Pablo Picasso and Ernest Hemmingway already had their daily habits. Picasso preferred to work on his brushes early in the morning, while Ernest Hemmingway wrote his novels more productively while standing. Charles Darwin never gave up his morning walk and Barack Obama starts his morning routine with a motivating cardio workout.
Regardless of the era of all these famous people, they all had one thing in common: their daily habits. They probably already knew back then that habits are a key success factor and that they determine our daily lives to a frightening degree.
Habits determine at least 40% of our daily lives. Many researchers have demonstrated this today.
Although we are often unaware of them, they are like a shadow. On the one hand they open doors for us, on the other hand they can limit our perception and close doors. They can make life easier, but also more difficult.
Habits are decisions that you (sub)consciously make every day. Their constraints are so strong that they determine your life. It is not for nothing that we talk about the ‘force of habit’ or that we call man the ‘animal of habit’. Being aware of your own habits is fundamental to your happiness, success and well-being.
Most people have many habits in common. Whether it’s brushing our teeth in the morning, eating at specific times or going to the toilet in the morning. They all contribute to the way our day goes.
Think for a moment about the habits that are firmly rooted in your daily life.
Do they add value or do they waste time unnecessarily? Recognising habits allows you to banish negative habits and replace them with positive ones.
Before we get to the most powerful habits of successful people, we should first look at what habits are and how they work.
How exactly are habits formed?
Habits are formed when we repeat certain actions regularly. Once established, they happen automatically. This saves us energy and time.
Think about it: Do you have a particular way of walking around your favourite supermarket?
There are certainly certain aisles where you start first or choose products according to a certain pattern. This habit was born because it is useful and saves time. You can shop faster and are no longer overwhelmed by the large selection.
According to habit expert James Clear, habits are driven by 4 basic processes:
- The trigger triggers the desire in you to perform a certain habit.
- The desire is therefore the driving force behind every habit.
- The routine is the action or habit itself that you perform.
- The reward satisfies your desire and makes you perform and repeat an action.
Let’s take shopping as an example. The trigger for the routine in this case would be that your fridge is empty and triggers the urge to go shopping. The routine consists of going around the supermarket in a specific order. Why do you do this routine? To save time and, as a reward, to get your favourite products in the fridge faster.
However, the brain does not distinguish between good and bad habits. For example, smoking or using your mobile phone just before going to bed. It is difficult to get rid of them. It is easier to establish new habits than to get rid of old ones.
But there are a few things you can do to break the stranglehold.
Here’s what you need to know to get started: how do you form new habits?
The best way to get rid of old habits is to combine them with new ones. For example, you usually watch TV in the evening, but you actually want to do more sport after work. You can gradually establish this new habit by incorporating a few exercises while you are sitting on the sofa: lifting your legs for a few seconds, stretching your neck or contracting your abdominal muscles.
These 8 tips also help to establish a new habit:
- Make a checklist. Every day, put a check mark behind a new activity that should become a habit once you’ve done it. If you can do it 10 times in a row, reward yourself.
- Keep a success diary. In it, you will write down the complications, challenges and successes you have encountered in implementing the new habit.
- Create stimuli. For example, if you want to exercise in the morning, place some sports shoes in front of your bed.
- Break the new habit down into small steps. For example, your goal is to exercise for 60 minutes a day. Start with 15 minutes a day and work your way up.
- Hang a piece of paper with your new habit in a visible place. This way, your resolutions will not be forgotten.
- Tell your friends. This will give you external pressure and increase your success rate.
- Stay consistent. Don’t miss more than one day, never more than two. This will keep you in the flow.
- Start right away. Otherwise, you’ll never start and you’ll always make excuses.
20 habits of influential people you should know
You now have a basic idea of how habits work and how you can break out of an old routine. This lays the foundation for incorporating some of the 20 great habits of successful people into your life and becoming the artist of your decade 😉
As Aristotle, who became one of the most influential philosophers in history, said so well ?
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit”.
1. Get up earlier
Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey gets up every day at 5.30am to go jogging. Michelle Obama also starts her morning workout at 4.30am, while Apple CEO Tim Cook starts work at 3.45am.
All these personalities owe their success to the motto “The early bird gets the worm”.
The logic is simple: the earlier you get up, the more you have to do.
A study from the University of Texas proves the success of early risers. According to the study, students who consider themselves to be early risers are more successful overall in their studies than those who do not.
So start tomorrow, set your alarm clock five minutes earlier than usual and get better at it every day. After a few weeks, you’ll wake up early, as if by magic!
2. Establish a morning routine
A morning routine is very important because it gives you strength and energy for the rest of the day. It determines the mood in which you start your day. Instead of looking directly at your mobile phone in the morning, you can for example read a book for 6 minutes. This has been proven to have a stress-reducing effect.
Editor-in-chief Arianna Huffington makes morning meditation a must, while Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey starts the day with exercise.
3. Write your to-do list the night before
This will help you structure your day and start your morning without stress. You will save a lot of time and achieve your goals more efficiently. You should always prioritise your tasks.
