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5 Things To Do Every Day For Success

Fast Company wants you to have your best year yet in 2012; click for more advice and tips on how to work smarter, manage your career, and lead a more meaningful life.

"You get up at what time?"

I hear that a lot, along with "You are so lucky." So, I'm going to help out here and let you in on the secrets of my success. Well, not all of them—but enough to show you the foundation I build on every day.

1. Wake up early. For the next week, get up a half an hour earlier that you normally do—and get going. If you get a few more things done, then get up even earlier the next week. Early in the morning is a great time to get work done because most of your associates have not started emailing, tweeting, IMing, or posting yet.  *UPDATE: The rebuttal for those who want to argue this point

2. Read the headlines and watch the news. Not only should you know what is going on in the world, you will also be the first to recognize opportunities (if you followed #1) for you and your business—long before the competition has even had their first cup of coffee.

3. Send something to one person who can hire you or buy your product—something you promised to follow-up with, a quick email with a link to something relevant or a "Hey, just checking in to see how thing are going" email.

4. Touch base with an old friend or associate you haven't talked to in ages. Ask how they are, what are they working on and ask or suggest how you might help. You'll make their day.

5. Write a handwritten note to someone. Seriously. It is a lost art and makes quite an impression. There is always someone you can send a thank you note to—or you aren't doing things correctly.

A simple yet highly effective list. Try all five every weekday for a month. Then, tell me I'm right. If I'm wrong, I'll buy you a cup of coffee. When you finally wake up ...

Looking for more advice to rev up your career? Check out these recent stories from Fast Company 

Dayna Steele is a serial entrepreneur and author who travels the country creating rock stars with her "Rock Star Principles of Success." Follow her on Twitter @daynasteele. You can listen to the podcast version of her Fast Company Leader blogs on iTunes.

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[Image: Flickr user Jessy Rone]

Add New Comment


  • Laura

    I've worked for others and it's true your are only as good as your people, respect them and they will take you far. Treat them bad and you will fail.

  • Linda Davidson

    Love your suggestion to write a hand written thank you note. Heartfelt appreciation does bring smiles and encourages people to continue to do acts of kindness. I believe in the power of gratitude and share what I am thankful for daily at  Focusing on what is positive on your life makes you take note of small joys.

  • Ben Winters

    I like to take in every post I see like this. I need to wake up early,
    always have needed to. I can only wonder the things I could accomplish
    if i wake up earlier even by an hour each day..... man makes me think.

    Ben Winters
    Teaching you awesome....1 day at a time

  • Sean E. McDonald

    Speaking directly to the angry David: As a former amatuer athlete and now a business professional there are a few lessons that I've personally learned over the years. One of them: Revisit to fundamentals. Another one: If you learn just ONE thing from a resource, it was worth the effort.

    It doesn't take a brave and intelligent man to criticize someone on the internet anonynmously.

    Dayna: I am normally an early riser, but believe me when I say it is a trained skill rather than a natural gift or disposition. What I've found is that you are right on with these tips. Of course the addition of "Smile" below is important, but I think that one thing that is left out is the importance of physical exercise. Too often the importance of exercise in the professional isn't emphasized enough. There doesn't need to be any more studies about how exercise, especially intense and dynamic physical activity, improves the overall mental health and performance of the individual and acts as a way to stay energetic, focused, and less stressed. The saying that "Strong Body, Strong Mind" is never more relevant than in the business world..

  • Dayna Steele

    Thanks Sean. Couldn't agree more - in fact it is one of the things on my list in "101 Ways to Rock Your World: Everyday Activities fur Success Every Day."  Coming soon....

  • Duane Christensen

    Totally agree. And the get up EARLY thing will work for 99.9% of people. I used to think I was "more productive" at night. But all it was about was quiet, uninterrupted time that I needed. When, I wake up at 5am instead of 6. I get more done in a day. One extra hour of quiet time in the morning. And my brain is working differently in the morning than in the evening. Yes...I'll still have some "creative" spurts that happen at night...where I'll be up til 2am. But when I'm up early, there's no comparison. 
    Great post!

  • Andrew Vallentine

    Being productive in your working day goes deeper than what time you rise or how much news you absorb or how many friends and colleagues you connect with in a unique way before midday. It is about self-respect. If you have self-respect, or a healthy self-love you will, by design and definition, be the best version of yourself. You will make an impact whether you're in sales, research, garbage collection, politics, religion, sport, administration, school teaching, performing arts. Most people's downfalls are self generated. Most people's lack of direction is self generated. Most people's success is because they accept themselves and are getting on with life.  Winning isn't a struggle to the top, it's an outworking of a healthy self acceptance. And winning doesn't equate to  money. If you're doing your job for the money then your attitude is wrong. We were made to work and be productive. We were not made just to make money.

  • Eric Anderson

    When I first saw the title I thought it would be a verbose list with too much detail. Thanks for keeping it short and to the point. I'll try your suggestions (although I already get up at 4:45 AM to workout) for a month. I KNOW the one about re-connecting will help me. The handwritten note is key for customers and co-workers.

  • Jeff Wolski

    I've been a night person for many years, even throughout my college years.  Over the past few months, I started getting or at 3 or 4 every morning to accommodate a client in Europe.  I'm amazed to find that my best work is definitely when I get up early and in the first 4 or 5 hours of the day.

  • emad alsokkary

    i would add , 
    6. read daily in your work field and other science which help you to be the first in your job

  • David

    Wake up early just to get a head start on everyone else who de-values sleep to get a head start on doing business by social media,whatever happened to getting up at a reasonable hour in order to get to work at the required time to actually do your job succesfully by talking and interacting with people directly, I agree with Mark G, you might as well add another pointless category in there like "take time to fully understand black matter" whilst drinking your cappucino which is still too hot because you got up so early that you beat the rush hour at the coffee kiosk, well done you!!