3 habits that require 'no willpower' can 'almost guarantee' success, says author who studies millionaires

How rich people save
How rich people save

Whether it's sticking to a budget or excelling in your career, forming a few good habits could help you along the way.

In fact, there are certain habits that "will almost guarantee you become happy and successful in life," according to Tom Corley, an accountant, financial planner and author of "Rich Kids: How to Raise Our Children to Be Happy and Successful in Life."

Corley surveyed 233 wealthy individuals on their daily habits and compared the results with 128 lower-earning individuals. Based on the data, he documented 334 habits that separate the rich from the poor.

"Rich habits" produce success, he says. "Poverty habits" stifle it.

"Our daily habits are the reason why we are rich, poor or middle class," he says in the book. "Forty percent of our daily activities are habits. This means 40 percent of the time we are on autopilot.

"When you add a few rich habits to your daily routine," he adds, "they chip away at your poverty habits, which gets your seesaw tipping toward success. No willpower is required."

Here are his top three rich habits:

Turn unproductive routines into better ones

This rich habit, Corley says, is the most important. "It is the foundation upon which all of the other rich habits were built."

It requires self-assessment.

Adopt these habits in your 20s to be more successful in your 30s
Adopt these habits in your 20s to be more successful in your 30s

You list all of your bad habits and then figure out how you could convert them to good ones. "For example," Corley explains, "spending more than an hour a day watching TV recreationally is a bad habit. Your new good habit is limiting yourself to one hour a day."

You can also try to cut back on streaming services or magazine subscriptions you don't use.

Set short- and long-term goals

Phil Risher, who, after school, decided to pay off his $30,000 in student loan debt, planned to pay the debt down month by month using the snowball method. After one year, the debt was gone. After three years, he bought a $60,000 house.

"It's crucial to have financial goals," Risher tells CNBC Make It. "[But] a goal without a plan is a wish. You need to stay focused … and your budget needs to correlate with your goals. My five-year goal was to buy my first place with cash and I was able to do it in three."

Engage in self-improvement

"Successful people engage in at least 30 minutes a day of self-improvement reading," Corley says.

"They read or listen to books, articles, newsletters, etc. They study stuff that helps them do a better job. They go to seminars, speaking engagements and take courses at night school."

These successful people share how to get more done in your 24-hour day
These successful people share how to get more done in your 24-hour day

Even reading for pleasure can boost your career.

Bill Gates, who co-founded Microsoft, and has a net worth of $89 billion, says he reads about 50 books each year. Warren Buffett, the chief executive officer of Berkshire Hathaway with a net worth of over $81 billion, spends as much as 80 percent of his day reading.

"Ordinary habits are simple, basic [and] standalone," Corley tells CNBC Make It. But "[rich habits] are more unique. They move around searching for and overpowering other ordinary habits. Adopting [them] is the key to massive change."

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