How long have you been a part of something that had a clear leader?
Maybe for you, it was sports, school, the workforce, or even just your parents.
Have you come across any leaders or mentors who have really wowed you?
Are YOU trying to be a good leader but not sure what makes a good leader?
We come across so many people calling themselves mentors, leaders, flag bearers, and whatnot, but they fail to leave an imprint as big as their (sometimes self-assigned) titles.
Maybe you know you’ve got leadership qualities, but you haven’t yet found a job that complements them.
Similarly, you might be in a leadership position but fail to do it justice since you’re lacking leadership qualities.
We’ve all heard the saying “he must be doing something right to be in that position.”
However, that “something” just never seems convincing enough for you to just accept your role and feel like a good leader. You find yourself always wondering WHY that guy is doing better than you. What’s the difference?
Often, regardless of your job title, possessing at least a small but solid set of leadership traits can be the key to opening up unforeseen but incredible opportunities.
In fact, many of the leadership traits I outline in this article have helped me to exceed a lot of the expectations I had for my own life.
Some people are leaders, and we feel drawn to being on their team to learn something and enjoy their company.
What might you learn from them? What makes them so successful? What is it that they have that make them a great leader that people sometimes blindly want to follow?
We’re going to get into all of that in this article and hopefully I can shed a little light on what it means to be a good leader and why being one can be so powerful.
What Is Leadership?
Leadership is precisely defined as “the action of leading a group or people or an organization,” or “the state or position of being a leader.”
Dang, puts a whole new perspective on it, doesn’t it?
Instead of just saying it’s an action, it puts how to be a leader in terms of learning an artform, in a way. So in light of this, what is a leader? Someone who tells you what to do through actions or instructions, or someone who just inspires your soul, as a well-done piece of traditional art might do?
So… what does it take to learn that artform?
Well just like anything else in life, there is a recipe for it. A mixture of qualities that any person can train themselves in so they can become a more ideal leader.
Qualities Of A Leader
Not all leaders would endorse the exact same set of leadership qualities, like being a stern boss versus a “buddy boss,” but most would have some common leadership skills that everyone aiming to be a great leader should master.
Most natural leaders have a strong personality, that’s true, and while that may not be easily changed it’s possible to work on some of the soft skills that all great leaders possess.
Let’s dive into some of the must-have traits to become a remarkable leader.
1. Great Communication
Out of all the great leaders I have seen, the strongest trait most of them possess is strong communication.
I mean, all of us speak, talk, and communicate as well, sure.
But to be able to communicate an idea, convince a bunch of people, and impress them with your ideology is something that truly great leaders are uniquely capable of.
When a leader talks, people listen. It doesn’t just end there when they leave the auditorium or the workplace. Others have become his biggest endorsers, just based on their pure excitement.
They don’t just work on it alone but have the ability to convince and encourage others around them to work towards that vision as well.
Great ideas are not just your typical run of the mill.
They are unique and sometimes look highly likely to fail, but only a visionary can foresee its future.
People who can visualize the future and work on its realization, regardless of risk, become remarkable leaders. They have the courage and the strength to own their ideology and work towards its completion.
3. Ethical and Humble
Not every CEO is a leader. Some get to that point simply due to fate.
Trust me, I know from experience. Even as I propelled myself to a CEO role, I KNEW I had a lot of work to do in terms of becoming a better leader.
A powerful role does not make you a great leader. It just so happens most great leaders eventually obtain powerful roles.
With that being said, great leaders are extremely ethical and humble with people. These are the people we want as the CEOs of companies.
They have the ability to empathize with people.
Because without a team, there is no leader. A team consists of members who are human and have issues just like every normal person does. A good leader will be able to understand this.
A great leader also listens to their team and addresses issues. They try to resolve any issues as a high priority, making sure that they have a workplace every person can be comfortable in.
A true leader would treat the janitor the same way he treats his managing director. People are not afraid of them; they respect these leaders.
This a key, distinguishing feature of great leaders.
If you want to become a leader with great following and appreciation, try to be positive in all aspects of your life. Positivity enables you to give pleasant vibes.
This becomes magnetic for people around you. They will gather around you to feel that vibe.
Elon Musk, famous for his work in space science and electric cars, is tirelessly optimistic and resilient. He stays positive and is known for saying, “failure is an option here. If you’re not failing, you’re not innovating enough.”
A great leader doesn’t need a tangible motivator to work better.
When you are working with someone who is always motivated to move forward and walk the extra mile for people, you automatically feel a bit more willing to reciprocate.
This in my opinion is one of the easiest self-taught techniques.
It’s not a mood; it’s a habit that can be developed and was one of the first traits I worked to develop on my journey to become a better leader.
You would never find a leader talking about typical ideas. They are always interested in something novel, unique, and futuristic.
Do you see yourself moved by new ideas or do you ever get hooked learning about new things? If not you may need to take more time for yourself.
It’s hard to be creative if you are always caught up with stressful work, and trying to meet deadlines.
Creativity needs space for thinking.
Bill Gates of Microsoft is famous for taking a break called “Think Week.” Staying in isolation and reading is all he does. Most of the great ideas he comes up with are from that vacation time.
So, if you are aspiring to be a great leader, start taking breaks, and utilize them for digging deep.
8. Problem Solver
Would a leader come up with an excuse or a solution? If you have ever worked with a great leader, you know that they always have a solution to every problem.
They are the problem-solvers, not the problem creators.
Interestingly, they are also adept at figuring out who they can trust to take the lead for them and who can come up with some feasible solutions in their place.
9. Honesty & Integrity
Great leaders are known for their honesty and integrity. If you are sincere with yourself, and the work you do, there is nothing that can hold you back.
Success is not earned overnight.
It’s a process of relentless working with high morals. Even if nobody is supervising you, do the right thing.
Work with complete honesty, and soon you will be noticed.
Great leaders don’t come from space. They are produced, developed, nurtured, and mentored. If you want to learn how to be a leader, start with making the right decisions.
