Being average is the easiest thing in the world. Living an exceptional life is something quite different. If you want to achieve great things in business and life you'll need to be intentional with your time. Here are ideas on the daily habits which can help you be the best version of yourself, according to people with proven track records of success.
1. Practice morning gratitude
"Each morning, take a few moments to reflect on things you are thankful for and set your day up for success by starting with a positive attitude. These ideas don't have to be big, but they do need to be meaningful. As you continue this practice, it will get easier and easier. Eventually, even in tough situations, you'll automatically recognize what you can be thankful for and more easily lead your team with a positive attitude."
--Jerry Brooner, chief revenue officer of Scout RFP, a sourcing and supplier engagement platform used by more than 200 global brands and more than 200,000 users worldwide
2. Ignore the noise
"Wake up early and prioritize what matters for the day and week. Do this every day, every week. Cancel everything else and focus on the difference makers, whether it be customers, prospects, employees, KPIs, strategy or vision. Ignore the long to-do list of things that don't move the needle. And, take time for yourself to pause, slow down, reflect on what matters for the business and your personal well-being. Ignore the noise, find the balance and the priorities will become clear and easier to achieve."
--Jason Zintak, CEO of 6sense, an account-based orchestration platform that had 100 percent revenue growth last year
3. Check-in with annual and quarterly goals
"I'm a big believer in working backward from long-term goals. I allocate a few days at the turn of each year to think deeply about and write down my long-term (five- to 10-year) and one-year goals, both personally and for our company. I check-in with these notes when I'm creating my quarterly goals and then at least two to three times per week. It helps me make sure that my daily activities are aligned with, and that I am on track to accomplish, what I've decided is truly important."
--Troy Pospisil, founder and CEO of InCloudCounsel, used by hundreds of companies for automating legal document processes
4. Work through email from the bottom up
"Working on my oldest, unread emails creates a sense of urgency to reply sooner. It's been the most effective strategy I've used to clearing my inbox."
--Guy Marion, founder and CEO of Brightback, a customer retention automation software company used by subscription businesses which recently launched out of stealth with more than $10 million in venture funding
5. Take time each day to learn
"Early in my career I felt some guilt about reading a blog while at work or signing up for a trial of that new software and playing around with it. It felt like goofing off. But now I recognize it as an essential skill and encourage everyone on my team to take time to read and learn. Digital marketing is constantly changing which is scary but also what makes it fun. There's always something new to learn. The people who are able to learn quickly and apply that knowledge to their work will stay a step ahead."
--Brian DeLoach, CMO for Charterup, a group travel transportation platform used by Netflix, U.S. Soccer, Harvard University and Deloitte
6. Challenge your perspective
"I have a daily habit of being intentional about connecting with a diverse array of people and listening to them. There are many frames of reference, conflicting opinions and different angles to every issue. It's critical to seek out additional ways of thinking and find people who challenge your perspectives. This allows you to refine and expand your own perspectives of both your business and the world around you."
--Peter Brussard, VP of product for Bridge by Instructure, which provides learning platforms used by more than 30 million people
7. Draw inspiration from industries outside of your own
"Look to different industries to develop your own unique business concepts. My most creative and successful ideas have been formulated by looking at best practices and successful innovations in industries that are totally unrelated to mine. When you're successful, it's easy to get complacent. And too often, looking only at your competitors will give you only incremental improvements and perpetuate 'good enough' results. By looking outward, you not only draw on your own ingenuity and motivation as a leader, but it also gives you the power to drive key innovations that have the potential to transform your business and leapfrog the competitors, whether they're traditional or non-traditional."
--Sue Marks, founder and CEO of Cielo, a global recruitment process outsourcing provider, EY Entrepreneur of the Year and three-time winner of the Working Woman 500 designation
8. Play hooky with loved ones
"At least two afternoons during the week, I come home to spend time with my wife and children. With a hectic schedule and a million things pulling me in different directions, it's easy to lose sight of priorities and make life all about work. Even during a busy day, sneaking away for a quick lunch or to kick the soccer ball around with my kids always feels like a good use of my time. I go back to the office feeling like my priorities are straight, which ends up making me more productive and motivated. It's about balance, and you'll ultimately be a better leader when you keep sight of what's important."
--Zviki Ben-Ishay, cofounder and CEO of Lightico, a platform for digital customer interactions, which recently raised $14.5 million in Series A funding
9. Get your creative wheels turning with music
"As a CMO, I'm always looking to nurture my creative thinking. It's an essential part of the job. One habit that boosts my creativity is playing music. Whether it's the guitar or the piano, I play an instrument every day. I never use sheet music, just hit a few notes and go with the flow. This is also a fantastic way to unwind after a busy day. To me, it's like meditation."
