Getting ahead in business and life is less about grand moves, and more about routines proven over time to work.
Ever wonder what sets highly successful people apart? I’ve polled countless executives about the things they’re doing every day which give them an edge, and certain themes have surfaced over time. These high achievers often get up early, proactively manage their health and practice mindfulness, as opposed to flitting from one electronic task to another while neglecting important human relationships. Check out these quotes from 24 high achieving individuals who talk about some of these simple daily habits–and many other good ones–for helping them get ahead in business and life.
“I find running without music or watching TV on the treadmill gives my mind a chance to reboot and think in an unstructured way–some of my best ideas and clearest thinking result… Also, even in this 24/7 world of connectivity I make it a point to be present when with my family doing important things, like attending soccer games or having dinner together, and not being a slave to my iPhone. When you take a step back and realize how little time you actually spend with your family, it should make you want to make it count. Very few things can’t wait an hour or two during evenings or weekends.”
— Gary Beasley, CEO of Roofstock, an online marketplace for investing in leased single-family rental homes.
2. Get up at 5 a.m.
“The quiet, uninterrupted time allows for creative thinking, usually with reading about successful stories, inspiration or prayer. It is the time to prepare the soul for the barrage of issues and problems that will inevitably be addressed during the day and that requires steely resolve which is best planned for in the morning. I often give inspiration into difficult problems at this time. With a combination of intellectual and soul nourishment, you can better stick to the plan of success with the early morning sessions that, while seemingly selfish, actually are focused on helping the team, the business and individuals.”
–Benoy Tamang, CEO of electronic document management solution eFileCabinet.
3. Use a white board.
“Even with all the technology available, I still whiteboard almost everything. I’m a visual person and find having the important deliverables written down in big print hung on my wall helps keep me focused and motivated through the day. It is a constant reminder that every day progress needs to be made and things should get moved off when complete and replaced by new ideas and initiatives. I update the white board on a regular basis adjusting for what I have mentally processed each day. In addition to prioritizing, I use the whiteboard for multiple business activities including brainstorming sessions, strategy meetings, new business development ideas, new client contracts, and more. The white board will cover major developments right down to small details that I think are important to either me or the company. When we renovated our office space about a year ago, I insisted on every employee having a full wall of white board and I consistently encourage use of the tool.”
–Frank E. Celli, CEO of BioHiTech Global, a green technology company that provides data-driven solutions for food waste disposal.
4. Redefine success.
“I’ve redefined ‘success’ to mean not just giving my all at work, but also being fully present for my spouse and kids in the evening and having some time for myself. To do this, I had to stop working in the evenings, which I used to do regularly. To make that happen, I switched to getting up early in the mornings to do work. It may sound as if I just shifted the timeframe. However, I’m not a morning person, so now when the alarm goes off early, it’s a good filter for me to decide whether that work really needs to be done immediately.”
–Maia Haag, co-founder and CEO of I See Me, a digital outlet creating personalized books and gifts for babies and kids.
5. Get informed and map the day.
“Since college I have been following a daily regimen that keeps me informed and focused. I always keep current by reading at least two major newspapers and any clipping service alerts on my industry and competitors. Then I put together my daily to do list which includes tasks, appointments, and calls. These two disciplines usually take about thirty minutes out of my day, but I find myself productive having a roadmap of how to structure my day and knowing what is going on in the world around me.”
–Neil Edwards, president PangoUSA, an app that lets its more than 1 million active users pay for parking via mobile.
“My two-year-old daughter and I go out to our garden each night and tend it. It helps her eat her veggies, and it helps me understand my consumer.”
–Micah Fening, brand manager of Scotts Miracle-Gro’s GRO app for the connected yard which works with smart lawn and garden devices.
7. Be grateful and get active.
“In bed or in the shower, I go through a mantra of everything I’m thankful for. Just waking up is the first thing I’m thankful for. When I’m finished giving thanks, I go through my list of ‘wants’. It can be anything as small as how you want your day to go–start to visualize it and then expand into your ‘goals.’ See them and see yourself where you want to be. Visualization is such a powerful tool. If you can see it, you are half way there. Lastly, get yo ass into a gym!…or outside. Run, jump, box, yoga, swim, do something to get the blood flowing. It’s a great way to clear the mind and motivate. You gotta move!”
– Kenneth B. McCoy, chief creative officer and a founding partner for Public House Collective which manages and operates nightlife destinations in New York City, including The Rum House and Ward III, as well as Washington D.C. bar Quarter+Glory.
8. Stop wasting time thinking about what to wear.
“For the past two years I have been too busy to put myself together. Most days I am wearing jeans, heels and a clean white tee. It is classic and uncomplicated.”
