If you want to be the best at what you do, at work or in your personal life, it will take discipline. You will need to study best practices, hone your skills, and create the kind of mental space that allows for your utmost in creativity, focus, and discipline. Here are the daily habits exceptionally successful people credit for achieving what they have in life.
1. Reframe unexpected disasters as opportunities
"When you're launching a company, something goes wrong pretty much every day. When disaster strikes, I immediately embrace the problem and starting thinking about how I can fix it right now. Once I have a way forward, I reflect on how I could have done something different to prevent it. There is no power in just thinking about how unlucky I am or how unfair or unforgiving the universe can be. Okay, it happened, how can I fix it now and make sure it doesn't happen again? In this way, each disaster or challenge is an opportunity to grow and make a stronger company. It puts me in control of my destiny, not just a victim at the mercy of other people or bad luck."
--Zack Abbott, co-founder and CEO of ZBiotics, a company that produces and sells genetically engineered probiotics and has experienced nearly 40 percent month-over-month growth since its launch in 2019
2. Take 10 minutes to make the next 10 hours matter
"As a leader it is important to remain calm and grounded in any situation. Each morning I meditate for 10 minutes on the day ahead in pursuit of this. Visualizing what's happening that day and how I would tackle problems is the antidote to frustration. I also take 10 minutes to be proactive in outlining three things that have to happen that day, no matter what. This enables me to be deliberate rather than reactionary. These short respites are key to prepare for the day's full potential."
--Bill Demas, CEO of Conviva, a company that provides real-time streaming media intelligence and analytics with a global footprint of more than 150 billion streams per year across three billion applications streaming on devices
3. Take time to touch base with people
"While we have plenty of planned meetings, I find that it is very helpful to have impromptu discussions across the company. When I have time free, I find opportunities to stop at peoples' desks to chat. I might share an idea I've had ... or a company goal, or ask them to update me on a project. Not only does this help keep me in touch with what is going on throughout the company, it also breaks down barriers, so anyone in the company feels they can raise issues or ask questions. As a startup, we need to be nimble, and I've found that these kinds of quick, 15-minute conversations have the effect of moving discussions forward so we're making decisions as quickly as we need rather than waiting for a formal meeting."
--Mike Phillips, CEO of Sense, a smart home company that has raised $50 million and partners with global energy companies including Schneider Electric and Landis + Gyr
4. Practice gray thinking so you can focus on high-level strategy
"By reminding myself to 'think in the gray,' I avoid forming opinions on matters until I have enough data to make well-informed decisions. This means putting less emphasis on first impressions and more emphasis on ideas presented by team members who are experts in their fields. Being able to be convinced by your employees builds trust and frees up your mind to tackle high-level strategic issues. Having enough time to focus on strategic objectives can be challenging when all communications tend to lead to your inbox and try to dictate your day. I carve out time to get to inbox zero and clear up half of my calendar for unstructured time, which allows me to delve into new ideas, analyze current issues, and navigate my team through challenges with a more proactive mindset."
--Michael Nusimow, co-founder and CEO of DrChrono, a cloud-based EHR and practice-management platform used by thousands of physicians to treat more than 17.8 million patients, which has facilitated over $11 billion in medical billings
5. Try to see the world through someone else's eyes
"Each of us sees the world through our own unique lens, informed by a specific set of experiences. That's why I think it's so important to find a moment each day to venture outside that narrow worldview and discover something new. It could be big or small, but learning one new thing -- to take a moment and celebrate someone else's ideas -- keeps me going on even the longest days. I try to listen to as many points of view as possible. I read stories from authors halfway across the world or listen to podcasts from experts in areas I'm completely unfamiliar with. It gives me at least one chance each day to really stretch my thinking and grow in how I approach challenges."
