TIME psychology

How to Be Successful: 6 New Shortcuts Backed by Research

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Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

We all want success. And we’d like it fast. But we can only work so long and so hard. The more-more-more ethos only goes so far. What to do?

I decided to ask someone who knows about this stuff: Shane Snow.

Shane’s the bestselling author of Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success.

He did the research and looked at how people and companies achieve success quickly by trying new things, breaking the rules and taking shortcuts — or, as Shane calls them, smartcuts.

What’s a consistent theme throughout the book? Lateral thinking. The secret to succeeding faster isn’t working more, it’s working different.

Here’s Shane:

Lateral Thinking is the process of solving problems via different angles than you might expect. It doesn’t happen when you do more of the same thing. So just simply working harder may not accomplish a goal like rethinking the approach you’re taking. Lateral thinking is about getting in the mindset of breaking the rules that aren’t really rules; they’re just the way things have been conventionally done in the past.

The book is loaded with proven, counterintuitive strategies to help you get better faster. Shane and I talked about six of them.

Okay, you know the drill — let’s break them down.

1) Forget “Paying Your Dues”

If paying your dues was essential, there would be no child prodigies or Zuckerberg billionaires.

Looking at the research, Shane realized the best US Presidents had the least experience in politics. Here’s Shane:

The best presidents of the United States actually have less time in politics than the worst presidents of the United States. In all sorts of industries, what you see is that the fastest risers and the most successful are often not the ones with the most experience. What the patterns show is that people who tend to switch tracks, switch from different ladders or different careers, or even different jumps quickly, end up amassing more skills and more flexibility and more of this critical, lateral thinking that allows them to make breakthroughs and surpass their peers a lot faster than others.

And this lines up with the research of Harvard professor Gautam Mukunda: it’s the renegade outliers who make the big changes.

Often when people talk about the importance of paying dues, they’re afraid of failure or afraid of breaking rules.

Playing it safe can help you do “pretty good” — but it’s rarely the way to get to the very top or to get there fast.

(For more on what the most successful people have in common, click here.)

So you don’t have to suffer for years before you can take your shot. But you do need to learn. Where’s the best place to get help?

2) Find Your Yoda Outside The Office

The research Shane initially looked at said mentors don’t help you get ahead. And Shane reacted the same way I did…

Mr. Miyagi didn’t help? Morpheus didn’t help? Yoda was useless? HERESY.

So Shane dug deeper. Turns out formal mentorship didn’t work. That guy they assign to guide you at the office? Zero effect on your career.

But the mentors you seek out on your own? Boom. They take you to the next level in a big way. But what’s the difference between the two?

Mentors need to care about you.

Here’s Shane:

In great mentorship relationships the mentor doesn’t just care about the thing that you’re learning, they care about how your life goes. They are with you for the long haul. They are willing to say, “No,” and to tell you what you’re doing is wrong. Those kinds of relationships yield outsized results in terms of future salaries and happiness.

And caring goes both ways.

If you don’t feel a bond with your mentor and you don’t open up, you won’t get the most from them. You need to care about them too. Here’s Shane:

An organic mentorship is built around friendship and vulnerability. You need to be open about what you’re scared about and what you’re going through. Good mentors don’t just guide your practice, they guide your journey. This is the thing that you see in Star Wars and in the Karate Kid.

Forget the silly “mentor” that work or school assigned to you. Hitch a ride to the Dagobah system. Go “wax on, wax off” an old Japanese man’s cars.

Find a teacher who you care about and who cares about you and you’re not just on your way to a great career, you’re on your way to a primo life.

(For more on how to find the perfect mentor for you, click here.)

So informal mentors can really make a difference. How else can you keep improving? The answer might surprise you…

3) Watching Others Fail Helps You Succeed

Not making others fail, mind you. But seeing others screw up helps you learn.

It’s a shortcut to getting around a little known cognitive bias Shane discovered in his research.

When surgeons tried to learn a new procedure, which ones improved the most? The ones who saw others make mistakes.

Here’s Shane:

Surgeons who did successful surgeries tended to continue to improve, but surgeons that sucked at the surgery got even worse. And if you saw your buddy succeed at a surgery, it didn’t help you at all. But, paradoxically, if you saw your buddy fail at a surgery, you actually got better.

Huh? So unless you’re good from day one the only way to get better was to watch other people fail? Why?

Because your brain is trying to stop you from feeling bad about yourself. So it lies to you.

When you screw up, you make excuses. “Not my fault. Sun was in my eyes.” When you see someone else do well, you say, “Well, of course, I’d do it just like that.”

But when you see someone else bomb you say “Whoa, better not do that.” Here’s Shane:

If you are a heart surgeon and your patient dies on the operating table, you’re gonna say, “Oh, the patient was in bad shape. Oh, there wasn’t enough time. Oh, it was hard to see. The incision wasn’t very clean…” You blame your failures on things that are outside your control. But by watching a surgery you are less personally invested in you are able to be objective. “Oh, they did that wrong. Note to self. I shouldn’t do that.”

It’s one of the fundamental differences between the beginner and the expert mindset. Beginners need encouragement so they don’t quit.

But experts love negative feedback. That’s the secret to how you keep improving. Here’s Shane:

Experts have gotten to a place where they don’t take it personally and they can take the negative feedback as feedback on the activity rather than on them as a person. And that’s what you should do.

Turn failure into feedback and then turn feedback into actionable steps.