— Dana Rae, founder of the luxury cosmetics brand, ABLE Cosmetics, which has been featured in Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Bazaar, Seventeen Magazine, InStyle, W,.
9. Ask questions in the shower.
“I don’t know why, but the shower is a magical place for thinking. I like to start my day there by asking a series of empowering questions and letting answers to come to me without judgement. Some of my personal favorites include: “What can I do today to surprise and delight our clients?” “Who on my team needs to know that I greatly value their efforts?” “Who can I connect with that can help me achieve my goals?” “Who do I know that needs connecting with someone else I know?” This habit pre-frames my day towards proactivity and I’m often delighted by the answers.”
–Dan Stewart, four-time Inc. 5000 Honoree, cofounder and CEO of Happy Grasshopper, where he specializes in automating email campaigns to start conversations for salespeople.
10. Take a long walk every day in nature no matter the weather.
“With so much coming at us in the form of email, social media, and other various forms of communication, we are hardly given a chance to formulate our thoughts fully before having to respond or give opinions. I like to take a long, brisk walk–about an hour–daily in the forest, and I use that time to just let my mind wander and work through some of the bigger issues weighing me down. It’s amazing how the combination of fresh air, communing with nature and exercise all work together to bring on some really breakthrough thinking and fresh approaches. Throw a dog into the mix and it can be entertaining as well.”
–Liz Dickinson, founder and CEO of wrist-based heart rate technology company Mio Global and holder of five patents and one patent pending in the fitness and sport performance categories.
11. Prioritize nutrition and exercise.
“When I’m not tinkering on a new project or prepping for the next big meeting, I’m continuously making time for cycling, running, swimming and activities that get me outdoors and out of the office. I’m a firm believer that my dedication to a healthy lifestyle has shaped my work ethic and continues to foster the entrepreneurial spirit, skill improvement and teamwork needed to maintain a successful startup.”
–Ian Shiell, VP of marketing for STYR Labs, which generates nutrition and supplementation profiles based on user fitness data.
12. Think about the future of your employees instead of your own.
“As a leader, you’ll come across a critical time in your career when you need to switch the focus of your own career to the future of the people on your team. If you are in a senior leadership role and have been for several years, you should have financial security and a very stable career path with little risk. For the remainder of your working career, you should naturally shift your attention to the future of your team members and help them to achieve the same career satisfaction that you have. Help them reach the financial security that you have, and teach them to be good leaders of others by being the perfect role model.”
–Mark Honeycutt is the CEO of Jiawei USA, parent company of the MAXIMUS Smart Security Light.
13. Swap out a breakfast meal for a protein shake.
“With my schedule, finding time for a proper breakfast every morning can be challenging. So when I tried a protein shake a few years ago, I found it to be the perfect solution. I put a small fridge in my office, and stock it either with shakes I make at home ahead of time, or a store-bought variety. I love the energy boost it gives me first thing in the morning, setting me up for a successful rest of the day. In fact, now I can completely tell a difference if I skip them.”
–Ed Quinlan, VP of Franchise Services for carpet cleaning company Chem-Dry.
14. Appreciate everything and everyone around you.
“Staying positive and surrounding yourself with those that make you happy is crucial, as you become who you are around. Listen to them more than you speak, and tell those around you that you love and appreciate them. Success stems from passion – if you don’t love what you do, then change it. You can’t be truly successful if you’re not happy, so enrich your life by doing things daily that are meaningful and give more than you take. It also doesn’t hurt to be energetic–I only drink decaf!”
–Heather Harris, president of indoor cycling company CycleBar.
15. Make lists of things to delegate or stop doing.
“As the founder to three active companies and CEO of one, I look for things that I can stop doing. Most people make a to-do list. In my experience this kind of list gets longer and longer, and big things don’t get done or the wrong things become a focus. What makes the ‘stop’ list: work I can delegate others on the team, project, products or marking campaigns that are not working. Taking this approach is extremely helpful in creating more bandwidth for you as well as the company. My goal is to make sure I work myself out of a job by hiring great people to fill all roles so I can focus on culture and long term strategy. The stop doing list is critical to this goal. Many times the best thing you can do is the thing you should stop doing.
— Gregor Watson, chairman of Roofstock, an online marketplace for investing in leased single-family rental homes.
16. Stock your desk with four water bottles a day, and then drink them.
“When getting pulled in many directions at once, or when catching flights to see clients, it’s easy to forget basic things like drinking water. For the brain and body to perform at a high function, optimal hydration is key. We all know that dehydration can limit physical performance, but studies have shown that even mild dehydration can negatively affect several aspects of brain function as well. To remind myself to drink water throughout the day, I place four 500mL bottles of water on my desk beside the phone, and I make sure to consume them all prior to the end of the day.”
