6 Things Leaders Do to Set Themselves Apart From the Pack
Life has a way of getting away from everyone from time to time. But, leaders have to be proactive about not just letting life happen -- leaders need to make things happen.
As your business grows, higher expectations and more responsibilities compete for your time and attention can make it challenging to stay out front. What are some quick and easy ways today’s leaders can keep life running more smoothly?
Start the slideshow to see six strategies you can use to get more done.
Build friendships, not connections
Entrepreneurs love to scour the web for meetups and networking events. Free beer, conversations and business cards . . . what's not to like! However, building a business doesn't start with just meeting people at conferences, it's about getting on their radar in a positive way.
"Create a list of the people you admire, find their email address, twitter username, or contact information, and just reach out! The key to getting on these individuals radar is to build a genuine relationship with them, and not looking to them as connections," says Andrew Dumont, former CMO of Bit.ly.
This tactic has helped Dumont create a powerful community of friends that have turned into great opportunities for his businesses and himself. The best part is that even if you don't live in a thriving metropolis you can still connect with the worlds best.
Front-load their day
If you're looking to get more done during the day, consider making two key changes to your morning routine: squeezing in some morning aerobics and substitute a morning jumpstart for working late.
Getting up early to exercise has long been a key habit of leaders who are committed to their health -- Bill Gates and Barack Obama are two notable early birds who swear by it. Now, research shows it has productivity benefits as well. Why? For one thing, it may make you smarter and happier. Studies indicate that as little as 15 minutes of aerobic exercise has immediate positive effects on cognitive abilities as well as mood.
Morning people were found in another study to be more successful because they tend to be more proactive, taking charge of their day rather than reacting to things as they happen. Two more studies found that those who described themselves as early risers enjoyed higher degrees of academic and career success than those who struggled with their morning routines.
Leverage the power of small changes
That’s the famous advice of retired Navy Admiral Bill McRaven, now Chancellor of the University of Texas, in his commencement speech at University of Texas at Austin. This simple piece of advice owes a debt to the concept of micro-habits.
Micro-habits are small, positive changes based on the idea of “behavioral momentum,” which says that by succeeding at small challenges, we can increase our motivation to succeed at the most difficult tasks.
What are some examples of micro-habits that can help you move forward professionally or personally? Rather than multi-tasking through your coffee break, meditate for a few minutes to increase focus for the rest of the day. Instead of eating unhealthy food on the run, keep a bowl of apples on your desk to discourage those unhealthy habits.
This approach can be used for any positive change you’d like to make. Farago says, “When I am faced with a challenge, I break it down into smaller parts. If it’s something I’m really struggling with, tackling a couple of easy parts first builds confidence for the more difficult challenges ahead. Success in small things leads to success at the big ones.”
Downgrade their tech dependence
Many business leaders swear by mobile devices and laptops for note-taking and keeping track of their daily calendar. But ,research indicates that technology actually may make it harder to remember what’s really important. According to research published in the journal Psychological Science, students who took notes on a laptop performed worse on conceptual questions than those who took notes by hand.
The same may hold true for your calendar. Says Matt Matros, founder of Limitless Coffee and Tea, “I am decidedly low-tech when it comes to my calendar. In fact, friends and colleagues sometimes chuckle when they see me pull out my folded, hand-written paper calendar from my pocket. I keep the current month along with the subsequent two months in my pocket at any time. People can laugh all they want, but in the ten years that I have been doing it, I have only missed two meetings.”
Even if you swear by using tools like iCal or Email, Creator of The Unfair Advantage Chris Winfield found that by turning off his notifications, his happiness actually increased. Winfield suggests starting slow, by turning off your notifications for one day and seeing how it affects your mood.
Think on their feet
For years, studies have indicated that standing desks are better for you physiologically, helping to reverse many of the ill effects of sitting. However, there were fewer studies showing that they had any effects on their users’ ability to focus on work.
Now, a recent study conducted by researchers at Texas A&M found that in addition to helping burn calories, fight obesity and improve attention and cognitive functioning, standing desks improved productivity by 46% compared to those working on traditional, seated desks. In another study, standing desks were associated with significant improvements in executive function and working memory capabilities among students.
Mike Bolos, co-founder of Chicago-based startup Deskview, makers of the first window/glass-mounted standing desk, says, “There's a big surge of people turning to standing desks to help mitigate or alleviate health problems they are experiencing from being stuck at a sitting desk all day, such as back and hip pain. We are sometimes asked whether DeskView will impact people's workflow. They’re often pleasantly surprised when we tell them about the amount of research showing that standing desks like DeskView have actually been shown to make people more productive in their work.”
Outsource their heavy lifting
Online shopping isn’t just for nice-to-have items like clothes or high-end electronics anymore. Increasingly, it’s how leaders buy everyday necessities like La Croix, toilet paper and toothpaste.
Because of its convenience, speedy delivery and shopping is eating brick-and-mortar retail for lunch, and moving out of dry goods into grocery and consumer packaged goods. Amazon is positioned to be one of the primary beneficiaries of this trend, with AmazonFresh and its recent purchase of Whole Foods. Amazon already accounts for 33 percent of all domestic online sales according to an analysis of U.S. Department of Commerce data by Internet Retailer.
One-stop, one-click shopping has become increasingly popular with leaders looking to get the products they need with a minimal investment of money and time. Says Matros, “I have literally outsourced all my heavy lifting with shopping online. I order all of my heavy and bulky grocery items from Amazon Prime and have them delivered right to my door in hours. If I can’t easily find and carry it in a bag with one hand, then I'm ordering it from Amazon.”
Being a leader is about doing things faster, better and more effectively. Life hacks like these are the small changes you can make to get ahead and be more productive in business and life.
Related: 50 Rules for Being a Great Leader