Careers

4 fun tricks to help you get ahead, from CEOs and other successful people

It's easy to think that achieving a big career goal means lots of work and no play. After all, putting in 10,000 hours, the amount of time bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell says it takes to master a skill, sounds awfully daunting.

But Dale Carnegie, influential speaker and author best known for "How to Win Friends and Influence People," believed that, "People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing."

While achieving any worthwhile goal will require time and persistence, here are four ways to have more fun along the way:

1. Keep a journal

Sarah Kauss, founder and CEO of S'well, maker of stylish, reusable water bottles, says journaling has helped her navigate her career changes, personal life and the road to becoming her own boss.

Journaling, which Kauss started doing as part of an assignment she was given at Harvard Business School, helps her "understand where creativity comes from," she says.

Ryder Carroll's original, more minimalist Bullet Journal.
Bullet Journal
Ryder Carroll's original, more minimalist Bullet Journal.

"It's really hard to think of what you're looking to do when you're a busy person," she says. "It's hard to get up on the balcony of your life and look down on it."

To pause, gather her thoughts and reflect on her life, the CEO takes a few minutes either at the start or end of each day to write down her thoughts.

2. Schedule time to think big

Virgin founder and self-made billionaire Richard Branson says his successful career "is a tale of big dreams," CNBC Make It's Zameena Mejia reports.

But he also recognizes that having big dreams can weigh you down if you don't feel like there are ways to achieve them. That's why Branson schedulestime for thinking big.

"Far too many people get weighed down in doing, and never take the time to think and feel, Branson writes.

By scheduling time to ponder your personal goals, be it on the weekend, during lunch or after work, "you'll be able to see the bigger picture much easier," he says.

3. Watch an inspiring documentary

According to bestselling management author and CNBC contributor Suzy Welch, one of the best things you can do this evening is to binge watch HBO's "The Defiant Ones." The four-part documentary chronicles the rise of music moguls Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine.

"It's incredible — for the music and the drama and the stories," she says. "But my advice is watch it for its career advice."

The series takes an in-depth look at how the two men changed the music industry and helped launch the careers of mega-stars like Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, U2, Eminem and Lady Gaga.

But perhaps more importantly for your average worker, it shows what it takes to become successful.

"Dre and Iovine were brave," Welch says. "They went big over and over again. You have to go big to get big."

4. Team up with a friend to accomplish a personal goal

Common goals, like exercising daily or waking up earlier, aren't necessarily enjoyable. But if you create incentives for yourself, making progress on something important can be fun.

That's the advice of bestselling author and career coach Jon Acuff, author of recently published book, "Finish.

A file photo showing joggers on the Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Getty Images
A file photo showing joggers on the Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Light your favorite candle only when you're working on your personal project, to create a positive association with work, Acuff suggests, or agree to buy yourself something you want only after you've passed a work milestone.

You could also exercise with a workout buddy, so it's more fun and at the same time, harder for you to cancel.

"Fun not only counts," he writes, "but it's necessary if you want to beat perfectionism and get to the finish."