It’s easy to live life on autopilot. Do you ever feel like you’re going through the motions during the workweek, just trying to make it to Friday? Then, when Friday rolls around, you can hardly remember what happened that week—it’s all one big blur.
Listen, folks. The typical schedule of get up, go to work, come home, watch TV, go to bed, and do it over again the next day is not going to get you where you want to be. I don’t want you to be full of regret in 30 years when you look back and realize you didn’t do anything you were truly passionate about!
In order to avoid living on autopilot and advance in your career, you have to be intentional with your time every day. That sounds like a big undertaking, but there are a few simple actions you can take on a daily basis to set yourself up for success—not just in your career, but in other areas of your life too.
The Top 5 Daily Habits for Personal and Professional Growth
Note: These aren’t shortcuts and will require some discipline, but I promise they will pay off! Whether you want to pursue a new career direction, take your current position to the next level, or simply grow as a person, practice these five things daily and you’ll see real results and opportunities coming your way.
Habit #1: Learn.
This can look different on a day-to-day basis, but the key is to learn something every day. It doesn’t matter if it’s small. Just carve out at least a few minutes to learn more about your craft, yourself and the industry you currently work in (or the one you want to work in).
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Here are a few effective ways to learn:
Read news articles, books, essays. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as what you’re reading helps you learn more about who you are and what you want to do.
Here's a list of some of my favorite books:
- David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell
- Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty by Harvey Mackay
- Bo’s Lasting Lessons by Bo Schembechler
- Patriot In The Making & Practical Revolutionary by Patrick Henry
- The Winner Within by Pat Riley
- Good to Great by Jim Collins
- Leading with the Heart by Mike Krzyzewski
- A Call to Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Clayborne Carson
Listen to podcasts, radio and other people who know more than you do.
Watch TED talks, documentaries and speeches given by people who inspire you or are influential in your field.
Research the field you’re interested in, especially if you’re looking at making a career change. Find out what kinds of education or training you would need in order to make that transition and what kinds of jobs and salaries are available in your area. Or look for volunteer and internship opportunities with an organization you’re passionate about.
Just think—you could spend 10 minutes scrolling through Instagram on your phone, or you could spend that 10 minutes reading an article that teaches you about the job you want or the field you’re passionate about! You’ll be surprised by how much knowledge you can absorb by making a small, intentional effort every day.
To stay up to date on the latest job market trends, check out my 5-minute daily podcast, Work Matters. It's a short and sweet show that will help keep you informed and competitive as you move along your career journey.
Habit #2: Do.
Find ways to practice what you’ve been learning and hone your craft. Again, this will look different depending on the given day and your career of choice.
Maybe it means writing 200 words every day, even if you absolutely hate what you write (you’ll get better). Maybe it means volunteering with a company that can help build your skills. Maybe it’s as simple as trying a new recipe, working on a website, or redecorating a friend’s living room so you can build your interior design portfolio. Just find small ways to practice.
Ask yourself this: What can I do today that will help me get better at what I love to do?
Habit #3: Connect.
Look for ways to connect with people who are doing what you want to do, or who are already excelling in an area where you want to improve. I’m not talking about speed networking or making superficial connections just so you can reap the benefits. But it’s always important to be mindful about the relationships you’re building and maintaining on a daily basis.
Whether it’s reaching out to an old friend via email, grabbing coffee with someone you want to learn from, talking with an acquaintance who works at a company you’d love to work for, asking a trusted coworker for feedback on a project, or even just spending a few minutes bonding with your current team—real relationships are crucial, no matter what industry you’re in.
Habit #4: Serve.
There’s a great quote from one of my heroes, Zig Ziglar, that says: “You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” If you serve other people, it eventually comes back to you.
Now, you might be thinking: Ken, that’s shallow! Is it really serving if I’m hoping to get something in return?
Hang on—I’m not saying you should manipulate people into giving you what you want. I’m suggesting that you make serving others a daily practice. In fact, the world’s best leaders are the ones who lead by serving. The way to become successful is not to push and claw your way to the top, but to have an attitude of humility and put others before yourself. Trust me—people will remember that in the future.
“You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” — Zig Ziglar
Here’s another question to ask yourself: How can I serve the people around me today? Not just your boss and your coworkers, but also your friends, your family, the disgruntled employees at the grocery store—you name it.
This might look like picking up someone’s lunch order, offering to do something outside of your regular job responsibilities, genuinely listening to someone who needs to vent, or putting your phone away when you get home so you can play with your kids. The list of possibilities really is endless.
Habit #5: Reflect.
When you’re making progress in your career, it’s encouraging to record that progress. Take some time at the end of the day to reflect on what you did, even if it feels like you only took one small step forward. Those small steps lead to big victories!
Journaling can be a fun, no-pressure way to reflect on your day and get all of your thoughts and ideas down on paper. Many studies have found that journaling boosts your mental health by helping you cope with anxiety, stress and depression.
Not a journaler? Try writing down just one sentence about your day, keeping track of goals you accomplished, or storing all of your completed to-do lists in one place. And don’t forget about the art of gratitude: Jotting down at least three things you’re grateful for each day can really help you stay motivated and keep everything in perspective.