When it comes to achievement and success, “Discipline” is the word that most fully encapsulates its requirements. After all, in order to achieve any type of success or accomplishment, one must consistently, over a long period of time, do the right things over and over again, no matter how they feel at that time.
An easy example is an exercise. Every year, people make resolutions to spend more time in the gym to lose weight, and every January, the gyms are jammed packed. And just like clockwork, come February, those same gyms are nearly empty save for only a few disciplined people. Who achieves their New Years Resolution and who doesn’t is largely determined by who was disciplined enough to stay in the gym past January and who gave up because they “had better things to do”.
Here, we’ve assembled 11 daily habits that successful executives say were vital in helping them get ahead. Remember that, while reading this list and making a decision is great, it is only in following through with the discipline to see it through that will make it worthwhile.
Plan Out Your Day & Set Priorities
First things first, you’re going to have to get a calendar or a time-management system. Everyone on the planet has the same 24 hours to use, yet why is it that successful people always manage to do more than those that aren’t successful? The answer is simple. All successful people plan out their days and hold themselves accountable. They make sure that they are spending their time on things that will help them achieve success and move them closer to their goals rather than on various distractions and short-term pleasures.
Some successful executives like Nicole Smith (founder and CEO of Flytographer) are obsessed with their calendar, actually planning out every second of the day to ensure that they don’t get caught up in answering emails or being too distracted on nonessential things. And while you may not need to be that intense at the beginning, you can start off by taking a few minutes at the start or end of the day to plan out exactly what you want it to be like.
The second aspect of planning out your day is to set priorities. While it is very important to map out what your actions will be for the day, it’s just as important that you have a target to hit and a goal to achieve as well. Hitting these relatively small accomplishments will keep you energized and motivated throughout the day as you see, in real-time, that you are getting closer and closer to achieving your ultimate desire.
These priorities don’t have to be incredibly difficult to achieve. Instead, so long as they are getting you closer to your end goal, make them just challenging enough that you’ll have to expand. This way you’re always doing a little better today than you were yesterday.
Make this a part of your morning routine every day and, with an added bit of discipline, you’ll see massive results in no time.
Include Meditation in Your Day
While it may certainly sound a bit “new age”, many successful execs are swearing by the powerful effects of meditation and what it’s doing for them in their careers and daily lives. Successful individuals like Jay Roberts (CEO and founder of Domino) spend at least 10 minutes every morning meditating in order to help focus them on what they want to accomplish in their business as well as their personal lives. The mind is a powerful tool that, when focused, can propel you towards massive bounds of success in relatively short periods of time.
This meditation does not have to be sitting in stillness in your house. For those that are partial to physical sports or intense activities, this is also an excellent method of meditation as well. As the sport requires focus and skill in order to perform, they allow you to quiet your mind and be in the moment. Both methods will excel at setting you up for success and improving your overall performance.
Michael Jordan once said, “You must expect great things of yourself before you can do them” and that is very much the truth. Through meditation and mental focus, you can direct your attention on the most important aspects of the day to ensure you hit them with gusto and enthusiasm.
The saying has often been said, and it’s true, “Leaders are always Readers”. Without question, virtually all successful people make it a habit to be well-informed through reading and gathering information. Reading has a ton of powerful effects and should be done routinely almost every day. Not only is it good to read books in your selected field, but also those that aren’t.
Reading books can help calm the mind and broaden your perspective so that you are more well-informed on a number of different matters and issues. Start reading today and see if, in only a few weeks, you are dramatically closer to hitting your goals.
Never Leave Emails Unread
Especially for those in the workspace, it’s important to always operate with a cleared inbox by the end of the day. Leaving with an empty or largely empty inbox by the end of the day will ultimately result in you feeling accomplished for the day. Not only that, but it ultimately results in a more organized and less cluttered work situation.
Anant Kale (founder and CEO of AppZen), and many others, make a point of zeroing out their inbox every day. In his case, Anant has a 4-step process that he applies to every email that he gets.
- When getting an email, he will respond to it right away if it needs a response from him
- If it requires additional time on his end to respond, he will send an acknowledgment to them before sending a proper response later (usually within 24 hours)
- If it does not meet the first or second scenario, he will simply not respond to it
- Whenever getting a topic that he is not interested in, he will set up an auto-delete in order to not waste time
By dealing with your emails, you not only keep yourself organized but also fully productive. When planning out your day, make sure that you set aside some time to clear out your emails every day so that you resolve this dilemma for good and don’t let it get too out of control.