10. Constant Learning
Learning is a constant state for a great leader. No leader ever thought that there is nothing left to be learned.
Even the richest and most sought-after leaders in the world don’t stop learning.
Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, wears the same clothes daily to avoid the waste of time in deciding what to wear. He lives a simple life where he works and makes time to learn something new now and then.
If you are unable to be coached, your downfall or stagnation is pretty much guaranteed.
Great leaders are always up for learning something new. They love to teach people and be taught. In their opinion, learning is a never-ending phenomenon.
11. Decision Makers
Do you have the ability to make a decision? Leadership skills require you to make important decisions.
There are several possibilities for the outcome of your decision. Question is, are you afraid of the outcome? If you are, then you can never be a great leader.
One of the key ingredients in making a great leader is his ability to call the shots.
You have to make the decision and move forward confidently.
Some people look up to you. Fearing failure is not an option for a leader. What a leader must do is, take action and foresee the outcome.
You will be wrong sometimes. But through that experience, there will be solid learning, which later you can apply in other projects.
With leadership comes accountability.
If you are scared of taking ownership, you would never be held responsible, and therefore, never be able to build a reputation of accountability.
If you are aspiring to acquire leadership qualities, you must start taking responsibility and ownership. If there is a project at work for which you can volunteer, step up and grab the opportunity.
Don’t look at others to fill in for you when you have every capacity to do so. It is one of the greatest qualities of a leader that he never plays the blame game and takes responsibility for his actions.
It would help if you tried in order to succeed or fail. But if you are not trying, you will not learn.
Agility means swiftness, flexibility, and precision. These are rarely found in leadership traits.
Many people are decisive, positive, charismatic, and optimistic. However, to be accurate in precision and quick response takes another level of superiority.
Great leaders can take swift actions as the market changes. Even in the middle of a project, if they feel a need to change their plan, they would quickly get their team to act, and make the needed modifications.
They are not going to wait until the project finishes so they can introduce a change of plans. This quick response and market reading are a special skill only great leaders possess.
14. Great Listener
People tend to think of leaders as the ones who do a lot of the talking. But a great leader is a great listener as well.
If you are not listening to people, you will never understand their problems, let alone be able to help give them a solution.
People love to talk about themselves. Let them talk, and they will like you and appreciate that you listened.
When aspiring to be a great leader, one of the biggest challenges is to hold back your own thoughts and resolve to do more listening.
Similarly, don’t listen to hit back; rather, the intention should be that you are listening to understand the issue so you can be of help.
You won’t find a successful company that has made its mark without a vision and mission.
Every global company is aspiring to achieve a position or goal for its stakeholders. The vision of a company is as influential as its leader.
While looking at leadership qualities, vision is a huge one. You wouldn’t find a great leader without an impressive vision for the company he is leading.
As John C. Maxwell rightly puts it, “people buy into the leader before they buy into the vision.”
So clearly, you need to be visionary, far-sighted, and convincing to become a great leader.
Does influence make a good leader?
If you think that I could be an introvert and still beloved by the people, you are not entirely wrong. Influence doesn’t always come to people who are extroverts and fun. It has to be earned with your humbleness, smart work, promptness, and humility.
Today you help someone in his time of need, and tomorrow your favor will be returned. In many parts of the world, businesses are run on public relations.
They say if you are influential enough, you can even become a president. It’s not as simple as it may sound. Influence doesn’t come overnight. But great leaders are always influential.
If you think that there are a bunch of important people you know who have the power to make things move, and they would gladly do it for you, you are on the right track. Influence comes with power and position.
There are so many ways through which you can earn influence.
Connect with people, not just know them
Show your emotional support not just verbal
Actions speak louder than words, if you can help someone, please do
Ask for other people’s input and advise
Show your vulnerability and your charisma
Build real relationships, not just professional
In many countries, if you want to know someone personally, you invite them to dinner, but in some other parts of the world, you invite them for drinks. Choose your invitation wisely.
Look around and see what other people are doing to develop and nurture their relationships.
His confidence oozes out of every inch of his body when he is speaking. One of the most important qualities of a leader is confidence.
Even if he is trying to convince you to go left when you have already decided to go right, he will say it with such affirmation that you will change your mind. That is how a great leader works.
If you are looking shabby, unsure, mumbling, and confused, you can’t even act like a leader.
What is the first instinct when you are talking to a great leader? In your heart, you trust them.
That is one of the foremost instincts you have when you are talking to someone you consider a great leader.
This is also one of the rarest qualities these days in leaders (see comment above about not enough honest CEOs these days).
Especially in these dynamic times, it has become so difficult to trust the leaders who are always trying to be politically correct and wouldn’t speak their actual mind.
Jack Ma, one of China’s richest men and founder of Alibaba said during his interview with CNBC in 2013 when Alibaba went public, “Today what we got is not money. What we got is the trust of the people.”
You have to find a leader you can trust. If you want to be that person, then start your journey by being honest.
It will enable people to trust you for what you say. Trust is also earned like many other leadership qualities. It isn’t inherited.
So, if you want people to trust you unconditionally, be fair in your dealings and always do the rightful thing. This continuous process will earn you the endless trust of people.
19. Emotional intelligence
One of the most important qualities of a leader isn’t just being empathetic. It isn’t just being a charismatic, sharp, confident, and idealist individual.
But more than anything, it is being a real human that is capable of showing emotions and compassion.
When we look at leaders who are sharp but poor with communication, we begin to build resentment.
If you looked at favorite leaders around you, they would be the ones with a high emotional quotient and who truly care for the people they deal with.
You don’t want to communicate your issues with a person who would selfishly refuse help. Rather, you would find someone who would sincerely listen to your issue, and if nothing else then at least console you.
Building emotional connections with people around you are one of the major unique qualities of leaders.
Final Thoughts On Leadership Qualities
As you can tell, true, born leadership is a unique and rare talent.
However, there are a few qualities that you can learn from your teachers, mentors, and associates that you look up to.
There is always going to be a shining star you admire. Look at what qualities they possess that have led you to become their follower.
