Have you ever wondered what’s behind the success of some of the world’s most iconic leaders? It doesn’t take much to find articles about the daily routines of top executives, politicians, and celebrities — all spawned from a desire to know what makes them different from everyone else, in hopes of uncovering the secret to their accomplishments.
The truth is, though, most of those “secrets” are common knowledge. Some are even common sense. And others are backed up by plenty of research. If you are looking for ways to increase your own success, all you need to do is look at the habits and rituals of these people, and start applying them to your life.
Wake Up Early
Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, wakes up at 3:45 a.m. GE’s CEO Jeff Immelt wakes up at 5:30. PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi is up by 4 a.m. most days and in the office by 7. — There’s no shortage of anecdotes from some of the world’s most successful people about how starting their day early is crucial to their routine and their success.
But there’s also some science to back up the fact that morning people are more likely to succeed, from achieving higher grades in school to being better at long-term planning.
Waking up early is often fundamental to being able to engage in many of the other activities that can help you achieve more: While the rest of the world still slumbers, those quiet morning hours are the best opportunity for you to prepare for the day ahead, a distraction-free time to read, work, exercise, meditate, or even just make a real breakfast.
Unfortunately, getting up earlier isn’t just a matter of setting an earlier alarm each day. Your body’s natural rhythm is in part determined by genetics as well as circumstance. And everyone needs a different amount of sleep each night for optimal performance.
That’s not to say you can’t change your sleep schedule. You can, with a bit of effort. You’ll just have to experiment a little to find the right process that works. WebMD has some tricks and tips to modify your sleep schedule.
Meditation is a great coping mechanism, a way to clear your mind when you’re overwhelmed. But there’s no reason you should resort to meditation only when things get rough: Used daily, meditation is a great way to up your focus and help you achieve more on a regular basis. And once again, you’ll find a long list of iconic executives who have adopted the practice, from Ray Dalio, the CEO of the world’s largest hedge fund, to Oprah.
Meditation can be a difficult practice to adopt — you might feel a bit silly at first. But when you finally develop the knack for it, you’ll find yourself better able to eliminate distractions, think long-term and big-picture, and keep your stress levels under control.
Before you sit down to try meditating for the first time, it’s a good idea to read up on the theory and how to practice meditation correctly. UCLA has a list of guided meditations to help you learn the practice. ZenHabits.net has another helpful guide to master meditation as well.
Legendary investor and billionaire Warren Buffett spends about 80% of his day reading. Financial reports, newspapers, books — he reads it all. And he isn’t the only one to spend part of his day reading, either.
One of the most oft-quoted tips and tricks for success (Including one advocated by Brian Tracy) is reading: an hour per day, a book a week, 50 books a year.
You can’t expect to stay sharp if you don’t invest the time to keep up on the latest trends and changes in your field, or learn new skills when they become relevant to your work and interests. Simply put, reading is the best way to keep your mind sharp, to learn new skills, and keep up to date on developments in your field.
Technology makes it easier than ever to keep your finger on the pulse of your industry, from e-reader apps to RSS feeds and content aggregating apps like Flipboard. You can assemble articles from your favorite sources to peruse at your leisure and uncover interesting new content at the same time.
Frits van Paasschen, the former CEO of Starwood Hotels & Resorts, famously started his workday with a 10-mile run, and while that is a bit extreme for many people, there are no ifs, ands, or buts about it: Exercise is crucial to living a long, healthy. Adding exercise to your daily routine is a great way to focus and energize yourself, not to mention the long-term physical and mental health benefits. Exercise can also help you reduce stress at work, think more creatively, and make you more efficient.
Many other successful people use the early morning hours to get their workouts in, but it’s not uncommon to add in a lunchtime workout routine, either. Find what works best for you, but make sure you fit a workout into your schedule somehow.
Without a long-term goal, you have nothing to work toward. Many people treat the idea of a job as something to be tolerated — a necessary evil, the “9-to-5 grind” — and they can’t envision going beyond that. But when you have long-term goals and dreams, every day is an opportunity to improve your life, and a step toward accomplishing those goals. Ask yourself: what is it that you really want to do with your life? What do you want to accomplish, and how can you get to that point? Make a long-term plan to get you there, breaking it down into smaller blocks of time where you’ll outline specific actions. Need help to get started? Here’s a great resource.
Set Daily Goals
The CEO of American Express, Kenneth Chennault, writes down at the end of the night 3 things he wants to accomplish the next day. It’s good advice, too: If you don’t start your day with a plan, it is far too easy to find yourself bouncing from one task to the next without ever accomplishing anything. Small goals pave the way to achieving larger ones, as well. So figure out what you need to achieve each day and do it.
The idea of keeping a journal (or a diary) can often seem like something reserved for teenagers, novelists and poets. But writing daily has a lot of value for anyone — it is a powerful way to process your thoughts, feelings, and concerns, as well as outline your goals and get clarity on the issues that are weighing on your conscience. The Morning Miracle creator, Hal Elrod, relies on journaling a core element of his transformative program. There’s also a bit of promising evidence suggesting that journaling regularly can help people perform better at work.
Making changes to your routine is never easy — but if you stick to these practices regularly, you’ll see that they become habits that will further your growth and help you achieve greater levels of success. Is it time to take action and start improving your life?