What can you do to be your best self? To be most productive, most efficient, most on your game?
When trying to answer these questions, it is natural to look to top performers, such as athletes, politicians and business-moguls, to see what they do daily that has helped them achieve success.
The problem with this approach is that looking at the daily habits of some these people can leave you feeling overwhelmed. Michael Phelps trained 365 days a year for six years, Mark Cuban reads for 3 hours a day, Richard Branson wakes up at 5:00 a.m. to get ahead of the day.
The thing is, even these top performers didn’t form their habits overnight; they started small.
In his viral commencement address at the University of Texas at Austin, Admiral William H. McRaven discussed the lessons he learned in Navy SEAL training; specifically, “if you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.”
If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. And by the end of the day that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed.
Starting out with a small accomplishment helps you tackle bigger things throughout the day. It helps you have the right frame of mind from the get go.
Science tells us that there is good reason to make small changes to our daily habits rather than trying to change our daily routines all at once. Dr. BJ Fogg, Director of the Persuasive Tech Lab at Stanford University, has studied human behavior for 20 years and he believes that the best way to change your behavior for the long-term is to create tiny habits.
In an interview with Psychology Today, Fogg says that these tiny habits “… rely less on willpower and motivation and more on redesigning your life little by little, so over time these small shifts create dramatic results.”
Daily Habits of Top Performers You Can Start Building Today
Here are some of the daily habits of top performers and the small steps you can take to incorporate them into your life today:
1. Practice Gratitude
Taking time to focus on what they are grateful for and to express thanks to those around them is one of the habits of many highly successful people (think: Tim Ferriss and Paul DeJoria).
Practicing gratitude can help you become happier, improve relationships and even improve your brain. This habit takes a minimum amount of time and resources to put into motion – all it takes is a mental shift. Make sure practicing gratitude becomes a habit by writing in a journal each night before you go to sleep, in one sentence, what you were grateful for that day.
Two in One: Journal. This one sentence gratitude journal actually builds two habits at once: practicing gratitude and journaling (another habit of many successful people).
I know. This one might seem like a big change for many people. But in any article about the daily habits of top performers it can’t be avoided. It is reported that 76% of self-made millionaires do at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise daily. Barack Obama, Mark Zuckerberg, and yes, the 5:00 a.m. waking Richard Branson, have all discussed the importance of exercise to their overall performance and productivity.
Exercise is not only good for your body, it’s good for your brain – and it provides another way to achieve a sense of accomplishment that can waterfall throughout your day.
If beginning an exercise regime seems overwhelming, start small. Walk. Just walk. A great article on developing a walking habit can be found here. If walking isn’t an option for you, find another small way to incorporate movement into your daily routine.
Two in One: Read. By far, one of the most common habits of highly successful people is reading. While you might not be able to read for three hours a day like Mark Cuban, you can listen to audiobooks while you exercise.
Pick books that help you gain knowledge in the area you work, gain insight into the world and yourself, or provide a different perspective. For some great book recommendations from one of the greatest living entrepreneurs, check out Bill Gates’ book blog.
In fact, Huffington argues that meditation can be good for the bottom line, saying, “Stress-reduction and mindfulness don’t just make us happier and healthier, they’re a proven competitive advantage for any business that wants one.”
Newcomers to meditation may worry that it will require a lot of time and energy, but it doesn’t have to. Meditating for as little as 10 minutes a day can help enhance your ability to focus.
Two in One: Drink Water. Drinking water can help you stay fresh and alert. Use the end of your meditation time as a signal to drink a glass of water. Incorporating one habit into another is called “habit stacking” and it can help make a new habit stick.
Start incorporating some of these activities into your daily routine today. If you do these little things enough, they become a habit, and if they become a habit, they can change your life.