Super-successful people's habits you can follow at home right now

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By Hannah Ward-Glenton, Lovemoney

Business queens and kings' workplace habits that could work for you

Struggling with working at home? Missing your commute? Then seek inspiration from some of the world's most successful people. Click or scroll through our round-up of the working habits of the highest achievers that you might want to add to your daily routine.

Bob Iger – Mornings without technology

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More of an early bird than a Sleeping Beauty, Disney CEO Bob Iger, who has postponed his semi-retirement from the top job to guide the business through the coronavirus pandemic, has strict rules when it comes to his daily routine. The media executive likes to process his own thoughts before tuning in to everybody else’s and refuses to look at his phone until after he’s finished his morning workout. Iger has referred to the habit as building his own "technology firewall".

Alexis Ohanian – Sleeping in also works

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You don’t have to be an early riser to be successful, as shown by co-founder of Reddit and self-professed night owl Alexis Ohanian (pictured here with his wife and tennis sensation Serena Williams). The entrepreneur and investor aims to be up and at ‘em by around 10am each day after working late into the evenings, and he’s not alone. Around a quarter of people are thought to work more effectively at night and research has shown that, if you’re not a natural early bird, forcing yourself to wake up early can do more harm than good. Best hit that snooze button then.

Sundar Pichai – Start the day with tea and a newspaper

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Another person who doesn’t spring out of bed at the break of day is Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Alphabet, Google's parent company. The tech boss has found that a traditional start to the day is the best way for him to wake up, and despite heading up the world’s most-used search engine Pichai prefers to flick through "a physical paper", accompanied by a cup of hot tea.

Aaron Levie – Take naps

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Definitely not one to fall into the early bird category, Aaron Levie starts his day at 11am after working well into the night the day before, usually until around 2am. The CEO and co-founder of enterprise cloud company Box supplements his night owl body clock with a routine nap at 8pm. He dozes for about 25 minutes before continuing with the rest of his day and there is plenty of research to suggest that power napping can be a step towards success. A quick snooze is said to boost problem-solving capabilities, enhance logical reasoning and generally leave you feeling more energized.

Satya Nadella – Say what you’re thankful for

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During trying times it can be difficult to find silver linings, but that’s exactly what Satya Nadella does each morning. The Microsoft CEO takes a couple of minutes out of his day to think about what he is thankful for, a habit he says is grounding and helps him to start the day on a positive note. Nadella started practising the technique around five years ago, and it doesn’t seem to have served him badly at all – last year he was even named 'Person of the Year' by British newspaper the Financial Times.

Naval Admiral William McRaven – Make your bed

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This slither of advice became a viral sensation after Naval Admiral William McRaven (pictured here with Irish singer Bono and journalist Tina Brown) told an audience of graduates that if they wanted to change the world they should start by making their beds in the morning. The thinking behind the simple idea is that if you make your bed as soon as you get up you’ve already achieved something, which encourages you to continue to achieve as the day goes on. Three years after he first delivered the speech, the Navy SEAL released a book expanding on his original message and it became a New York Times number one bestseller.

Oprah Winfrey – Practice transcendental meditation

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The "Queen of All Media" and Harpo Productions founder is a strong believer in the power of transcendental meditation. Winfrey sets aside at least 20 minutes of her working day to engage in the practice and encourages her employees to do the same. She also claims not to believe in alarms, saying she wakes up naturally “usually between 6.02am and 6.20am”. Working from home might be a good time to try this one out, but be careful – you don’t want to turn up late to any virtual meetings.

Melinda Gates – Be mindful

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Meditation is a popular pastime of the rich and famous, and the wife of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is no exception. Melinda Gates is as well-known for her philanthropy as her husband, and each morning she puts time aside for her own mindfulness. The sessions are a mix of meditation, yoga, and stretching, as well as a little spiritual reading to make sure she starts her day right.

Shona Rhimes – Have a dance

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We all find peace in our own ways, and for some sitting cross-legged deep in thought just doesn’t cut it. American TV producer, writer and director Shonda Rhimes, who has worked on hits such as Grey's Anatomy, prefers to bust a move or two to get herself geared up for the day. Her daily dance-parties-for-one see her moving and grooving to the likes of Beyoncé before she heads off to work.

Michael Kors – Wear a uniform

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For an icon of the fashion world, Michael Kors keeps it remarkably simple when it comes to his day-to-day work outfit. The designer opts to wear the same black crewneck every day of the week. His reasoning? Not having to choose different clothes each day saves decision-making energy, which can be channeled into his work. And he's not wrong to do this: there is a productivity logic when it comes to creating your own uniform, particularly if you’re working at home, and more formal clothes will help you get into your work mindset and be more productive, according to Charlotte Armitage, aka The Media Psychologist. Kors also isn’t alone in wearing the same clothes to work every day, as Segway inventor Dean Kamen, the late Chanel creative director Karl Lagerfeld, and film director and producer Christopher Nolan all share the same philosophy.

Sara Blakely – Fake a commute

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For most of us our commute to work doesn't top the list when it comes to things we miss about pre-lockdown life. But others actively seek out a a journey to their desk. Billionaire founder and CEO of Spanx Sara Blakely purposely gives herself a commute each morning, despite living a short walk away from her office. Even before we all started working from home, Blakely drove a 'fake commute' for an hour before starting work, because she believes that the car “is where [her] best thinking happens”. Driving around for no obvious reason isn’t an option right now, but why not take your daily exercise in the morning to get yourself into the working mindset?

Bill Gates – Divide your day into five-minute slots

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Despite having a net worth of over $100 billion (£81bn), there is one thing that Bill Gates is not rich in – time. The former chair of Microsoft is known for the meticulous scheduling of his day in order to get the most out of the hours he does have, breaking it down into five-minute increments. Each 300-second slot is accounted for, and it means that the business magnate can squeeze something productive out of every moment of every day.