(For more on how to have an expert mindset, click here.)

Mentors, watching others fail… so you’re learning a lot. But what if you’re just too late?

4) Forget First Movers. Be A Fast Follower.

“I had that idea but they beat me to it.” Ever said that? Okay, you’re now officially a whiner. Because you were dead wrong.

You were actually in the better spot. Research shows the guy who starts second is more likely to win.

Via Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success:

…Peter Golder and Gerard Tellis of the University of Southern California, published a study in 1993 to see if historical evidence backed the claim that market pioneers were more likely to succeed. They researched what happened to 500 brands in 50 product categories, from toothpaste to video recorders to fax machines to chewing gum. Startlingly, the research showed that 47% of the first movers failed. Only about half the companies that started selling a product first remained the market leader five years later, and only 11 percent of first movers remained market leaders over the long term. By contrast, early leaders — companies that took control of a product’s market share after the first movers pioneered them — had only an 8 percent failure rate. Fifty-three percent of the time in the Golder and Teller study, an early leader became the market leader in a category.

When you’re first you have to waste a lot of time and energy figuring out best practices. When you’re second, you can just play “follow the leader.”

Dan Coyle said the two most important words when it comes to getting better are “reach” and “stare.”

  • Reach: Keep trying to get better.
  • Stare: Study and emulate those who are better than you.

You’re not too late. You’re right on time.

(For more on the attitude that produces success, click here.)

So timing isn’t as big a deal as you thought and you can learn from those who came before you. But what about when you need original ideas?

5) Want To Be More Creative? Add Constraints.

When you have limitations you can’t take the easy route. Constraints force you to think. And often, unless forced, we don’t think much at all.

When challenged, we have to be original.

Via Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success:

Constraints make the haiku one of the world’s most moving poetic forms. They give us boundaries that direct our focus and allow us to be more creative. This is, coincidentally, why tiny startup companies frequently come up with breakthrough ideas. They start with so few resources that they’re forced to come up with simplifying solutions.

One of the most insightful DVD commentaries I’ve ever heard was Robert Rodriguez discussing his movie, El Mariachi.

He made a 90 minute film with only 7000 dollars. Such an incomprehensibly small budget forced him to rethink every part of filmmaking.

He didn’t have a dolly so he attached the camera to a wheelchair.

The critics loved his editing but the only reason he cut the film like that was because his cheap recording equipment would lose sync during long shots.

You don’t need the freedom to be creative. You need the constraints.

(To learn the four principles that will take you to breakthrough creativity, click here.)

So creativity comes from limitations but your goals, well, they need to go in the total opposite direction…

6) “It’s Easier To Make Something 10 Times Better Than To Make Something 10% Better”

That line is from Astro Teller, head of Google X. Those are the guys who build driverless cars and other supercool stuff.

When you try to make something 10% better, your brain is burdened with all the baggage that came before. You have no room to maneuver.

When you say 10 times better, you have to reinvent the whole process. It makes you think big. You toss out the old rules and start fresh. Here’s Shane:

If you’re aiming for 10% improvement you are going to work within the conventional bounds of what normally happens in your product or industry. If you say that this has to be 10 times better, then it forces you to get down to the first principle of what is most essential. This is a way to force reinvention, which is really what innovation is.

And when you dream big, people want to join you. The media wants to talk about you. Venture capitalists want to throw money at you. Ambition is a force multiplier. Here’s Shane:

If you’re working on a business that has small potential, it’s going to be hard to recruit really great talent for it. But if your mission is to get humans to Mars it’s easier to attract the world’s greatest rocket scientists. So it’s rallying the support, and not just from employees and investors, which you need if you’re doing something big, but also from customers and from press and the universe that needs to conspire around you in order to make you successful.

And, perhaps most importantly, when you think 10x instead of 10%, you behave differently.

Research shows when you set bolder, more audacious goals you work harder than when you’re reasonable. Here’s Shane:

Subconsciously, we actually push ourselves harder when we’re going after bigger, loftier, harder goals. Research shows people who set higher goals end up outperforming their peers or themselves because they push themselves harder or because they force themselves to find more creative, alternative, unconventional solutions to problems.

So dream big. No, even bigger.

(For everything you need to know about setting and achieving your goals, click here.)

These are some great ideas. Let’s round them up and finish with the one thing you absolutely need to remember.

Sum Up

Here are Shane’s tools for achieving bigger, faster success:

  1. Forget “Paying Your Dues”
  2. Find Your Yoda Outside The Office
  3. Watching Others Fail Helps You Succeed
  4. Forget First Movers. Be A Fast Follower.
  5. Want To Be More Creative? Add Constraints.
  6. “It’s Easier To Make Something 10 Times Better Than To Make Something 10% Better”

That’s a lot to remember. So if you forget everything you just read, what’s the one thing you need to keep in mind? I asked Shane that and here’s what he said:

The mistake that all of us make is we don’t step back enough to ask, “Why are we doing things this way?In fact, we should first be asking ourselves, “Why are we doing this in the first place?” But certainly ask, “Why are we doing it this way?” Often the answer is, “Because that’s the way people have always done it in the past” — and that’s a problem if you want to make more rapid progress or if you want to get off the plateau that you’re on.

So look around today at the things that are important and ask why you’re doing them that way.

Is there a better way? A way that’s quicker, more effective, and more fun?

