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7 Habits of Top Performers and World-Class Learners

7 Habits of Top Performers and World-Class Learners
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What is it that makes icons like Michael Jordan or Tony Robbins stand out from the world?

What is the difference between world-class performers and average people? It’s their habits.

Each top performer in their industry has lofty goals they want to achieve, but they focus on the process on how to get there.

From their productive morning habits of training each morning, their evening habits of picking up a valuable book to gain a competitive edge, it’s the little habits that have accumulated to make these individuals who they are.

“How you do anything is how you do everything.” -Derek Sivers

Here are 7 habits that top performers and world-class learners have to achieve more success and effectiveness.

1. Set Specific Goals

Have you ever had your eyes set on buying a specific car, let’s say a Red Volkswagen, and for the next week that’s all you saw being driven on the streets? Or maybe you recently decided to learn a new language (Spanish), and you could immediately recognize it the moment you heard it on the radio, movies, or on the streets?

It’s the same thing with goals.

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As Tony Robbins often states, “clarity is power.” If we know exactly where we’re going and what the outcome will be, our brains will figure out how to get there. And the more specific we can get, the higher chance you’ll have in getting what you want.

For example, an example of an unspecific goal would be: I want to learn a new language.

A specific goal would be: I want to learn how to speak Spanish, and hold up a 30-minute conversation with a native speaker in 90 days.

See the difference? The specific goal pinpoints exactly what you want, how you’ll measure success, and the timeline you’ll have to reach it.

2. Plan of action

A goal means nothing if we don’t have a plan of action to get there. It’s like having a final destination of where we want to go on the map, but not knowing where we are on the map nor how to navigate to our destination.

The good news is, we can start to build an action plan around the specific goal we have set.

If your goal is to have a 30-minute conversation with a native speaker in 90 days, then you first need to assess where you are.

In this example, let’s say you have zero knowledge. Your goal could be to memorize 30 of the most common words a day, and by 90 days you’ll have memorized 2,700 words, which will allow you to understand 60% of the spoken language.

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3. Schedule it

Time is the most valuable commodity we take for granted, yet we all have time constraints.

Not enough time to go to the gym. Not enough time to learn a language. The list goes on…

“What Doesn’t Get Scheduled, Doesn’t Get Done.”

Top performers can always get more done than the average person, because they have everything scheduled in their calendars.

Despite running a multi-billion dollar empire, Warren Buffett still manages to schedule time to read over 500+ pages everyday. This is anonymously the habits of successful people and top performers across all industries.

“I just sit in my office and read all day.” — Warren Buffett

Take this time to schedule your action task somewhere in your calendar. The more frequent you can schedule it, the better.
If you want to memorize 30 words a day, then you can schedule at time from 7pm-7:30pm after work each day to get it done.

Scheduling opens up time slots we never knew we had, and it allows us to get more done than we think we can.

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4. Have a coach

According to Coaches.com, coaches:

  • Create a safe environment in which you see yourself more clearly;
  • Identify gaps between where you are now and where you need or want to be
  • Ask for more intentional thought, action and behavior changes than you thought you could accomplish
  • Guide the building of the structure, accountability, and support necessary to ensure sustained commitment

This applies to every industry out there from: sports, dating, business, language learning, etc.

World-class learners not only have one coach, but they often have several. Top performers understand that even the little things can accumulate, and they’re looking for the slightest bit of advantage they can find. By bringing the best qualified experts and coaches to help them improve their jump shot for basketball, their marketing for business, or their accents for language learning, they can reach goals in life faster.

5. Embrace failure

Anyone who is playing at the top of their level had to crawl and sweat to get to where they are.

It’s often our failures that make up who we are, and it’s our failures teaching us the best lessons in life.

Lessons lead to not only faster progress, but a spark of innovation. Silicon Valley is an example.

Having built a culture that celebrates failure and even encourages it, budding entrepreneurs are not afraid to dream big and go all in on their projects, which is what made Silicon Valley one of the most innovative cities in the world.

What is something you’ve failed at recently that you should embrace?

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6. Know how to listen

When Michelle Obama is having a conversation with someone, it’s said that she’s talking only 20% of the time, while listening 80% of the time.

You would imagine that the First Lady of the United States would want to have more to say than that, but listening 80% of the time is how she has gotten to where she is.

Successful people know that there’s a lesson to be learned with every interaction and conversation. They’re sponges for new knowledge that they can apply in their lives, and understand that they’re not learning a thing while they’re speaking.

Focus on speaking 20% of the time, and you’ll be surprised by not only the knowledge you learn from the other person, but the connection they’ll feel with you after the conversation.

7. Know your best learning style

In Peter Drucker’s book Managing One Self, he states that the most important skill you can learn is self-awareness.

This means:

  • Understanding how you best learn: audio, visual, and kinesthetic
  • How you best work: alone, with others, as a subordinate, or as part of a team.
  • Your best learning environment: at home, classroom, lecture halls, small groups.

Being self-aware with your strengths and weaknesses can not only save you years of wasting time, but it can allow you to focus on improving your strengths even further to achieve your end goal.

More by this author

Sean Kim

Sean is the founder and CEO of Rype, a language learning app. He's an entrepreneur and blogger.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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