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12 Powerful Habits To Steal from Ultra-Successful People

April 8, 2016

From making lists to meditating

I am very curious about habits, behavior psychology and how it all affects success. For over two years, I have been experimenting with my routines, work and lifestyle to find that perfect fit for happy and productive, purpose and passion driven routine.

In this article, I’d like to share some of my recent powerful habits I’ve been developing and experimenting with that I have stolen from ultra-successful people.

1. Waking up early
Waking up early has been giving me the most significant results since I decided to make a shift from a night owl into an early bird. I used to have my peak hours from 1 a.m. to 4 a.m. and would get amazing work done with sharp focus. Years passed by, and I realized that getting enough sleep on a regular basis is a key to ultimate performance and productivity, not to mention the increased quality of life.

For the last two years, I’ve been experimenting with my morning routine which starts by waking up early. I’ve started at 7 a.m. and managed to stretch it to 5 a.m My ultimate goal is to go to 4:30 a.m., as I really enjoy working on my morning rituals and getting lots of work done that push me toward my goals. I won’t lie; at the beginning it was a nightmare to wake up early. It’s dark, it’s cold, my eyes can’t open, and all I wanted to do was to go back to sleep. Sometimes it would happen, I’d be like, “I’ll just close my eyes for one more minute.”

The more and more I was concerned about my health and lifestyle, the more I saw the benefits of getting up early. I’ve seen numerous articles, infographics and interviews with the most successful people on the planet and majority of them were emphasising the importance of getting up early for their success and life balance. I’ve been greatly inspired by this article: 12 Lessons of Waking Up at 4:30 a.m. for 21 Days by Filipe Castro Matos.

TomasLau.com: Lessons I Learned from 10 Days of Silence and Meditation

2. Making lists
I don’t have time for it. One of the most common excuses I hear people say to me when I ask so why you don’t exercise, why you don’t write, why you don’t build a business? You have time, I have time, Barack Obama has time. We all have time, and just to remind you, we all have 24 hours a day, no matter where you live, how much money you make or how successful you are, you have the same amount of time as everyone else. So how some people excel and some don’t? They prioritize. You must come to peace with a fact that you can’t have it all. You either master one thing or you become mediocre at many things, but you can’t have both.

“You must come to peace with a fact that you can’t have it all.”

Making lists, and especially hand-written lists, make your brain believe that these are the only things you need to focus on. Once you start working on something you will be bombarded with thoughts and excuses of what you should be doing instead. Hold tight, write these ideas and distractions down to your “later” list, as this little trick makes your brain think about it as a complete task and then you can stop thinking about it and focus on your work. Mindfulness and awareness help you a lot with noticing these thoughts and I will talk about it a little bit later in this article.

I love the idea of essentialism, you need to focus on essential things and say a big no to distractions and all the endless opportunities. Warren Buffet has an incredibly powerful priorities list method.

Begin with writing down 25 things you want to do in your life. After that prioritize them writing a number from 1 to 25. Rewrite the list by priorities starting 1 to 25, now draw a line after the 5th priority. First five priorities are the ones you need and can focus to really achieve them, and now, the most important part, below the line, 20 other priorities are your “avoid at all costs list”. This is the list of you wanting to become a musician, wanting to write a book, wanting to start a blog, wanting to [INSERT A VERB + NOUN]. Most of the time it’s more about not doing than doing. Doing nothing instead of doing anything in most cases is better for your balance, health, sleep and focus on your main priorities.

3. Habit stacking
The concept of habit stacking is a set of habits, a script of your morning routine to make sure you get the most of your morning and prepare yourself for running the day like a boss.

“Either you run the day or the day runs you.” – Jim Rohn

Habit stacking works like magic for me, my current morning miracle looks like that:

  • Wake up at 5 a.m.
  • After I wake up I will drink water
  • After I drink water I will stretch
  • After I stretch I will eat
  • After I eat I will meditate for 15 minutes
  • After I meditate I will read 20 pages
  • After I read I will write 500 words
  • After I write I will plan the day and define MIT
  • After I plan the day I will do the affirmations (What do I want? Why do I want it? What am I committed to doing in order to get there?)
  • After I do the affirmations I will visualise and imagine doing the tasks
  • After I visualise I will work on MIT
  • After MIT, I will exercise

Habit stacking is a concept of sticking a new habit to a current one. For example, when you’re brushing your teeth you can read two pages right after doing it. You’re more likely to develop a new habit on top of an old one because your brain has lots of synaptic connections for that habit to run it on autopilot. After you start stacking habit on habit, your order becomes a habit too, the best part is that habits are automatic, meaning that it doesn’t use your willpower so you can basically program yourself to do one or the other thing without even thinking about it. I write this article 6 a.m. as a part of my morning miracle after waking up at 5 a.m., drinking water, stretching, eating, meditating and reading.