More often than not, I’ll bet you there is.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME leadership

Melinda Gates on How Women Limit Their Opportunities

Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Gates Foundation, former Microsoft executive and spouse of the Uber-nerd has turned her attention to the issue of women and girls. Her purview is mostly the world’s poorest, but she had some things to say about how even educated and affluent women hold themselves back.

“They doubt themselves,” Melinda told TIME during this week’s 10 Questions interview. “Women don’t tend to see themselves as ready for the next role, as they ought to.” Gates, who recently raised $2.3 billion (that’s with a B) at the London Family Planning Summit, said that at first she didn’t want to head up the drive to make contraceptive choices available to women in developing countries. “I wasn’t sure I was the right person,” she said. “I kept looking for somebody else to lead the effort.”

But she noted that good managers can provide a simple workaround for this problem, simply by making sure to give the women a little nudge to throw their hats in the ring. “I think it’s up to the managers—men or women— to reach down and pull those women up and say, “No, you are ready for that promotion,” or, “You’re at least as qualified as the men.”

In the interview Gates also spoke about what she’s doing to make sure her kids handle their great wealth (including how they allocate their pocket money) and how she refocused her life after turning 50. Subscribers can read the interview here.

MONEY Jennifer Lopez

5 Smart Career Insights from J-Lo’s New Memoir

Jennifer Lopez performs onstage at Fashion Rocks 2014
On how touring right after her breakup with Marc Anthony was the right move, both professionally and personally, Jennifer Lopez writes: "Everyone in the world knew that I had recently gone through a divorce, and night after night they were helping me get back up again." Kevin Mazur—Getty Images for Three Lions Ent

With record sales topping $70 million, Jennifer Lopez can teach us about more than just "True Love."

In Jennifer Lopez’s new tell-all book True Love, on sale this week, the singer-dancer-actress-entrepreneur has much to say about her past relationships and how they have shaped her career trajectory.

While some might be most excited by the juicier details of her breakups with Ben Affleck and Marc Anthony, J-Lo offers some nuggets of wisdom on success that can help anyone looking for career stardom. Here are the highlights:

1. Don’t let money make you complacent.

Lopez says her parents, who held down multiple jobs to be able to send her and her sisters to Catholic school, were an early source of inspiration and taught her that hard work is about more than financial prosperity.

There was a certain hustle I grew up with, a hustle that I learned from watching my parents. They showed me that you put your head down and work—you work for a living and then, when you’re making a living, you still don’t stop… We don’t stop working because we have money in the bank—we do what we do and we keep on doing it.

2. Embrace your mistakes.

Lopez is candid about the imperfect parts of her career, including less-successful albums, her tendency to succumb to pressure from managers, and times during the filming of What to Expect When You’re Expecting when her makeup artist had to use ice to de-puff her eyes because of all her crying following her divorce from Anthony. But at 45, she says, she is finally able to look back on her errors as learning experiences.

Being ambitious, being a perfectionist, means I’ve spent my life beating myself up for not being good enough, or for screwing something up. It took a long time, but I finally figured out that I wouldn’t have half the instincts or insights I’ve had as an artist over the years if not for those screwups.

3. Never stay in a job out of fear.

One of the scariest choices Lopez has made, she writes, was quitting the hit show American Idol after two successful seasons to go on a world tour. But she’s glad she mustered the courage to do it.

I had been so afraid of it all—afraid I would fail, afraid people would criticize me… And then I realized if I didn’t believe in myself, nobody else would either… If I didn’t do this tour, I’d probably regret it for the rest of my life… I loved being on Idol, but it was time to move on. It didn’t make sense for me to spend a third year in a row sitting on a panel, judging other singers, especially if the main reason I was doing it was for the security of it.

4. Look for experienced mentors and advisers.

Though much of her book discusses overcoming problems, particularly self-doubt, Lopez also points out that sometimes it takes someone with more life experience to point out you have a problem in the first place.

Back in the beginning of my career… I was in a meeting with my agent and stepped out for a call with my boyfriend at the time. Through the glass door, my agent could see that I was arguing and pleading. She asked my assistant, “Does Jennifer have low self-esteem?” My assistant looked at her like she was crazy. Later, when my assistant told me she had said that, we couldn’t stop laughing … “That’s so stupid!” I told her. But was it really? That agent saw something I didn’t. She was a little bit older. Maybe she’d been through something like that herself, or maybe she’d seen it in others.

5. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else.

Like people in all fields, Lopez says, she has at times compared herself with her peers and felt that she wasn’t living up to expectations. But, she writes, the only way to actually be the best version of yourself is to do just that—be yourself.

Your power is in your individuality, in being exactly who you are … that’s why there is no competition in artistry. It’s not about being the best or the biggest, the king or queen. That notion is so ridiculous. That competition or comparison is actually the exact opposite of what being an artist is. As an artist, you should be in competition with only one person—yourself. You can’t worry about what others are doing or saying.

For that reason, Lopez says the only advice she gives out now to less-experienced or aspiring artists is: “Listen to yourself; listen to your gut. Because only you know what’s right for you.”

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TIME psychology

How to Get What You Want

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The only thing that matters is what you can control and what you do about it

Answer by Oliver Emberton on Quora.

There are just two reasons why you haven’t done the stuff that you ‘want’ to do.

  1. You can’t because of something external
  2. You won’t because of something internal

Here’s the thing: nearly everyone who succeeds, will always assume number #2. By default, the reason they have failed is themselves. It is, without fail, their own fault. Always.