Get the Ball Rolling Early
Another morning routine that highly successful people engage in every day, is simply starting the day off earlier than everyone else. As stated earlier, everyone has 24 hours in a day yet successful people find a way to do more in their 24 hours than the average person. One of those reasons is that they start their day off earlier and thus, as a result, have more of those hours to use.
It’s true when they say that the morning sets the tone for the day. If you start off the day hitting the snooze button on the alarm and sleeping in an extra hour or two, you are simply going to be not as productive as someone that got up an hour earlier. Tom Buiocchi (executive director and CEO of ServiceChannel) starts his typical day with a cup of coffee while answering some outstanding emails, posting on LinkedIn, catching up on current events in the news, checking his calendar, and sending off some questions or requests from the previous night. After that, he gets ready to head to work, knowing that he’s already started the ball rolling before even stepping foot in the office.
Even on the commute to work, you can be maximizing your time and pushing things forward. Lisa Shields (founder and CEO of FI. Span) makes the most out of her commute time by planning and thinking. Several times a week, she will either jog or ride her bike to work in order to give her mind space to decompress over the various problems and dilemmas at the office. She’s noted that many ideas that come to her during her commutes are the basis for the company’s direction it will take later that next week or so.
Avoid Meetings and Don’t Allow Briefings
Depending on your position in the workspace, this may be unavoidable. However, if you have the option, consider limiting the number of meetings you are involved in as well as the number of briefings you have to go to, particularly those that are mainly recaps, incomplete information, or information that is known by everyone in the room. While it may feel and seem like you are accomplishing a lot by going to these meetings, the reality is that you are actually wasting much more time than if you’d simply continued working.
If you are going to go to a meeting or briefing, try to find out if a portion of the time will be spent challenging or presenting ideas rather than simply staring at a Powerpoint.
Keep Up with things Outside Your Field
Just as it is highly important that you are always current with things in your area of focus, it is also important to be kept abreast of things outside your specific field as well. While it may seem counterintuitive to spend time on outside information, in reality, you are broadening your pool of knowledge and gaining new insights from differing perspectives.
Christine Heckart (CEO of Scalyr) says that she has a goal of building an external context for her business every day. She does this by spending between 30 and 45 minutes each day reviewing what is happening in the world outside of her industry. Sources such as NPR, BBC World News, and CNBC are all excellent and are great for focusing on broad trends.
Eat Dinner As a Family
An important practice to implement is setting aside time from work for relaxing activities. While eating dinner as a family is certainly a relaxing activity you can perform, that isn’t the only option. By using good priority and time management, you can carve out a time meant specifically for time away from work all while making yourself ultimately more productive in your workspace as a result.
Kim Tabac (CPO of League) says that he ensures that his dinner time with his family is completely uninterrupted, no matter what is going on at work. The reason for this is that, by knowing he has an hour set aside for his family, he can be much more fully present at his work. Take that hour or so a day and designate it to something outside the office. This ensures you are not only alieving any potential stress or work fatigue but will give you something worth working towards in the day.
Turn Your Phone Off Before Bed
Another vital success habit that seems counterintuitive on the surface, is putting your phone away before bed. For many, this may seem confusing as one would imagine that working well into the night is something that highly successful people do often. And while this is certainly true for some, for the vast majority, they understand the importance of giving their mind a rest and disconnecting from their work.
Proactively Manage Decision Fatigue
Whether you know it or not, humans can be quite terrible at managing or recognizing the impact of decision fatigue. This is the tendency to ultimately make worse choices the longer one goes of making decisions in a sitting. Basically, as the day progresses, you will naturally find yourself making choices and decisions that you normally may not have had you been less mentally exhausted.
In order to remedy this, many highly successful people move their most important meetings and decisions to midmorning where they are at their most alert. Not only that, but many will opt to limit the number of overall decisions they make after lunch.
Finally, to ensure your mental abilities are at their strongest, make a point of simply reducing the number of decisions you have to make overall by opting for others to be simply routine. For example, rather than leaving it as a decision as to whether you are going to work out at a certain time, or drive a certain route, simply schedule it in as a part of your daily routine. This actually alleviates decision-making processing power in your mind. Valuable processing power that can be used for other things.
Smile and Talk to Strangers
Though it may seem unimportant, simply smiling and talking to others is another great way to increase your overall productivity and help you achieve your goals and dreams. By greeting others and having a short conversation, even only 5-10 minutes, you are able to take a step back and take a look at the larger picture. This will help you in your work endeavors as it allows you to better focus and prioritize what is happening in your own life.
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