11 Research Backed Habits of Successful Entrepreneurs

Vinay Koshy
Vinay Koshy

Last updated on

September 21, 2021

Good habits are the foundation on which most successful entrepreneurs build their business. According to Aristotle -

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”

They realize that where their focus and energy is directed matters to achieving their goals. For those of us who struggle with poor habits there is hope. With perseverance and hard work you too can develop the habits of the successful.

According to Charles Duhigg (author of The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business), studies show that people perform automated behaviors the same way every time if they are in the same environment. Leveraging this behavior allows successful entrepreneurs to avoid decision fatigue and instead focus on more important things.

So what habits can help you get on the path to success? Well there a number to choose from but here are 11 researched backed habits.

Create a Recharge Ritual

A NASA study of 4000 of their employees showed that those that took a 30 minute break to recharge themselves, increased productivity by 35% and improved decision making by up to 50%, compared to those that didn’t.

While recharge rituals vary from person to person they are a key part of successful people's lives. Take entrepreneurs like Joel Gascoigne, Alexis Grant and Elaine Wherry.

Here are some ideas to help you create your recharge ritual. Be sure to test and keep trying till something works for you. :

  • Get some exercise
  • Get a massage or spend some time with loved ones
  • Treat yourself with something you enjoy
  • Schedule reflective, quiet “me time” on a monthly or daily basis

Enjoy Time in Solitude

According to Psychology Today, spending time alone improves your ability to focus, and increases your productivity. In fact many entrepreneurs actually look forward to this habit and ritual in order to energize themselves and make better decisions.

So schedule in time by yourself so that you can benefit from this habit. Here are a few idea of how to effectively develop and reinforce the habit.

  • Disconnect from technology and others for a time
  • Get up or get in early to work when things are quieter
  • Just close the door to your office or room
  • Don’t spend your lunch working at your desk
  • Schedule your time in solitude into your calendar.

Take Time to Reflect

A series of studies shows that taking time out to reflect teaches you to do it better next time and boosts performance. According to a study done at Stanford University, taking time to reflect instead of working extra hours will make you more productive.

It is a daily habit that has become invaluable to entrepreneurs including David Heinemeier Hansson and Marc Andreessen. So how can you create the habit of reflection despite your busy schedule. Here are a few ideas:

  • Schedule the time for it
  • Contemplate areas of your life not just activities
  • Be open to change and be brutally honest
  • Focus on one thing at a time
  • Envision yourself making positive change
  • Make note of the change that occurs through the week

Learn to Disconnect from Technology

In 2010, researchers at the University of Maryland published a study that indicated students compared their internet use to addiction. It also showed that constant multi-tasking never increased productivity. In fact the use of technology leads to increased stress, anxiety and can make you dumber.

How do you create the habit of disconnecting from technology? Here are a few ideas.

  • Put your smartphone on silent or away in another room or bag to remove the temptation of checking your messages and emails.
  • Plan time away at a remote location where internet connectivity doesn’t exist or unplug your modem for a period of time.
  • Spend time with your loved ones and friends by giving them your complete attention sans technology.

Plan Your Week Ahead

According to researchers at Duke University, well-formed habits become automatic responses. Successful entrepreneurs realize they can leverage this and take the time to develop habits that help them succeed.

One of the most crucial things any person can do to get productive is to plan their week ahead. Jack Dorsey at one point led two companies at the same time. His secret to being productive and getting things done was to plan his week ahead of time. He used to give each day of the week a theme.

Here are a few ideas you can implement as you plan your week ahead of time.

  • Plan your week around themes instead of activities
  • Schedule important breaks
  • Schedule time to build better work relationships
  • Plan out part of your professional life
  • Allocate time to build your personal brand

Get Regular Exercise

According to Lifehack, many successful entrepreneurs use exercise as the ultimate stress reliever. In fact Jack Dorsey co founder at Twitter says that people just need to squeeze in time for moderate daily exercise and be are aware of how not being healthy can harm productivity.

So how do you create a habit of getting regular exercise? James Clear recommends 3 essential steps:

  1. Develop a ritual to make starting easier.
  2. Start with an exercise that is ridiculously small.
  3. Focus on the habit first and the results later.

Schedule Microadventures

Microadventures are small little adventures that you can look forward to during your day at work. This may mean taking a walk to a cafe to grab a cup of coffee, or simply sitting outside at a park for a few minutes to recharge.

Alastair Humpreys coined the term microadventures and his tips to start out with this habit include:

  • Take a moonlight hike
  • use your off hours to be adventurous and plan for it
  • Sleep in the open
  • use a different mode of transport

Wake Up at the Same Time

According to research done at Stanford University, regular sleep helps you manage your time better. Research also show health benefits including the ability to regulate your hormone levels. Other research also shows that your body actually prepares you for the time that it believes you are prepared to wake up leading to a more productive day.

It works many people including CEO’s the likes of Jeff Immelt and Ursulal Burns.

How do you wake up at the same time everyday? Mental Floss provides some insights.

“If you follow a diligent sleep routine—waking up the same time every day—your body learns to increase your PER levels in time for your alarm. About an hour before you’re supposed to wake up, PER levels rise (along with your body temperature and blood pressure). To prepare for the stress of waking, your body releases a cocktail of stress hormones, like cortisol. Gradually, your sleep becomes lighter and lighter.”

Minimize Chores or Tasks

According to research we all have a reservoir of will and discipline that gets depleted each time we make a decision. To conserve willpower for important decision making, you need to make regular routines that have little value, automatic.

For example take the clothes you wear. President Obama and Mark Zuckerberg are known to wear the same colored clothes in public, in order to minimize their time on trivial things like the color of clothes they wear.

Here are a few ideas to help minimize your chores and tasks:

  • Break down large tasks into small parts.
  • Prioritize tasks in order to get important jobs done.
  • Automate or delegate tasks that do not require your personal attention.

Create a Morning Routine for Productivity

Research suggests that morning people are more productive than those who stay up late at night in terms of their willingness to take action. Steven Benna in this post says that research also suggests that setting your morning routine, and including a quick breakfast will help you maintain your productivity throughout the day. In fact it is a habit that seems to work well for the likes of Richard Branson and Tim Cook.

Try these ideas to create a morning routine for productivity:

  • Begin with easy to handle tasks to ease into your day.
  • Look at your schedule for the day and week to prioritize tasks.
  • Get your essentials together so that you can remain at your desk undistracted for at least an hour.

Schedule Time for Networking and Meetings

Networking is essential for the successful entrepreneur, in fact it can be the lifeblood of a business due to the connections and business referrals you can get out of it. But with the busyness of everyday life it can often be neglected. Forbes Magazine states that you can improve your networking skills if this is an area in which you are lacking.

How can you include time to create the habit of networking and attending meetings? Here are a few tips.

  • Share what you know
  • Become a connector - facilitating the connection of individuals who may not know each other
  • Don’t eat alone
  • Network in your industry or niche
  • Schedule time to network

Over to you…

While the above research-backed habits provide some ideas to help you become successful they are not a complete list.

These habits may seem so simple that you may be tempted to dismiss them as non-essential. But as research proves those that develop good habits will find themselves ahead of the pack every week.

Do you have a favorite habit or ritual that helps you? Share with us in the comments!

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