Routines and Habits of Successful People

Routines and Habits of Successful People

A lot of people feel bad about themselves at the end of the day because they didn’t get enough accomplished.  And, in fact, many people believe that there is something “special” about high performers who always seem to be ahead of the curve.  Regardless of what your perceived issue may be (brain fog, inability to think creatively, distractions from the kids, etc…), the truth is that the famous and highly successful people are not really that different from you.  Except perhaps in that they have found a way to establish and cement certain routines that help them to be super productive. And it’s not magic.

The ”productivity” industry is booming right now because everyone seemingly feels like they can’t get enough done.  There is a huge demand for productivity consultants, apps and other tips, tricks and tactics.  However, it’s really just about good habits.  It’s about incorporating what works for you into your day, in such a way that it is structured for efficiency and productivity.

According to the scientific literature, as your daily habits and routines become customary, you will develop a balance between focused working hours and all the things you need to do in your personal life. And as this balance develops, it will decrease stress, while promoting a sense of accomplishment and self-worth, and also allowing for more unstructured time to spend with your family on fun activities.

Habit Formation

A habit is a behavior that has been repeated so regularly that it becomes automatic. You probably already have many habits like brushing your teeth or setting out your work clothes the night before. According to different studies, the average time it takes for a habit to become automatic is 66 days, and it can range up to 250 days.

Habits are made up of 3 parts:  a cue, a behavior, and a reward. The cue is what tells your brain to do the behavior, and the longer the time period, the more automatic it becomes.

An MIT study showed that if your brain “likes” the habit, it experiences a sense of reward.  And this reward can then make the habit automatic.

Some habits are hard to establish, but if it’s important, it’s worth taking the time to properly establish the cue, the behavior and the reward.  According to Ben Greenfield, “habits provide structure to your day and eliminate the time and stress required to plan the day ahead. This provides direction to your day so that you can move seamlessly from task to task and instills a sense of ownership.”

Personally, I think early morning and nightly routines are most beneficial because they set you up for a great day ahead.  They allow you to prioritize self-care / health which is great for morning routines because that is when energy and willpower are at their highest.  Research conducted at the University of Southern California suggests that “when it comes to doing cognitive work, most adults perform best in the late morning.” So the nightly and early morning routines that are setting you up for the most productive day possible are supported by scientific evidence.

Routines of highly successful people

Here are some examples. You’ll notice that not every highly successful person does the same things.  In fact, some routines are a bit strange. The point is that they have routines, and this in turn, helps them to stay focused.  The truth is that you’d be hard-pressed to find any highly successful person who doesn’t have some kind of relatively structured daily routine.

Winston Churchill

  • 7:30am-11:00am – wake-up, read several newspapers and dictate to secretary
  • 11:00am – bathe, go for a walk, settle into work
  • 1:00pm – 3:00pm – lunch, then work
  • 5:00pm – 30 minute nap
  • 5:30pm – dinner, then socializing
  • 12 midnight – 1 hour of reading before bed

Steve Jobs

  • Upon waking in the morning, he re-evaluated his work and desires….every day.  He would look at himself in the mirror and ask, “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today.”  And then he would act on it.

Benjamin Franklin

  • 4:00am – wake, wash, eat breakfast and contemplate what to do for the day
  • 8:00-12:00 – work
  • 12:00-1:00 – lunch, while reading
  • 5:00 – conclude work, eat dinner and clean, listen to music and reflect on the day
  • 10:00 – bed

Practical Morning Suggestions

  • Take resting pulse rate.  Over time, you will learn what “your normal” is and variances to your normal can be an indicator of overtraining or illness coming on.
  • Journaling can be very powerful for some people.  Simply write what you are grateful for.  Living a life of gratefulness is awesome.
  • Movement.  Not necessarily a full-on workout, which is good for some, but for others light movement in the early morning is great for your health.  Yoga, tai chi, stretching, or a simple walk are all great.
  • Say “I love you” to your loved ones.  Simple right?  But do you do it enough?

Routines and habits are important and it’s worth taking the time to develop them.  You’ll be more at peace with yourself and happier, while being more productive.  The only thing that I would suggest is to not adopt the morning routine of our 2nd President.  When John Adams was in office, he would skinny dip in the Potomac River every morning!!

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