Have you ever wondered how the world’s most successful business leaders organise their days and spend their free time? Yep, us too. It’s easy to think that somewhere in these daily habits lies the key to their success.
Okay, it’s not quite that simple, as there are no quick fixes or shortcuts to effective leadership. However, you may be able to up your game by adopting a few daily habits from the leaders you admire most.
We’ve looked at the day-to-day lifestyles of some prominent business leaders and picked out the practices which occur most frequently. How do your daily habits compare?
1) Learning something new
This may seem like a tall order for an “everyday” habit, but the new thing you learn can be something very small for this tactic still to be effective. The numerous benefits of everyday learning are well-documented and will help you become a better leader. When learning is part of our day-to-day lives, our brains become primed towards creativity and problem solving - two traits of effective leaders.
As for what you learn and how you learn it, this is a matter of personal choice. Seeking out material related to your interests will make you more inclined to stick with this habit. Try reading magazine articles, listening to podcasts, or watching educational videos. Any and all learning will be beneficial.
2) Taking some downtime
While it was once fashionable in the business world to behave like an obsessive and sleep-deprived workaholic, today’s great leaders recognise the enormous importance of prioritising downtime. Taking time away from work – physically AND mentally – to reset and recover will mean you’re always able to perform at your best.
Make sure you take small breaks throughout the day and holiday time (without being glued to your work email) a few times a year. The most important downtime habit, which is also the hardest to adopt, relates to sleep. Most people need between six and eight hours of sleep a night to function properly during the day, so make sure you’re catching the appropriate amount of Z’s.
3) Eating well
Adopting a healthy diet, according to Forbes magazine, is one of the best ways to maximise your performance as a business leader. Eating regular, nourishing meals will help you think clearly, deal with stress effectively, and work harder for longer. Now, far be it from us to tell you exactly what a healthy diet entails (lettuce or something, right?). However, the most widely accepted dietary guidance includes the following pointers:
- Avoid processed foods
- Avoid refined sugars
- Minimise red meat consumption
- Eat plenty of fruit, vegetables and whole grains
- Vary your diet, to make sure you get all essential nutrients
Besides improving mental and physical function, adopting a healthy diet will contribute to your leadership “image”. We know, we know, image shouldn't matter – but sadly, it does. Research has shown that employees tend to view overweight or unhealthy leaders as less effective than their slimmer, healthier counterparts (for more information, check out the Forbes article linked above).
4) Getting daily exercise
Business executives who take regular exercise report feeling more alert and less stressed in their day-to-day working lives. Exercise is known to be so beneficial to people in high-stakes leadership positions, that the Centre for Creative Leadership named it as “a leader’s best bet” when it comes to improving wellbeing and maximising performance.
Regular exercise is known to dramatically improve mental function by increasing oxygen and nutrient delivery to key areas of the brain. It also pumps you full of feel-good endorphins that will make you less inclined to have a meltdown when something disastrous happens at work. If exercise isn’t yet a part of your daily routine, try something relatively easy and low impact to ease into the new habit gently. Yoga, Pilates, walking, cycling or swimming are all popular among business leaders.
5) Working on a hobby
Regularly pursuing a hobby can help your career – science says so! Business leaders, career coaches and performance psychologists all agree that taking up a hobby can help you think more creatively, manage stress more effectively, and will make you a more attractive candidate to many prospective employers, as it demonstrates drive and passion.
Having an immersive hobby feeds into the “downtime” habit too, as it will help to take your mind off events and stresses at work. If you don’t really have a hobby, now’s the time to try something new! Whether it’s surfing, cooking, or stamp-collecting – most great leaders have a personal passion, do you?
6) Following a routine
Last, but certainly not least in our list of daily lifestyle habits is sticking to a routine. Following a daily routine is inherently grounding and frees up more mental energy for essential tasks, as having everything laid out means you won’t be bogged down making countless unimportant decisions throughout the day.
Your routine can be super simple (and probably should start out that way, if you’re not used to sticking to one). It can be a matter of sticking to set times for going to bed, waking up, showering, and eating meals. To take a little more uncertainty off your plate, you could set a work-lunch calendar that determines where or what you will eat on certain days.
If you like the idea of going full-on regimented with your routine, try taking a leaf out of Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg’s book. Reportedly, Zuckerberg wears the same grey T-shirt to work every day to avoid losing mental energy on wardrobe decision making – extreme, but effective!
Schedule your new habits
They say it takes two weeks for a new behaviour to become a habit. You may have to bully yourself into taking some downtime or listening to a podcast initially, but it will soon become second nature. Once you’ve got a basic routine up and running, you may want to pencil your new daily habits into the schedule, to make sure you don’t miss anything out.