14 Effective Habits of Productive and Successful People - Dhar Mann

  • by Dhar Mann

I woke up in a frantic morning panic. I couldn’t believe my alarm didn’t go off.  All month I had been doing so well following my 2018 goal of waking up before 7AM – and this was the first day I screwed up.  

I rushed to the bathroom and turned on the shower.  As I was quickly undressing and throwing my clothes across the room toward my hamper, the craziest thing happened.

My alarm went off.

I was so confused.  Wait, did that mean… I woke up on my own before 7AM without my alarm?!  After a few weeks of relying on my alarm, the seemingly impossible task of waking up earlier was finally becoming a habit.  

That got me thinking… daily habits can quickly stack up and control much of our lives.

Most of us have a daily routine that involves getting up in the morning, taking a shower, brushing our teeth, and drinking our coffee. And we do these things automatically, without even thinking about them.  We mindlessly travel through these motions without much intention..

But what if we developed intentional habits to help us be more effective and productive?

Are there certain habits that the world’s most successful people such as Elon Musk, Warren Buffet and Jeff Bezos tend to have?  

It turns out there are.  Many great leaders have very similar habits.  For instance…

  • Reading: Warren Buffett spends 80% of his day reading and Bill Gates reads 50+ books a year.  

  • Thrifty Spending: Sam Walton chose the name Wal-mart over Walton-Mart to save money on signage and Shark Tank’s Kevin O’Leary won’t spend $2.50 on a Starbucks because he’d rather save it.

Learning and incorporating habits of these icons won’t guarantee you’ll be landing rockets on Mars anytime soon, but it certainly can help get you on the right path for massive success.

Good habits are not only about doing the right things but also avoiding the wrong things.  Below I have compiled a list of the top 14 effective habits of the world’s most productive and successful people. I hope this list will encourage you to develop your own habits that will help you become more effective and productive in your daily life.

Networking with other smart and successful people

Habit #1: Networking with Other Smart and Successful People

Networking is the easiest way to make connections and uncover opportunities. Relationships are a fundamental key to success.

At 12-years old, Steve Jobs used the Yellow Pages to find and contact Hewlett Packard co-founder, Bill Hewlett. Jobs called to ask him for computer parts, but instead landed himself a position with the company…  

At 22-years old, Bill Clinton made contact cards for all the influential people he met and sent them each personalized letters. This paid off when he ran for Governor of Arkansas and had  over 10,000 contacts in his personal network who he could easily reach with his message.

Many times it’s not what you know it’s who you know.

Saving and Investing Your Money

Habit #2: Saving and Investing Your Money

Successful people often choose to save or invest their money rather than spend it on accumulating excessively expensive status symbols.

Mark Zuckerberg drives a $30,000 car.  

Bill Gates wears a $10 watch.  

Warren Buffett still lives in the same house he bought for $31,500 in 1958.  

As Buffett said,

“Don’t save what is left after spending, but spend what is left after saving.”

These mega icons understand the value of holding onto their money rather than wasting it on extravagances.

Not worrying about what other people think

Habit #3: Not Worrying About What Other People Think

Time and time again, successful people have proven that believing in themselves is far more important than worrying about what others think of them.

Walt Disney was fired from the Kansas City Star in 1919 because his editor said Disney “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.”  Seriously.

In 1975, Anna Wintour was a junior fashion editor for Harper’s Bazaar. She was fired after 9 short months, because her shoots were considered “too edgy”. Then she started a little company called Chanel. Yeah, that Chanel. .  

As the philosopher Aristotle said,

“There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.”  

Point taken.

Prioritizing product over profits

Habit #4: Prioritizing Product Over Profits

Truly successful people seem to understand that prioritizing the quality of their product or service over profits isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s also a smart business decision that tends to pay off in the long run.

Mark Zuckerberg refused to run advertisements while building Facebook because he didn’t want to hurt the user experience.  

Jeff Bezos has become the richest person in the world despite Amazon having just a handful of profitable quarters in its two-decade history.  

Focus on building the best product with the best people, and the profits will follow.  

Not following the status quo

Habit #5: Not Following the Status Quo

Successful people are known for rejecting the ordinary in favor of wildly innovative ideas. Throughout history, those who have refused to settle for the status quo have been the biggest change-makers, and have made some of the greatest contributions to advancing society.

Henry Ford, who founded the Ford Motor Company, forever changed transportation with the introduction of the Model T, the world’s first mainstream automobile.  He is famously quoted as saying, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses..  

And, as Elon Musk works diligently toward his goal of colonizing Mars, he offers this sage wisdom to others who may be considering an alternate route through life.

“Advice I would give is to not blindly follow trends.  Question and challenge the status quo.”

As the saying goes, at first they’ll laugh at you and then they’ll ask you how you did it.   

Reading and developing your mind

Habit #6: Reading and Developing Your Mind

Many successful people have discovered that reading provides an excellent workout for the mind, and helps them stay sharp.

Mark Cuban reads more than 3 hours every day.  

Elon Musk read books to learn how to build rockets.  

Mark Zuckerberg resolved to read a book every 2 weeks throughout 2015.

And the benefits of reading have been validated by science. Significant research has concluded that reading stimulates your mind and helps keep it healthy and active. So, remember, success starts from the inside out: train your mind and your body will follow.   

Not getting deterred by failure

Habit #7: Not Getting Deterred By Failure

Success is almost always preceded by failure. Often, many failures. Epic failures. Only those who persevere, undeterred, will ultimately succeed.   