Try to engage with them as much as you can, and learn from them. Each person is known by the company he or she keeps.
Stay in the company of a great leader, and they will naturally mentor you to become one in turn.
Remember to pay that knowledge forward, and you’ll find you’ve become a true leader yourself.
Everyone knows that failure is no fun and just plain doesn’t feel good.
But what most people don’t know about failure is that it is actually one of the best things for you, and not for the reasons you might think.
Failure isn’t meant to check your ego, keep you “in line” with following the status quo, or keep you tied down and prevent you from dreaming bigger.
Failure is meant to give you a jumping-off point, a next step up on the stairway to success.
Let me explain it another way: as the saying goes, “there are two types of people in this world…”
In this case, there are those who view failure as a negative and those who view failure as a positive.
If you’re like the vast majority of people you meet, you’ll say that failure is a bad thing.
And technically, you wouldn’t be wrong – failure IS bad.
So let me reword the statement about those two types of people: there are those who view failure as a negative reflection of themselves and who stop there, and there are those who view failure as a learning moment and a starting point for follow-up efforts.
Would you rather stop in your tracks and be average (or even unsuccessful) and a failure, or be in the ranks of successful people who failed but continued on, onward and upward?
Sure, while the actual failure itself might be bad (failing an exam, a failed startup costing you a lot of money, a failed relationship, etc), every single failure you encounter in life will give you an opportunity to refine your approach and improve upon the past.
And if that’s not awesome news, well, I don’t know what is!
Successful People View Failure With A Success Mindset
As I said before, if you view failure as the end of the road, then clearly whatever it is that you were attempting to do is going to end there and never have a real chance to become a success story.
But if you view failure as a learning opportunity, and you make a point to change your efforts even a little on your next attempt, your chances of success just increased dramatically – purely because you were willing to try again.
Think of it like this: if you’re trying to start a business and work for yourself, let’s say that you’re pre-destined to have 6 failed business ideas before you find the lucky 7th one that works. (Sure, that might be a generously low number of attempts, but let’s go with it.)
Once you’ve had your first failed business, you’ve only got 5 more to go before you see success. That makes you already about 17% of the way to success!
But here is what you really need to remember as you approach new things and risk failure:
In life, you’ll never truly know how many failures it will take to find success.
What differentiates successful people who failed from unsuccessful people who failed (and gave up) is their success mindset.
In a nutshell, a success mindset is simply a mentality that a person holds that convinces them that success IS in their future, after some predetermined number of preceding failures.
Simply put, these successful people believe that success is the only end-result outcome for themselves, and they need to just keep plodding on until they reach it.
Successful People Bolster Their Chances of Success With Success Quotes & Success Habits
You don’t have to look up statistics on failures vs. successes or find some cheesy success quotes like:
“Success is not the key to happiness…If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” (Herman Cain).
Yes, it’s a good quote and if taken to heart it provides a solid mentality for finding happiness in life and dwelling on good instead of bad.
But maybe you’re not that kind of person. Maybe you need a little bit of a different sort of push.
Maybe you need to find your own set of success quotes — maybe you’ll build your own list of personal mottos, instead, that does the job of getting your fired up and hopping out of bed each morning, ready to give the day your all regardless of what happens by the end of it.
Maybe you’ll use those mottos to be able to get out of bed early every day, ready to absolutely crush it, no matter (or even in spite of) how the previous day ended!
It really doesn’t matter what your definition of “success quotes” is — you could simply wake up and on a daily basis repeat “hey, don’t suck at life today” as your main success quote. Hey, if that works for you, then go for it!
What matters is that you find some quote or quotes that make you feel energized, ambitious, and ready to keep plowing on ahead no matter what happens.
Find something that makes you determined to the point of stupidity to reach your success goals, no matter what life chooses to throw in your path.
With that first-thing-in-the-morning-straight-out-of-bed recitation of your success quote(s), you’ve officially started building your own set of success habits. Congratulations!
All you need to do now to fill in the rest of your success habits are give yourself 2-3 more actions that you repeat on a daily basis to help you maintain your focus and your success mindset. Make sure these habits are actual action, something you’ll definitely notice if you didn’t do (none of those silly little “touch the left side of the mirror and spin in a clockwise circle while combing your hair weirdo moves haha — those you can do without).
Remember: it takes 21 days to make a habit.
Build up those success habits, and make it a routine that you follow every day.
In just 3 weeks, you’ll be a success (hopefully)!
Successful People Who Failed…At First
So obviously it’s all great talk to go over how to maintain your success mindset with goals, quotes, etc. But what does it look like in a practical application, to have that success mindset be SO ingrained into becoming a part of you that you’ll keep trying and trying until you succeed, no matter how long it takes (or even if it never happens)?
Let’s take a look at a few successful people who failed hard, way more than once, but came out WAY on top!
1) Babe Ruth
You’ve gotta know this guy — home run record holder for 40 years, with 714 career home runs! That’s almost twice as long as his entire baseball career lasted! Talk about a success!
But what you probably didn’t know is that he also had over 1300 strikeouts…making him almost twice as much of a failure as he was a success, if you want to look at things from that angle.
Really, think about it: the guy was twice as likely to strike out than to knock it out of the park, by those numbers, and yet he’s considered an absolute LEGEND in the baseball world.
Just goes to show you how terrible your success rate can be, and yet the overall impression is that you’ll be looked up to for generations!
2) Bill Gates
Most people are vaguely aware of some fact about Bill Gates, stating that he was a college dropout.
They’re right…he’s a Harvard dropout. Not for nothing, but that probably makes him smarter than the average college student in the first place, to even be able to get into Harvard in the first place! (Joking…but for real!)
But did you know this fun fact: his first effort at starting a tech company had to do with counting traffic data? Dang, I’m in the wrong career, that sounds exciting (haha, nope)!
When that company was a total bust because the tech straight up didn’t even work, he and his business partner just brushed their shoulders off and moved on to the next big thing…yup, Microsoft. And the rest is history.
