Seven Things You Can Do Outside Work To Be More Successful

"What do you do after you go home at night?"

My boss, Ed, and I were having an end-of-day bull session. We talked over the day and the week, and how we were doing. As we were wrapping up, he asked me that question.

"Look," Ed said, "you're smart and you're ambitious and you work hard. That's great. But look around. Everybody who wants to get ahead works hard. They're smart and ambitious too. What makes the difference is what you do after you leave here."

I thought about that on my drive home. I was young and that was a long time ago, but I've been thinking about it ever since. Here are seven things you can do outside work that will help you do a better job and lead a better life.


If you only do one thing on this list, do this. Get enough sleep. The National Sleep Foundation says that most adults need at least seven hours of sleep per night. Gallup surveys tell us that more than half of us (65 percent) get less than that. And 40 percent get less than six hours. When you get enough sleep, you make better decisions. You're more emotionally balanced, and you have more energy. We often sacrifice sleep for work. It should be the other way around.


Keeping your body fit helps keep your brain fit and your mental state stable. You should exercise regularly. Your regimen should include strength training, stretching for flexibility, and cardiovascular fitness.


Pay attention to what you eat, how much you eat, and when you eat. Despite the thousands of diet books on the market, there are really no secrets here. You probably know the basics. Just do them.


Leaders are readers. Reading broadens your perspective, deepens your knowledge, and frees you from the trap of your own experience. Read periodicals and business publications to keep up with current events. Read books for depth of knowledge on important subjects. Read a little every day. Every day.

Take Time to Reflect

Common wisdom says we learn from experience, but we don't. We learn from reflecting on experience so that we can do things differently next time. Reflect on your reading. Reflect on your experience. Take time alone to think about what you've done, what you've read, and what you'd like to do differently. In today's "always on" world, it’s harder and harder to get real alone time, but it's possible. Shut off your computer and the phone. Close the door. Then think.


Psychologists tell us that healthy relationships are the hallmark of a happy life. When my oldest daughter was about three, a woman at church asked her what her daddy did. She paused and thought about the best answer. Then she said, "He goes away."

That was like a punch in the stomach. I was traveling a lot at the time and I needed to continue to travel, but I learned the secret of great relationships. If something is important to you, like your loved ones, you give it time. Nothing you can do with your checkbook or your phone is as important as showing up. Try to make that time as high-quality as possible.

Take Regular and Predictable Time Off

You're not meant to go full speed all the time. You need time away from work to flush work out of your system. You must find time alone, develop other interests, and maintain your relationships. Schedule a day off every week. Try scheduling your vacation a year in advance. Then honor your commitment to yourself and your loved ones.

Clemson Tigers football coach, Dabo Swinney, likes to say, "Champions are made when the stands are empty." If you want to become the best leader and person you can be, that's true for you. What you do when you're not working can help you do a better job when you are.

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