If this sounds like willful bunk, consider the flip side: those who fail always assume it’s not their fault. With that attitude, your ego is forever letting itself off the hook. You can’t learn from your experiences, except maybe that you shouldn’t have even tried, because — well — that big bad world was just super-mean to you again.

Try listening to a lot of normal conversation: it’s just ego repair.

“I’ve been here 6 years in the same job and they still haven’t promoted me!”
“I know, me too! It’s so unfair…

As Don Draper would say: I hate to break it to you, but there is no big lie. There is no system. The universe is indifferent.

Whenever “it” or “they”, “he” or “she” is to blame, you’re just diverting the blame. Because the only thing that matters is what you can control: what-are-you-going-to-do-about-it?

There are always situations when you really can’t have something that you don’t control. Maybe you dream of being a championship triathlete, but you were born without legs. Well of course.

Except that kind of reductio ad absurdum doesn’t excuse 99.99% of the identical, fundamental ridiculousness that most people lament about: their health, jobs and relationships. For this trinity, the principles are well known and within the capability of everyone. Assuming, of course, you accept responsibility for that.

Why do we make excuses?

Making excuses can make us feel better. Excuses are like painkillers for our self-respect.

Surely they evolved with this purpose. For not everyone can succeed all the time, and if you can’t, it’s better that you don’t become too depressed about it.

But the chances are the things that you want — that you want the most — are not fast cars, Angelina Jolie’s chest or a giant catapult to the moon. Most of us crave fundamentally simple things: love, respect, security, health, significance. These things don’t require that we’re born to wealthy parents, or with perfect genes.

If you’re reading this, the chances are you have access to education, sanitation, medicine, freedom of speech, shelter and the sum of the world’s knowledge (Google), and that you take them for granted. For over 150,000 years human life would have utterly sucked compared to now, and you’ve been born in the last 70 or so, in the blessed minority, when it doesn’t. You’re so lucky you can’t imagine.

You are the problem.

Whenever you hit a wall: find what you can do about it, do it, and forget anything else. All the other stuff just consumes your attention and accomplishes nothing.

The solutions to all your problems are probably so obvious, you likely already know them. The trick is simply acknowledging it’s your responsibility alone to make it happen.

This question originally appeared on Quora: How can I get what I want?

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME China

China Successfully Launches Unmanned Moon Mission

The mission, part of Beijing's program to eventually land a man on the moon, will take eight days

A Chinese spacecraft was successfully launched on a round trip to the moon on Friday.

The unmanned space vehicle, part of the country’s eventual goal to land a man on the moon, will complete an orbit of the planetary body before re-entering earth’s atmosphere and landing, according to a statement released by the Chinese State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense. The flight is set to land at a base in the central region of Inner Mongolia eight days from its launch.

China already has an unmanned rover on the lunar surface called Jade Rabbit, which was dispatched on a one-way mission, and also has plans to set up a permanently orbiting space station by 2020, according to AFP.

TIME psychology

How the Most Successful People Manage Their Time

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Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

“Where does the time go?” I say it. I’m sure you say it a lot.

We seek work-life balance but it seems there’s never enough time to get it all done.

And yet we all know there are people who accomplish a lot more than we do in a day — and they don’t have magic powers.

How do the most successful people manage their time?

Laura Vanderkam talked to a number of those people (including productivity expert David Allen and the former CEO of Pepsi) and found out their secrets.

She’s written about what she learned in a series of books:

  1. What the Most Successful People Do at Work
  2. What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast
  3. What the Most Successful People Do on the Weekend
  4. 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think

I gave Laura a call and we discussed what she learned from successful people about managing time and getting things done.

Here’s how you can get tons of stuff accomplished during the week, feel less stressed and even have more fun on the weekend.

1) Do A Time Log

Interviewing so many successful people, what did she hear some version of over and over? They all seem obsessed with one question:

What else could I do with that hour?

They plan their time, track their time and are always thinking about the opportunity cost of their time.

The first question you need to ask is “Where is my time actually going?” Not where you think it’s going, where is it actually going.

This does not involve leaning back in your chair and kinda sorta guessing about what you vaguely remember doing.

Write down what you do for every hour of the day.

Let’s just say seeing clearly in black and white how you spend your time can be sobering. Or, in some cases, downright depressing. But it works.

You can’t trust your head when it comes to time. You need to be accountable. Dieters who wrote down everything they ate lost an extra six pounds.

Via What the Most Successful People Do at Work:

One study of a year-long weight loss program, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in 2012, found that women who kept a food journal lost about 6 pounds more than those who did not. Writing down what you eat keeps you accountable for what you put in your mouth. Likewise, writing down how you spend your time keeps you accountable for the hours that pass, whether or not you’re conscious of them.

There are other benefits to doing a time log. It helps you figure out how long things really take versus your optimistic underestimates.

Here’s what Laura told me:

It’s just a matter of observation and saying “What is it that I repeatedly do in my life, and how long did it really take each of those times?” If that regular Monday 10 a.m. meeting is scheduled for an hour but it has never taken less than 90 minutes, then you need to be realistic and stop scheduling stuff for 11:00.

The other benefit that comes from doing a time log is you can see the optimal windows for you to accomplish certain tasks.

Are you sharper in the morning? (Most people are.) Then you can schedule “deep work” for that time.