–Dr. Ken Anderson, MD, founder and chief of surgery of the Anderson Center for Hair, specializing in robotic hair restoration surgery, and nationwide winner of the 2015 Doctors’ Choice Award in the category of Plastic Surgery in Atlanta, Georgia.
17. Fresh air means fresh ideas.
“Exercise and being outdoors has always been my escape. Coming from Canada, where you’re at the mercy of the seasons, Phoenix’s consistently warm climate allows me to get outside almost every day. To feel my best, I need at least an hour a day of blue sky, and maybe an amazing desert sunset too. When the business began, I always tried to find time for running or cycling to help clear my head. Today, early morning and sunset walks with my dogs allow me to decompress and do some of my best thinking.”
–Jakki Liberman, owner and creator of family-oriented merchandise company Bumkins.
18. Make time zones work for you.
“Every day I focus on making use of the gaps in my calendar. For instance, when I wake up at 5:30 a.m., I respond to the emails received overnight from the Europe team before my children wake up. At dinner and bedtime I force myself to not look at my phone or computer to unwind and enjoy time with my family. I then finish off my day by emailing my colleagues in Europe as they are about to start their day. Breaking up my day like this allows me to balance my focus, as both a CEO and a mom.”
–Ebba Blitz CEO of Alertsec, a full disk encryption service for laptops.
19. Jot it down.
“Whenever I say I will do something, I immediately jot a reminder on my calendar to do it, otherwise a promise for action just becomes an aspirational statement.”
–Curtis Sparrer, principal of Bospar, a tech PR firm which represents 1010data, ARC Document Solutions, Ebates and SOASTA.
20. Surround yourself with people who believe in you and your goals.
“There is no room for Debbie-Downers in the life of an entrepreneur. I had an ex-boyfriend who was less than supportive of my business endeavors. He never thought my business would ever be successful, and he voiced it often. In the beginning, it made me doubt myself and my own personal vision. I mean, tallow-based skincare products? Maybe I was crazy? In the end, I cut him out of my life because I realized that being surrounded by such negativity–or, lack of positivity–wasn’t helping my success…and I had such a strong vision and faith in my business that I knew what I needed to do. When it comes down to it, you need to believe in what you’re doing and you need to have an insane, crazy passion for it. Sometimes this will require you to make difficult decisions regarding the people you surround yourself with. But if you don’t believe in you, how do you expect anyone else to?”
–Cassandra Burnside, Founder of FATCO a certified-paleo skincare brand based in Lake Tahoe.
“I walk 10,000 steps while at work, taking calls as I walk. It clears my head and keeps me moving.”
–Taryn Naidu, CEO of Rightside, a Seattle-based company specializing in top-level domain extensions.
22. Healthy Meal Prep
“It’s hard to keep a routine when you’re running a startup. I feel the most out of control while I’m working crazy hours and am relying on whatever office snacks are lying around to re-fuel. I maintain balance by planning healthy snacks and meals for the week. Eating healthy gives me more energy, helps me sleep better, and makes me feel sustained.”
–Kaitlyn Trabucco, cofounder and COO of online marketplace Educents.com, which helps users discover products that will get kids excited about learning.
23. Get a coach.
“Be in the habit of seeking good counsel when you need it. Discussing ideas and plans with others which you respect and have experience concerning the topic you are pursuing can be very important to the effective implementation and growth of an idea. Each January I am in the habit of scheduling a meeting with my professional business coach four times a year. I will often call him to discuss ideas and not wait for the appointment. I have a lot of respect for this gentleman. He has spoken to and provided advice for hundreds of business people across the country and is very knowledgeable in many disciplines. If he is not particularly familiar with the area I need to discuss he always has a recommendation of someone that is willing to.”
— Bryan Nooner, president and CEO of Twist and Seal, an Illinois-based outdoor cord protection product company, and Distinctive Home Builders.
24. Make time to be a mentor.
“Your employees will always be your most valuable asset and you need to invest not only your company’s budgets, but also yourself, into making sure they succeed. It is vitally important to seek the areas of opportunities hidden just beyond the traditional roles of a boss and manager. Help mentor and develop your employees’ futures. In part, we focus on this through a structured mentoring program, informal daily face-to-face interactions as well as weekly meetings with our sales teams. Make it a priority to make yourself available to your teams as challenges and opportunities arise, and help guide them in their career development. This will help create long-lasting relationships and a solid foundation for a successful company.”
–Aleksandra Scepanovic, founder and managing partner, Ideal Properties Group, a pipeline for finding property, successful closed sales and leasing transactions in Brooklyn, New York.