when I get there."
Unlike Isaac and Staso, whose commutes takes about 15 minutes, Hancock is lucky enough to live three minutes away from the office — and when he gets there, he makes a habit of walking around the building like he does at home.
"First, I put on a pot of coffee then I walk around the building," he says. "I get there about an hour before anyone else and I'm able to get a lot done in that hour alone."
Once his employees do start arriving, Hancock is sure to take a break to greet his team for the day.
"I like to play cheerleader for everyone else when they start their day, but I try not to get in the way," he says. "As a leader, you have to be careful not to insert yourself too much into a system you created to work without you."
Staso also makes a point of interacting with all her employees on a daily basis, even if it's simply asking them how they're doing, as does Isaac, who gets out of his truck each day with the same battle cry: "It's show time!"
"The first thing I do when I get there is walk around and talk to everyone," he says. "Very rarely are those conversations focused around business."
Instead, Isaac uses his positive and friendly attitude to motivate his employees, who in turn start the day off with a positive attitude.
The Daily Grind
Beginning the day on a positive note, having friendly conversations with employees and ensuring your thoughts are organized leads to a productive day — especially when it comes to meetings.
"I like meetings to be targeted and short," Staso says. "Meetings need to have a purpose."
Hancock agrees, and one way he ensures meeting success is to let his people run their own meetings, which can be a difficult habit to enact.
"It's hard not to be the point person in a meeting," he says. "But if someone else calls a meeting or I delegate it to someone, then they're the point person and they're responsible for the meeting. I let them take charge. I'll sit in the back and participate like everyone else."
Hancock believes it's important when empowering employees to also stand by them when they fail.
"When there is failure, you never point out whose fault it is," he says. "You point to the problem and how to fix it."
Having confidence in and empowering their team is essential to the success of many business owners.
"You don't want to have to put out fires all day long … that's busy work," Isaac says. "Identify what's urgent and what's most important. The urgent stuff takes care of itself when you focus on what's important."
Staso subscribes to this this line of thinking as well, which is why she's made it a habit to set aside an hour every day to work on her business instead of just in her business.
"I have a living strategic business plan, instead of one that simply sits on the shelf that I never look at," she says. "I treat my plan and my organization as a work in progress, slowly inching ourselves toward what I think is ideal.
"I work on this every day, otherwise we'll just continue to be on the hamster wheel doing the same thing in five years that we do today."
De-stressing in the Evening
For many contractors, evening time is family time. A time to relax and unwind — and each has his or her own way of getting rid of the stress of the day.
"Hanging around positive people makes it easier," Hancock says. "If you can associate yourself with powerful and positive people — whatever they do, as long as they're positive — it helps you get away from the daily drag and the things that get you down."
For Hancock, that often means hanging out with his fishing buddies.
"It's not so much the time on the water fishing, as it is the whole experience," he says. "Thinking about fishing, researching and buying the latest gear … as well as the people."
And just because he's away from the office doesn't mean he forgets about work. In fact, many successful business owners have a habit of "talking shop" when they're away from work.
"Birds of a feather flock together … I hang out with people who do what I do, so we talk shop when we're together," Hancock says. "We went on a fishing trip recently and out of the six hours out on the boat, we probably talked shop for a good hour … what kind of insurance to buy, how to conduct a meeting or a meeting that went south on us."
When Staso is at home, she enjoys spending time with her husband outside, relaxing. But she also doesn't leave work at work.
"My son has come into the business and my husband owns his own company, so I do talk shop away from the office and use my husband as a sounding board," she says. "We talk shop more than I would like to, but we're working on getting away from that because we found it makes us too tired. We couldn't come to work fresh the next day."
Staso says she tries not to do much work in the evenings, even though she's plugged in 24/7.
"My whole management team — we try to respect each other's evening time because we start so early in the morning," she says. "Evening time is family time, but I do check email right up until I go to bed."
Isaac prepares for the next day by looking at his calendar and making sure there are no unread emails in his inbox.
"I'm Type A, so I'm always on top of things," he says. "That little red circle on the app icon with the number in it bothers me, so I always read my emails."
Attitude is Everything
Good habits feed off of a good attitude. Isaac believes your habits will reinforce your beliefs and it will take time to get the results you want.
"When I come in each day, I love being here. I love to be at work," Isaac says. "I shovel the walk in the morning and pick up garbage, if not for any other reason than I'm not paying my employees to do those things. I'm paying them to install furnaces."
If you don't love what you do, your employees notice. As a leader, what you do makes a big impression on those around you.
"You can't force those habits … it comes naturally," Isaac says. "Those aren't checklist habits. Those habits come out of a certain mindset. It's easy to implement and adopt good habits when you know why you're doing them."
Hancock says he thinks every day about what he has to do to be successful.
"Success, a lot of times is measured by money, and it's not," he says. "When you get stuck in a trap of comparing yourself to others, you cannot succeed. I decided a long time ago to stop looking at things that way.
Hancock says he tends to remove himself from negative conversations, focusing instead on what's truly going to make him happy. He also advises, when it comes to implementing positive habits, to pick battles large enough to matter, but small enough to win.
"Can you live with it, or not? What's the bigger picture? What's more important?" he says. "Don't let one little thing wrong overshadow everything that's good."
Finally, Staso says it's important to stay true to your conviction.
"You have to pick the habits you think are best for you, then focus like a laser beam to ensure you do them, no matter what's going on in the world," she says. "Pick the life affirming practices that are best for you, and do them."