Brian Tracy also works on the principle of “Eat the frog first”! In other words: always do the most important task first. This will give you a huge sense of achievement from the start of the day and leave your mind free for other tasks.
4. Do sport regularly
Sport not only gets your body moving, but also success. This is not surprising, as sport requires discipline, team spirit and the ability to deal with failure. This is why human resources managers like to see their employees playing sports.
Sport is one of the habits shared by almost all famous people. Whether it’s Barack and Michelle Obama, Naomi Campbell or Heidi Klum, they all prove to us that sport doesn’t always mean murder.
5. Learn something new every day
The more you know about the world, the more confident and talkative you become. Whether it’s listening to a daily podcast or reading a blog post, learning something new every day will expand your horizons incredibly. And it feels great!
Mark Zuckerberg’s resolution for 2015, for example, was to read at least one book every week to learn more about different cultures, technologies and histories.
6. Be grateful for one thing every day
American author Zig Ziglar once said:
“Gratitude is the healthiest of human feelings”.
People who are grateful are more likely to have healthier relationships with those around them, but also with themselves. A key factor for success, because it also allows us to think more positively and be more mindful.
Do you have a calendar? Then write down what you are grateful for every day from now on.
7. Give yourself regular breaks
Good news for the lazy:
Doing nothing from time to time is good for the brain. During these phases, the brain processes recently experienced information and connects it to the long-term memory. This was discovered by neuroscientists at the Leibniz Institute.
In addition, effective breaks are important to relieve stress and to refuel. Charles Darwin also enjoyed long walks in London to clear his head. Kurt Vonnegut had a daily habit of listening to jazz music to relax.
8. Have a long-term goal
J.P. Morgan once summed it up this way:
“The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide you’re not going to stay where you are.”
A simple recipe for success is to have a long-term goal and work towards it every day. Divide one big goal into several smaller goals and hang the list of your goals in visible proximity. That way you won’t lose sight of them.
9. Take a digital detox once in a while
Actor Christopher Walken mentioned in Newsweek that it was “peaceful” not to use a computer. He is not alone: Angelina Jolie also avoids the Internet as much as possible. She feels overwhelmed by Amazon’s vast range of products, for example, and prefers classic catalogue shopping.
Perhaps this sounds familiar. The Internet often provides too much information and impressions that our brain has to filter out.
Are you aware of how many hours you spend on the Internet every day? According to an online study by ARD/ZDF, daily internet use in Germany was on average 128 minutes in 2016. For comparison, this figure was “only” 77 minutes in 2010.
A frightening figure. For a long time, I too had a tendency to check my Whatsapp messages or log on to Facebook in the morning. But this generates a lot of stress and wastes my time unnecessarily. So one of my main habits is to deliberately give up the internet once or twice a week. It can be so liberating!
10. Get into the habit of sleeping at regular times
Most successful people sleep between six and eight hours. While Benjamin Franklin preferred to sleep every day from 10pm to 5am, co-founder Leo Widrich of social media software ‘Buffer’ regularly sleeps from 1am to 9am. How much sleep you need depends on your physical needs. Regardless of how much sleep you need, you should still have a regular sleep pattern.
Why do you need a regular sleep pattern? Because sleep strongly controls your biological rhythm. Your biological rhythm determines, among other things, when you are hungry or tired, but also when you wake up in the morning. If you go to bed at irregular times, your internal clock goes wrong: you get tired at uncontrollable times and you don’t wake up properly in the morning.
This means that your body cannot adapt properly to daily life, which makes you more exhausted and less productive. Many people with irregular sleep patterns also suffer from sleep disorders.
11. Do something good every day
Do you know the good feeling of helping someone or just giving them a nice compliment?
Doing something nice every day is part of my positive habits. I always enjoy putting a smile on someone’s face. We can do great things in the world with small gestures. Whether it’s making a small donation to a street musician, holding the door for an elderly lady or relieving colleagues of some of their duties.
Even celebrities like to do something for the world: former tennis player Steffi Graf runs a foundation called “Children for Tomorrow” to help children and build hospitals. Herbert Grönemeyer, together with other artists, has been raising money for Africa since 1985 with his “Band für Afrika” project.
Doing something good every day triggers positive feelings and inner satisfaction. You move parts of the world and at the same time you gain self-esteem.
12. devote yourself to your passion every day
“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember that you have the strength, patience and passion to reach for the stars and change the world.
— Harriet Tubmann
The only way to succeed is with passion. So spend at least half an hour a day on your passion, whether it’s writing, drawing or reading. This will make you feel much more alive and more like yourself.
13. work with an effective time management method
Avoid procrastination and accomplish your tasks more efficiently by working with a time management method.
I recommend the Pomodoro technique. This is a time management method that consists of dividing tasks into 25-minute sections. It works as follows:
- Write down the tasks for the day.
- Set your kitchen clock or alarm clock for 25 minutes and do the first task in that time without distraction.
- Take a 5-minute break as soon as the first interval or “pomodori” is completed.
- Take a 15-20 minute break after completing four “pomodoris”.