(For more on the six things the most productive people do every day click here.)

So you’ve started a time log (and you’ve probably spent some time crying after reading it) and now you’re ready to spend your hours better.

What’s the next step? You need a plan. And not some little one either.

2) Plan The Whole Week

In a study of CEO’s what correlated with an increase in sales? Not how much time they had, but how much time had been planned out.

Via What the Most Successful People Do at Work: A Short Guide to Making Over Your Career:

Preliminary analysis from CEOs in India found that a firm’s sales increased as the CEO worked more hours. But more intriguingly, the correlation between CEO time use and output was driven entirely by hours spent in planned activities.

Georgetown professor and super-organizer Cal Newport agrees: To-do lists aren’t enough. Things need to be assigned hours to really get done.

How do you create your plan? Think about two things: what are you good at and what makes you happy?

Successful people spend as much time as possible on their “core competency” and ignore, minimize or outsource everything else.

They spend time on that thing they’re best at which produces meaningful results.

Writers need to be writing. Accountants need to be working with numbers. And everything else (like email and meetings) just gets in the way.

Laura also suggests creating a long list of things that bring you joy. Yes, you need to write them down.

Might sound silly but by having an actual list it’s easier to remember them and slot them into your schedule vs waiting for serendipity.

(For an example of the type of schedule very successful people follow every day, click here.)

So you’re putting your plan together. What’s another secret of successful people that delivers results over the long haul?

3) Morning Rituals Are For Things That Don’t Have To Happen

Morning rituals are for those things that are important but not urgent. Long term planning. Exercise.

The stuff we know we should do… but perpetually put off. These things don’t have a hard deadline and nobody will shout at us if they don’t happen.1

Via What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast:

The best morning rituals are activities that don’t have to happen and certainly don’t have to happen at a specific hour. These are activities that require internal motivation… The best morning rituals are activities that, when practiced regularly, result in long-term benefits.

Research shows we have more willpower in the morning.

One of the successful people Laura spoke to said: “Every day I have a job but in the morning, I think I have a career.”

Mornings are the time to make progress on those vital long term goals.

(For more on how the most organized people structure their time, click here.)

Time log: check. Weekly plan: check. Morning ritual: check. What else requires some forethought? Fun.

4) Yes, You Even Need To Plan The Weekend

Here’s where people freak out. They don’t want to plan their free time. But if you’re serious about your leisure time, then take it seriously.

I’m not talking about planning work or chores. I’m talking about planning fun — as in making sure you have some.

How many weekends have blown by where you didn’t get off the couch and, frankly, it wasn’t all that memorable? Exactly.

Research shows we’re happier when we plan our free time and that “doing nothing” doesn’t make us happy.

More importantly, studies have shown that you often don’t do what makes you happiest — you do what is easy. So you need to plan if you want to have fun.

What’s a weekend plan look like? Nothing draconian. Laura says you just want 3-5 “anchor events” to make sure you’re having a good time.

Here’s Laura:

Just three to five anchor events can really make the difference between feeling that a weekend was spent well, and that a weekend merely happened. And these don’t have to be huge things. It could just be, “I’m going to go for a run on Saturday morning. I’m going to try get together with this friend on Saturday evening. I’m going to go to church on Sunday morning.”

Looking to be happier? By planning fun stuff ahead of time you get to anticipate it. And research shows anticipation makes us very happy.

Best part is even if you don’t follow through and do the anchor event, you already got the anticipatory happiness. Happiness and laziness!

Via What the Most Successful People Do on the Weekend:

One study by several Dutch researchers, published in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life in 2010, found that vacationers were happier than people who didn’t take holiday trips. That finding is hardly surprising. What is surprising is the timing of the happiness boost… The happiness boost came before the trips, stretching out for as much as two months beforehand as the holiday goers imagined their excursions.

(For more research based tips on how to make your weekends more awesome, click here.)

Weekend fun is locked in. What’s the most vital part of insuring you’re ready for the workweek to start again?

5) How To Conquer The Sunday Night Blues

You know the weekend is over and tomorrow it’s back to work. Instead of being filled with dread, plan something awesome for Sunday night.

Here’s Laura:

Even people who like their jobs can succumb to this: “Oh god the weekend’s over!” One way around that is planning something low-key but enjoyable for Sunday night — anything you can look forward to Sunday afternoon instead of thinking about Monday morning.

Research shows Sunday is the saddest day of the week. Plan something fun ahead of time and that doesn’t have to be the case.

(For more on how to achieve work-life balance, click here.)

Okay, we’ve got some great tips. Let’s pull this together.

Sum Up

Here’s what you can learn about time management from very successful people:

  1. Do a time log. See how long things take and when your best windows are.
  2. Plan the whole week. Focus on your core competency and what makes you happy.
  3. Have a morning ritual that gets you closer to your long term goals.
  4. Set 3-5 anchor events for the weekend.
  5. Plan something fun for Sunday night.

168 — that’s how many hours we all have every week. We need to get out of the mindset of “I don’t have time.”

We all have the same number of hours. Period. It’s what you choose to do with those hours that will shape your entire life.

To quote a video game franchise I worked on a while back:

We all make choices. But in the end, our choices make us.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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TIME psychology

4 Things Millionaires Have in Common, Backed by Research

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Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

What do millionaires do differently?

Are they harder workers? Do they have brains that can bend spoons? Do they exhibit Bond Villain levels of cunning?

