As any small business owner will attest, success can be habit-forming. But what are the habits that lead to success? With a nod to author Stephen R. Covey, here are seven habits that highly successful small business owners use to achieve their goals and enjoy happier, more fulfilling lives:

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1. Focus on Why You Want to Succeed. “Set your major goals in the context of why you want to achieve them, not just what you want to achieve,” says Karen D. Walker, president of Oneteam, Inc., a consultancy in Shelburne, VT. “Having clarity about intention will increase the quality of your decisions and will keep you going when there are bumps in the road.”


2. Schedule Meditation Time. People often preach the benefits of relaxing or exercise, but fail to make time for them in the hectic rush of the day. Jonathan Gassman, a CPA in Midtown Manhattan, meditates each morning – and then sets his smart phone to remind himself three times during the day to “pause, close my eyes, and meditate.” Take the same approach with exercise – don’t try to fit the gym or a walk in around other tasks; put it in your schedule, as if it were an important meeting.

3. Express Gratitude. Saying “thank you” will not only make other people smile – a study from Northwestern University found that expressing gratitude on a daily basis can make you more patient and a better decision-maker. Gassman has another neat reminder to stay thankful: “I keep five pennies in my left pocket and, during the day, I must either express gratitude or thanks to at least five people,” he says. “Each time I do that I move a penny from my left pocket to my right.”

4. Create a “Must-Do” List. Feeling overwhelmed by a to-do list that never shrinks? Blow up your to-do list (which doesn’t work), and make a daily list of three must-do things, and a weekly list of six must-do’s,” says Jim Grew, president of The Grew Company, a Portland, OR consultancy. “They must be doable in the day or the week, respectively. If needed, cut them into daily and weekly pieces. Write the daily list each day first thing, and weekly list before you start Monday. Don’t cheat: adding to the list won’t get more done.”

5. Push Stuff Off. Small business owners often try to do it all, which sometimes distracts them from the most important tasks. Grew tries to avoid as much as possible, by greeting every idea, request, or possibility with a response that begins with “D.” Delete: Get rid of it immediately. Delay: Ignore it. Often others will fix it, or it will shrivel of itself. Delegate: Look for someone who can do at least part of it. Then give the entire task to them, making available the help they need. He says, “Delegate entire tasks, expecting that the other person will need some guidance. Check in, listen, help only when needed; not when you want.”

6. Be a Question Asker. It’s great to be the person who has all the answers; but there’s also a huge benefit to knowing the right questions to ask. Mark Stevens, author of Your Marketing Sucks and CEO of MSCO, a management and marketing firm, believes in spouting “Why?” throughout the day: “Why do we have this strategy? Why can’t we cut our costs?” He continues: “Ask random questions to discover where employees stand on key projects. Use this to keep raising the bar on the culture and send the message that good isn’t good enough.”

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7. Plan For Tomorrow Today. “Do you remember the days of pre-packed lunches and crisply ironed uniforms in the morning?” says Jody Johnson, co-owner of Action Coach Business Coaching. “Preparing for the next day before hitting the hay will make you more likely to wake up and get started on work.” She adds: “Leave your phone and computer outside of your bedroom to keep bedtime distractions to a minimum; you’ll be thankful for your clear head when you wake up.”

Capital One does not provide, endorse, nor guarantee any third-party product, service, information or recommendation listed above. The third parties listed are not affiliated with Capital One and are solely responsible for their products and services. All trademarks are the property of their respective owners.


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