--Holger Seim, co-founder and CEO of Blinkist, a knowledge discovery tool that has distilled the key ideas from more than 3,000 bestselling nonfiction books into audio content for its community of more than 12 million people
6. Pick an activity that forces you to disconnect
"I'm the first person to admit that I'm a workaholic. When running a start-up and hopping between video meetings, emails, texts, photo shoots to more emails, it can sometimes feel like I fall into this incessant, internet-driven work cycle. Picking an activity that makes you disconnect and be more present can be very grounding at the end of a chaotic day. To force myself to put down the phone, I commit to making dinner for my boyfriend and myself every evening. I never follow a recipe, so the freedom of getting my hands dirty and flexing different creative muscles puts my focus in the present. It sounds simple, but it has brought me much more peace and happiness."
--Minali Chatani, co-founder of pet lifestyle brand Wild One who was named to Forbes's 30 Under 30 list for 2019
7. Schedule time for deep thinking
"My day to day life as a CEO can be extremely hectic. Often, I have 10 to 15 meetings a day, with aggressive context switching and very little time in between. I may spend an hour reviewing new product capabilities, then join a large sales video conference, followed by an urgent budget meeting. I squeeze time in between to read and answer hundreds of emails a day. With so many tactical and time-sensitive tasks, I need quiet thinking time to reflect on strategy and the big picture, which may be less pressing but is far more important for long-term success. The brain has to switch from a task-driven mode to a deeper thinking mode, and in order to do so, as a routine, I block two to three hours off a week entirely for thinking. These are hours in which I am not in front of my computer, and my phone cannot be next to me ... I sit on the sofa in my room, with a pen and paper, stare out the window, and let my brain and imagination take me in the direction I need."
--Liad Agmon, CEO of Dynamic Yield, a personalization platform used by more than 300 brands around the world that was acquired by McDonald's for more than $300 million in 2019
8. Lay your gym clothes out the night before
"I lay my gym clothes out the night before in order to make exercise priority. It feels good to conquer off the to-do list while many people are still in bed. I start the day feeling accomplished. Success leads to more success."
--Stacy Garcia, serial entrepreneur and design expert who has 23 active partners and product in 52 countries around the globe
9. Let go of inbox zero
"Everyone talks about inbox zero, but I just found it impossible to maintain. However, I wasn't letting important emails slip through the cracks, I wasn't feeling stressed out about the tens of thousands of unread emails in my inbox, and I wasn't wasting too much time in my inbox every day, despite receiving 500-plus emails per day. Why, then, was inbox zero so important? I decided that I'd rather develop and stick to my own routines that worked for me, rather than blindly follow the advice of other experts. When done right, this can alleviate anxiety and can drive you to continuously improve your own self-developed habits and processes rather than rely on others to establish them for you. Design your own routine that works for you."
--Khaled Naim, co-founder and CEO of Onfleet, a last-mile delivery software company that powers millions of deliveries per month for thousands of businesses globally
10. Visualize your future vividly
"We all have a notion about what we can and cannot do in our lifetime, and we are often right. I believe all creators of great value in our world have a sense of their destiny, and they visualize what that future looks like in great detail. It is not enough to visualize it -- you also have to believe in it. Believing in our destinies allows our subconscious minds to begin thinking of ways to take us towards our goals -- while we sleep and while we go about our daily lives. Even though it feels like the conscious mind is the driver of our actions, it is actually the subconscious mind."
--Art Lee, CEO of Rove Concepts, a luxury furniture digital native brand with an average annual growth 50 percent over the past five years and with more than 100 employees in three countries
11. Keep a to-do list
"Keeping a short, daily to-do list of all the tasks I want to accomplish makes it so the day doesn't get away from me. Especially when my schedule is packed, this helps me to be really intentional with the 10 to 15 minutes in between meetings and use that time to cross off one of those smaller tasks. My favorite tool for this is Sunsama. I can see my to-do list, meetings, and calls all in one place, and be realistic about how much can be completed in a day. I used to be the person who obsessed over reaching inbox zero. I like being able to physically see what I got done. But as our team and company grow, achieving inbox zero feels less impactful. With a daily to-do list, I'm able to be proactive and define what actually needs to get done, rather than letting my inbox decide. For me, crossing all the tasks off my to-do list gives a deeper sense of achievement at the end of each day, and helps me hit the ground running the next morning."