For their books The Millionaire Next Door and The Millionaire Mind the authors surveyed over 700 millionaires to find out.

80% were self-made, accruing all their wealth in one generation. And they were doing a number of things you and I probably aren’t.

Here are a few patterns the researchers saw:

1) Most Millionaires Are Self-Employed

Got a great idea for a business? Make sure the profits are going in yourpocket, not your boss’s.

Via The Millionaire Next Door:

Twenty percent of the affluent households in America are headed by retirees. Of the remaining 80 percent, more than two-thirds are headed by self-employed owners of businesses. In America, fewer than one in five households, or about 18 percent, is headed by a self-employed business owner or professional. But these self-employed people are four times more likely to be millionaires than those who work for others.

Sound risky? It is. Less than a third of new companies survive 10 years.

Via The Illusions of Entrepreneurship:

…no matter how you measure new firms, and no matter which developed country you look at, it appears that only half of new firms started remain in business for five years, and less than one-third last ten years.

But millionaires have a different perspective. They think it’s risky to work for someone else. You could get laid off. Your boss could make a bad decision.

They want to be in control of their own destiny and yes — they’re quite confident. And research shows confidence boosts your income.

But not only is entrepreneurship risky, it’s also hard work.

In only two countries out of all the ones surveyed did the self-employed not work harder than salaried employees:

millionaires

Why do something so risky and difficult? Research shows one of the main things that makes us love our work is autonomy.

And this is definitely true here. You’d need to earn 2.5 times as much money to be as happy as someone who is self-employed.

Via The Illusions of Entrepreneurship:

These studies have found that people are more satisfied with their jobs when they are working for themselves than when they are working for others. In fact, the studies show that to be as satisfied when he is working for others as he is when he is working for himself, the average person needs to earn two-and-a-half times as much money!

(For more on what the most successful people have in common, click here.)

So these aren’t salaried employees. But how do they decide what kind of companies to start?

2) Millionaires Choose Their Careers Strategically

They don’t start a business they’re necessarily passionate about. They don’t even do something they necessarily understand or have experience in.

They start a business that they think is going to make money. They look for areas of big demand and small supply.

Some of you are saying, “Duh. Of course that’s how you should pick a business.” Yeah, but that’s not what the vast majority of people do.

Via The Illusions of Entrepreneurship:

…there is no evidence that entrepreneurs select industries in which profits, profit margins, or revenues are higher.

63% of new business owners admit their venture doesn’t have a competitive advantage. Only a third say they really did a search for good business ideas.

And the industry you start a business in is very important: some industries are over 600 times more likely to be successful than others.

Via The Illusions of Entrepreneurship:

…between 1982 and 2002, start-ups in the software industry were 608 times more likely than start-ups in the restaurant industry to become one of the 500 fastest growing private companies in the United States—608 times more likely!

One of the authors of The Millionaire Mind is a business school professor. Every year he asks his students what the most profitable businesses are.

And every year the students can’t even name one correct answer. If smart, educated business students don’t know, why would the average person?

But millionaires pride themselves on thinking differently and looking for underserved markets and hidden opportunities.

And, frankly, the companies they start usually aren’t sexy. They fall into the category of “dull-normal.” But they make bank.

Via The Millionaire Next Door:

Many of the types of businesses we are in could be classified as dull-normal. We are welding contractors, auctioneers, rice farmers, owners of mobile-home parks, pest controllers, coin and stamp dealers, and paving contractors.

Despite thinking differently and doing things their own way, they’re not jerks. 94% of millionaires said “getting along with people” was key.

(For more on how not following your passion can be the smartest career strategy, click here.)

So they run their own shop and choose wisely what type of business to be in. But to make it a success don’t they have to be brilliant? Nope.

3) They’re Not Geniuses But They Have A Strong Work Ethic

We’ve all heard the old saying, “If you’re so smart, why aren’t you rich?” What was the average college GPA of an American millionaire?

2.9 out of 4.0.

(Not a lot of Phi Beta Kappa keys jangling around here, folks.)

Few were ever called intellectually gifted and many were explicitly told they didn’t have what it takes for medical school, law school or MBA school.

But what most people don’t know is that GPA is a very poor predictor of success.

Via The Millionaire Mind:

I find no substantial statistical correlation between the economic-productivity factors (net worth and income) and SATs, class rank in college, and grade performance in college…

And this may be part of the reason they’re so successful as entrepreneurs: “smarter” people are less likely to take such risks.

Via The Millionaire Mind:

Overall, there is an inverse relationship between taking financial risk and various measures of analytical intelligence such as SAT scores.

And maybe this is why former drug dealers are more likely to start businesses.

Via The Illusions of Entrepreneurship:

…people who dealt drugs as teenagers are between 11 and 21 percent more likely than other people to start their own businesses in adulthood. And their higher rate of self-employment isn’t the result of wealth accumulated dealing drugs, greater likelihood of having a criminal record, or lower wages.

In entrepreneurship, you’re the boss. So it requires leadership. And some research shows being super-smart actually makes you worse at being a leader.

Via Mind in Context: Interactionist Perspectives on Human Intelligence:

Cognitive ability tests have been notoriously poor predictors of leadership performance…. Leader intelligence under certain conditions correlates negatively with performance.

(Though research shows if you want to be a successful terrorist, definitely study hard in school.)

But future millionaires do work hard. When asked what their teachers did compliment them on, what was the most common response?

