What habits do Jack Dorsey, Mark Zuckerberg and other successful people have in common?

The 1989 book ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ examines behaviours and mindsets that the author Stephen R Covey believed all successful people employ to work in the most effective way. But the world has changed a little since 1989, and with it so have people’s habits. So what are the seven habits that the world’s most successful people keep up today to ensure their continued success?

1. Sleep

There is much disagreement over how much sleep we actually need, six, eight, or nine hours, who knows? However, there is evidence that shows that people who get at least seven hours sleep a night are the most productive. If you're struggling to get that much sleep you'll be glad to know that you're not alone, Sheryl Sandberg has discussed her own sleep problems and how, with the help of Arianna Huffington (who Sandberg refers to as her 'sleep coach') she has started to make sure she gets enough rest at night.

"I’m much better due to you," Sandberg said to Huffington in conversation at the World Economic Forum. "You harangued me for years. I'm getting more sleep, and you're right. And I learned this by watching my children.

"Once you have children, you realize that when they don't get enough sleep, they're a mess... When they get enough sleep, everything's great. And then I realized I'm like that, too. I really do prioritize sleep and it's made a huge difference."

Many highly successful people are also great believers in the importance of being an early bird and hitting the day early. 

Richard Branson gets up most mornings at 5am to start his day. "By rising early, I’m able to do some exercise and spend time with my family, which puts me in a great mind frame before getting down to business," he says. "I find the period of quiet, before most of the world logs on, to be great time to catch up on news and reply to emails. These early hours give me the opportunity to start each day with a fresh and organised slate."

2. Listening to music

A lot of research has been done into how music affects the brain when working - is it distracting, does it help focus the mind, what music is best? Steve Jobs said that he listened to music while he worked as he found it helped with the rhythm of what he was doing.

"If you’re trying to design a computer you will literally immerse yourself in the thousands of details necessary; all of a sudden, as the scaffolding gets set up high enough, it will all become clearer and clearer and that’s when the breakthrough starts," he said. "It is a rhythmic experience, or it is an experience where everything’s related to everything else and it’s all intertwined. And it’s such a fragile, delicate experience that it’s very much like music."

3. Setting challenges

Each year Mark Zuckerberg sets himself a new challenge, completely separate to his work at Facebook. Previously he has learnt to speak Mandarin, met one new person every day who doesn’t work at Facebook, and spent a year only eating meat that he had killed himself.

"I spend almost all of my time building Facebook," he says. "So these personal challenges are things I wouldn’t normally have the chance to do if I didn’t take the time."

This year’s challenge is for Zuckerberg to read a new book every two weeks, which he is doing with a community of over 300,000 people on Facebook following his journey.

4. Prioritising

"Don't prioritise your schedule, schedule your priorities," Covey wrote in his 1989 book, and it's a motto that many successful people still live by.

Warren Buffett extends this further with his ‘two list’ system, which he uses to help his employees determine their priorities and actions. Buffett asks his staff to write down their top 25 career goals, you could also use this for shorter goals, for example the 25 things you want to accomplish this week. Then he gets them to circle their five top goals, creating two lists: the five circled items creating List A and the 20 items that were not circled, List B.

Buffett explains that List B is not just a lower priority list, but in fact a "avoid-at-all-cost list". "No matter what, these things get no attention from you until you’ve succeeded with your top five," Buffett tells staff.

I find the period of quiet, before most of the world logs on, to be great time to catch up on news and reply to emails.

5. Email etiquette

There are many different theories about the best way of approaching your inbox. From Arianna Huffington who has three rules about email: no emails for half an hour before bed, no rushing to emails as soon as she wakes, and no emails while she is with her children; to Eric Schmidt who said that the best approach to the inbox is to reply to everything as soon as possible, no matter who the email is from or if the reply is simply "got it".

"There are people who can be relied upon to respond promptly to emails, and those who can’t. Strive to be one of the former," Schmidt says. "Most of the best – and busiest – people we know act quickly on their emails, no just to us or to a select few senders, but to everyone."

6. Stay active

One thing that you will notice most entrepreneurs have in common is a passion for sport or exercise of some form. Richard Branson loves kitesurfing, Arianna Huffington practices yoga, Barack Obama works out for 45 minutes a day six days a week, and Oprah Winfrey does cardio and strength-training four to five times a week.

The importance of staying fit to keep your brain active is well documented in research. “Exercise is the single best thing you can do for your brain in terms of mood, memory and learning,” John Ratey a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School said in an interview with US News & World Report. "Even 10 minutes of activity changes your brain."

7. Make the most of the weekend

Some might think that the best way of using the weekend is to throw yourself into work and use the extra two days to get ahead. But that's certainly not the habit of many successful people.

"Saturday I take off," Jack Dorsey, founder of Twitter says. "And then Sunday is reflections, feedback, strategy and getting ready for the rest of the week."

Successful people recognise the importance of shutting down and having some time doing something other than work. According to Laura Vanderkam, author of What The Most Successful People Do On The Weekend, successful people recognise that weekends are the secret weapon to professional success. "You need to hit Monday ready to go," she says.

Comment

Our Companies

Quick Links