--Stephen Chen, founder and CEO of Scanwell Health, a company that has gained FDA-clearance for an over-the-counter urine testing app and test kit that offers smartphone-enabled, at-home diagnostics
12. Look on the bright side of life
"My ringtone is the song, 'Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,' by Eric Idle from Monty Python. The extended song lyrics are actually quite nihilistic, but hearing just the chorus many times per day helps me to take a moment from a hectic day to reflect on my good fortune. When I'm tempted to feel self-pity or worry, or I get stressed out, I remind myself: 'Always look on the bright side of life.' Positivity not only feels better and is healthier, it also improves the quality of my work and relationships."
--Yaffa Cohen-Ifrah, chief marketing officer and head of corporate communications at Sapiens, an international corporation that provides software solutions for the insurance industry and has more than 500 customers globally
13. Play pretend
"Just before leaving the house to drop the kids off at kindergarten, we often find ourselves under the vicious attack of zombie sharks, so we have to retreat to our magical bed fort, hide under the blankets, and build super laser weapons to fend them off. The kids always win, and sometimes we're a bit late, but my day just looks completely different."
--Tal Guttman, co-founder and CEO of Jiminy, an A.I.-powered parental awareness application with anonymized data from more than 54 million text messages and over 1.5 million hours of phone usage
14. Embrace fun
"It's easy to always feel the need to be busy with work. I make a point to take part in a variety of activities to let loose. I listen to opera, especially Pavarotti, play the drums, go off-road driving in the desert. It's so important to embrace the fun in life and not let work dominate every aspect of my week. I strongly believe that if I don't take care of myself, I won't be able to take care of my business. So eat tomatoes like they're peanuts, play silly games with your kids. Ultimately, having these moments of relief help me sharpen my focus and close more deals."
--Moshe Shlisel, co-founder and CEO of GuardKnox, a supplier of secure high-performance computing solutions that has raised $25 million and is working with automotive companies including Porsche and Daimler
15. Think about potential problems before going to bed
"I'm not a morning person so the most creative time for me is right before bed. Before I go to sleep, I take some time to review my agenda for the next few days. For scheduled client meetings, I imagine potential scenarios and play them out in my head. For important tasks, I consider and even write down potential setbacks and strategies on how to mitigate them and sometimes it leads to innovative ideas. It might be surprising, but with all this thinking out of the way, I sleep soundly and am always prepared for what the future may bring. In fact, I often wake up with fresh new ideas on how to tackle daily challenges thanks to my evening routine."
--Natali Tshuva, co-founder and CEO of Sternum, a cybersecurity solution offering protection for IoT devices, working with the world's largest medical device manufacturers and cellular connectivity suppliers across multiple industries
16. Keep an empty inbox
"Starting the day with a clear head and an empty inbox sets the stage for a productive day. For me, every day begins with an early-morning coffee in an inspiring environment, usually a quiet cafe, where I take a few moments to breathe, organize my thoughts and sort my emails. After these few quiet moments, the rest of my day is all about getting things done as quickly, proactively and efficiently as possible. Keeping on top of my email is one of my top priorities. I use Superhuman to help me with this but I also respond to every email right away, unless it requires deeper thought in which case I immediately schedule calendar time to resolve it. Part of my daily proactivity also involves problem prevention, instead of reactively solving problems."
--Eden Amirav, co-founder and CEO of Become, a business lending platform where SMBs can find and optimize funding solutions, partnering with over 50 lending partners and serving more than 200,000 business owners
17. Meditate for half an hour
"To do a quick reset before I start my day, I love to walk to the beach to meditate for half an hour. Taking time for yourself to meditate before the mania of the day sets in will help you approach the day with an open mind and sharpened intuition. Ever since implementing a daily meditation practice, I'm always in the right frame of mind to contend with any challenges the day throws my way, from avoiding distractions during important business meetings to effective decision making. You'd be surprised what not thinking for a half hour each day can do for your wellbeing."
--Adi Azaria, CEO of Workiz, a field service management platform that raised $5 million in 2019, and co-founder of billion-dollar company Sisense
Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the total amount raised by Sense. It is $50 million.