I believe there are two things in life: results and crappy excuses for not achieving results. As a society, we’ve gotten really good at giving excuses and readily accepting them. I’m not vilifying our society—our days are more jam-packed than ever and it seems like we are constantly being pulled in a thousand different directions. I’ve worked with some very dedicated, talented people who have not been able to achieve the results they should have. It wasn’t for lack of trying; it was lack of good habits.
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Your habits and patterns determine the direction of your life, so it should come as no surprise that successful people have successful habits. In my more than three decades in business, I’ve practiced three habits in particular that I think have played a huge role in my success and can help you maximize yours.
1. Winners get out of bed early.
I know the business trend right now is toward flexible schedules, but while you’re in bed sleeping, someone else is out working. And, the fact is, most CEOs aren’t sleeping until noon and rolling into the office midafternoon. They get up early and attack the day. In interview after interview, they say their routine starts with getting up around 5 or 6 a.m. and using the two or three hours before they get into the office to focus and prepare for the day ahead. That may mean exercise, meditation, catching up on current events pertinent to the business or any number of things, but when they do arrive at work, they are more productive and achieve more than most.
The old saying “the early bird gets the worm” came about for a reason. The people who are up and doing are the people who seize the opportunities first, so get up out of bed and put in the extra time and effort it takes to chase success. It’s not going to wait around for you.
2. Be a daily goal setter and a daily goal hitter.
There is nothing wrong with having long-range goals and dreams, but what you do today greatly affects whether or not you will achieve your future dreams. You have to intentionally design each and every day in a way that leads to getting things done that will maximize your results. That does not mean being busy every minute of the day just for the sake of being busy. That means knowing what is important and focusing on those things.
Every night, or in those early morning hours you are using to prepare for the day ahead, set your daily goals. Don’t make goals for the entire week. Just for the upcoming day. Ask yourself what you must get done each day that will produce the most results and only work on those things. And make setting those goals a daily habit.
3. Focus, focus, focus.
Even if you set the goals, if you aren’t focused—and by that I mean working on what’s important now—you won’t be successful. Successful people always know what is important in the moment, they are relentless in getting it done, and they don’t get distracted by unimportant stuff. They have the ability to stay focused when other people are unfocused, which is no easy feat the higher up you move in an organization, because everyone wants a piece of your attention.
If you want to be successful, you’ve got to develop the discipline not to let anything take your focus off the important things that will get results. Sure, it’s going to take a lot of practice to develop that discipline, but at the end of the day those results are going to totally be worth the hard work.
Look, I’m not going to lie to you: Winning and success is quite often boring. It’s doing the same successful thing over and over again. But there is a scoreboard in life and business, and establishing repetitive habits that lead to effective performance is the key to winning results—and results are what matters.
John Addison is the Leadership Editor for SUCCESS and the author of Real Leadership: 9 Simple Practices for Leading and Living with Purpose, a Wall Street Journal and USA Today best-seller. Renowned for his insight and wisdom on leadership, personal development and success, John is a sought-after speaker and motivator. Read more on his blog, and follow John on Facebook and Twitter.