Jeff Weiner – Schedule in ‘buffer time’

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Similar to Gates, LinkedIn's Executive Chairman Jeff Weiner likes to have everything scheduled, which includes scheduling in time to not follow a schedule. Each day Weiner plans for around 90 minutes of ‘buffer time’, where he can tie up any loose ends and just process what’s going on around him. Research has shown that our brains take in more data nowadays than they ever have before, and by consciously allocating time for our minds to process everything there’s a much better chance that information will be properly digested. This allows for better decision-making and clearer thinking in general.

Eric Yuan – Block out time for family

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During the pandemic Eric Yuan has been thrown into the limelight, as the company that he founded back in 2011 – Zoom – has suddenly become a lifeline for the millions of people having to adjust to working from home. The entrepreneur has never prioritized business over his loved ones, however, and he cites work-life balance as a key component to his success.

Michelle Obama – Schedule in your personal appointments first

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As half of what could arguably be described as the world’s most influential power couple, it makes sense that Michelle Obama has to schedule in family time to prevent the lines between work life and personal life becoming blurred. The author of one of the most successful memoirs of all time, Becoming, plans in her family commitments before anything else, saying that work will always take up all of your time if you let it.

Brian Chesky – Prioritize your to-do lists

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A to-do list is a staple for most working people, but few organize their lists to the extent that Brian Chesky does. The Airbnb CEO recommends writing down every single thing you’re hoping to accomplish in a day, and then grouping similar tasks together. Once the tasks are bundled together into manageable chunks, Chesky suggests finding one solution for each group. Taking action on one problem can often have a knock-on effect on the others, which should leave you with fewer tasks to do. 

Baroness Karren Brady – Organize emails as they come in

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With everybody working from home, it’s likely that your work emails are piling up quicker than usual. Vice-chairman of English soccer club West Ham, Baroness Karren Brady, advises having a tight handle on all of that incoming mail by dividing everything into folders based on urgency as soon as it lands in your inbox. Another one of the Baroness's tips is to have all plans visualized to make sure you know who’s doing what and when – you might not have an executive whiteboard or professional pinboard at home, but anything from a piece of paper stuck to a wall or even the fridge will work as a space for mind-mapping.

Warren Buffett – Read and think

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Legendary investor Warren Buffett spends 80% of his working day either in deep thought or reading. The Berkshire Hathaway boss once said: “I insist on a lot of time being spent... to just sit and think… I read and think... and make less impulse decisions than most people in business.” While most of us don’t have time to sit and ponder all day, fitting in some time to contemplate here and there could be worth its salt, as author Tom Corley, who spent five years studying the habits of rich and poor people, found a distinct correlation between time spent reading and higher income.

Yoshiro Nakamatsu – Designate a brainstorming room

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Few people can afford a special "calm" room clad in 24-carat gold tiles that block out TV and radio waves, but that's exactly what the eccentric inventor of the floppy disk, Yoshiro Nakamatsu, has to help him think. While dedicating a room to thinking might be too extravagant for most, environmental psychology suggests that there’s something to be said for moving into a different space when you need to do some brainwork. The Japanese innovator also likes to brainstorm underwater and in the confines of his personal elevator, which he calls the "vertical moving room". But if you don’t have a gold room, a swimming pool or personal elevator, just changing the room you’re working in can have a big impact on your ability to concentrate and come up with new ideas.

Mark Zuckerberg – Set yourself new goals

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Always eager to challenge himself in and outside of the workplace, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg regularly sets himself new tasks and embraces them with gusto. Over the past few years, the social media boss has sworn to learn Chinese, run a mile every day and read a new book every fortnight. While nobody is saying you have to use this lockdown time to master a new skill, setting a couple of different goals can reduce the monotony that often comes with working from home. The tech entrepreneur is also a fan of wearing a work 'uniform' – his daily go-to is a gray T-shirt and jeans.

Mark Cuban – Keep meetings to a bare minimum

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Hate meetings? So does Mark Cuban, Shark Tank star and owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team. Cuban considers the vast majority of meetings a waste of time and avoids them as much as possible, saying: "The only way you're going to get me for a meeting is if you're writing me a check.” So perhaps try to avoid scheduling a virtual meeting for something that can be communicated by email – you’ll be saving yourself and your colleagues a heap of time.

Jeff Bezos – Apply the two-pizza rule

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But if you can't avoid meetings, why not stick to the Jeff Bezos two-pizza rule? Sadly there’s no actual pizza involved when you're meeting online, but the Amazon mogul makes sure that every meeting only includes the number of people who could be fed by two pizzas – any more than that and you’re unlikely to have a productive meeting, according to Bezos.

Jack Dorsey – Seven-minute workouts

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We've all got that colleague who seems to be constantly on a health kick, and Square CEO Jack Dorsey is almost definitely ‘that person’ in the office. While you’d probably want to steer clear of most of Dorsey’s methods – taking ice baths, fasting, and only eating one meal per day would be a recipe for disaster for most – his workout routine is surprisingly palatable. The Twitter co-founder only exercises in bouts of seven minutes, and even though he does workout three times a day, 21 minutes of exercise sounds far less grueling than the rest of his rigorous routine.

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Career Magazine: Super-successful people's habits you can follow at home right now
Super-successful people's habits you can follow at home right now
The Warren Buffetts and Oprah Winfreys of this world didn’t make it to the top by following the pack, and as these weird and wonderful habits go to show the most successful men and women of our time have their fair share of strange daily routines.
Career Magazine
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