TomasLau.com: Tools I Use To Learn, Work and Travel Anywhere In the World

4. Stretching
One of the recent habits I am developing now is stretching. I was inspired by my buddy Ivan Shulev, who does it every day for at least an hour. At the beginning, I saw it as a waste of time, but incorporating stretching into my morning and workout routines I can see and feel the benefits of being able to sit straight longer, reduced back pain and better flexibility.

My goal is to develop a habit and stretch every 30 min while working as most of the time I am just sitting and staring at my screen. Complementary to that I started experimenting with working standing up, a little problem is that my current nomadic lifestyle doesn’t allow me to work from one place so I need to get creative and use a fridge, put chairs on the table, books under my laptop to make my stand up desk the right height. Once again, thanks to Ivan for leading by showing an example.

5. Listening to podcasts
For a long time in my life, I was constantly looking for instant gratification, entertainment to be exact, mostly to escape my boring lifestyle and day dream by looking at cartoons, movies and series that would portray something. It would allow myself to impersonate with people on the screen and feel the success they have.

“I have never in my life learned anything from any man who agreed with me.” – Dudley Field Malone

No matter how fulfilling and immersive these experiences are I decided to invest in the future I want to live in, invest in myself and pay the price of hard and consistent work to become the best person I can. I decided to give up series, stop wasting time on weird videos and minimise time spent listening to music. Instead, I wanted to allow myself learn more, be inspired and have a positive impact on my personality and mindset development.

I am curious about the top performers, best-selling authors, industry disruptors, creatives, entrepreneurs, lifestyle designers and leaders that inspire and change the world. Check out my list of the podcasts I listen to and you may find something for yourself.

The School of Greatness with Lewis Howes – Lewis interviews bestselling authors, top athletes, successful entrepreneurs and other inspiring individuals.

The Tim Ferriss Show – Tim talks with scientists, authors, entrepreneurs and people who change the world. Topics range from neuroscience to psychology to business and more.

The $100 MBA Show – real life business lessons in short form episodes with Omar Zenhom and Nicole Baldinu.

The Fizzle Show – fun, actionable and inspiring show for creative entrepreneurs.

The Cubicle Crashing Podcast by Lydia Lee – Lydia interviews creative entrepreneurs and individuals about unconventional lifestyle and escaping 9-5. Check out my conversation with Lydia.

Entrepreneur on Fire – John Lee Dumas interviews most inspiring and successful entrepreneurs.

6. Meditation
I’ve been meditating inconsistently for over a year now, inconsistently meaning I’d meditate 5 times a week, other weeks only once or twice. However, after spending 10 days in silence in the mountains of Northern Thailand I am meditating at least 5 times a week, for at least 15 minutes. It really helps me to calm down, accept the things happening in my life, get in peace with the present moment, become more grateful and relaxed.

Mindfulness and meditation may help to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, suggests new research from the Shamatha Project at the University of California, Davis.

I’ve been an active mindfulness advocate for the last year and I will repeat myself again, if you haven’t tried meditation yet, do it, try it for at least 3 days and observe how you feel, I recommend starting with Headspace or Calm app and spend at least 10 minutes a day focusing on your breath and relaxing. The world is buzzing and many things are happening. You are not aware of the world around you but more sadly of your inner self too. Humans can think of 60,000 stories and feel 300,000 emotions every day, how many of them are you aware of?

7. Reading
How do you read more books? I was obsessed with that question and tried to find all the hacks possible, speed reading, reading excerpts, summaries, trying audiobooks, watching videos that explain the most of the book concepts and so on.