--Marcel Hollerbach, board member and CMO of Productsup, a company that powers more than 800 businesses worldwide, including five Fortune 20 companies, to push product data to shopping, marketing, and business channels
10. Set clear intentions for your tasks
"I'm a firm believer in the 'getting things done' time management mindset. When planning my workday, I do my best to break down daily tasks into a flow of actionable and achievable items. The key to this method is to make sure each task can be completed in one go, whether it takes 30 minutes or two hours. Instead of thinking, 'I need to filter through my inbox' be more specific and think, 'I need to answer these specific emails in order to make these other tasks move forward.' With clearer intentions, the day flows much better."
--Oleg Shchgolev, cofounder and CEO of SEMrush, a visibility management and content marketing SaaS platform with more than 20,000 partners and 3 million registered users and used by 25 percent of Fortune 500 companies
11. Embrace chaos to foster creativity
"As a successful owner of a six-year-old business, I'd like to take a slightly contrarian view on this issue. There is a popular notion that successful people have routines and are very disciplined. This is only a partial truth. In fact, I do not have any daily habits. I believe that for areas where there is a well-trodden path to success, discipline (i.e. daily routines) is very good as it means you make progress every day, and you can see yourself moving along the path to success. But for highly creative and chaotic areas, which being an entrepreneur can be, lots of structure and discipline can be damaging to our freedom and creativity. Why are there stereotypes of the chaotic, rebellious artist? Because sometimes you need chaos to be creative. This does not mean that you do not need to work hard to be successful. But you should work hard when you are inspired, not when the clock tells you to. I always try and wait for inspiration and then work extra hard, rather than sit and wait and my desk waiting for inspiration pretending to work hard."
--Pete Zaborszky, founder of ProPrivacy, a privacy advocacy group which receives nearly one million unique visitors to its website monthly
12.Take risks and embrace failure
"Most people wake up in the morning determined to succeed without failure. But I believe that the real path to success is blazed through the trail of failed attempts. The probability of success is greater, and more likely to happen consistently, by gaining knowledge from lessons learned along the way. Keep a 'lessons learned' log. Be honest with not only what went well, but also what could've been better, and set goals to improve next time. By celebrating failures as successes, you are sure to walk away with a better understanding than where you first started."
--Socka Suppiah, cofounder and COO of Saggezza, a global managed services provider and technology consulting firm with a network of more than 700 consultants across three continents and clients including MasterCard, Kohl's and Art Van Furniture
13. Get to and leave work early
"I wake up early -- around 5:30 a.m. -- and I am usually at work by 7 a.m. This allows me to skip traffic, and it also means that the office is quiet when I arrive, so I can focus on getting stuff done. It lets me work a full day and leave early so that I can get home to spend quality time with my family before it's too late to do anything. The family time keeps my stress level low and my daily productivity high."
--Ben Houston, founder and CTO of ThreeKit, a product visualization software company that raised $10 million in funding in 2019 and works with companies including Crate and Barrel and Steelcase
14. Pick up the phone
"There is no substitute for connecting with people live. I regularly call not only key business partners, advisors and colleagues, but also try to extend the daily habit to my personal relationships. This means scheduling calls but also just picking up the phone to check in and chat with the important people in my life. So much gets lost in email or text, and much can be gained in the live exchange between people. Making this a part of my daily routine has proven so much value, from saving time on something that may have resulted in a slew of back and forth emails at work to continuing to build my relationships on a personal level."
--David Smith, serial beverage startup entrepreneur who founded High Brew Coffee, which sold over 22 million cans in 2018
15. Use a three-app routine
"As soon I wake up I take these four steps: (1) pull a single shot of espresso; (2) as I sip, use the Five Minute Journal app to record three things I'm grateful for and three intentions for the day; (3) meditate for 10 minutes with Sam Harris's wonderful Waking Up app; and (4) do a quick 7 Minute Workout before I shower and head to work. In half an hour I go from bleary-eyed grouch to energized optimist, full of intention and grounded in gratitude. Some have poked fun at my morning routine, but it has transformed me from a night owl who despises the morning to a night owl who can mostly forget it's the morning."
--Jordan Lee, founder and CEO of CollegeBacker, an online platform that sets up 529 college savings plans, enabling contributions from grandparents and friends which has grown 8 percent year over year for the last two years