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The Top 3 Habits of Successful People

Habits of Successful People

Habits of Successful People

When it comes down to it, there are three key habits of successful people that set them apart. Three main habits (plus one) that allow certain people to reach the top of their respective fields.  Those habits are maintaining a detailed schedule, producing positive interactions, and prioritizing effectively.  But to do those things, it’s not about taking three large actions, rather, it’s about implementing a series of much smaller habits.  Much of the information on these habits is Tom Corley’s, “Rich Habits.” While writing the book he spent five years getting to know the wealthy and poor alike, to find out how their habits differed.  Corley will tell you, “These habits are like snowflakes — they build up, and then you have an avalanche of success.” So what are the “snowflakes”… what are the habits of successful people?


3 Habits of Successful People: #1 – Successful people maintain a detailed schedule and stick to it!


Habits of Successful People - Scheduling

Stop hitting that snooze button and join the “5 am Club”

As the old saying goes, “the early bird gets the worm.”  Corley’s study found that almost 50% of self-made millionaires woke up a minimum of three hours before their workday started.  Corley says, “Getting up at five in the morning to tackle the top three things you want to accomplish in your day allows you to regain control of your life. It gives you a sense of confidence that you, indeed, direct your life.”  Adjusting your sleep schedule and joining the “5 am club” isn’t easy. But, it will drastically change the way you feel at the end of the day. Having trouble getting started? Check out these “tips for becoming a morning person*”

Make a detailed plan before you take your first step

Knowing exactly what you need to accomplish during the day will prevent you from taking on too many tasks or running out of time as the day goes on and the multitude of unexpected hiccups occur.  Corley found that 81% of self-made millionaires maintained a daily to-do list. Of those people who maintained a daily to-do list, 67% of them completed the majority of that list (70% or more) daily.  Simply put, sticking to a well thought out daily plan will help to combat the feeling of being overwhelmed. So many of the habits of successful people revolve around detailed planning.

Stick to the schedule and avoid wasteful meetings

A Salary.com study of 3200 employees and entrepreneurs shows that 47% of people find attending too many meetings to be their biggest time waster at work.  A different study shows that 37% of employee time is spent in meetings, with people in management attending more than 60 meetings per month. The study also reported that over 70% of people brought other work to their meetings and estimated between 25% and 50% of time spent in meetings being wasted.  Highly successful individuals understand the amount of time that they can waste on meetings. So, they only attend the truly important meetings and follow the meeting schedule adamantly.

Make an email schedule and stick to it

A 2012 study found that people spend 28% of their time at work answering emails.  While email is an extremely important tool and there are messages that you need to receive immediately, spending too much time attending to your email inbox will greatly diminish your productivity.  Highly productive people use a variety of tools to manage their emails effectively. You can use different tools to ensure you only receive notifications from high-priority senders during specific times. Also, to ensure your other contacts don’t fret while waiting on a response, it’s simple to set up an autoresponder that will let them know the times at which you respond to emails.

Master the art of saying No

It’s human nature to feel inclined to help others, but, it’s important to have a limit.  A study conducted by the University of California reports that people who have difficulty saying no are generally more stressed and prone to burnout or even depression. That’s because they’re constantly taking on more work than they can possibly handle. So “yes,” said with the best intentions, ends with you letting someone down and having to suffer the consequences.  There are many techniques people can use to get better at saying no when they need to. However, what it really boils down to is prioritization. Like anything, saying no is also something that becomes easier with time and practices, like most of the habits of successful people.


3 Habits of Successful People: #2 – Successful people produce positive interactions.

Habits of Successful People - Interactions

Surround yourself with success and it’s sure to rub off

Corley’s study found that 86% of wealthy people preferred to associate with successful individuals while 96% of poor people preferred the company of others who were struggling. Corley says, “You are only as successful as those you frequently associate with. The rich are always on the lookout for individuals who are goal-oriented, optimistic, enthusiastic, and who have an overall positive mental outlook.”  This goes in hand with a common saying, “If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re probably in the wrong room.” To reach your full potential, you need to surround yourself with individuals who will help you grow instead of putting a negative spin on your success.

The right mentor is more valuable than any class

Corley will tell you, “Finding a mentor puts you on the fast track to wealth accumulation.” Among those surveyed who had a mentor, 93% of them attributed their success directly to that person.  He goes on to explain that a good mentor does more than teach you the basics. A quality mentor influences every aspect of your business life and helps you correct mistakes before you’ve even become aware that you’re making them.  To put it simply, someone has made all of the mistakes that you’re about to. You should learn from them.

Seek out feedback and love the critics

This point really plays off the last one. It’s extremely important that you seek feedback on your business practices. Even… or perhaps especially at the best of times, it’s easy to fall under the assumption that we’re doing everything right. However, innovation leads to success, stagnation leads to demise.  Experienced writers know, a fresh set of eyes will reveal issues and new possibilities in even the most well-written text. The same rule applies to business practices. If you get a “fresh set of eyes” on the decisions you make, they will help you to address mistakes you didn’t even know that you were making. Hopefully, before they’ve caused any real damage.