I’ve discovered a mind-blowing hack that was there all the time. If you want to read more books, simply spend more time reading. If you don’t have time to read, make more time. Have a book always with you, read after you wake up, read when you commute to work, read while you wait for your morning coffee at the cafe. Having a break at work? Read. Read before the bed. All of these will add up and give you 20-40 pages a day which are around 2 books a month. I used to waste months without reading a single book.

I hope I don’t need to tell you about the benefits of reading books as these are enormous. If some of the wealthiest people in the world like Warren Buffet and Mark Zuckerberg can read hundreds of books a year and Elon Musk can teach himself rocket science reading, it must be important. Ordinary people seek entertainment. Extraordinary people seek education and learning. That’s why most successful people are reading books instead of wasting time watching TV.

Over years reading you will certainly reshape your thinking, you will be knowledgeable and have ideas on many topics, you will think and see differently, you will have answers to common questions, you will feel more confident and creative.

Make reading your priority.

TomasLau.com: Heartwarming Way To Appreciate People Who Inspire You

8. Writing
Writing is definitely one of the major skills that have influenced my lifestyle in a positive way. It’s not only very meditative activity as it helps me think deeper but it also allows me to create stories, makes me a better communicator and increases my creativity. When I get into the zone words are just flowing.

What I love about writing the most is the impact it can have. You can potentially reach millions of people by just writing once and publishing it online, you don’t need to repeat yourself and tell everyone personally about your story.

It makes you a better person, you take everything that has been bothering you into words on paper or screen and it leaves you calmer, more satisfied and inspired.

9. Defining the most important task (MIT)
Most of the time I’d just write a to-do list of some random tasks I want to do that day and my over optimistic to-do list would go unfinished every day. Now, I am focusing on one major task, the most important task (MIT) of the day that will help me achieve my vision and contribute the most to the future I want to build. I wrote a piece on Forbes about decision fatigue and its consequences which are all about making a limited amount of decisions every day and consuming a certain amount of willpower for each and every decision.

Defining and focusing on my most important task helps me get the most vital task done and move closer to my main goal, if I still have energy left for other tasks, I’d work on secondary and tertiary importance level tasks to run errands, ensure the cash flow and work on improvements for my business and life.

10. Doing the affirmations
Doing the affirmations is quite new for me, I heard about the concept but never really took the time to do them. Now, every morning I am doing a short positive self-talk that I am already creative, productive, confident, influential, calm, loving, leading, inspiring, humble, intelligent, innovative, attractive, sensible and successful. It really helps me get that little positive boost for the day and adds extra confidence to whatever I do.

The next step for me is to do it in front of a mirror with more energy and belief to really pump up myself with positive energy for the day.

11. Visualisation
Imagine it with all the details, how does it look, smell, sound, feel? What emotions you’d have, how would you look, what would you do? Make it as realistic as possible and truly believe into it. Practising visualisation daily helps me stay on the track and know that it is inevitable, I’ve already been there and done that, now just need my body to get where my mind already is, the victory.

“The mind is everything. What you think you become.” – Buddha

Visualisation is a process of recreating all the images, sounds and feelings in your mind in order to practice in a perfect environment. Turns out, visualisation is very popular in sports psychology.

As I was active in athletics for around a decade, I would watch videos of great athletes and analyse their techniques, I’d look at the pictures of pole vaulters and imagine myself doing the same movements jumping over the bar. Before the competition I’d imagine myself warming up, stretching and finally competing. I was visualising without even knowing about it.

What is the difference between a good and great athlete? Their mental strength and power of visualisation. One of the most overused cliches in sport is that 90 percent of performance is mental. According to Doug Gardner, sport is 100 percent mental.

12. Exercise
I’ve been exercising for over a decade now. I’ve been involved in athletics from a young age of 12, I’ve faced many personal defeats, struggle and growth of my physical and mental body. For the last three years, I switched to the gym, running and stretching. Occasionally trying new things like yoga, surfing, ultimate frisbee, tennis and surfing.

Now I am regularly exercising 4-5 times a week, with exceptions when I get sick or travel.

Tomas Laurinavicius is an adventurous designer, blogger & entrepreneur from Lithuania. Founder of Despreneur, a magazine for design entrepreneurs and co-author of Mobile Design Book. Currently traveling the world with a mission to help 1 million people to change their lifestyle for good.

This article originally appeared on TomasLau.com