The vast majority of rich people didn’t get there by accident or luck. Accumulating wealth requires hard work, dedication, and—most importantly—maintaining a specific set of habits that foster prosperity. As Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
If you’re looking to train your focus in work and in life but don’t know where to get started, these 20 productive habits of successful people can help illuminate your path to success.
1. Wake up early.
There are plenty of axioms about the benefits of getting up early, and they’ve remained popular for a reason: Rising early is a powerful path to success. Millionaires simply do not sleep in – they have too much to accomplish every day.
Author Thomas Corley spent five years studying the lives and habits of rich people and poor people before writing Rich Habits: The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals. Corley found that 44 percent of wealthy people wake up three hours before work starts, compared to just 3 percent of poor people.
2. Don’t check email first thing.
If wealthy people get up earlier than others, what are they doing with that extra time? Well, here’s what they’re not doing: checking their email. Many people believe starting the day with a perusal of the email inbox is productive, but wealthy folks know there are better things to do with that early morning time.
Some make a habit of meditating or writing in a journal, reading something educational, or getting a head start on an important project. Some simply have a healthy breakfast and get some exercise. Generally, wealthy people leave their inbox for later in the day and don’t make email a top priority.
3. Eat healthy.
Wealthy people value their health and structure their eating habits accordingly. Corley found that 57 percent of wealthy people count calories every day, as opposed to 5 percent of poor people. He also found that 70 percent of rich folks eat fewer than 300 calories of junk food per day, but 97 percent of poor people eat above that mark.
There are many reasons wealthy people watch what they eat, but the most significant could very well be to ensure a longer life—and therefore an extended opportunity to earn more.
4. Exercise regularly.
Coupled with healthy eating, wealthy people also believe in staying fit by exercising. Millionaires may be busy people, but they nearly always find time in their days to work out. In fact, Corley reports that 76 percent of wealthy folks do aerobic exercise at least four days per week, compared to 23 percent of poor people.
5. Have a primary goal.
Wealthy people choose a primary life goal and focus on it with laser-like precision—even if it seems outrageous or unattainable. Everything they do, every decision they make and action they take, is done with this primary objective in mind. Intense concentration of this nature is what enables the wealthy to accomplish what others only dream about. According to Corley, 80 percent of wealthy people focus on achieving a single goal, compared to only 12 percent of poor people.
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6. Write down goals.
Setting goals is crucial to achieving wealth, but if it were the only requirement then nearly everyone would be rich. For the wealthy, setting specific goals and writing them down is a winning habit that works.
Of course, broad objectives—simply wishing to be rich, for example—are not goals. Specific goal-setting involves planning something tangible, such as earning X amount by Y time through Z activities.
Successful goals are actionable, and the wealthy are deliberate, dedicated goal-setters. In fact, Corley states that 62 percent of rich folks focus on their goals every day, as opposed to 6 percent of poor people—and 67 percent of the wealthy put those goals in writing.
7. Keep a daily to-do list.
In order to achieve an overarching goal such as attaining wealth, you need to accomplish a number of smaller goals that feed into that main objective. For this reason, the majority of wealthy people create daily to-do lists—81 percent of them, in fact, compared to 19 percent of poor people. What’s more, Corley finds that 67 of wealthy folks actually complete 70 percent or more of their to-do lists every day.
8. Believe that time is money.
In general, wealthy people work hard to achieve their goals, to the exclusion of most other activities. They avoid wasting time on nonproductive things like social media, and that’s because of their belief that time is money, and time misspent is money lost.
Instead of considering their weekly, monthly, or annual incomes, the wealthy focus on how much they should be earning every hour—and how much money they would lose by engaging in tasks that don’t produce money. This allows them to avoid the time sinks that most non-wealthy people engage in on a regular basis.
9. Be frugal.
There’s a popular saying that you have to spend money to make money. While this is true, most non-wealthy people don’t take into account the fact that the more money you spend, the less you have—and spending more than you earn does not result in wealth.
Rich people avoid overspending. Just because they could throw down half a million dollars for a brand new car doesn’t mean they do. The wealthy invest their time in comparison shopping and negotiation, getting the best deals for their dollars and saving more money than they spend. They develop reasonable budgets, and stick to them.
