We wish there was a handbook for success, but there isn’t. Here’s the next best thing: a list of ways you can realize your dreams–and be a more productive person in the process.
Wouldn’t it be great if success was simple?
But it isn’t.
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer for success in work and life, but we will do our best to steer you in the right direction.
Here’s a list of helpful habits of some highly successful–and wildly productive–people to get your started. On your mark, get set, and…
1. Get up insanely early.
It sounds scary, we know, but consider what would happen if instead of watching reruns of bad movies at night, you went to bed at a reasonable hour, thus allowing yourself to wake up early and be SUPER productive?
Waking up before anybody else allows you to work out the logistics of the day to come, track your time, and (most importantly) unplug for a few hours.
Take Paul Dejoe, who gets up at 4 a.m. (you heard that right) for maximum productivity:
“What I was depriving myself from was time in the day where there was no pressure and no expectations. For the same reasons that I felt most creative on Saturday mornings and on planes, 4 a.m. has become a place of productive peace. That feeling is why I love what I do. I don’t need a vacation. I don’t need to step away. I just need a couple hours a day before anyone else is up.”
After all, the early bird catches the worm–and much more, apparently.
2. Keep promises, no matter how small.
Talk is cheap and meaningful customer relationships are built on promises. Same goes for your personal life, right?
Success is built on mutually trusting relationships with just about everybody. If you say you’re going to walk the office dog? Well, you’d best walk the office dog.
3. Learn how to tell stories.
You want to be successful in life, but you don’t have a job, or you’re looking for a new one. The first step to nail that dream job? Learn how to tell a great story–starting with your interview.
Big companies know storytelling is the secret weapon to “branding.” Why? Because people don’t fall in love with data dumps and PowerPoint slides–they are moved by emotions.
And for those looking to be in charge, the best–and most memorable–way to make an impact and stick in people’s minds is to ditch the small talk, and learn how to unspool meaningful narratives.
4. Lead, don’t dictate.
There’s a big difference between being a leader and being a boss.
5. Don’t be afraid–or embarrassed–of your failures.
Sir James Dyson, creator of the famous Dyson vacuum (who recently came by and vacuumed the Fast Company offices), is no stranger to failure. In fact, he embraces it.
“I made 5,127 prototypes of my vacuum before I got it right. There were 5,126 failures. But I learned from each one. That’s how I came up with a solution. So I don’t mind failure. I’ve always thought that schoolchildren should be marked by the number of failures they’ve had. The child who tries strange things and experiences lots of failures to get there is probably more creative.”
Dyson’s point: If you want to discover something new, you’re bound to fail a few times (or in his case, 5,126 times), and that’s okay. It’s also okay to quit something your heart isn’t into, in order to get somewhere better.
6. Ask questions, a lot of them.
It turns out Albert Einstein would have made a great entrepreneur:
To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science.
Every company needs to pause occasionally for self-reflection.
What is your purpose on earth? What should you stop doing? What is your petri dish? You’ve got all the answers, right?
7. Be honest–with yourself and others.
Remember what we said about asking questions? Here’s a hard one: Are you passionate, or delusional?
Delusion is a double-edged sword. When it comes to productivity, tricking yourself can be your best move, but if your career is hurting other (more important) aspects of your life it might be time to re-evaluate your priorities.
Truth be told, I think the difference between passion and delusion isn’t even very distinguishable. I suspect many an entrepreneur has fallen too far down the rabbit hole without even realizing it. It happened to me. Maxed-out credit cards, empty cupboards, and a frustrated spouse helped me wake up to the delusion I created in myself. I was laser-focused on the belief I had to succeed no matter what, which led me to lose sight of reality. My story fortunately has a happy ending. But if I hadn’t faced that reality head-on (and it did indeed feel like a crash), I wouldn’t have been able to honestly evaluate my business and redirect toward a healthier course.
8. Take breaks.
Here at Fast Company, we devoted an entire month to Unplugging, or taking a breather from the endless hum of the digital world.
You don’t have to completely unplug, but the effects of removing yourself for a few days, hours, or even weeks, can do wonders for your sanity and enable you to refocus your aspirations.
A perfect example: Stuck on an idea? Take a walk.
9. Take notes and stay organized.
If you’re trying to delve deeper than surface level engagement, try taking notes.
It might sound silly, but put some genuine effort into it–note-taking is an important key to keeping your mind organized, and understanding better what it is you’re after.
And with that, we bid adieu. If you have any habits that we’ve missed or should know about (like everyone else, we want to be more productive!), please share them with us in the comments. Meantime, check in here, for the latest tips and tricks for success.
Miles Kohrman is an Editorial Intern at www.fastcompany.com