successful people successful people 'Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines, practiced every day.' — Jim Rohn. (Photo: djgis/Shutterstock)

5 things successful people do with their time

A behavioral economist lays down the habits that make people succeed.

How do successful people spend their time? Do they sit in their attics, focusing single-mindedly on one area of expertise? Do they network constantly, haunting trade conventions until they find golden PowerPoints?

Dan Ariely knows. Ariely, an Israeli-American professor at Duke University, has become famous for explaining human decision-making. He just worked with Google on a Google Calendar app called "Goals" that automatically plugs in time for things like exercising and playing with loved ones.

Ariely told From the Grapevine what successful people do with their time, and it may not be what you'd expect. Successful people ...

Don't wait around for muses

museMuses were ancient Greek spirits. (Photo: Nejron Photo/Shutterstock)

Ariely explained that a lot of people wait to be inspired before starting a project. Which works fine, as long as inspiration is hitting you.

"Many people just wait for the muse to hit," Ariely told From the Grapevine. "The sad thing is, muses don't hit that often." Successful writers sit down and write, even if no muse beckons.

Hedge their bets

multitaskingDoing a variety of things also makes you a more interesting person. (Photo: Ollyy/Shutterstock)

Ariely compares choosing projects to dating: you meet a bunch of people and decide who you most want to spend time with. Try out 10 projects and see which idea works best. Then embrace it.

"Successful people take little steps in multiple directions," said Ariely.

Don't fear failure

failureMost New Year's resolutions fail, but that doesn't mean you should stop making them. (Photo: Nomad_Soul/Shutterstock)

Successful people fail just as much as everyone else. But they don't let themselves get too bothered. "I think that successful people worry less about failure," explained Ariely.

While he acknowledged that everybody worries about failure, Ariely said that successful people view failure as part of the learning process, and they don't take it too seriously.

"Don't let failure paralyze you," he said.

Expose themselves to new things

A lot of the time, ambitious people lock into their specialities, putting all their focus into their work. But spreading out and looking at new things exposes you to insights and ways of thinking you can't get with tunnel vision. So listen to a TED talk sometime. Or go vegetarian for a week.

Successful people nurture their expertise, explained Ariely. But they know that, from time to time, they need new insights from other areas. These new findings "might link to the kind of thing [you're] doing right now," he said.

Are flexible

Tree Pose in the Dead SeaSinger Pink says, 'The willow is my favorite tree. I grew up near one. It's the most flexible tree in nature and nothing can break it – no wind, no elements, it can bend and withstand anything.' (Photo: Ian Bothwell/Flickr)

Successful people know not to take specific goals too seriously. Flexibility is more important than making something exactly how you envisioned it at the beginning. This sort of thing comes up all the time. For instance:

"Maybe successful people, when they're asked to do something, like write '5 successful things,' don't feel that they have to write five things," said Ariely. "They feel like they could provide four, and that would be good as well."


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5 things successful people do with their time
A behavioral economist lays down the habits that make people succeed.