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10. Take long lunches.
Many wealthy people take breaks of an hour or more for lunch. This may seem to go against the idea that time is money, but the rich also understand how to work smarter, not harder—and taking breaks is an important part of that. A long, relaxing midday lunch allows you to refresh yourself, and return to work ready to put in more productive time.
11. Read a lot—but not for pleasure.
Wealthy people tend to believe in the importance of self-improvement and continuing education, and they typically turn to reading to fulfill these needs. Corley states that 86 percent of wealthy people love reading, as opposed to 26 percent of poor people.
What they read is just as important as how much: The rich person’s reading material of choice is nonfiction, usually self-improvement. 88 percent of wealthy people spend at least 30 minutes each day reading on that subject.
12. Take calculated risks.
Wealthy people understand that risks lead to rewards, and as a result they’re more willing to go out on a limb—though they generally take calculated risks, not reckless ones. Furthermore, the rich know exactly what they stand to lose if a risk fails to deliver its reward. They are more likely to have contingency plans in place to minimize potential fallout in the event that things don’t go according to plan.
13. Network with success.
The wealthy understand that in order to be successful, you must surround yourself with successful people. Networking with other rich people, or people with the drive and potential to become rich, is crucial for your own success.
Corley finds that 79% of wealthy people spend at least five hours a month networking—whether it’s at a conference, client event, online webinar, or just over coffee—while only 16 percent of poor people network consistently. This allows the wealthy to align their mindsets with others who have achieved success.
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14. Know when to stop working.
Hard work is critical for rich folks, but they also understand the importance of personal time for relaxation and self-improvement. For this reason, they rarely burn the midnight oil.
Knowing that if you push yourself to continue working every waking moment, you’re only going to end up exhausted, inefficient, and unable to produce worthwhile results is essential to success. The wealthy typically walk away from work by 5 p.m. or 6 p.m., and don’t return to it until the next morning, according to Inc.
15. Give back.
Charity and philanthropy are hallmarks of the wealthy. Those who are rich and successful tend to be generous with their wealth. Examples throughout history support this—from Nelson Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie, to Carlos Slim and Bill Gates. Giving back to the community and improving the world is an important characteristic for the wealthy.
16. Avoid television.
According to Corley, 67 percent of rich people watch television for one hour or less per day, while only 23 percent of poor people limit their TV intake. They also generally avoid reality shows—only 6 percent of the wealthy watch them, compared to 78 percent of the non-wealthy. Rich folks simply choose more productive ways to spend their time.
17. Avoid gambling.
Winning the lottery would make anyone instantly rich. For the most part, though, the wealthy don’t believe in luck. Instead, they believe that actions and habits create the opportunity for luck.
That’s why only 6 percent of rich people play the lottery regularly, compared to 77 percent of poor people. Wealthy people believe you have to create your own luck through focus and hard work.
18. Control emotions.
There’s a general assumption that wealthy people can afford to be honest and blunt, but the rich understand that not every thought or emotion should be aired. Good relationships are a crucial foundation for financial success—and speaking your mind can damage those relationships. Only 6 percent of the wealthy say what they’re thinking regularly, compared to 69 percent of poor people.
19. Listen more and talk less.
Effective communication is another critical skill for the wealthy, and listening is an essential part of it. In general, rich people spend five minutes listening for each minute they speak. This enables them to truly understand where others are coming from, and to facilitate conversations that further relationships and foster success.
20. Don’t retire.
While the wealthy may have extensive savings and vast retirement portfolios, they generally have no intention of retiring—or at least, not as early as others. According to a Gallup poll, the average retirement age for Americans is 61, but the majority of wealthy people don’t plan to retire until at least 70—not because they have to keep working, but because they want to.
The longer you continue to work, the more money you can make. The drive to stay healthy is connected to this goal. Rich people often choose not to retire, and since the majority enjoy what they do, the idea of continuing to work is both welcome and comforting.
Money doesn’t solve every problem, but it’s often a sign of passion, capability, and drive in those who have acquired it. Try incorporating these strategies into your daily living and working routines, and put yourself in a position to increase your own riches, both in money and in life.
This article was originally published on Money Crashers.
Photo: Tara Moore / Getty Images