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10 Habits That Can Only Improve Your Day

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Thursday, May 19th, 2016
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Successful people make specific choices that enhance their day, making them more capable and productive. Not all of these choices are universal: Some successful people walk to work in order to think clearly, while many of us must commute miles to the office out of necessity.

Yet, many successful people’s habits can be appropriated by others and, given the right range of additional factors, can improve your own day and personal capabilities. Here are 10 daily habits of successful people:

1. Have a Spontaneous Moment

Our days often feel monotonous, bunched together, robotic; there is a sense of sameness to repeat activities that most of us perform as part of our daily jobs and lives. One way to break through this and to introduce critical freshness is to seek out a spontaneous moment by doing something consciously out of your norm.

“In a world where busy executives are scheduled back-to-back, sometimes in 15-minute increments, I always make an effort to have one spontaneous human interaction each day. Whether it’s talking to a stranger on the subway, making a (gasp!) phone call to a former colleague, or ringing my best friend’s buzzer for Thai food—I love knowing that not everything in my day is prearranged,” said Andrew Lowenthal, Director of Out in Tech, the leading networking group for young LGBT tech leaders in the US.

2. Do a Short Meditation

Many successful people meditate at least once during the day. This takes many different forms—the traditional Buddhist pose is not a fit for everyone—and personally I do it by simply closing my eyes for three full minutes and not thinking at least once every day. It is an act of mental cleansing.

3. Make Sure to Exercise

Even if you are incredibly busy, many of the most successful people I know never fail to fit in daily exercise. Exercising daily releases endorphins, which make you happier, and also raises your heart rate and metabolism, which speeds up digestion and makes you more comfortable during the day. Perhaps most importantly, it gives you a period where you can achieve a ‘state of mindlessness’ and deeply relax, which can help cleanse the mind and help you feel better throughout the day.

“Today, exercise is the single best thing I can do for growing my brain, elevating my mood, and continuing to learn. For founders everywhere, I would give the advice to plan your day with a workout in mind and keep the routine. Before work is always a great time to kick start your neurons. That way, you can focus after hours with clients, friends, co-workers, and other work that you need to get done,” said Jeff Ragovin, co-founder of Buddy Media, which sold to Salesforce.

4. Call a Friend

Many successful people struggle with constant “role slotting” where, gradually, everyone in their busy lives has to serve a specific purpose: family, employee, or networking contact. Calling a friend—someone who is there for you in a more intrinsic way—can help stave this off, and channel time investment in your relationships.

5. Think About What Makes You Lucky

Work, particularly for successful people, is usually immensely stressful. When facing challenges, it becomes very easy to slip into a negative state and focus on what is going wrong. However, this has a negative psychological and physiological impact—and you actually feel worse as a result of it. Thinking positively during parts of each day mitigates this and helps many successful people achieve balance.

“It is so easy to get wrapped up in challenges and failure as a entrepreneur. To balance it, I take a few moments everyday just remember how lucky I am to even be able to do what I do and to try to make an impact on the world. It often comes in the form of reading the news or hearing about the challenges of others who haven’t had the good fortune I have experienced. I also try to connect with nature every day, even if just to admire a tree or cloud,” said Aaron Hurst, founder of the Taproot Foundation.

6. Read

I read the New York Times app—at least the headlines—every morning on my work commute. Reading something that interests you helps to keep your brain active without having everything you think about be work-related.

“I spend 30 minutes at the beginning of my day reading—whether it’s directly related to work or not. It prevents me starting my day off hectically, and contextualizes all the developments that are happening within my immediate work bubble,” said Rachael Foo, an analyst at Stripes Group in New York.

7. Write

Writing is one of my own daily techniques. I find writing therapeutic and it helps improve my mood, even on the most taxing and stressful days, and helps take me out of whatever is stressing me at that moment and think instead about the larger picture.

“I write each and every day for 20 to 30 minutes. I started the process years ago while I was at McKinsey & Company based on the counsel of a mentor. I find the writing process a good way of clearing my mind and also stimulating creativity,” said James Rushing, a New York investor and former partner at McKinsey and A.T. Kearney.

8. Focus on the Family

Successful people can easily become consumed by their work. But the most successful people I know nearly all remain cognizant that work should be a secondary priority to those who provide the most meaning in their lives.

“I never fail to spend time with my wife, who keeps it real. She knows me and is a more honest appraiser than the mirror in the bathroom,” said Robert Mittendorf, a partner at Norwest Venture Capital.

9. Listen to Music Upon Waking Up and Before Bedtime

Music is one of the most effective calming agents. Listening to one short song in the morning helps create a sense of serenity to start the day, which trickles throughout, and listening to one at night helps you sleep better.

10. Have Time Without Technology

Speaking for myself, I run my life off my iPhone. But, constantly being hitched to the digital world can be as limiting as it is expansive; it often prevents you from thinking more creatively and seeing the big picture. Spending at least some time every day without any technological devices can help open the mind.

“Every day I give myself 30 minutes of completely uninterrupted time—no email, no mobile, no Apple watch, no meetings, no surprise visitors—so that I can concentrate on a problem, ideate, or riff on an inspiration. And I ask my team to take 30 minutes to do the team, and run interference while they do so too,” said Robert Clauser, co-founder of Unigo and Partner at Tina Brown Live Media.

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