Top 10 habits of really effective people

Top 10 habits of really effective people

Hunter Yarbrough  |  Special to The Tennessean

There will always be those who benefit by luck or “being in the right place at the right time.” But there is often a common thread behind effective individuals – they cultivate certain habits that they follow consistently.

The good news is these habits can be mimicked by anyone.

In my experience over the years working with various families as a wealth advisor, here are 10 common habits I’ve observed:

1. They embrace delayed gratification.

This is a hard one for many people – the practice of denying an immediate reward based on the expectation of an even better reward later. But it’s a practice effective people implement regularly. For example, many wealthy individuals make a habit of forgoing temporary pleasures with an eye on long-term success. Whether that means living in a more modest home or saving money on things like cars or clothing, they recognize tomorrow’s success as more important than today’s momentary gratification.

2. They don’t follow the herd.

Most people have a tendency to “jump on the bandwagon” of popular opinion. It’s part of our innate desire to be part of the crowd and blend in with society. But following the herd is a surefire way to limit yourself. Effective people aren’t afraid to make their own decisions and stand by them – often creating their own herds in the process. 

3. They keep learning.

Effective people understand the value of education, which is why they focus so heavily on self-improvement. This can take many forms – keeping up with the news, soliciting feedback from others, etc. – but they primarily build their knowledge base by reading. And while they’ll sometimes read for entertainment, much of their reading time is focused on personal development – with biographies and history books comprising the bulk of their reading lists.

4. They’re early risers.

We’ve all heard the expression “the early bird gets the worm” because it’s based on a simple truth: the more time you can devote to your pursuit of success, the more success you’ll achieve. The habit of getting up early shows up again and again among effective people – mainly as a way to combat daily distractions and focus on what’s really important. Getting up early and focusing on what you want to accomplish in a given day (as opposed to dealing with constant interruptions and disruptions) helps move you closer to your goal and gives you more confidence.

5. They take care of themselves.

Whether it takes the form of daily exercise, a mindful diet, or ensuring that they get enough sleep every night, a focus on personal care ranks high on the list of habits effective people share. Over three-quarters of self-made millionaires exercise for at least 30 minutes a day and sleep at least seven hours a night.

6. They budget their time.

“Do not squander time,” Benjamin Franklin wrote, “for that is the stuff life is made of.” Effective people recognize that time is irreplaceable – and spending it on trivial pursuits comes with a cost. They flex their decision-making muscles to prioritize the tasks that matter and minimize time spent on unimportant things. From building consistent daily routines to prioritizing projects, they would rather focus on getting the right things done than simply getting more things done.

7. They set goals.

It’s very difficult to arrive at a destination when you don’t have a map. That’s why effective people set clear, specific goals and commit to achieving them. The process generally includes four common steps: They visualize the future they want to achieve, they write these goals down, they set clear deadlines and measurements, and they hold themselves accountable.

8. They take action.

Without action, the best plans in the world will amount to nothing. Effective people act quickly – in many cases, before they feel they’re ready. They recognize how crippling indecision can be, and they take steps to counteract it. Where other people may vacillate and come up with reasons not to take that first step, effective people take the risk – and the action.

9. They stay connected.

Effective people understand the importance of collaboration. That’s why they seek out other positive, goal-oriented individuals to exchange ideas and inspiration. Whether through simple networking or playing a role as a mentor or mentee, effective people surround themselves with other effective people.

10. They give.

Whether through donations of time, money, or ideas, effective people make a habit of sharing what they have. They recognize that giving back is not only the right thing to do but also an act that empowers all involved.

In my opinion, the habit of giving is perhaps even “the secret” to effective, successful, and wealthy individuals. By recognizing success and wealth as an opportunity to share with others, truly effective people see the beauty of – and the part they have to play in – the big picture. 

Habits make a difference.

We’ve all heard the saying that it’s not what you do occasionally that makes an impact – it’s what you do consistently. Effective people have mastered the art of putting their habits to work for them because they recognize that consistency is often the difference between success and failure. Of the habits listed above, most require little more than a bit of discipline and practice. (That, and the decision to begin.)

But the good news is that it’s never too late to get started.

Hunter Yarbrough, CPA, CFP, is a vice president and financial adviser with CapWealth. He is passionate about taking a holistic view of personal finance, including investments, taxes, retirement, education, estate planning, and insurance. For more information about Hunter and CapWealth, visit