Unbelievably, Michael Jordan was cut from his High School basketball team. Explaining his success, he has said,

“I’ve failed over and over again in my life. That is why I succeed.”

Thomas Edison failed 1,000 times before inventing the light bulb. (Although, as Edison himself put it, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”)

Steve Jobs was fired from his own company, but that did not deter him.  

“I’m convinced that about half of what separates successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.”

No one will care about what you wanted to do – only what you did.  Don’t let failure deter you, instead, learn to use it as a stepping stone for your success.

Obsessing over your goals

Habit #8: Obsessing Over Your Goals

Obsessing over your goals sure makes it a lot easier to brush off failures and persevere through tough times. Successful people seem to intuitively understand this.

Best selling author Grant Cardone believes,

“You must be fanatical about success so the world knows you will not compromise or stop. Until you become obsessed with your mission, no one will take you seriously.”

As Ralph Waldo Emerson said,

“A man is what he thinks about all day long.”

A healthy obsession with your goals will keep you focused and motivated regardless of naysayers, setbacks and pitfalls. Your obsession will give you the drive to just keep going.

Waking up early

Habit #9: Waking up Early

Many successful people value early morning hours and stick to a schedule that lets them get a jump on the day.  Apple CEO Tim Cook wakes up at 3:45AM and gets a headstart on email.

Michelle Obama is working out by 4:30AM.  

Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey wakes up before dawn for a 6-mile run.

As Benjamin Franklin said,

“Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”

Not losing focus

Habit #10: Not Losing Focus

Successful people don’t lose focus (see also: Obsessing Over Your Goals). Not losing focus doesn’t mean launching yourself headstrong in the direction of your goals while wearing blinders.

Rather, it means continuously evaluating your actions to make sure they align with your goals. It’s about keeping your goals front-of-mind and basing your decisions on whether or not the outcome is likely to bring you closer to achieving them.

Don’t get thrown off track or distracted, just keep your eyes on the prize, as they say.

Steve Jobs famously said,

“I’m as proud of many of the things we haven’t done as the things we have done. Innovation is saying no to a thousand things.”  

Best-selling author Jim Collins believes,

“A great enterprise is more likely to die of indigestion of too much opportunity rather than starvation of too little.”  

The more you narrow your focus the more extraordinary your results will be. Don’t be a 1-year expert on 20 different things, be a 20-year expert on 1 thing.  

Setting large goals but taking small actions

Habit #11: Setting Large Goals but Taking Small Actions

Success doesn’t spring up full-grown overnight. It’s not magical or mythical. It only happens in small incremental steps that are often barely perceptible – until one day, there is a tipping point, and success just is.

Most of us aren’t privy to how many tiny actions were involved to bring about someone’s extraordinary success, so we might not realize how long their journey was.

Jeff Bezos created the largest e-commerce store in the world but started by selling just books online.  

Mark Zuckerberg built the world’s largest social network but started with just college students.

As the Chinese proverb goes,

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

(And then another, and another, and another. Basically it’s a long haul, so start walking early.)

Not engaging in negative self-thinking

Habit #12: Not Engaging in Negative Self-Thinking

Successful people do not engage in negative self-thinking – and neither should you. It takes a lot of confidence to preserve and achieve your goals and there is no value in negative thinking. It will only drag you down.

Choose to stay positive, even especially in your most challenging moments, it will serve you well.

Will Smith went from being divorced and near bankruptcy to becoming a megastar, he believes,

“You just decide- and the universe is gonna get out your way.”  

Sean Diddy Combs, despite his dad dying when he was 3, built a $700M+ net-worth in entertainment, and trusts that, “Positive attracts positive. You get out of it what you put into it.”

It’s much harder to turn a negative mindset into positive results than a positive mindset into negative  results.

And like Henry Ford famously said,

“Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.”

Helping others become more successful

Habit #13: Helping Others Become More Successful

Successful people seem to have a consistent habit of helping others, and this habit helps them be even more successful. Some people might call it karma. Others might not see the connection at all. But the reality is, success is built on relationships.

We are what we put into the world. If you want to be happier and more successful, help others be happier and more successful. There is no way to fail in doing this.

The Dalai Lama advises,

“If you want happiness for an hour take a nap. If you want happiness for a day go for a hike. If you want happiness for a year win the lottery. But if you want happiness for a lifetime help others.”

Help others become more successful and you’ll be helping yourself be more successful too.

Turning obstacles into opportunities

Habit #14: Turning Obstacles into Opportunities

We’ve all heard the adage, “when life hands you lemons, make lemonade,” well, successful people must drink a lot of lemonade. They are absolute pros at turning obstacles into opportunities. In fact, it may be one of their greatest personality traits.

The Dalai Lama was exiled from his country when he was just a child.   When questioned about how hard it must have been to never have a home, he replied that his exile had given him the opportunity to travel all over the world and make everywhere his home. He attributes that to helping him gaining worldly knowledge and become the renowned leader he is today.  

Similarly, Nelson Mandela spent much of his life in prison, a period which he refers to as a “long holiday for 27 years”. Making the most of it,  he spent his time reading and writing which enabled him to become the influential leader he was. As he put it, “I am fundamentally an optimist… Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward”.

Productive, successful people share many habits. These 14 stand out as some of the most effective and easy to adopt. Go ahead and take them for a test drive, try them out and modify them to fit into your own life – only good things will come of it.