5 Successful Executives and Their Work Habits

Inc. Magazine has a section that profiles entrepreneurs’ work habits, The Way I Work. Every person they highlight shares a common theme: all of them spend a large amount of time looking at issues at a high level. They want to make sure that the activities they and their staff work on are aligned with overall goals.  In other words, their habits allow them to work on their business, not just in it.

Here are 5 good work habits from successful entrepreneurs:

1. Always keep your biggest dream in focus. Inc’s piece about social media celebrity Gary Vaynerchuck highlights his obsession for one-to-one engagement and how everything he does is directed at achieving his ultimate goal: acquiring the New York Jets.

2. Use email filters and folders for screening. Your Inbox is probably flooded. David Karp, founder of Tumblr, had trouble managing his emails. He let emails pile up, forgot to reply to important messages and got overwhelmed. Now, filters route messages into folders so he stays organized.

3. Obsess over metrics. LivingSocial CEO Tim O’Shaughnessy checks his company’s aggregate revenue, number of units sold and other data every morning before getting out of bed – that’s at 5:00 a.m. He is constantly looking for patterns in numbers. They give insight into what to improve and where new opportunities exist.

4. Don’t obsess over work hours. Jason Fried, CEO of 37Signals, reports that he has no idea how many hours his staff works. He just knows that they get the work done. And isn’t that the most important part? Stop clocking yourself. It’s irrelevant.

5. Feel okay about making mistakes. “Don’t overthink” is Rashmi Sinha‘s matra. The CEO of SlideShare makes a good point when she says that if you spend too much time thinking about something before you execute it, you still might make a mistake. It’s better to roll out software faster than to overthink it worrying that something isn’t quite right.

Thomas Edison’s 2000 Ways to Make Progress

While Thomas Edison was working on inventing the light bulb, he encountered many methods that did not work.  When asked about his “failures”, he quipped that he did not fail.  He now knew 2,000 ways not to make a light bulb. In his mind, he was making progress. It’s a good thing he didn’t give up after the first 1,000 attempts.Thomas Edison

If you make a list of quarterly goals to hold yourself accountable for your progress, you might find that in some months you nix an idea or goal because you will not pursue it further.  This is not a set back.  You now have the information you did not have earlier.  It is one of the ways you identified that will not help you achieve what you want.  You are still making progress.  The experience is your version of Edison’s light bulb invention process.

As you identify your “to do” list items that will help you get to your next milestone, be encouraged when you run into a dead end.  It means that you found a way that will not work. Don’t give up. Just try something different. You will soon make progress that will light your bulb.