People who accomplish the most in life don't conduct themselves like everyone else. Generally, they wake early, are good at planning and take care of their physical and emotional health. Here are other good habits more than a dozen executives credit for their success.
1. Get the most challenging part of your day over with first.
"If you have an important sales call scheduled or a big project weighing on you, it's difficult to be productive throughout the day. Those dreaded tasks tend to soak up your energy. Instead, tackle the toughest part of your day first so you can check those off your list and move on to other activities. It sets the day up for success by helping you feel productive and freeing up your mind to think about what's next."
--Ann Noder, president and CEO of Pitch Public Relations, a firm specializing in national media coverage for brands and startups which was recently named "Best Boutique PR Firm" by Arizona Foothills Magazine for the fifth year in a row
2. Never stop learning.
"Ray Kroc once asked 'Are you green and growing or ripe and rotting?' I believe that we control which through our actions. Nothing is static in this world, and this applies to both business and nature. Therefore, I constantly seek new information to continue to learn and develop as a CEO, business owner, father and friend. The key is to leverage as many sources as possible to gain knowledge: reading, speaking to colleagues, listening to employees, attending conferences and even talking with your kids. However, you also must be willing to challenge your own beliefs to truly learn. Experience often convinces us to rely too strongly on our intuition...but the world continues to evolve. My best days are when I discover something new that I can apply to my company, our clients or in my life. Never stop growing!"
--Erik D. Rosenstrauch, founder and CEO of FUEL Partnerships, a retail marketing agency that creates and executes strategic brand programs at national retailers including Walmart, Target and Kroger which has grown 300 percent over the past two years
3. Take care of yourself first.
"After surviving a near-death experience two years ago partially caused by an addiction to work, 80-plus hour weeks and the resulting stress, I transformed my health and life largely by changing my morning routine and creating new habits. The best lessons I've learned are how important it is to have perspective and to take care of yourself first every day. When I wake up in the morning, instead of jumping on my phone and rushing off to work as quickly as possible, I start my day with a meditation that includes what I'm grateful for (first and foremost to be alive) and a body scan to relax my body and let go of any anxious thoughts. Then I spend time with my family and exercise, often a mindful walk, run or bike in nature, before I head to work. This energizes me and ensures that I start each day with perspective, gratitude and clarity, and that I'm a more productive, present and calm leader, husband and father."
--Jason Tafler, founder and CEO of Unyte, an interactive meditation product that matches biofeedback technology with immersive digital and virtual reality experiences that raised around $300,000 on its Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns
4. Start the day with positive thinking.
"In the first minutes of the day I tell myself to celebrate the positive. I try to verbally couch the biggest challenge for the day in a positive light. For example, I tell myself that working to solve a difficult customer's complaint is an opportunity to learn how to make our service better for all customers. Any startup or small business owner knows there are always issues to resolve and new hurdles to overcome popping up on a daily basis. There are many opportunities to get frustrated. However, research continues to accumulate pointing to how a negative attitude or outlook regarding challenges stimulates the physiological or emotional response that is fear, anger or stress. Our ability to think creatively, to be flexible, narrows as a result of the brain triggering the survival instincts used to escape such feelings. Starting my day with a positive affirmation is entirely in my control, sets my waking brain off in the right direction, and gives me a better chance to feel like I've been successful that day."
--David Wachtel, founder and CEO of MePlusMore, LLC, an online service that helps organize a student's extracurricular activities, awards and accomplishments for use in the college application process, and Academic Associate at Arizona State University's Entrepreneur and Innovation Accelerator Group
5. Practice mindfulness.
"I view mindfulness as being fully present and aware of what's happening, what I'm doing, and what's going on in my surroundings. It's a habit that I try to carry with me throughout my daily rituals, as I feel it gives more meaning to my mundane everyday tasks. I like to think that everyone has a sense of purpose and that everything we do, including our daily routines, are to help us exemplify or work towards that purpose. For example, my broader purpose is to be a role model in my community, whether that's my local community, work community, or home community. With that sense of purpose in mind, I have a better outlook on my day-to-day life and feel more motivated to do things like contributing to community initiatives, accomplishing work tasks, and rushing home to help with the kids. Remembering that the small details fulfill a larger purpose keeps me going."
--Ben Gold, president of QuickBridge, which has provided over $450 million in working capital to over 9,000 small businesses nationwide and ranked two consecutive years on the Inc. 500 Fastest Growing American Companies list
6. Email in bullets.
"We're all inundated with emails throughout the day. Instead of sending long paragraphs I use bullets and highlight the most important points and action items. This helps me get to the point more quickly and lets the reader skim. It has been a game-changer for me personally and for the company in improving response times to our emails. We now use this structure across all our communications."