This technique was invented by former student Franceso Cirillo in the 1980s and is now one of the most popular time management methods.
For example, the inventor Paul A. Klipp of the task management tool “Kanbanery” uses the pomodori technique and confirms that he gets more work done in 50 minutes using the pomodori technique than he does in a seven-hour workday.
14. Tidy up your living room and office every day
A tidy flat automatically leads to tidy thoughts. So take 5 to 10 minutes a day to put your things away and put them in order. This also applies to your workplace. According to the DailyMail news service, Bill Gates or Richard Branson are among the personalities who attach particular importance to tidiness – their success shows that it really is worthwhile.
Of course, you don’t have to be meticulously tidy, because a little creative clutter still leads to creative thoughts 😉 But if it’s anything like what’s going on under Hempel’s sofa, it should give you pause.
15. Follow the basic ergonomic rule 40-5-15.
Ernest Hemmingway understood the importance of working standing up. You can be up to 12% more productive and you prevent unpleasant illnesses related to sitting such as back pain, diabetes or heart disease.
The best way to work healthily is to sit for 40 minutes, stand for 15 minutes and walk for 5 minutes per working hour. When working standing, it is best to use a height-adjustable desk.
16. Plan a reward at the end of the day
In a sometimes stressful daily routine, it is not uncommon to forget to reward yourself for the tasks you have accomplished. But it is very important to establish habits and be even more successful.
If your brain associates the accomplishment of a task with positive feelings, you will be much more motivated to accomplish your tasks in the future! As soon as you know that a task you have completed literally pays off, you will want to repeat it more often and you can gradually establish a new habit.
According to Craig Ballantyne, best-selling author of the “Early to Rise” website, it’s the small rewards that matter. Whether it’s lunch after work or just a short break from work, small rewards are important for maintaining motivation at work.
17. Give up your tasks more often
Although we would prefer to do most of our tasks independently, we cannot do everything on our own. It is worth delegating. No matter how hard you work, you will be much more productive if you delegate some tasks to people you trust. This is the only way to get closer to your goals effectively.
Theodore Roosevelt also knew this very well:
“He who wants to live up to his role as a leader must have enough common sense to assign tasks to the right people and enough self-discipline not to waste their time”.
18. face your fears in everyday life
Are there any everyday situations that scare you? Maybe you are nervous when you have to speak in front of large groups. But maybe you never complain in a restaurant, even if the food is bad.
Facing your fears is one of the most important habits for growing up. If you have a fear of presentation, for example, you should practise speaking in front of a mirror every day. You can also give a presentation to a friend. In this way, you will gradually overcome your fear.
Many successful people have to deal with fears on a daily basis. Singer Elli Goulding, for example, suffered from panic attacks in many situations, which she overcame by practising kickboxing. The co-founder of Alley has also had a lifelong struggle with anxiety disorders. Jason Saltzman fought them by talking to his friends about his fears. And now they are both at the top of the success list. So it’s worth confronting your fears daily and growing up! 🙂
19. drink enough water
Kate Cole, president of Focus Brands, and Arianna Huffington both start their mornings with water instead of coffee. This not only detoxifies your body, ensures a strong immune system and a better metabolism, but also increases your concentration, as has been proven.
According to the nutritionist Günter Wagner, your concentration decreases by about a third if you do not drink enough water. This is because your brain cells are not sufficiently supplied with energy if you do not drink enough water.
You should therefore make it a habit to drink enough water throughout the day. It is best to start in the morning to increase the health effects!
20. practice mindfulness
Mindfulness helps you to focus better in your daily life and to stay in the present. Don’t let your thoughts wander and just be present. You can practice mindfulness by meditating, doing breathing exercises, or simply doing each of your activities mindfully.
For example, feel the tingle of warm water on your scalp in the shower or stop for a few minutes in the morning before you get up to become aware of your breathing and your body. Meditation can also help you to clear your mind and relieve stress.
“Meditation, more than anything else, has been the biggest ingredient in all my successes.”
—Ray Dailo, founder of Bridgewater Associates
Successful companies such as Google, AOL or Apple also offer meditation classes to their employees.
Conclusion: good habits gradually lead you to success and a fulfilling life.
Now you know that habits are a big part of our daily lives. That is why you should examine your habits carefully and become aware of them. Which habits would you like to eliminate and replace with positive ones? Make a list today and think about how you can make your daily routine even more effective.
With the proven successful habits of famous people, you now also have an inspiration for your everyday life. Here is another overview:
- Get up earlier
- Establish a morning routine
- Write your to-do list the night before
- Exercise regularly
- Learn something new every day
- Be grateful for one thing each day
- Give yourself regular breaks
- Have a long-term goal in mind
- Do a digital detox once in a while
- Get into the habit of sleeping at regular times
- Do something good every day
- Devote yourself daily to your passion
- Work with an effective time management method
- Put your living room and office in order every day
- Follow the basic ergonomic rule 40-5-15
- Plan a reward at the end of the day
- Give up your tasks more often
- Face your fears daily
- Drink enough water
- Practise mindfulness
I wish you success!