CEO’s and the habits they swear by

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We all want to know what got them to the top and how they stay there. Forming habits is how successful people get the most out of their busy schedule.

Forming a habit is not as simple as it sounds, and it takes more discipline than we expect. That is why our good-intentioned goals may fail.

It was 1960 when Dr Maxwell stated that a habit can be formed in a minimum of 21 days. This became a well-known theory and people still believe they should be able to stick to a habit within a month. However, the truth is that it isn’t this simple, unfortunately. In 2012, the British Journal of General Practice wrote that habits are essentially, ‘Actions that are triggered automatically in response to contextual cues that have been associated with their performance.” We use cues, so our brain knows when to do something, and eventually we put our seatbelt on without a second thought as soon as we get in a car.

When trying to start a new habit it may be harder to consistently do exercise every evening after work than it will be to always have chocolate for breakfast. The National Institute of Health (NIH) explains why some habits are easier to form than others, as enjoyable behaviour prompts the brain to release dopamine, causing repeated behaviour. So, quitting that coffee every morning might take a bit longer than you wanted.

Habits from the CEO’s

  • As the CEO of Starbucks, Laxman Narasimhan has developed some interesting habits which he lives by and which we could take inspiration from.

In an interview with Fortune, Laxman Narasimhan said that he allows time for meditation twice every day. For 20 minutes in the morning and for 10 minutes before he goes to sleep, so he can be ready for the day and have time to reflect at the end of it. He says this habit keeps him attentive, connected and engaged and so before major meetings he will often hold a group meditation session.

Prioritising a balanced life and time with his family is a habit that Narasimhan believes is important. He will make sure he has no meetings after 6pm unless absolutely necessary so he can go home to his family.

Lastly, exercising weekly is part of his routine that has become such a habit for him that each week he aims for 250 minutes of exercise by Sunday evening. Narasimhan explains that this helps him to reduce stress levels. A great tip for everyone.

  • Anna Wintour, the Editor In Chief at Vogue, leads a very busy schedule and sets time aside to make sure she can set herself up for success.

In an interview with Forbes, Wintour explains that she wakes between 4-5:30am, reads the news and plays tennis. Despite being a part of the fashion industry, Anna Wintour wears similar outfits each day to reduce decision fatigue, leaving space in her mind for important projects.

  • Early mornings are a well-known habit that successful people swear by and not only waking up early, but Jeff Bezos does this without an alarm, as does Oprah. They have both expressed their desire to naturally wake up after 8 hours of sleep to train their body into this routine.
  • Bill Gates also subscribes to the early morning, productivity train by doing his exercise in the morning and then reading the news to stay updated. Using our mornings for something constructive for our brains and our health sets the day up positively.
  • Daniel Ek, co-founder, and CEO of Spotify believes in scheduling creativity rather than waiting for it to come to you. He makes it a habit to leave time, even setting it as a routine to put conscious effort into his creative process.
  • Arianna Huffington, Founder of the Huffington Post, is enthusiastic about health and wellness as a way to be successful. Huffington sticks to being well rested and avoids going to bed late, setting an alarm clock and checking her phone first thing in the morning. Huffington tells CNBC that she actually doesn’t keep her electrical devices in her bedroom overnight so as to avoid the temptation of checking them when she first wakes up. This, she says, makes her more productive in the morning and gives her a positive start to the day.

When habits are formed, consistent behaviour is created which helps us to achieve our goals, even ones like waking up 10 minutes earlier. Habits should be thought of as being a part of a routine just like brushing your teeth is a part of your evening routine.

The NIH tells us that forming a habit can take anywhere between 18-254 days depending on what it is, how you implement it, and it varies for each individual.

Choose your habit to implement and start building it into your routine.

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