In just under two years on The Pursuit, I’ve had the privilege of interviewing dozens of today’s leading entrepreneurs, celebrities and influencers including Gary Vaynerchuk, Tony Robbins, Barbara Corcoran, Seth Godin, Simon Sinek and Chalene Johnson. I’ve had these amazing, coveted conversations in person, usually in the guest’s home or office. The setting gives me a unique peek into their day-to-day life. To prepare, I listen, read and watch hours of content from or about the guest. Following the interview, I analyze and digest what I’ve learned into written articles and video segments.
I have spent upwards of 4,000 hours studying success in under two years, which puts me in a unique position to dissect success for the rest of us. What are the habits of successful people? What are their secrets? How did they start? How did they defy the odds?
My guests have collectively written more than 20 New York Times bestselling books and employed thousands of people. They have a total combined net worth of more than $800 million. Though they each have a unique story and perspective, the one thing they undoubtedly have in common is these people know how to structure 24 hours for maximum success.
Here are the top seven keys to success for the rest of us when it comes to structuring your day in order to produce your best work and become your best self.
We’ve heard the “start early” advice a million times. The unique key is that there is power in being alone and getting focused at the start of the day. Even if you can’t wake up at 4 a.m. or 5 a.m. (like many of my guests), consider committing to getting up just a few minutes earlier to calmly plan your day before the pressure to answer emails begins, the phones start to ring or the rest of your family needs your attention.
“I’d wake up early in the morning … because in those early morning hours, I was not roles, I was just a soul. That’s when I came out,” explained Glennon Doyle Melton, founder of Momaster.com and the New York Times bestselling author of Love Warrior.
In those few extra minutes, decide then and there how your day will go. My interviewees all agree, you must be proactive about your time rather than reactive. If you start your day reading emails from others about their agendas and priorities, it can derail your own.
“If you jump right into your email,” explained Brendon Burchard, founder of Experts Academy and New York Times bestselling author, “you automatically set the frame in your mind to react to other people’s needs. And you’re just reacting to the world, you’re not strategically thinking, ‘What are my moves forward?’ And so when I begin the day, I’m moving myself forward before I’m replying to anything, and that’s the secret.”
Ask yourself, what are your priorities for the day? What are your non-negotiables? Get detailed and laser focused on the most high-value tasks. You can also make these key decisions the night before as you wrap up the previous day. Either way, make sure you’re running your day rather than letting your day run you.
Obviously, Kathy Griffin has a very different day than Seth Godin, who has a very different day than Grant Cardone. One common denominator is to think of your day, and your month for that matter, in blocks. Give yourself blocks of uninterrupted time for creation, blocks for emailing and corresponding with your team, blocks for exercise, etc. Don’t forget to block out time for family or your spouse, making sure you can unplug and be present with those who matter most.
“I really focus on the things that I do the best, which is content creation. I only do meetings, generally speaking, internal meetings on Monday and I do external meetings on Friday,” shared Michael Hyatt, former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, now founder of Platform University and New York Times bestselling author. He explained that his team will record 13 podcast episodes, audio and video, over two days once a quarter.
“I just found for me, that if I batch, I’m way more efficient,” Hyatt said.
One more unexpected note on time blocking is to make sure you have time to think. Seth Godin will create for about two hours per day and then gives himself another portion of the day to walk around town and brainstorm. James Altucher makes time each day to come up with 10 new ideas on any topic, and he will sit and work on it until he reaches 10. If you want to be more innovative and creative, make sure you allow time for your mind to wander.
Entrepreneurs are driven to work hard and move fast. To be honest, many of these moguls did not always prioritize the basics, but later they made the switch and saw impressive results. Your body is the vessel with which you’re going to do your world-changing work, so you need to take care of it. Drink your eight glasses of water, exercise each day, eat food that will fuel you and make sure you’re getting enough rest.
I always ask my guests how they structured their day when they were just starting their careers. If you study their lives now, it seems impossible. How can she run an empire if she’s only creating about four hours a day? How can he run 12 companies and work out each day and meditate and much more? Yes, they now have very balanced lives with plenty of rest and family time, but they also have private chefs, housekeepers, personal trainers, assistants and even dog walkers. That wasn’t the case when they were building the empire they now run.
“How hard was I working in the early days with my business? As long as it took to make it happen, which were endless hours,” shared Barbara Corcoran, real estate mogul and host on ABC’s Shark Tank. “If you’re gonna do well at anything, I think you just have to put the work in.”
If you feel like you’re failing on a few other fronts because you’re growing your business 24/7, know that you are not alone. You’re also probably doing what’s required to get your dream off the ground. Guard yourself from burnout and start implementing these habits as soon as you can in order to make sure you maximize all 24 of those hours.
When I sat down to interview Glenn Beck recently, he asked me what was the most common denominator I’d found with my guests. I’m not sure this is the most common, but it was definitely the most surprising. Almost every single guest makes time for gratitude every single day. Some also include meditation or prayer, but most at least take a few seconds each day to take note of what they’re thankful for.
“People charge $15,000 for a class on entrepreneurship, when really one of the most important things is something you could do for free when you wake up in the morning, which is just find four or five things to be grateful for. And not just easy things,” explained James Altucher, investor, author and host of the popular podcast, The James Altucher Show. “No one thinks, ‘Oh, how can I be good at gratitude?’ It’s actually really hard. And to exercise, to make that muscle sweat, is incredibly valuable.”
There is so much going wrong in the world at any given moment, so perhaps this practice explains how these millionaires are such a powerful, positive force — they are focusing on the good not once a week or once a year but every single day.
Along the way, these innovators each discovered what worked best for them and said “screw it” to everything else. Think of Jamie McGuire, for example, who writes her bestselling novels overnight, because that’s the only way she can get hours of uninterrupted writing time. Imagine what friends and family said to that idea at first!
Over time, these leaders and innovators learned to care less and less about what others think or what is considered “normal,” and they focused instead on the practices that helped them best do their work, improve themselves and change the world. That’s something the rest of us can easily do as well.