4 Science-Backed Habits to Make You More Successful

UPDATED: February 2, 2023
PUBLISHED: March 8, 2017

It’s hard to stick to your goals. The desire to eat healthy becomes overwhelmed by a desire to eat a burger. The urge to complete your to-do list takes a back seat to a weekend of Netflix. Goals are being put on the back burner, and the inspiration that was once so strong quickly dwindles.

Related: 18 Motivational Quotes About Successful Goal Setting

We all have things that we want to achieve. Whether it’s getting in better shape, writing a book, growing a business or raising a family, our goals keep us inspired about the future. That’s why coming up with goals is so fun—it’s exciting to think about how great it would be if you lost 20 pounds or quit your job to pursue a dream.

We’re hardwired to get excited about these things. The difficulty is sticking to our goals and turning them into realities.

To help, here are four habits that research has shown can have a direct impact on your ability to succeed:

1. Make fewer decisions.

How many decisions do we make every single day? Thousands.

From the moment we wake up, our minds are making decisions: to press snooze or not, whether to look at our phones, whom to text first, which socks to wear—the list goes on. Over the course of a year, those millions of decisions can pile up and result in decision fatigue, the point at which you’re so tired of decisions that you stop giving each decision the attention it deserves.

Kathleen D. Vohs, a researcher at the University of Minnesota, led a great study to uncover the impact that decision-making has on us. Her research found that decision-making depletes the same resources used for self-control and active responding. In various studies, Vohs’ team found that making lots of choices resulted in less physical stamina, reduced persistence in the face of failure, more procrastination and a lowered ability to do arithmetic calculations. From this, we can conclude that by reducing the number of choices you have to make each day, you can limit the negative side effects of decision fatigue.

One simple adjustment could be eating the same breakfast every single day. Rather than debating whether you should have eggs, toast, bagels or tofu scramble, stick to one standard breakfast every morning and reduce the fatigue that comes from constant decision-making.

Related: What I Learned From Wearing the Same Outfit for 2 Weeks

2. Make time for mindfulness. 

What do Oprah, Jack Dorsey and Richard Branson all have in common? Besides great success, each one practices yoga.

Yoga has become one of the fastest growing trends in North America—and for good reason. Study after study demonstrates the benefits of yoga and its impact on health, both physical and mental. One study in particular highlighted the impacts of yoga on high-stress employees: Those who picked up a yoga habit saw a reduction in perceived stress and an improvement in sleep quality.

3. Focus on one task at a time.

I’ve seen many résumés over the years. One thing that people often list under “strengths” that is an immediate turn-off is the word multitasking.

Multitasking is a dangerous habit that can cause more harm than good. In fact, a study conducted by the folks at Stanford University found that multitasking makes you less productive than you would be if you decided to do a single task. Furthermore, the study found that individuals who multitask cannot pay attention, recall information or switch tasks as quickly and effectively as someone who finishes one job at a time.

4. Listen to rock or hip-hop while working.

Last year, the saying “Drink some coffee, put on some gangsta rap, and handle it” showed up on mugs, T-shirts and all over the internet. It turns out that this idea is actually supported by science as a great way to be productive.

In a study called “The Music of Power: Perceptual & Behavioral Consequences of Powerful Music,” researchers found that high-power music makes people feel more empowered and in control. The study used a series of songs to find out how each kind of music made the participants feel, and it concluded that the background music you listen to can have a direct influence on your mood and that music with bass increased participants’ sense of power.

It’s not easy to adopt new habits. That’s why I challenge you to take one or two of these ideas and implement them in your life, rather than all four. If you can take just one of these habits and make it your own, it’s likely that you will begin to notice immediate changes and improvements in your life.

Be aware of the habits you embrace and stay committed to achieving your goals. Success doesn’t happen just because you made some goals. Success happens because you wake up every single day, embrace a series of habits and take the small steps you need to turn your big dreams into realities.

Related: 12 Simple Habits That Set Ultra-Successful People Apart

Ross Simmonds is a digital marketing strategist who has worked with both startups and Fortune 500 brands. He’s also the co-founder of Crate, a content curation tool, and Hustle & Grind, an online store for entrepreneurs. He’s passionate about entrepreneurship, marketing and all things tech.