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Let High-Achievers Tell You How These 10 Rituals Shorten Your Distance To Success

Let High-Achievers Tell You How These 10 Rituals Shorten Your Distance To Success

Success doesn’t just come to anyone. It has to be attained through hard work, dedication, and relentless drive. The most successful people in the world are often more than happy to share the methods to their madness, and it’s no coincidence that many of them practice the same methods on a daily basis. Staying disciplined and regimented is a large part of why certain people are able to transcend the masses, and rise to the level of success they’ve attained throughout their lives. The most successful people in the world:

1. Make a daily to-do list

Many people make a to-do list; that’s nothing new. However, the way in which successful people approach their to-do lists is much different than the way others do. While many people (myself included) make a to-do list that is relatively underwhelming, successful people tend to overload their to-do list, giving them too much to do. This doesn’t mean they actually finish everything on their list; it just means they always have something to do. The most successful people always have something productive to do, and make it so they are always improving upon their former self. CEO of Omada Health Sean Duffy actually utilizes a “running” to-do list which spans not just the following day, but lists goals he wants to tackle within the next couple of weeks.

2. Schedule their time

Benjamin Franklin was famous for not only creating a daily to-do list, but also for scheduling his time by the hour. Doing so helps in a variety of ways. First of all, it gives you an idea of how much time you’ll have to spend on specific activities or projects. Secondly, while scheduling your day, you’ll actively visualize yourself completing the tasks, and finishing them becomes much more likely. To-do lists can be incredibly intimidating, as you run the risk of thinking “there’s just not enough time in the day.” When you schedule your day out completely, you’ll realize you have all the time you need. Furthermore, you won’t waste time scrolling through your phone or watching TV if you’ve set deadlines for yourself.

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3. Quantify their time

It may sound unbelievable, but Jeff Margolis, chairman and CEO of Welltok, claims he knows “exactly how many (hours) I have spent working, with family, exercising, or on community activities.”

Along with making a to-do list and scheduling their time, successful people add up time spent on various projects, analyze them, and manage their schedule accordingly. For example, if you gave yourself two hours to complete a task, but it actually took three, there’s nothing wrong with that. However, when a similar project comes along in the future, you’ll know better how to schedule your time. Conversely, if you schedule two hours of your day to do a task that only takes one, you’ll have an hour of time left over that isn’t being utilized to your advantage. Not only that, but successful people understand that if they check their phone 10 times a day “just for 5 minutes,” they’ve wasted almost an hour of their day.

4. Wake up earlier

Ben Franklin was also never short on words of wisdom, such as the famous proverb, “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” Successful people wake up much earlier in the morning than most others. While some of us hit the snooze button at least twice every morning, most wealthy people wake up at least two or three hours before they need to get down to business. Doing so allows them to take advantage of the body’s natural energy cycle. The mind is most productive a couple hours after waking. This explains why many of us need that cup of coffee every morning to jolt ourselves awake, and why others seem to be ready and raring to go by 8:30 a.m. every day. We might see early birds as “morning people,” but the reason they’re up and moving so early is because they’ve been awake for more than fifteen minutes, and wiped the sleep from their eyes hours ago.

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5. Prepare for their day before working

Successful people don’t just wake up early and stare at the wall until their body and mind is ready to work. Neha Sampat, CEO of Built.io, says she always gets one major task out of the way before 8 a.m., even on weekends. By waking up early (around 5 a.m.) on a daily basis, she’s ready to get moving by 7 a.m. at the latest. Early morning is also a good time to get other things done, such as exercise that you won’t want to do after a long day’s work, or reading up on news that you won’t have time for throughout the day. Most people (especially college-aged) use the phrase “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” as an excuse to stay up late partying with friends; successful people use it as an excuse to forgo sleeping in late in favor of getting things done.

6. Avoid getting in ruts

Rodney Williams, co-founder and CEO of LISNR, reports that he avoids habits that eventually lead to ruts. This advice might seem like it gibes with the previous sections discussing to-do lists and schedules, but since you’re in control of your own schedule, don’t be afraid to change it up. Think of high school: How boring was it to go through the same progression of classes day after day? It made everything so monotonous, and by the end of the day you were completely fried. Take control of your life! If you find yourself getting bored with your schedule, start going to the gym before work instead of after, or take a different route to work. Even the smallest changes can refresh your perspective, and make the rest of your day just a bit more exciting.

7. Pay attention to relationships

Novelist George A. Moore once said, “A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it.” Being successful isn’t all about money, fame, and fortune. It’s about what you can do for your loved ones after attaining those three things. When putting your daily schedule together, make sure you include time to spend with your family. And don’t schedule this in pencil; make sure you never cancel on a date with your daughter, and always find time to pick your son up from soccer practice. After all, your family is the reason you work so hard in the first place. Don’t lose sight of that while you’re busy checking business-related tasks off your list.

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8. Communicate with colleagues

Vikram Aggarwal, CEO of EnergySage, believes it’s incredibly important to be transparent with your employees, colleagues, and bosses. You should never find yourself being “just a colleague,” but should work to forge a relationship that goes beyond the walls of your office building. Be a teammate and a friend, and treat your co-workers as family. Doing so will open doors of communication when working on difficult projects that require input from a variety of specialists, and will help ensure that everyone is on the same page and has a common goal. When your team succeeds, you can feel a sense of accomplishment knowing you helped them get there.

9. Exercise

Jason van den Brand, co-founder and CEO of Lenda, finds time to exercise his body at least five times a week. By now it should go without saying that this time is usually before he gets to the office, around 6 a.m. on a daily basis. And he switches it up, too: Sometimes he’ll hit the gym, and other times he’ll take his bike out for an hour spin. Not only does exercising early in the morning start your day with an adrenaline rush, but it also starts your day with another task checked off your list. With one less thing to do before you even start your work day, your head will be clear to focus on other obligations.

10. Meditate

Ernie Capobianco, CEO of Sq1, meditates on daily basis, sometimes twice a day. You might be thinking “I thought successful people didn’t spend any time sitting around.” This is a complete misunderstanding of what goes on in the mind when meditating. Sitting quietly and preparing for the day in the morning or reflecting on the day’s events in the evening helps you gain perspective and insight that you can’t possibly have when you’re engrossed in a project. Spending time meditating is the best way to come to realizations that will lead to breakthroughs in your work, especially if you’ve recently hit a roadblock. If you’re going to spend your time doing nothing, do so mindfully.

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Featured photo credit: Flickr via farm4.staticflickr.com

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Matt Duczeminski

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Last Updated on October 22, 2020

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

What Makes People Poor Listeners?

Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

How To Be a Better Listener

For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

1. Pay Attention

A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

2. Use Positive Body Language

You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

According to Alan Gurney,[2]

“An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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Be polite and wait your turn!

4. Ask Questions

Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

5. Just Listen

This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

6. Remember and Follow Up

Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

  1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
  2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

8. Maintain Eye Contact

When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

Final Thoughts

Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
[2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
[3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
[4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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