3) Charles Schultz
Alright, who DOESN’T love the Peanuts comic strips?! You’re a monster if you don’t! LOL.
They’ve been around for DECADES, even GENERATIONS, without interruption, so if that doesn’t count as a successful creation I’m not sure what does.
Yup. He couldn’t get any comics to fly with his yearbook staff, got rejected from working at Disney, and “the little red-haired girl” that Charlie Brown pines for was inspired by the redhead that he proposed to but was rejected. Ouch.
4) Harland Sanders (aka “Colonel Sanders”)
This guy’s story is a whopper…no, not the burger.
Maybe you’ve never thought about his famous Kentucky Fried Chicken past letting yourself drown in its flavor.
As he became successful, he made it a point to practice his craft by committing to writing 1,000 words daily, or a total of 7,000 per week (short days were compensated for the following mornings). This is an excellent example of a success habit — an action you can take daily to push you farther along the road to the success goals you have for yourself!
6) Ludwig van Beethoven
Alright, let’s just get this one done and over with, short and sweet.
Beethoven, considered one of the bestmusical composers of all time, was COMPLETELY DEAF.
Remind me again why YOU can’t succeed at whatever you’re putting your mind to? I thought so…
7) Michael Jordan
I don’t care what team you root for. This guy may just be the best basketball player of all time.
First, I’m glad to hear my NBA dreams can still live on, with info like that.
Second, it just goes to show you that the opinions that others have of you or your current skill level are NOT a true representation of what you are actually capable of.
And if you don’t keep pushing for what you know you want, how will you ever know what you really ARE capable of?
8) Oprah Winfrey
YOU get success, and YOU get success, and YOUUUUUU get success!!!!!!
We all know who she is — one of those iconic people who can be referred to by only her first name and there is no question who someone is talking about.
(Side note: now THAT is success!)
Hers might be one of my favorite success stories.
We all know that she has built her huge fan base by how much compassion (and generosity) she has, with things like her “Oprah’s Favorite Things” show each holiday season…I remember the year that everyone in the audience got a new car from her!
Well, I think the world (and definitely her audience members over the years) have been much better off because of it, so thanks to whoever fired her — they freed her to reach even higher and become an even bigger success because of it!
9) Stephen King
His very first published book was called “Carrie.” And it was the 4th one that he’d written.
And yet now it’s one of the most popular thriller movies ever.
Even if you’ve never read his books, you still know his name.
Even if you’re feeling like you’ll never make it with what you aim to do in life, you will. Just keep writing your own life story until it has the ending you want it to have. That’s what all the good writers do, after all.
10) Stephen Spielberg
Star Wars fans, unite!
Seriously though, ask someone to name a movie director and chances are good his is the name they’ll think of first. I.e. the guy is a massive success.
There is really only one thing that all of us have in common in life: that there is never enough time.
Never enough to do as much as we’d like, see as much as we’d like, love as much as we’d like, and live as much as we’d like.
This is why it is so important to make time in your life so that you can get the most out of life possible.
The best way to do this is to take a hard look at how you currently spend some time, and either add or make sure you’re using some solid time management strategies in order to maximize the value of every minute of every day.
Importance of Time Management
I’ll say it again: there is never enough time. If you ever want to get anywhere in life, do anything big, or live the life you dream of, you need to make time your friend instead of letting it stay your natural enemy.
Using effective time management tools means that you’ll know exactly how to plan your day so that you can just wake up every morning ready and raring to go, totally on top of things, and knowing exactly what comes next. All you’ll need to do after that is simply get on with it!
The best and simplest way to answer the question “but why is time management important” is that you’ll see a resulting change that takes you from constantly asking do you have the time for something to just KNOWING when something will fit into your day or not.
Even better – because you’ll be keeping your time and productivity clicking along so smoothly, you’ll likely find yourself at the point of having EXTRA time, to spend however you want!
Imagine that besides being more productive in your life, you’ll even have “bonus time” to spend however you want – starting a side hustle, hanging out with friends and family more, or maybe just enjoying a little reunion with your couch more often!
Time Management Techniques
Now that you know why time management is important, it’s time that you make yourself a solid time management plan.
What that means, in a nutshell, is making sure that you are moving quickly from one task to the next, doing high priority and time-efficient tasks first, and always making sure that your time is clearly defined so that you’re never stuck wasting time trying to figure out what should come next.
Use the following time management strategies to get your time back, starting now!
1) Don’t be a perfectionist.
This is worth putting as the absolutely first item because SO many people fall victim to the time-suck that is perfectionism. I honestly think everyone does from time to time.
Sure, they say that there is a time and place for everything, and so perfectionism does have a place…somewhere…but chances are good that it’s a far-off place, and an infrequent timing, so you’ve got to learn to avoid it as much as possible.
It’s important to be able to complete a task up to just above the minimum acceptable standard so that you can get on with the next thing!
Being able to say “it’s good enough” and get on with it is a seriously valuable skill in life!
2) Multitasking is NOT a good option.
With the rare exception of something like doing dishes or cooking dinner while talking to your mom on the phone, multitasking is actually a productivity killer, contrary to popular belief.
So basically, every time you multitask and think you’re being productive, what’s actually happening is that your brain is purely switching between one task and the next, stopping the previous task until it comes back to it. Sure, it’s happening in split seconds, but overall you’re adding the switch time between tasks to the length of time it would have taken to complete each task in full, separately.
Add this up and consider the increased delay in switch times for more mentally demanding tasks, and you’ll see how you can possibly be stretching things out and losing minutes to hours per day, even with the seemingly simplest of tasks.
3) Batch your tasks when possible.
I’ll explain this one with a simple example.
If you’ve been doing great at washing laundry once a week, but now you’ve got 4 full laundry baskets that want putting away, you’ll get the task done MUCH faster if you put away all 4 loads at once, rather than doing 1 load, going to do something else, coming back to do another load, etc.
Essentially the same problem applies here as it does with multitasking – the time to switch between tasks is a wasted add-on, so you may as well stay in one “task category” until all the subtasks are exhausted, if possible.
