Behind every successful woman is a set of success-driving habits, and that’s doubly true in business. It can range from a morning routine - Oprah for instance does exercise and takes care of any business by early afternoon – or it can be something broader, such as setting time aside to learn a new skill.
Sheryl Sandberg writes her to do lists by hand as she believes it’s more effective, while Ellen Degeneres does transcendental meditation.
We asked three successful women for the habits that make them good at what they do.
Lauretta Ihonor is founder of The Ambition Plan, a platform and event series to help millennial women change careers. When setting up her business, she said she had to get into the habit of asking for help, rather than seeing struggle as a badge of honour. But, she advises doing it in a professional way rather than always asking people you know.
“Get into the habit of seeing a mentor or a coach,” she says. “Things are so much easier when you recognise your limitations and seek out someone who has the knowledge and experience you lack. They’ll help you overcome any problem much faster than if you keep struggling alone. That’s where a mentor or coach comes into play.
“Once you make the arrangement a little more formal, it’s easier to turn to that person as you need.”
Neeta Patel is the CEO of the New Entrepreneurs Foundation, the UK’s leading entrepreneur development charity. She has held senior roles at the FT, British Council and Legal & General, and knows a thing or two about good habits that help feed back into your business.
She agrees with having a mentor adding: “I continue to use mentors to this day and, even though it may only be once or twice a year we catch up, having the security they are there gives you confidence.”
She also adds that says continual learning is an excellent habit to develop. “In order to forge a long and rewarding career, it is important we keep in step with the evolution of our modern world.
“I believe professional learning and development is key to doing this. Think of it like a regular MOT for your career. I personally have taken two career breaks in my work-life - the first in my twenties to do a full-time MBA and the second to do the LBS Sloane Leadership programme.
“I’m aware that taking time out to dedicate yourself to self improvement is not always an option. Other ways to personally grow and learn include taking online courses, attending conference and seminars and reading online content, books and more.”
Being tech savvy is also a must-have habit, whether that’s reading about the latest social media development or tools, or programmes to make your business work more efficiently.
Neeta also recommends attending events regularly, as part of an ongoing commitment to network.
“Within a company, look for opportunities to collaborate with different people within your department/business unit but also the wider business. Also look to external events, such as conferences and meet-ups, to meet like minded people who you may wish to work with in the future,” she says.
However, as important as it is to have practical work habits, incorporating wellbeing into your daily habits is critical as well.
Vix Anderton developed The Practical Balance, a platform to support female founders and freelancers, after realising that wellbeing was really hard to attain when starting a new business or working for yourself. She says: “It shouldn’t be unexpected but the women I see who are successful over a long period of time – and perhaps more importantly, are enjoying their success – are those who prioritise the basics of wellbeing.
“Simple things like getting enough sleep, taking time for themselves, spending time with friends and family make a huge difference to their energy and their ability to navigate the ups and downs of life and running a business. Prioritising your wellbeing gives you the energy and stamina to be successful in your business and to create a life you love.”
“From getting enough sleep to eating a nutritious diet, making time to exercise and getting fresh air, it all makes a difference.
“While setting up my business, I’ve found that my productivity and clarity of thought is much better when I take time to step away from the computer, go to bed at a decent hour, do some exercise and eat fresh, home-cooked meals. I may sacrifice a little work time to do these healthy things, but the work I produce when I’m being healthy is of a much higher quality.”