Written by Joanna Hughes

We often hear the same tips over and over again when it comes to positioning yourself for success in the business world. While staying focused, choosing the right school program, and believing in yourself are all important, they’re far from the only things that matter. Read on for a roundup of five outside-the-box tips for aspiring future business leaders.

1. Give yourself a dress code.

We’ve all heard the phrase, “Dress for success.” This doesn’t mean going out and buying a brand-new wardrobe of expensive clothes. In fact, it may mean wearing the same thing -- or some version of the same thing -- every day.

Proposes Forbes contributor Joshua Becker,  “There are good reasons why successful people are choosing to wear the same thing every day. Steve Jobs might be the most iconic of them all. At presentations, conferences, and pressers, he could be seen wearing his black turtleneck, blue jeans, and circular eyeglasses. He wasn’t successful because he wore the same outfit at all these events, but for an exceptionally busy person, this was one less decision.”

We’re not saying you have to steal Jobs’ look, but by limiting your options, you free yourself up for other things. Continues Becker, “By wearing the same thing every day, you’ll better realize what’s important to you. And you’ll quickly discover it’s not the clothes you are wearing.”

2. Don't Work Too Hard

Don’t get us wrong: Climbing the career ladder takes work. However, “all work and no play” may lead to diminishing returns. Writes Arianna Huffington for LinkedIn,  “For far too long, we have been operating under a collective delusion – that burning out is the necessary price for achieving success.”

Huffington continues, “I wish I had known this when I was 22. I’m convinced I would have achieved all I have achieved with less stress, worry and anxiety. In college, just before I embarked on a career as a writer, I wish I had known that there would be no trade-off between living a well-rounded life and my ability to do good work. I wish I could go back and tell myself, ‘Arianna, your performance will actually improve if you can commit to not only working hard, but also unplugging, recharging and renewing yourself.’ That would have saved me a lot of unnecessary stress, burnout and exhaustion.”

3. Consider an unusual business degree.

Not all MBAs are created equal. While the standard MBA may still be popular, specialized MBA programs are becoming increasingly valuable for people looking to gain expertise in a particular industry. From aviation management to football, these programs can be a “missing link” to helping students gain the skills they need to hit the ground running in their chosen fields.

4. Get up very early.

In addition to the simple fact that it adds more hours to your day, waking up early is linked with many benefits ranging from increased productivity to better sleep.

Not convinced? The business world is filled with early bird success stories. These include AOL CEO Tim Armstrong, GM CEO Mary Barra, Xerox CEO Ursula Burns, PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi, Virgin Group founder and chairman Richard Branson, Square CEO Jack Dorsey, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, and countless others. While waking in the wee hours may be challenging at first, it will eventually turn into a positive habit.

Ellevate chair Sallie Krawcheck has declared 4 a.m. to be the best time of day to work. “I am never more productive than at 4 am. I brew a cup of coffee, I keep the lights pretty low, I sometimes light a fire in the fireplace, and I let my daughter’s cat sleep next to my computer. My mind is clear, not yet caught up in the multiple internal conversations that we all conduct with ourselves once we gear up for our first meeting of the day. And there’s a peace that comes from knowing that my family is all in bed and safe upstairs while I work. It is at this time of day that I often have a rush of ideas (some of them actually good),” she insists.

Sure, this may mean you’re tuckered out in the evening but wouldn’t you rather spend that time relaxing anyway?

5. Commit to remembering names.

Dale Carnegie once said, “A person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”  In other words, while remembering people’s names may seem like a small detail, it’s also an attribute shared by many of the world’s most successful people.

Just because successful people remember names doesn’t mean doing so comes easily to them. Rather, they put in the effort because they know it matters. Advises Joyce E. A. Russell in the Washington Post, “Remember, people want to be treated as human beings, not objects. Using their name is the fastest and most reliable way of building rapport and creating a good first impression. Everyone has a name — use it to better connect to them. You will notice a difference in your relationships.”

While these five tips won’t guarantee you a direct shot to CEO-ship, they are undeniably beneficial when it comes to getting ahead in life. Have a favorite lesser-known strategy of your own? Please share it in the comments section below.

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Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.
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