I remember it like it was yesterday: I was in a classroom listening to my professor give a lecture on time management. 

He stated, “Master your time or it will master you.”

Fast forward 25+ years later. Time management, and my professor’s words, continue to be a part of my life. I have learned, however, the art of “daily habits” to compound daily actions into years of success. 

In their HBR article, Schwartz and McCarthy state, “Energy can be systematically expanded and regularly renewed by establishing specific rituals—behaviors that are intentionally practiced and precisely scheduled, with the goal of making them unconscious and automatic as quickly as possible.” In other words, lasting success in life requires established, counterintuitive habits.

Webster’s dictionary defines a habit (n.) as “an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary.” At Solutions 21, we believe high performers do many things well naturally. World-Class Performers, however, realize that what is required to reach the next level may not be intuitive or natural. Instead, it may be counterintuitive and require the development of skills that don’t come naturally.

In today’s 21st-century workforce, leaders must have established – possibly counterintuitive – daily habits if they are going to succeed, thrive, and preserve their business legacy.  

Lehr’s Lessons

When I was a young leader in my first profession, I was attempting to learn organizational leadership, become more effective with time management, and stray from the rut of to-do lists. My boss at the time was John Lehr. John, like my professor, taught me an important life lesson. This time, the life lesson was about REST.

After watching John for a few months, I noticed how deliberate he was with his time. Whether an informal conversation or professional engagement, John was intentional and purposeful. I also took notice to John’s facade. He always looked rested and prepared. 

I asked him one day, “What do you do each day to stay consistently effective?” Without missing a beat, he told me, “Luis, every day I ‘REST.’ That is to say I Read at least 20 minutes daily and two hours on the weekend; Exercise one hour daily; Sleep 6-7 hours nightly; and I make time to Think every day.”

From that point on, I’ve used “REST” as a habit in my life. 

Why are daily habits important? Long-term success in work and life is determined by the habits we do consistently – not just an act that we complete once. Let’s take a look at some habits that you can incorporate into your day-to-day that can enable your growth and long-term success.  

Daily Habits

As you study my habits, consider John Maxwell’s approach to applying new concepts: “take what works, discard what doesn’t, and apply your own unique aspect.”

Morning Habits enable my personal growth. These habits occur from the time I wake up until I go to work. I begin by waking up at the same time every morning to help my body get into a rhythm. After preparing my morning coffee, it’s “JAM Time” – or Jesus And Me Time – because my faith is the foundation in all I do. I then spend one hour participating in physical exercise followed by eating a healthy breakfast before going to work. Morning habits allow me to prepare myself in mind, spirt, and body before tackling daily challenges.

Work Habits enable my career growth. These habits occur during the first 30 minutes of focused work and occasional breaks with energy checkpoints throughout the day. When I get to work, I check my email, review my calendar, establish and write down my “Big Three” – or most impactful things I can do for the day, and synchronize any tasks/projects with my business partners.Then, throughout the day, I’m taking regular breaks to refresh my mind. My energy checkpoints include stepping away from my desk to take a walk, chat with a colleague, or eat lunch.

End-of-Day Habits enable an effective assessment of the day and prepares me for tomorrow. Like work habits, end-of-day habits includes 30 minutes of focused effort at the end of the day. This time is used to check and close out emails, assess what I’ve accomplished during the day, establish my initial Big Three for the next day, and a general calendar verification for the next three days. This habit is key to ensuring I’m present with my family as I start my evening habits at home.

Evening Habits enable my family growth. This is how I invest my time when I get home until I go to sleep. I reconnect with my wife and sons. We have family dinner together about five times per week, I read for 20 minutes, and ensure I get 7-8 hours of sleep. These habits require extreme discipline. And while I don’t always succeed, executing these disciplined habits helps to keep my family, mind, and body healthy.

Other Habits. Once you’ve established daily habits that work for you, work on developing your weekly, monthly, and even annual habits. Think of all of the areas of your life that can benefit from the compounding effect of a habit: family time, vacations, community service, developing others, wealth, and relationships. 

Bringing It All Together

Pulitzer prize winning and non-fiction author, Charles Duhigg, once stated, “The key to victory is creating the right routines.” Establishing daily habits is essential for World-Class Performers to counterintuitively achieve long-term success in business and life. 

How effective are your days? How are your daily habits compounding your future success? If you don’t know where to begin, consider reflecting on these habits as a solid starting point.