I recently asked Side Hustle Nation members, “What’s the ONE habit you feel contributes most to your success?”
And obviously becoming a successful entrepreneur depends on a ton of different factors, but I was surprised when relatively few answers turned up again and again.
Here are their most common responses.
1. Get Up Early
Being an early riser and getting a headstart on your day was the most popular response. For side hustlers, I think this makes total sense.
It’s about being proactive — the #1 Habit of Highly Successful People — and doing something for yourself and your business before diving into reactive mode.
Most of us set the alarm for the latest possible time we can, and immediately begin our day on someone else’s agenda. Getting up before that last possible minute creates some space in your day that otherwise might never happen.
I got comments like this:
“My day job starts at 8:00am, but my alarm is set for 4:15am every day. I believe that how your first hour of your waking day goes also sets the tone for the rest of the day.”
“My wife thinks that I am nuts but getting up that early gives me time to get myself together spiritual, mentally, and physically – all before heading in to my full time job. When I get to work I am in a good mood, I feel accomplished, and I am focused and ready to take on the day. “
“I get so much accomplished during those first few hours when my mind is clear and focused.”
“I’m not talking some crazy over the top rigorous morning routine with reading, journaling, praying, working out, meditating, etc. All that stuff is good, and I’m getting better about it building that into my routine, but I’m just talking about waking up early to do some dishes, sort the mail, and tidy the living room. That process helps me get my day and mind right.”
If you define success (as I do) as having control over your calendar, this is one small way to re-claim that control.
2. Get Physical Activity
Another common trait of successful side hustlers and entrepreneurs was a commitment to health in the form of physical activity and exercise. The myth of the entrepreneur spending every waking hour on his or her business does not seem to be true.
For Side Hustle Nation at least, many attributed their workout routine to their effectiveness, productivity, and success.
I got comments like:
“I start off with a simple but physical task as soon as I get out of bed. For instance I recently started to perform 10 push-ups as soon as I get up. This one simple task gets me going not only because it is physical but it provides a mental edge. It lets me know I am already successful today in completing one task and sets the tone for success during the rest of the day.”
“When I can pry myself out of bed for an early morning workout, I feel amazing. It really sets my whole day up for success.”
This doesn’t have to be anything crazy complex or involve driving to a gym. It would be a simple bodyweight workout, going for a walk, or a quick yoga/stretching session.
I’m reminded of a quote from The ONE Thing: “If you don’t take care of your body, where will you live?” Responses like eating healthy and staying hydrated also made several appearances.
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3. Never Stop Learning
One result I thought was somewhat surprising was a focus on education. Several of the most productive entrepreneurs named investing in learning as their top success habit.
In practice, that meant reading, listening to podcasts and audiobooks, and watching video training related to their business.
I got comments like:
“I keep educating myself on what I am working. I take notes while watching a YouTube video or listening to something.”
“I workout while listening to a podcast, or Audible. Or read while riding the stationary bike.”
Entrepreneurship is a constant real-life business school education. I learn more every day and absolutely love it.
4. Have Clearly Defined Goals
Another common trait among successful entrepreneurs was having well-defined goals and knowing their next actions. With limited time to work on their business, they wanted to know exactly what to do in the hours they have.
This boiled down to setting meaningful goals, and breaking them down into detailed action items and to-do lists. Such a habit takes the daily guesswork of what you’re supposed to do.
I got comments like:
“I wrote out my intention with the specific outcome I desired, memorized it, and repeat it out loud to myself every day while driving to work.”
“I make a weekly, monthly and yearly achievement list. I look at it daily and have an inner conversation with myself as to what I did today got me closer to that goal or goals.”
“Making a to-do list is absolutely the one habit that contributes most to my success. It’s tedious and a waste of paper, but making that list every day or so allows me to ensure I’m on task and do the small things that contribute to the larger accomplishments.”
I follow a similar protocol and it helps me stay on task and make progress on my most important work.
5. Create “an External Brain”
There’s no way we can keep everything straight if we rely solely on our own memory. Because of that, a common response was some variation on creating and using an external brain — journals, note taking apps, and other “brain-dump” tools.
These tools help keep all the balls we juggle as entrepreneurs in the air.
I got comments like:
“I use OneNote to maintain lists and to keep all my notes in one place organized and dated. It’s synced on my phone and my laptop so I always have what I need at hand.”
“Transferring my thoughts onto paper has been the one most influential habit in my life that has contributed the most to my success. Often in the past, I found myself overthinking and crippling myself from actually pursuing my goals. Ever since I started drawing up to-do lists, gratitude lists, step by step plans and goal lists, I’ve found it easier to get to work and attain actual results.”
“The one habit that contributes most to my success is bullet journaling. I started this at the beginning of the year and feel so much more in control of my day and able to complete tasks in a timely manner.”
Personally, I rely on a combination of pen and paper, The Progress Journal, and Google Sheets.
3 Other Common Habits of Successful Entrepreneurs
“I am late sometimes but I always show up.”
“I’ve done 370 days straight meditation with the Headspace app. The app has held me accountable and the benefits have been profound.
Learning and understanding that I am not my thoughts has freed me to think differently, clearer and get specific on what I want and how I want to contribute to the world. It has also freed me to get out of my old limiting beliefs and emotions.”
“I start every morning with a smile. I smile because I woke up and that is a luxury not afforded to many. So I start the day with gratitude to set the tone for the day. It puts me in the right mindset to deal with both the victories and challenges for the day.”
What Habits do Entrepreneurs Struggle With?
I also asked, “What’s the ONE habit you just can’t seem to keep consistent with?”
The answers included many of the positive habits above, but other interesting responses included challenges related to:
- Saying no; battling “shiny object syndrome.”
- Being present; stopping looking at their phone.
- Surrounding themselves with positive, supportive people.
What’s one habit that contributes to your success as an entrepreneur? Let me know in the comments below!
And if you’re still looking for a business idea, be sure to check out our monster list of side hustle ideas here.
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