“Most dependable.”

When asked what they did learn in college, 94% replied “a strong work ethic.” And research shows self-discipline trumps IQ when it comes to success.

(To see the type of schedule successful people follow every day, click here.)

So we know how they bring their money in. Is there another part to the equation? Yeah. Don’t let that money out.

4) They’re Cheap

When the authors of The Millionaire Mind interviewed the wealthy, they didn’t want them to feel uncomfortable.

So they rented a penthouse in Manhattan, loaded it with four types of pâté, three kinds of caviar and plenty of fine wine.

The millionaires arrived… and felt completely out of place. All they ate were the gourmet crackers.

When offered the fancy wine one interviewee said he only drank two types of beer: free and Budweiser.

The researchers were stunned. They quickly realized the media images we see of millionaires aren’t representative.

Expect a millionaire to be a fancy dresser? 50% have never paid over $399 for a suit. (10% had never paid $195.)

In fact, if you do see someone wearing a $1000 suit, it’s more likely they’re not a millionaire.

Via The Millionaire Next Door:

For every millionaire who owns a $1,000 suit, there are at least six owners who have annual incomes in the $50,000 to $200,000 range but who are not millionaires.

Fancy car? More than half have never paid over $30,000 for a car. See someone in a Mercedes? They are probably not a millionaire.

Via The Millionaire Next Door:

…approximately 70,000 Mercedes were sold in this country last year. This translates into about one-half of 1 percent of the more than fourteen million motor vehicles sold. At the same time, there were nearly 3.5 million millionaire households. What does this tell us? It suggests that the members of most wealthy households don’t drive luxury imports. The fact is that two out of three purchasers or leasers of foreign luxury motor vehicles in this country are not millionaires.

Most millionaires live a lot more like you and me than Jay Z, Elon Musk or Donald Trump.

They’re thrifty, not very materialistic, and they think a great deal about how much they spend.

Via The Millionaire Next Door:

There is an inverse relationship between the time spent purchasing luxury items such as cars and clothes and the time spent planning one’s financial future.

And the more materialistic people are, the less satisfied they are with their lives.

Via 100 Simple Secrets of the Best Half of Life:

Among participants in one study, those whose values were the most materialistic rated their lives as the least satisfying. – Ryan and Dziurawiec 2001

Research shows people are better with their money when they think long term. Experts say you should have a system.

Are you as money-conscious as a millionaire? Most millionaires answer “yes” to these four questions. Can you?

Via The Millionaire Next Door:

  1. Does your household operate on an annual budget?
  2. Do you know how much your family spends each year on food, clothing and shelter?
  3. Do you have a clearly defined set of daily, weekly, monthly, annual and lifetime goals?
  4. Do you spend a lot of time planning your financial future?

(For more on research-backed ways to spend your money so it increases your happiness, click here.)

So it’s clear how millionaires make their money. But what should we take away from all of this?

Sum Up

Being a millionaire must be nice. But we won’t all get there. And that’s okay. Money isn’t everything.

So even if you don’t get rich, what lessons can we all learn from millionaires?

  1. Take control of your life as best you can.
  2. Plan and be strategic, whatever your career might be.
  3. Work hard.
  4. Watch your money.

That’s advice anyone can follow and everyone can benefit from.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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MONEY Markets

Why the Smartest People Aren’t the Best Investors

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Image Source—Getty Images

The four most important words in investing are, "I have no idea."

In his book The Quest of the Simple Life, William Dawson tells the story of an exam at a 19th century London prep school. One question asked was, “Give some account of the life of Mary, the mother of our Lord.”

Dawson wrote, “One bright youth responded, ‘At this point it may not be out of place to give a list of the kings of Israel.'”

This was a common problem at prep schools. Students were not trained to think. They were taught to recite specific facts and formulas. Anything requiring creative thinking left them dumbfounded. To them, there was basically no world outside of the facts they had memorized. Faced with any question, they responded, often absurdly, with the only facts they knew, Dawson wrote.

I had dinner earlier this week with the portfolio manager of an endowment fund. We talked about a problem in finance: Some of the smartest people we know are abysmally bad investors. Not just average, but abjectly terrible.

We agreed that the cause of this quirk was the same problem faced by 19th century prep-schoolers.

The smartest people we know are geniuses at fields where you can memorize facts and formulas. But any problem requiring squishier, creative thinking is unchartered territory. When faced with these problems, they inject the only thing they know: the facts and formulas they were taught to memorize.

These people are textbook geniuses, but they don’t know the limits of their intelligence. Or even the context of their intelligence. And that’s just as bad as being stupid.

There are economists — very smart ones — who said there was a 100% chance we’d have a recession in 2011. There are brilliant investors who have been certain since 2009 that the market is inches away from collapse.

They made these predictions because they are trained math geniuses who created statistical models showing that these events were certain to occur.

But there is an infinite amount of stuff in finance that can’t be answered with math, facts, or formulas. There are things we can’t measure, and things we can’t understand, ever. Herd behavior, future trivia, and psychology aren’t things we can predict today. It’s just insanity and chaos.

That’s not acceptable to you if you’ve been trained to measure things with facts and formulas. Just like the prep school student, there is no world outside of the facts you’ve been trained to memorize. So you try to predict human behavior with standard deviation, or the decisions of a despotic dictator with a bell curve. And you fail, virtually every time.