Your laundry is put away faster if you focus on only that. Your house will be clean faster if you do all the cleaning tasks at once.
You’d never mow the front lawn, stop and pull weeds in a flowerbed, wash windows, and then mow the back yard, right? Then don’t do the same sort of thing with the other tasks in your life either.
4) Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize.
It’s a fact of life that some things are just more important than others. The tasks you need to complete in a day are not an exception to this rule.
If you’ve got your list totally comprehensive, you’ve got them batched, and you’re totally ready to get one task after another “good enough” and them move on, then you’re off to a good start as far as time management strategies go.
Now it’s time to take it to the next level, by making sure you’re doing the most important tasks first. You don’t live in a bubble, and there’s always the chance that something will come up during a day that will throw you off your groove and your plan.
By prioritizing your tasks, you’ll never find yourself “caught with your pants down” when it’s time to deliver on a task but it was at the wrong point on your list (and you didn’t get to it yet).
Follow a few simple rules that suit your needs, like putting work tasks as a priority over your personal tasks, putting tomorrow’s due dates as a priority over the next day’s due dates, etc.
5) Make it a habit to keep your to-do list up to date.
Want to hear something kind of funny? An informal survey found that 50% of people like to write their to-do lists to include tasks they’ve already completed, so they can have something to immediately cross off so they feel more productive.
I mean, I get it. That quick-hit boost in your look of results is definitely a valid option to get yourself feeling more motivated and less like you’re slowing spinning your wheels.
But that also means you’re wasting time writing down stuff that’s done and over with. Let’s be honest here: who cares?
If you’re going to stick to a prioritization plan as part of your time management strategies, you’re probably going to write a numbered list from 1 to whatever number, right?
Why start the list at number 3? Number 7? Why not start the list at number 1?
You want to be writing your to-do list the night before.
You’re at the end of one day, knowing exactly which high-priority items didn’t get addressed (and should become number 1, 2, 3, etc. for the next day automatically). You’ll have a fresh look at things since it’s no longer an “oh no I’m getting a late start on my day feeling” but instead a plan for what you’re going to do hours from now — you’ve got the luxury of time on your side at that moment of the day.
As you complete tasks, you obviously want to be crossing them off so you can keep track of where you are. But if you’re having a massively productive day, you should also consider giving yourself a “fresh” list once or twice a day, because why not?
Why tell yourself you only need to do, say, items #7-10 on your list to finish the day, and oh goodie, it’s only 11am? Why not challenge yourself to turn #7 into number 1, and aim to accomplish an extra 6 things before the day is done?
Making Time Management Strategies Work For You
In general, following the strategies that we talked about above WILL help you get a better handle on your time and help you suddenly find so much more time in your day to move on to bigger and better things.
That said, the exact way these methods will fit together for you isn’t necessarily the same as it will be for me or anyone else. You might have a job where perfectionism absolutely matters (like if you’re building a suspension bridge)! If you have to get it perfect no matter how long that takes, then your best bet is simply to try to improve your work speed instead of decreasing your pass/fail threshold.
The most important part of using time management strategies is to make sure that they do not ADD stress to your life, or else they kind of defeat their purpose!
Try implementing just one of these strategies at a time so you can see steady, incremental progress. Use those small wins to keep you moving in the right direction!
There are few things in this world that can derail your ambition faster than the thought of “this is a mess.” Whether it’s your home, your job, or anything, you need to get organized now in order to be mentally ready to tackle it.
I haven’t always been the most organized person. But once I made it into adulthood, graduated college, and now have started my own business, let’s just say that learning how to get my life organized has made all the difference in both how much I get done and in how I feel each day.
But trying to stay organized when you’re tired, burned out, or just having a lazy day is easier said than done. That’s why I want to give you some easy, quick-hit tips to show you how to get your life in order and get you moving on to bigger and better things!
1) Keeping Your Space Clean At Home
Home is where the heart is, right? Which is why it’s also the first and most important place that you should concern yourself with when you’re trying to go from not organized to in control.
Here are some really simple ideas to get your home more organized, quickly.
I’m all for having enough of something, but sometimes there’s a fine line between “enough” and “too much.”
Stop stockpiling quite so much in terms of grocery store items. You may as well just put $50 on a shelf and not touch it for 6 months, but that money can definitely be put to better use today. Sure, grabbing extra when something is on super sale is a great choice, but make sure it’s a REALLY good deal before you buy more than you need.
Condense Your Organization System
I’ve seen people that try to have separate bins or “drop zones” for bills, general mail, receipts, magazines, and all manner of loose papers, books, etc.
Instead of trying to keep this complex system going, just have one main drop zone for ALL incoming paper, maybe a separate one for any library books (since those don’t need to get lost!). At most, you might have one spot for personal papers and one for work, to make sure things don’t get mixed up.
Tackle this “bulk bin” on a once- or twice-weekly basis. Shred the junk, pay bills, and file away important papers/records. Toss the rest.
It does you no good to touch everything multiple times over multiple days.
You’re just “pushing papers” and wasting time!
Practice A Daily Pickup Routine
Sure, I just told you to only touch your papers bin(s) once or twice a week. But that doesn’t mean you’re being lazy and neglectful.
Every night before bed, pick up those random items that seem to like to migrate around your place. Hang up jackets, put dirty or simply discarded clothing into a hamper, put any loose papers into those drop bins, make sure all the dishes are either drying in a dishrack or in a running dishwasher, etc.
You’ll wake up in the morning to a place that’s much tidier, and draws your attention far less than if you were constantly noticing what was out of place.
Have A Place For Everything
You probably already put 2 and 2 together with the tips listed above, but it’s worth calling this out by itself.
You HAVE to make sure that everything in your home has a home of its own. You can’t store the vacuum in the hallway, the big salad bowl on the counter, jackets on the back of a chair, and library books in a stack on your kitchen counter.
Get storage cabinets and bins if you have to (hop on Pinterest for some solid inspiration there!), use labels if you’re really desperate to remember where things live, and get your stuff in order.
