I’m a great fan of the late Stephen Covey. I’ve read and studied his famous book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, numerous times. I’ve taken an 8 week course by a trained Covey Professional and applied some of the tenets I have learned to my life. While I like the subject matter, I’ve found some of the concepts rather hard to grasp and even harder to remember.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People are . . .
Habit 1: Be Proactive.
Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind.
Habit 3: Put First Things First.
Habit 4: Think Win/Win.
Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood.
Habit 6: Synergize.
Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw
Covey tends to use business jargon like Proactive and Synergize which can be hard to understand. Just what is Synergize? Then he uses concepts which take an initial explanation to grasp, such as Sharpen the Saw. I scratched my head the first time I heard this. What is Sharpen the Saw and what does a saw have to do with personal development? After spending eight weeks in a detailed course, I came away with a mixed review. While I think 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is a great addition to your personal success library, because of the complexity, I’ve found it hard to create memorable success habits from it.
As an habit building exercise, I asked myself as a personal success blogger what tenets have I found in effective and successful people over the years. I wanted items that were simple to understand and would be easy to apply to your life. More than that, I wanted ones that would be easy to remember. I wrote down a full list and selected seven which topped the chart. Here are my top seven habits for success.
Seven Habits of Successful People
Successful People. . .
- Are Early Risers
- Are On Time
- Dress for Success
- Have an Organized Workspace
- Communicate Well
- Are Team Players
- Are Voracious Learners
Let’s take a look at each one and create a simple habit change action plan. (See my post on Resolution Habits for more info)
1. Successful People are Early Risers
This is probably the most controversial of the habits listed, but one that can make the most difference. The idea is getting up early in the morning before the sun comes up and starting the day with an action plan. As Ben Franklin would say. . . early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.
I’ve been an early riser most of my life, since my dad was always up by 6am. Over the years I’ve moved my get up time back a couple of hours and now routinely get up at 4 am. This has given me two additional hours of free time in the morning to write and has resulted in a number of books being published. Researchers have found that early risers get better grades, are more proactive, and more motivated to face the day. To really get a grasp on the process check out these resources.
- How to Become a Morning Person by Michael Hyatt
- Top 10 Advantages of Waking Up Early by Forbes Magazine
- The 5am Revolution by Dan Luca
While the resources above have more advanced strategies, you can change an existing habit by simply setting your alarm clock a half hour earlier than usual and force yourself to get up. Follow this wake up routine until it becomes second nature. You can continue to move the clock back in additional half hour increments after you have had success with the first round. Researchers say that it takes an average of 66 days for a complete habit to form, so be sure to give yourself a trial of at least ten weeks to make the habit stick.
2. Successful People Are On Time
Successful people arrive five or ten minutes early for appointments, meetings, and work. This one should be common sense, but in our modern culture, I’m surprised how many people are late on a routine basis. The bottom line, if you are routinely on time, you’ll be more successful, get more promotions, and close more sales. As easy as this sounds, it is a common habit that can easily go from five or ten minutes early to five or ten minutes late, especially if the work culture (leadership) allows people to mosey in whenever they want.
Remember this. People notice when you arrive. I’ve had to learn this important lesson over the years. I’ve missed out on opportunities by being late. Just because your boss or management is late, doesn’t give you an excuse. Here are some resources to help you be on time.
- Strategies To Get To Work On Time by John Richardson
- Keeping Your Commitments is Crucial by Michael Hyatt
- How to Be On Time Every Time by Dustin Wax
Check out the resources above for advanced tips. One way I’ve found to arrive early is to set my clocks at home and in the car ten minutes later than it actually is. This little trick works better if someone besides yourself actually changes the time. Unfortunately, modern cell phones set their time off the internet, so it may be difficult to get all your clock synchronized.
3. Dress For Success
Successful people stand out from the crowd by how they are dressed. Rule of thumb, always dress at least a notch above your intended audience. One of my co-workers told me years ago that if I wanted to get a promotion, I needed to stop wearing jeans and to move to wearing dress pants and a collared shirt. Bottom line: Dress like the job you want to have. If you want to be in leadership, dress like the leaders. This little tip made a difference of tens of thousands of dollars in my career. The jeans I was wearing was holding me back from a promotion. Remember this: People notice how you are dressed.
