New year, new goals: some of them lofty, some a little more approachable. Whenever the slate is wiped clean with the promise of a fresh start, most people start thinking of ways they can recalibrate, reset, and change their approach to be more successful in the coming months than the year that just passed.
It can be tremendously healthy to look at the habits of the most successful people in the world when it comes down to modeling our own daily habits. A through-line starts to emerge: What are some of the commonalities that top-performers all share, and what tangible ways can those traits apply to how we live?
The answer might surprise you: invest in yourself by building intellectual capital. How? Simplicity and mindfulness seem to be a common thread, where some of the busiest, wealthiest people in the world take the time to press pause on urgent matters and invest in activities that have a long-term (rather than immediate) payoff. The notion is called compound time: These small, daily investments to grow oneself and encourage a healthy mental state over an extended period ends up yielding a greater return than focusing on completing a seemingly important business matter at the moment.
Here’s a famous example of compound time: Warren Buffet, a trailblazer and iconic entrepreneur, has (according to his own estimate) spent 80% of his time just reading and thinking. Despite manning the operations of companies with hundreds of thousands of employees, he’s a huge proponent of the ability to think critically — especially in a continually evolving, mostly digital economy. Others include AOL CEO Tim Armstrong, who asks that his executives spend 10% of their day (four hours per week) immersed in thought, and Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, who schedules two hours of uninterrupted thinking every day. Bill Gates famously takes a full week off, twice a year, to reflect deeply without interruption.
What’s the point? In short, if you’re overwhelmed with managing your immediate work deadlines, interpersonal relationships, meetings, and just mundane stuff, the key is to carve out time to build your intellectual capital with a few activities to increase your compound time. Read on for three of the top trends employed by the best, or commit to diving in full force via an online class on productivity for $36.
1. Develop rituals through journaling.
Sure, open-ended writing and reminiscing about your day has its value — but specific, intentional questions or prompts that help you evaluate your actions can change your life.
Steve Jobs always asked, “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do?” Arianna Huffington and Oprah Winfrey both do a gratitude meditation, where they count their blessings. In fact, Oprah starts each day writing in her gratitude journal, noting five things for which she’s thankful.
It’s also valuable to make a comparison between the events you expect to happen from the actions you take, and what ends up happening. In any case, writing down your experiences is a valuable way to clear your mind.
2. Read more.
Bill Gates, Winston Churchill, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Barack Obama, and JFK — all big-time readers. Think of books as providing the ultimate ROI: they improve memory, increase empathy, and help us to de-stress, all while giving impactful knowledge that demands only a few hours of our time.
3. Slow down — and experiment more.
Take an hour out of your day and instead of running errands, take the time to pause. Think of something to experiment or play with, knowing that it helps take you out of an automated work process, and encourages higher creativity.
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