When you get this organizing done, if you still have things that you just cannot find a place for, it’s time to take a real hard look at them and decide if they’re worth keeping. If they are, you’ll probably need to rehome something else that’s less important to make room for this one.
2) Keeping Your Space Clean At Work
The methods for how to stay organized at work is going to look a LOT like your home organization effort, just on a much smaller scale — you’re likely limited to a one-room space at most regardless of whether you work in a corner office, a cubicle, or out of your own home.
Keep Your Papers Well-Sorted
The office supply stores have been selling those paper sorters with multiple slots for longer than you and I have been alive, and with good reason — they work.
For work, as opposed to home, however, you’ll want to modify your organization. Instead of simply having a stack you only sort 1-2 times per week, you’ll want to organize by priority. You might be wise to have a 6-bin/slot system, assuming you work a 5-day week. Assign one slot to one day of the week, and the top or front-most slot is your highest priority stuff, that MUST be addressed before anything else in that bin.
Manage Your Time
Every employer wants the most productive and efficient employees possible, but there’s a good reason for this to be one of your priorities too.
The more work you get done, in the same or less time, the more ammo you have to bolster a request for a raise. (Boom. That’s a win!)
If you know how to be more organized at work AND you work one of those jobs where you don’t have set hours but can stop whenever your work is done, then the more efficient and fast you work, the sooner you go home.
And if you’ve got things on the schedule to manage outside of work, you’ll be really glad you kept better track of things so you don’t have any events or obligations slipping through the cracks.
Do A Daily Sweep
No, not with a broom (unless you work in a woodshop, maybe?).
Before you leave work for the day, make sure that you’re putting things back where they belong, making sure that priorities for the next day are set and visible, and that you know you’ve got everything you need to crush your workday tomorrow.
If you need a report that someone else isn’t done with yet, for example, put a post-it note in an obvious spot and label it with the report name. Ask the person to put it right on top of that post-it when they finish. Then you’ll know exactly where it is. If you work in a more non-paper setting, make a reminder list or stick post-its on the desk of what you’re missing, and you’ll know exactly what to check on first thing tomorrow.
3) Keeping Your Space Clean In Your Car
Why are cars the easiest thing to make a disaster of? Maybe it’s because of how little time most people spend in there each day — it’s simply an “out of sight, out of mind” scenario.
This is the most straight-forward thing you’ll ever clean though. Ready?
Get a plastic cereal bin to use as a “car garbage.” Line it with a plastic bag and thank me later.
Keep a jar of cleaning wipes in your car. End the work week on a good note by giving the dash, wheel, and radio controls a quick wipe-down when you get home from work on a Friday night. You’ll start on Monday feeling like you drove a new car to work, and that’s worth a LOT of subtle ambition.
Make sure to add it to your monthly checklist of cleaning tasks to give your car at least a quick vacuuming and clean out the junk (like empty water bottles and smelly gym clothes that fell out of your bag).
4) Organizing Your Daily Tasks
The easiest way to stay organized is to make sure that you make organizing and decluttering a daily thing.
Doing a nightly sweep at the office to prep for the next day, and doing a nightly quick pick-up before bed is an AWESOME (and low-effort) way to keep yourself on track and on top of things. Not to mention that the longer things pile up, the longer it takes to get through them later.
Now, I can’t tell you exactly how to organize your day, but there are some main elements that everyone needs to stay happy, organized, and moving forward on their vision.
Have a solid morning routine that includes some “me time” to decompress and find your inner peace before tackling the day.
Schedule both work and personal time in time blocks, and try to keep them roughly consistent from day to day so that your body falls into a routine and knows what to expect. Routine and habits make for far more overall productivity because you can almost do things without thinking.
Make sure your day has a decompress time block somewhere (more on this later). You need time to get your head out of “on” mode and let it just come down to an idle. Just as a car can be burned out if you constantly run it at high speeds, your mind needs a chance to just roll along once in a while, too.
Have a solid night routine that helps you feel peace before bed so that you can fall asleep faster and sleep better. Include a step that gets your head wrapped around what you’re going to accomplish tomorrow so your “sleeping” brain can have the whole night to make a plan for that to come true.
5) Remove Things That Are Not Valuable Or Steal Your Joy
Yup. I’m about to go all Marie Kondo on you to an extent.
Sure, she might be a fad. Sure, she makes women go on insane garbage-bag-filling raids. Sure, there have been some AWESOME memes and parodies made about it.
But the woman has a point.
Why do you keep something that you can’t use, that is worthless, and that you haven’t touched in a decade?
I’m all for keeping a few toys from childhood until you have your own kids to pass them on to. But if you’ve got an extra pair of shoes in your closet that has holes in the bottom and so you never wear them, why not just get rid of them?
Here’s the little underlying secret bonus of getting rid of these sorts of things: the less stuff you have, the less you have to clean (or clean around), the faster you can clean, the more time you free up to spend how you want.
6) Schedule A Daily Decluttering Break
Yes, this is a distinct and different thing than your daily task organization time.
In this time block, you’re going to stop and declutter your MIND more than anything, by meditating, saying positive things aloud, etc. The goal here is to specifically declutter out the negative things in your mind because they’re just taking up valuable space that could be used for positive thoughts instead.
Try immediately following this with your Marie Kondo efforts, because you’ll be in the most upbeat state of mind and better positioned to take an objective look at your stuff and decide what stays and what goes.
This IS going to be one of the best times to do your daily task organization because your mind is clear of doubts and negative thoughts, feeling its most ambitious, and feeling that the world of possibilities is wide open to you.
If that’s not enough to convince you that meditation is time well-spent, then consider this:
Now it’s time for you to put all of this together to make a routine that YOU can follow, reliably and successfully, to start to see your life take a turn for the better — to start to see your dreams come to life. Follow these next steps in order.
Write down everything you need to do in a week or a month.
You can get as detailed as you want, but I wouldn’t go much more in-depth than writing “clean the bathroom” and “vacuum the house” when it comes to cleaning tasks, and “work” for a simple X-hour-long block of work time.
