Commercial Currents: 6 Business Habits to Start in 2020

Craig Olson|Claire Donnelly
Posted 2020-01-22

Since this month is full of New Year’s resolutions, Craig Olson and Claire Donnelly from the Island Institute’s Small Business team put together a list of six business habits they would like to start—or break—in 2020.

What is a habit and how long does it take to form one?

Simply defined, a habit is any regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up. According to a study done by University College London, on average, it takes more than two months before a new behavior becomes automatic—66 days to be exact—and can vary widely (18-254 days) depending on the behavior, the person, and the circumstances.

How can creating habits help your business?

Habits are an undeniable part of life, and much of our behavior comes from the habits we use on a daily basis. From the way we think, feel, and act, our habits have a huge impact on our potential for success. So, at the start this new year, take a moment to think about your business and the habits you might want to break or start in order to make it more successful—just be patient and stay motivated to reach your goals.

And as far as our list goes, can you tell which habits are Craig’s and which ones are Claire’s?

Habit #1: Reconcile bank and credit card statements at the beginning of each month

With any small business it is crucial to know where the money goes each month. In the run-up to the holidays or any busy time in the business cycle, things can fall through the cracks. There’s no better way to understand your business and its cash flow than by reviewing those statements.

Habit #2: Networking—in a non-gross way

To some, networking is their least favorite word in business, but it doesn’t have to be. Rather than thinking of it as awkwardly introducing yourself to people at conferences, just think about it as seeking out individuals with similar interests as your own. Look at it as making connections to enrich your business and life, rather than just a ladder-climbing technique.

Habit #3: Physically file all pending bills in one paper folder

Bills come in, they are put on your desk, something gets put on top of them, the desk doesn’t get straightened, and then suddenly you are behind on payment to a supplier.  Make it easy—grab a manila folder and write in big bold letters on the cover, “BILLS.” Keep it on your desk or wherever you can access it easily.

Habit #4: Respond to all email inquiries before leaving for the day

You may not have the time to respond in full to every email, answer every question, or send that estimate before the end of the day; however, acknowledging your receipt of the email and telling the sender you will get back to them soon will go a long way with your customer relations.

Habit #5: Set hours for being “at work”

When you run your own business, it’s easy to always be “on”—checking your emails on your phone at all hours, etc. It’s super important to try to set a healthy work/life balance—for both the health of your business and your own mental health.

Habit #6: Get out of your own way

Be self-aware enough to know when you are the thing holding your business back, and know when to seek outside help or find the mentorship you need to move things forward.

Looking for more advice on creating good habits in business? Check out the Fast Company Podcast, “Secrets Of The Most Productive People.”

What We Do

The Island Institute’s Small Business Team provides business and financial planning to help entrepreneurs navigate the complexities of starting and growing a business. For more information on our small business support services, feel free to contact Craig Olson or Claire Donnelly

Commercial Currents is an email and blog newsletter that shares buoyant stories from Maine’s island and coastal communities about economic stability and resilience. To find archived editions, go to

Know someone who’d enjoy these emails? Subscribe here.