- Effortless Outfits: The Men’s Guide to Matching Clothes for Powerful Impression in Personal and Professional Life
- Dress for Success for Women
- The Elephant in the Room
- Real Men, Real Style (YouTube)
- 19 Fashion Hacks for Women (YouTube)
Styles change all the time, but being well groomed and dressing professionally can make a huge difference in your life, not to mention a substantial pay increase. An easy way to dress for success is to look at how your superiors are dressing at work and find clothing that fits in. For me, when I wanted to go from a tech job to management, I just went out and bought a few pair of dress pants and collared shirts. I dressed up for the job I wanted and left the jeans and golf shirts for casual Fridays. Check out the YouTube channels above for inspiration.
4. Have an Organized Workspace
Successful people tend to be organized and one way to show this is to have a clean desk. A well organized workspace will make you look more professional, help you find things easier, and help you focus on the task at hand instead of a mess. Bottom Line: People are looking at your workspace. What are they seeing? I used to interview people for tech and management positions for a large school district. One technique I had was to follow applicants out to the parking lot and just glance at their cars. If the cars were dirty and a mess, I knew that that was the way they would probably be on the job.
My desk at home looked like a disaster area for years until one day all the crap fell on the floor and made a huge mess. I brought in a box and wastebasket and within five minutes, I had a clean desktop. Wow, I was blown away that I had put up with the mess for so long and how fast I was able to get it cleaned up. I made a pact with myself that my desk at work would be cleaned off every night. It was a difficult habit at first, but I learned a few tricks along the way. I wrote a book about the process called Get a Life. Bottom line: Keep your desk cleaned off to lower your stress
5. Communicate Well
Successful people have learned the gift of communication. They know how to run meetings, speak in front of groups, manage difficult situations, and negotiate with others. In my life, I’ve met a huge number of good communicators through an organization called Toastmasters International. Learning how to give a good speech, professional powerpoint or lead an interactive meeting can pay huge benefits on your job and help you quickly advance in your career.
Bottom Line: People notice you when you speak. If you speak well, many opportunities may come to you. As leadership guru Michael Hyatt says, “Proximity is power. Find a way to get close to the people who can help you in your life and business. Be intentional about your mentors and your peer group.” Good communication will open doors and opportunities.
To improve your communication skills join a local Toastmasters group. Make it a habit to attend meetings on a regular basis. I’ve done this for over 20 years and I can honestly say they are the best personal development organization I have ever been involved with. You can find a local club here. Toastmasters International
6. Be a Team Player
Successful people realize quickly that they can’t do everything themselves. They need to bring in a team of qualified people to help. Team building is an art and I highly recommend spending the time to develop a team that can truly work together. A great resource for team building is Simon Sinek’s great book, Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t. As Simon noticed in his travels around the world, great leaders create environments in which people naturally work together to do remarkable things. Some of these teams trust each other so deeply that they would literally put their lives on the line for each other. Check out other team resources below.
Here is a fun habit to create when you meet with the team you are on. Try one of these 50 team building exercises each time you get together. These easy and effective activities are great for building camaraderie and cohesion. Make it a regular habit and your crew will look forward to the fun each time you meet.
7. Be a Voracious Learner
Successful people are learners. Whether it be books, videos, TV or the internet, learning new things is a skill you must master if you want to move ahead in your career or in life. In our modern extreme paced society, staying on the cutting edge is necessary to keep up. Gone are the days that you could attend an industry conference every few years for information. Now you need constant updates. One way to do this is with Podcasts and Cutting Edge Audio Books. Here are three podcasts that I recommend for successful people
- This Is Your Life with Michael Hyatt
- 10x Talk with Dan Sullivan and Joe Polish
- Leadership Podcast by Andy Stanley
One of the best habits you can create is the practice of listening to business or success oriented audio books or podcasts while driving in the car. A great way to do this is to get an Audible Subscription or check out selections from your local library. I created this habit when I was commuting on my last job and over the years I was able to listen to over 200 titles. The nice thing with audio books, is that you get your learning from industry experts who are often in cutting edge positions in research and development. To setup the habit, just change your routine of listening to the radio or music while you drive and listen to audiobooks instead. If you are a commuter, you’ll be amazed how much you can learn stuck in traffic.
Question: What habits will you change in the New Year? Leave your answer in the comments below.