If you take your dog on a 2-hour hike every Saturday, write that down. If you’re starting a side hustle and want to put 10 hours per week into it, write that down too.
You’ll use all of these tasks in the next step to fill up your calendar.
Fill in a calendar for a practical look.
Take a blank calendar (you can find free planner pages with a simple google search) and use it to get a feel for how to balance out those tasks. Including times will be a big help in making sure your list is balanced and practical, so consider using a weekly view that includes hours of the day on it.
Block out your day for sleep and work hours first, since those are non-negotiable.
Next, add your regular obligations, like that weekend hike with your dog and your side-hustle time.
Around that, schedule the rest. If you do a daily gym session, put it where you want it to happen. Add an hour or two per day for house cleaning if needed, put 30 minutes once or twice a week to sort those drop bins. Add 15-30 minutes morning and night for your organization and “mental decluttering” sessions. Schedule a weekly car clean-out so that you don’t forget it.
The point with this step is to make sure that you’re balancing your week. If you try to fit everything into 3 days around your work schedule, for example, you’ll never practically get it all done and you’ll end each week feeling defeated.
Let’s face it: you didn’t need to do the steps of writing everything down and filling out a calendar. You already knew what you needed to do, when it needed doing, and how your days needed to look to make it happen.
The REAL fix for getting decluttered and getting on to living your life better is to stop being lazy.
It’s easier to just put a box of junk in the basement to deal with later than it is to load it up and drive it to the local thrift store donation center.
It’s easier to throw yourself on the couch to watch TV than to do a quick pick-up around the house and do a task-planning session for the next day.
It’s easier to sleep in than it is to get up early and Make. Things. Happen.
Get Organized Now
Outside of working each day, I challenge you to this: spend one hour every day fighting against the lazy instinct and taking action on something.
Sort an old box of junk for one hour.
Organize a long-neglected filing cabinet (or worse, a box of unsorted papers).
Whatever you do, find something that will help you get the junk and sludge of life out of your way so that NOTHING is blocking you on your way to better days and seeing your visions become your real life.
Sometimes we all need some words of encouragement, some words to live by.
Maybe you’re having a rough day, or maybe you just feel like you’ve been in a funk for a while but can’t explain why.
There’s something to be said for not only being able to recognize those moments but also for being able to quickly get yourself out of them. But how can you do that?
With personal mottos, that’s how.
Life hasn’t always been good to me. I mean, I didn’t grow up starving in a third world country with no running water kind of rough, but let’s just say that I know many more people who had a better start in life than I do people who had it worse.
One of the ways that I’ve managed to turn that around and make it a solid, unshakeable habit to keep focusing on the positive is by having a list of personal mottos to read over whenever I feel myself starting to get down, or start to wonder if I’m worth the good that has come my way.
And since these life mottos have been such a God-send for me, keeping me more upbeat, more often…well, I want the same for you.
What Is A Personal Motto?
According to vocabulary.com, “a motto is a slogan or favorite saying, like ‘when life hands you lemons, make lemonade.’”
But I have my own, slightly different motto definition: a motto is a powerful phrase that lifts you up and reminds you to stay positive.
Because that’s exactly what all good mottos should do, right? I mean, my girl loves the show Game of Thrones where the one family has the motto “winter is coming.” It’s totally their favorite saying, if you’ve seen the show, and it’s definitely short enough to be catchy. But not so great for moral, am I right?
You want to be fairly picky about what you decide makes your shortlist of “best mottos.” You want these short, one-liners to be SO good that reading just one of them could get you out of your funk in a second.
Why Do I Need A Personal Motto?
Sometimes it’s all too easy to forget what is best in life.
Sometimes we start to focus on what sucks and we forget to keep working towards our goals. Not necessarily your “routine” goals, like working out, or reading 2 books per month.
I’m talking about your big goals, like making sure to challenge yourself with something regularly, working towards becoming the man you wish you could be, and using your motivation to encourage others to reach for their goals.
If you can’t contribute to bettering the world around you, then what’s the point of life?
But I’m getting off-topic here.
The real reason why you need a personal motto, what we’ll call your life motto, at the very top of your list, is because this ONE phrase is the ONLY phrase you need to either turn your life around or re-motivate you to define yourself, set (and help you reach) goals, decide on what’s next in your life, etc.
Mottos help you do 3 important things:
1) Keep you focused on who you want to be — a “north star.”
It’s all too easy to forget why we get up every morning and get on with the grind that is work and life. I know I’m not the only one who has come home from a day at work and asked myself “what am I even doing with my life?”
But having some of these mottos on hand can quickly remind me.
I actually knew that my day job (ok, day jobs) were 100% against what I wanted my life to look like. I used my mottos to remind me that life is what you make of it and that I was on the wrong track to make my life into what I had hoped — no, dreamed — it would be.
You can do the same.
If you want to be the highest paid lawyer in New York City, then, by all means, go for it. Find a motto that’s going to get you fired up, encourage you to be the best of the best, and constantly remind you that YOU can have ANYTHING you can dream up.
2) Serve as quiet reminders to stick to your guns and “go for the gold.”
Knowing exactly who or what you want to be in life doesn’t do anyone much good unless they actually go for it.
Really. Think about it — who cares if you dream of owning your own business and working from home (like I did) if I just kept saying it but never did it?
I knew I needed a change, but for a while, I’ll admit I was a bit scared to make it. What if it didn’t work out? What if I had to go back to my old job, tail between my legs, and admit failure?
But what if I make it happen — what if I succeeded?
If there is one tiny little motto that I think ALL of us should live by, it’s this: no regrets.
Don’t let life pass you by, waiting for things to happen.
Remind yourself constantly that YOU HAVE DREAMS, and you are GOING to see to it that they happen.
3) Act as both an inspiration and a calming force.
Sometimes the world feels like it may as well be entirely on fire, for how upside-down things can get. Just like a hug can help calm a panic attack, or a movie can make you want to change your life, so, too, can a great life motto.