Corley states, “Fear of criticism is the reason we do not seek feedback from others, but feedback is essential to learning what is working and what isn’t working. Feedback helps you understand if you are on the right track. Feedback criticism, good or bad, is a crucial element for learning and growth.”  Simply put, even destructive criticism doesn’t have to have a negative effect on you. It’s what you choose to do with that information that counts.

Help others help you

Corley writes, “Helping other success-minded people move forward in achieving their goals and dreams helps you succeed,” but, he then goes on to state, “You don’t want to give help to anyone and everyone, you want to focus on helping only those who are pursuing success, are optimistic, goal-oriented, positive, and uplifting.”  The entire statement is true to a point, when you help those around you achieve the success they’ll be more than happy to return the favor. However, giving money and more importantly time, to help those who are less fortunate in your community will help you become a more successful human being, all around.  While there’s the obvious benefit of positive media exposure from doing charity work, the insight it will give you into your community and the struggles it faces is arguably more valuable.

Associating with successful people is a key aspect of becoming successful. However, remaining in touch with the broader population is a key aspect of remaining successful.

Control your emotions or they’ll dictate your life

For business, your mental health is arguably more important than your physical health. Corley found that 94% of wealthy individuals filtered their emotions. In other words, they keep themselves in check publicly and vent their frustrations to the correct sources.  Everyone gets frustrated and feels overwhelmed from time to time. The difference in the habits of successful people when dealing with their emotions is discretion. 94% of successful individuals in Corley’s study relieved their stresses by confiding in a trusted source like a life coach, therapist, mentor, or trusted confidant. Conversely, 69% of unsuccessful people wore their emotions on their sleeves and confessed them completely to whoever was around.  We’re all confronted by problems, stressors, and frustrations in life. The difference between the rich and the poor is how they deal with them.


3 Habits of Successful People: #3 – Successful people prioritize effectively.

Habits of Successful People - Priorities

First thing’s first

Successful individuals do the most important/hardest thing they have to do that day first, often times before the rest of us get out of bed.  “Successful people understand that procrastination impairs quality; creates dissatisfied employers, customers or clients; and damages other nonbusiness relationships.” Says Corley.  Doing the hardest thing on your list first is a combination win. You’re not just finished the difficult task. Instead, you’re also left with a feeling of satisfaction and extra motivation that will carry on throughout the day.  The habits of successful people work in harmony and build positive momentum. What kind of momentum are your habits providing?

Multitasking is the most efficient way to get nothing done

A study done by Stanford University found that multitaskers couldn’t focus as long or switch tasks as effectively as those who prefer to accomplish one task at a time.  Likewise, a joint study by the University of California and Humboldt University in Germany found that it takes the average person up to 25 minutes to fully regain focus on the task at hand once they become distracted.  The fact of the matter is, humans, function better when focusing on one task at a time. To paraphrase a statement made by Suzanne Gelb in a similar article about the habits of successful people, when you see an Olympic level athlete about to compete in an event, they’re not thinking about what they need to do after the event, they’re focused on just one thing which is an absolute success.

If you’re unhealthy, you haven’t reached your full potential

Frankly, it’s just common knowledge today that regular exercise improves your overall health both physically and mentally. So it’s no surprise that Corley’s study found, 76% of those ultra-successful people partook in aerobic exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes each day.  He says, “Cardio is not only good for the body, but it’s good for the brain. It grows the neurons (brain cells) in the brain … [and] increases the production of glucose. Glucose is brain fuel. The more fuel you feed your brain, the more it grows and the smarter you become.”  Any doctor, personal trainer, life coach, etc. will tell you the same. If you want to be “the best you can be,” you need to stay in shape.

Entertainment is… the enemy?

Now, don’t let this one’s low position on the list fool you. If you only take one thing from this article, it should be this.  The key difference in the habits of successful people is that they spend the majority of their time learning. Instead of entertaining themselves and essentially just wasting time, they spend every available moment honing their skills, learning, and improving themselves.  Corley found that 88% of successful individuals, “devote thirty minutes or more each day to self-education or self-improvement reading… Most did not read for entertainment…”. This applies to more than just reading through. If you devote your spare time whether it be reading, watching videos, or taking a class to improve your skills, you truly make the most of each day.  Coming back to books, the three preferred genres for the ultra-successful were biographies, self-help or personal development, and history.

It all comes down to a lot of thought

Now Corley might say I’ve saved the best for last. He found, “Thinking is the key to their success. They spent time every day brainstorming with themselves about numerous things”. They ask themselves daily questions like, “What can I do to make more money? Does my job make me happy? Am I exercising enough?  Taking time out of every day to reflect on the most important life questions isn’t just the key to success; it’s the key to happiness really. If we’re unaware of the root cause of our daily problems, how can we ever hope to prevent them?


3 Habits of Successful People: #… Plus One?

Habits of Successful People - Be Happy

If you’ve stuck around this long, you deserve a bonus.


The other defining characteristic Corley found that all wealthy people share, is positivity.  Anyone who remains positive even at the worst of times and finds a way to be happy is truly successful.  Aren’t they?

If you need some help remembering the key takeaways here. You can always get them printed up onto a durable foam core sign from Nonstop Signs!











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