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Author who studies millionaires: 4 hours a day make the rich different

CNBC logo CNBC 6/24/2018 Tom Corley, Contributor
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There are 1,440 minutes in each day. That is the one common denominator we all share. With respect to time, we are all on equal footing. And most people, rich or poor, use about 1,200 of those minutes for the following activities: work, commuting, family-related, sleeping, eating, bathing, bathroom, grooming and dressing.

That leaves about 240 minutes of time each day. And it is what the rich do with those 240 minutes that separates them from everyone else.

According to my Rich Habits Study — for which Iinterviewed 233 wealthy individuals and 128 poor individuals over three years, from March 2004 to March 2007 — the self-made rich make good use of their 240 minutes in the following ways.

Over 80 percent engaged in 60 minutes a day of dream-setting 

Dream-setting activities involve the pursuit of a dream and the goals behind it. Typically, this is something outside of work, such as engaging in some side hustle or spending time creating one or more additional streams of income. I cover dream-setting in detail in my book, "Change Your Habits, Change Your Life."

Nearly 80 percent engaged in 60 minutes a day of deliberate practice or education

Each day, the self-made rich in my Rich Habits Study regularly practiced some skill and devoted time to increasing their knowledge related to that skill, their career or their industry. This daily habit helped them maintain and improve their skills and their knowledge, making them virtuosos in whatever it is they did to make money.

Nearly all of them engaged in 30 minutes a day of aerobic exercise

Aerobic exercise has numerous benefits:

  • Improves mental functioning. Aerobic exercise floods the bloodstream with oxygen. This oxygen eventually makes its way to the brain. Since the brain uses 20 percent of our oxygen reserves, increased oxygen flow into the brain soaks up more free radicals inside the brain, making brain cells cleaner and healthier.
  • Improves health. Aerobic exercise increases blood flow, feeds the body with oxygen, strengthens the heart, helps reduce the risk of osteoporosis, helps lower high blood pressure, helps control blood sugar levels, boosts your high-density lipoprotein (HDL or "good") cholesterol and lowers your low-density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad") cholesterol. The self-made rich understand that healthier people have fewer sick days, more energy and this translates into more productivity at work. More productivity makes you more valuable to your organization, customers or clients, which translates into more value and ultimately more money.
  • Reduces risk of sickness and disease. Oxygen is like a sponge. It soaks up free radicals (cancer causing elements) and converts these free radicals to carbon dioxide. The blood carries this carbon dioxide to the lungs, which then removes the carbon dioxide from our bodies by exhaling it into the environment. Aerobic exercise reduces the risk of many conditions, including obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, stroke and certain types of cancer.
  • Reduces the effects of stress, which improves immune system. When we feel stress, there is a domino effect that takes place inside our bodies, which depresses the immune system and opens the door to sickness and disease. Because aerobic exercise contributes to an overall feeling of well-being through the release of certain hormones, it acts as a stress reducer.
  • Makes us feel happier. Aerobic exercise contributes to an overall feeling of well-being by releasing endorphins, natural painkillers that promote an increased sense of well-being.

You can't make money in a hospital bed. Creating wealth requires good health. Good health translates into longevity, which means more time to create more wealth.

Nearly 90 percent devoted 30 minutes a day to building rich relationships

The self-made rich in my study did certain things every day to maintain and grow powerful relationships:

  • Networking: Participating in or running business organizations, non-profits or trade associations.
  • Hello calls: Calling important relationships just to say hello.
  • Happy birthday calls: Calling the people who matter on their birthdays.
  • Life event calls: Making calls to people who matter who have had a baby, gotten married, experienced a death in the family, etc. Life event calls are critical because life events are always emotion-based and emotions create powerful memories. They will remember you and your call.

All of them engaged in relaxation and leisure activities

The self-made rich are not superhuman. Like everyone else, they require some daily downtime. The difference between them and everyone else is that they moderate that downtime to no more than an hour a day.

How you spend your time each day determines the financial circumstances of your life. The rich forge daily habits that make productive use of their time. They stick to their daily routines for many years. These daily habits have a cumulative effect which eventually shows up in the form of increased wealth towards the later part of their lives.

Every productive minute pays dividends down the road in the form of virtuoso skills and knowledge, good health and increased longevity, strong relationships and greater wealth.

For the rich, every minute counts.

Tom Corley is an accountant, financial planner and author of "Rich Kids: How to Raise Our Children to Be Happy and Successful in Life."

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A version of this article originally appeared on Rich Habits.

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