Realizing the limits of your intelligence one of the most important skills in finance. P.J.O’Rourke described economics as “an entire scientific discipline of not knowing what you’re talking about,” which is pretty accurate. When you pretend you know something you don’t, your perception of risk becomes warped. You take risks you didn’t think existed. You face events you didn’t think could occur. Understanding what you don’t know, and what you can’t know, is way more important than the stuff you actually know.

In that sense, the four most important words in investing are probably, “I have no idea.”

I have no idea what the market will do next.

I have no idea if we’ll have a recession this year.

I have no idea when interest rates will rise.

I have no idea what the Fed will do next.

Neither do you.

The sooner you admit that, the better.

Check back every Tuesday and Friday for Morgan Housel’s columns. Contact Morgan Housel at mhousel@fool.com. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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5 Things Successful Leaders Do in a Crisis

Chief Executive Officer Of Yahoo! Inc. Marissa Mayer Joins Key Speakers At Cannes Lions International Festival Of Creativity
Marissa Mayer, chief executive officer of Yahoo! Inc., gestures as she speaks at the Cannes Lions International Festival Of Creativity in Cannes, France, on Tuesday, June 17, 2014. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Here are the traits you'll need to remain a successful leader during challenging times

This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

By Murray Newlands

A lot of people believe that the true leadership capacity of a person is tested during times of crisis. Performance under stress can show how quick witted or level headed a person is, or on the contrary, it can show where their weaknesses lie. As a business owner or as an entrepreneur, it’s important that you always keep your wits about you and stay cool in difficult situations. These are the five things that every successful leader does in times of crisis, and traits to you should always keep in mind when running a business.

Successful Leaders Don’t Let Their Emotions Get In The Way

The most important thing to do during a crisis is to maintain an example for your employees by keeping cool, calm, and collected, which will allow you to think about the curveballs being thrown your way.

Successful Leaders Are Brave

Many people respond to a crisis by being overwhelmed by stress, which turns to fear. It is easy to be afraid when you have a crisis situation in your business, as it is your entire livelihood on the line, but if you remain brave, then your employees will be too, and together a strong team will be able to turn anything around.

Successful Leaders Are Accountable For Their Victories And Their Losses

Good leaders own up to when they make mistakes. After all, we are all human, and someone who is too proud to admit their own mistake is not likely to be someone that others will follow. Taking responsibility for any actions that you have taken that could have contributed to the crisis will be a good way to prompt your employees into working on the situation with you wholeheartedly, instead of just because they have to.

Successful Leaders Don’t Take Failures Personally

By separating your personal feelings from the matter at hand, you are better able to focus on what is happening and take care of it in a manner that is going to be most successful for you, your employees, and the rest of your business. Crises can also bring out power dynamics in the workplace, and a successful leader does not let those office politics get in the way of taking care of business!

Successful Leaders Possess Positive Attitudes From Start To Finish

The end of the crisis is not just when you pull yourself out of the muck that it had put you in. The end of the crisis is when the team has started to recover and is moving on, which might take a bit. Keeping a positive attitude on your face and pushing the excellence of your team will keep morale high, which will put things right back on track in no time at all, and will also earn you the trust and respect of your employees.

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Top 10 Qualities of Extremely Successful People

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This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

By Lolly Daskal

If you really want to bring success into your life, you should cultivate yourself just as you’d cultivate a garden for the best yield.

The attributes here are shared by successful people everywhere, but they didn’t happen by accident or luck. They originate in habits, built a day at a time.

Remember: If you live your life as most people do, you will get what most people get. If you settle, you will get a settled life. If you give yourself your best, every day, your best will give back to you.

Here are the traits that the highly successful cultivate. How many do you have?

1. Drive

You have the determination to work harder than most and make sure things get done. You pride yourself on seeing things getting completed and you can take charge when necessary. You drive yourself with purpose and align yourself with excellence.

2. Self-reliance

You can shoulder responsibilities and be accountable. You make hard decisions and stand by them. To think for yourself is to know yourself.

3. Willpower

You have the strength to see things through–rather than vacillate or procrastinate. When you want it, you make it happen. The world’s greatest achievers are those who have stayed focused on their goals and been consistent in their efforts.

4. Patience

You are willing to be patient, and you understand that, in everything, there are failures and frustrations. To take them personally would be a detriment.

5. Integrity

This should not have to be said, but it’s seriously one of the most important attributes you can cultivate. Honesty is the best policy for everything you do; integrity creates character and defines who you are.

6. Passion

If you want to succeed, if you want to live, it’s not politeness but rather passion that will get you there. Life is 10 percent what you experience and 90 percent how you respond to it.

7. Connection

You can relate with others, which in turns makes everything reach further and deepen in importance.

8. Optimism

You know there is much to achieve and much good in this world, and you know what’s worth fighting for. Optimism is a strategy for making a better future–unless you believe that the future can be better, you’re unlikely to step up and take responsibility for making it so.

9. Self-confidence

You trust yourself. It’s as simple as that. And when you have that unshakeable trust in yourself, you’re already one step closer to succeeding.

10. Communication

You work to communicate and pay attention to the communicators around you. Most important, you hear what isn’t being said. When communication is present, trust and respect follow.

No one plans on being mediocre; mediocrity happens when you don’t plan. If you want to succeed, learn the traits that will make you successful and plan on living them out every day.

Be humble and great. Courageous and determined. Faithful and fearless. That is who you are, and who you have always been.

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