I’ll give you a couple of examples:
Inspiration: “One person can make a difference.” (i.e. get your butt out there and start making change happen. Only one person needs to care for something to matter.)
Calming Force: “Tomorrow is another day.” (In other words, take a deep breath and give yourself a break, because failure and disappointments happen, and that’s totally ok.)
How To Use Personal Mottos
This one is easy. So easy you’re going to wonder why you ever questioned how.
Write down phrases that strike a chord with you (trust me, you’ll know it when you read it). Make the list as long as you want, but somewhere around 20 is probably a good starting point.
Refine your list so that you only leave behind those mottos that truly align with your need for them. Do you need reminders that life isn’t as bad as it seems (i.e. mood boosters), or are you more in need of “go get ‘em” style words? Choose those phrases that match your “theme” for your list.
Write them, type them, record a voice memo of you saying them. Do whatever works best for you so they can easily be put front and center in a moment, every day.
Read (or listen to) them every day. You could wait to refer to them only when you feel like you need them, but they’re a lot less powerful that way. Make a daily habit to familiarize yourself with your entire mottos list; every morning before you start the day is ideal.
Work hard to memorize the list, in full. Why? Because if they’re just plain burned into your brain, you’re far less likely to ever fall into a state of mind where you need them — they have literally become one with who you are.
Mottos To Live By
You’ve probably heard at least a few of these before, but I want to lay out my favorite list of mottos (some of them famous mottos) here for you, to help you get some inspiration in picking your life’s mottos.
From The Rock stepping in to get you pumped up, to Gandhi reminding you to be the good in the world, there is definitely an inspirational quote motto on this list that will become your life’s motto, and always be there to remind you to be the good version of yourself, instead of the down-in-the-dumps version.
1) Family first. – Unknown
If you don’t put your loved ones before everything else in your life, then you’ll live a life unfulfilled no matter what you do.
2) When you’re good at something, you’ll tell everyone. When you’re great at something, they’ll tell you. – Walter Payton
Lots of people can brag. But it takes someone truly great to just quietly do what they do, and let others sing their praise instead of doing it themselves.
3) Blood, sweat, and respect. First two you give, last one you Earn. – Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
If you put in the effort, you get the recognition. You can’t just demand respect if you haven’t earned it.
4) You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. – Dr. Seuss
You have no excuses as to why you aren’t going where you want to go in life. What’s stopping you? (hint: only YOU can truly stop yourself from moving forward)
5) Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else. – Judy Garland
Stop comparing yourself to others. There will always be someone better, richer, smarter, whatever than you, so make damn sure that you’re the best of yourself and you’ll be in the position to be one of those “someone betters.”
6) We must become the change we wish to see in the world. – Mahatma Gandhi
If you don’t like it, change it. Nothing changes by just wishing it to happen, it happens by action.
7) Vision without action is a daydream. – Japanese Proverb
You can envision your dream job, dream partner, dream house, dream everything until you’re in the grave. And that’s all it will ever be if you don’t DO something about it.
8) If you’re going through hell, keep going. – Winston Churchill
Don’t give up. Even when you think you’ve reached your worst remember this: when you’re at your lowest, the only way to go is up. So get up.
9) He who has a why to live can bear almost any how. – Friedrick Nietzsche
As long as you know what you’re going for (your why), you can handle anything that comes your way. It doesn’t matter how you got where you are (i.e. your better life), so much as it matters why you kept fighting for it.
10) You can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading the last one. – Unknown
Don’t dwell on the past. Process what has come before, and use it to craft what is yet to come into the best it can be.
11) Go to bed with dreams, wake up with a purpose. – Unknown
Have a dream. Make a plan. Get up and make it happen.
12) We are what we repeatedly do. – Aristotle
Don’t keep dwelling on what you’ve done wrong — dwell on what you’re going to do to become who you want to be.
13) Have courage and be kind. – Kyle Boureston
You’ll need all the courage you have to get out of your comfort zone and achieve your dreams. But no one likes a jerk. Be kind to those around you, and you’ll find that life gets a whole lot nicer.
14) Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all. – Helen Keller
If you’re just going to keep spinning your wheels through life and complaining about how things are boring, too routine, or just have no spark to them, it’s time to get off your butt and make life exciting.
15) When somebody tells you nothing is impossible, ask him to dribble a football. – Unknown
Sure, we’ve all seen those “nothing is impossible” inspirational mottos posters. But let’s face it, sometimes we can waste a LOT of time trying to do something that really doesn’t have much of a point. Pick your battles wisely.
16) Keep swinging. – Hank Aaron
No matter what’s happening — a bad day, bad luck after bad luck thrown at you — just keep giving live your best and eventually you’ll hit a homerun.
17) While I breathe, I hope. – South Carolina State Motto
So long as you are alive, you have the hope of a better day. No matter what happens, it can ALWAYS get better.
18) All that I am, I am because of my mind. – Paavo Nurmi
For better or worse, your mind controls you 100%. If you think of yourself as a failure, your mind will make it so. If you think of yourself as a success, well, it’s gonna happen.
19) It’s impossible to feel grateful and depressed in the same moment. – Naomi Williams
Make it a habit to have a gratitude session, daily. When you start to focus on what you’re thankful for — what is good in your life — it’s pretty hard to feel bummed about not having more, being better, etc. So long as you are better than you once were, you have something to be happy about.
20) It always seems impossible until it’s done. – Nelson Mandela
We’ve all had those moments where we look back and think “wow.” Make it a point to strive for the impossible, and turn it into one of those “wow, look how far I’ve come” moments.
Final Thoughts On Personal Mottos
Hopefully, this list got you started with being motivated, thinking about starting to DO something about it and how you’re going to get there, and working on your own mottos list. Sometimes motivational quotes are all it takes to get you up and running and raring to go.
But what I really want you to take away from this article is this: always remember, mind over matter. These mottos are simply the tool to help you focus on your mind, over the matters that are eating at you.
You CAN be a success, a go-getter, a rule-breaker, a winner.