If you read a lot of self-help books, which we do, you tend to see patterns emerge – this goes for whether you’re devouring autobiographies of the rich and famous or punchy business strategy tomes written by people with degrees in behavioural economics and millions of TED talk subscribers.
A lot of the time, there are a few common traits that come up again and again. These habits won’t turn you into a billionaire overnight, but implement them and you’re sure to notice a change in your mindset and, in turn, be better placed to achieve your personal goals this year.
Firstly, if we’re searching for successful role models when it comes to the power of reading, look no further than Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. The former is reported to go on actual reading holidays and the latter describes knowledge as stacking up like compound interest; the more you invest in reading the more you learn. Buffet is reported to read for up to eight hours a day, prioritising reading above all else.
Now, a lot of people are going to tell you to read purely non-fiction but we think that a mixture is good. There’s a whole host of health benefits associated with reading – from lowering the risk of dementia to reducing stress – and these benefits aren’t associated with solely one genre.
Challenge, inform, entertain, inspire and stretch your imagination with a regular reading schedule and reap the rewards. Take a look at your screen time numbers and see if you can swap some of those minutes for time with a book instead.
It’s not what you know it’s who you know. Successful people understand the importance of networking, know what they want to garner from a networking opportunity, come prepared and well-researched, and always follow up.
Even in today’s world, where people seemingly live out their lives on supposed ‘social’ networks, nothing beats the opportunity to interact with people face to face. In this day and age, you could argue it’s even more important.
The vaster and more diverse your contacts book is the more opportunities there are to share and receive knowledge, advice and working opportunities. Ultimately it comes down to genuine interests, the ability to listen, how you invest your time and being in the right rooms at the right time.
Seek out people with similar interests, put yourself out there and keep in touch.
Highly successful people know exactly what they’re going to do and when they’re going to do it. As productivity and organisation expert David Allen points out in his seminal work-life management system, Getting Things Done, “your mind is for having ideas, not holding them”. The foundation of good organisation is writing everything down, having clear goals and objectives and effectively managing your time around this.
Of course, there are plenty of strategies for becoming more organised, from the simplicity of the Pomodoro Method to Allen’s GTD strategy and a host of other workflow and personal organisation apps. Experiment to find out what technique works best for you but then ensure you implement it strictly.
A lot of fun was made of Mark Wahlberg’s schedule (which begins at 2:30am, followed by a 3:40am workout) but there’s something to be said for early mornings – albeit not as early as his. Apple CEO Tim Cook gets up at 4:30am, ex-Xerox CEO Ursula Burns (the first black woman to lead a Fortune 500 company) at 5am and former Proctor & Gamble Chairman Alan G. Lafley at 5.30am. It’s a common theme.
Granted, sleep research tells us that some people are more naturally inclined towards earlier and later mornings but the simple act of trying to get up 15 minutes earlier for a week is a rewarding exercise. Studies point towards less procrastination for early risers but the most rewarding effects are a feeling of freshness and mental clarity.
You can’t press play on a podcast these days without someone telling you the importance of sleep. Rightly so. Sleep is a crucial component of being a functioning human being and the more you get, the better.
Now, you don’t have to go all-out British Cycling Team – transporting bespoke mattresses, duvets and pillows across the world – but you can aim to get more. Any successful athlete will cite good sleep as an essential component of success.
Serena Williams famously undertook a stringent sleep routine (which included a high-quality mattress and napping schedule) as part of her preparation for Wimbledon success in 2018, which came only 10 months after giving birth in traumatic circumstances (she eventually lost in the final to Angelique Kerber). Tom Brady also reportedly went to sleep before his kids during the season to ensure he got eight nourishing hours of sleep.
Create a routine, optimise your bed and get your hours in.
A host of apps provide the perfect gateway into meditation, with Headspace and Calm being two of the most popular. You don’t necessarily have to go to the levels of Sapiens author Yuval Noah Harari – who meditates for an hour at the start and end of every day (his book Homo Deus was dedicated to his meditation teacher) – but 20 minutes each morning will have a notable effect on your mindset and clarity of thought.
The likes of Katy Perry, Tom Hanks, Jerry Seinfeld, Hugh Jackman and Lena Dunham are all reported to be fans of transcendental meditation, which uses a mantra technique to settle the mind. Sir Paul McCartney, 50 Cent and Lady Gaga are also reported to meditate daily. If you’re looking to get started, consider following a Youtube tutorial or find a local class.
Self-evaluation is essential to success. It’s the habit of setting goals, keeping track of where you are and assessing progress. Elite marathon runner Eliud Kipchoge is not the only athlete to keep a training logbook, noting down each part of his training – keeping a record means he can look back on it and feel confident he’s prepared for race day, knowing he did everything he could.
Self-evaluation is part of a wider system. As Atomic Habits author James Clear points out, it’s easy to set goals – everybody wants to earn more money or win the race. But what actually gets you there? Systems. Be it British Cycling’s 1% improvement in all areas or Steve Jobs minimising the amount of unnecessary decisions he has to make in a workday.
Everyone needs to evaluate the way they work and build an effective system.