--Tina Hay, CEO of Napkin Finance, a multimedia site which has been featured in Forbes, Fortune, CNBC, and Business Insider and works with investment banks and financial institutions to educate clients to make better financial decisions
7. Use planning to amplify speed.
"The one constant at startups is that things change quickly. This has led some to the perception that planning leads to slowness, however, the opposite is true. Planning is an exercise drill for your team before they move to execution. It allows you to play out different scenarios, build muscle memory and increase the likelihood of winning."
--Avlok Kohli, cofounder and CEO of Fairy, a house cleaning marketplace in New York City and San Francisco which announced more than $4 million in funding and plans on expanding to more markets later this year
8. Think more about the problem than the solution.
"We often see technologies solutions being built that are in need of a problem to solve. If you don't know what the problem really is, you probably haven't built an effective remedy for it. More time should be spent understanding the problem, including why it exists, who it impacts, the frequency, the cost and the effectiveness of currently available solutions before embarking upon a way to solve the problem in the first place."
--Alex Maleki, VP of business development at tech incubator Idealab which has created more than 150 companies with more than 45 IPOs and acquisitions
9. Banish devices from the bedroom.
"For obvious reasons, my wife and I don't want our kids to use devices or to be online in their bedrooms without us knowing. This is especially important before bedtime -- there's a lot of research about the negative effects of screen time on sleeping habits. My wife and I have also made of a habit of unplugging before bed. In fact, none of our devices are allowed upstairs near our bedrooms."
--Adam Fingerman, cofounder and chief experience officer for ArcTouch, a San Francisco-based mobile app development company that has designed more than 400 custom apps for more than 150 clients, ranging from Fortune 500 companies to startups
10. Take your team's temperature.
"Every day, I make a conscious effort to take stock of a few [employees] and gauge their demeanor. Do they seem happier than usual? Upset? Does someone who was overwhelmed last week seem more or less stressed today? If I observe a difference in behavior for a few days, good or bad, I might ask that employee's manager if he or she has checked in lately. It's so important to have a pulse on overall engagement and energy in the office in order to maintain a healthy work environment. Employee energy--both positive and negative--can be incredibly contagious, so it's important for leaders and managers to keep an eye on the little things on a daily basis.
--Linda Crawford, CEO of Helpshift, a messaging-based conversational customer service platform installed on two billion devices worldwide and serving more than 130 million active consumers monthly
11. Leave no email behind.
"Every day I look at each message that's flown into my inbox and make sure that it has been answered for the following two reasons: You never know who will help you one day and no one likes emailing into the void. In every email--or text or Slack message--I make sure I convey a sense of action as to when something will get done and what that will look like. I find that too often people simply respond to messages in a way that doesn't push things forward, metaphorically throwing their hands into the air. By making sure each message is action-oriented, I improve my chances for success."
--Curtis Sparrer, principal and cofounder of Bospar PR, which was named PRWeek's "Boutique Agency of the Year" for 2018, grew its business by 40 percent and added 13 major clients to its roster; Sparrer was named by Business Insider as one of the Top 51 in Tech PR
12. Make meeting time really count.
"Too often meetings become a time and energy suck. But they need not be. I learned years ago that advance planning makes all the difference in the world, and we can all do it. Ensure meetings have clear objectives and desired outcomes. Only invite those who must attend, not all who could attend. Seek pre-work to make dialogs more productive. And openly set any necessary ground-rules, like laptops closed or decisions will be made even if certain attendees are late. Apply these and you'll be amazed how effective, even enjoyable meetings can become."
--Jeremy Milk, head of marketing for WePay, a Chase company which works with more than 1,000 platforms including Constant Contact, GoFundMe, and Meetup to incorporate payments
13. Don't let small wins distract you from what really matters.
"When we first started the business we were really strapped for cash... so I was always trying to find ways we could save money and even picking a hotel or flight for a business trip would become a project as I price checked every hotel and airline to get the best deal possible. However, that would take away my focus off other things that matter. What I've learned now that our business has some scale is that these small wins prevent you from focusing on big wins. For example, we just discovered that a small tweak to the size of our shipping box could save us millions of dollars a year. You think you're doing the business a favor by spending a lot of time making sure your company is getting the best deal on flights and hotels, but really, you're hurting the company because you're taking your eye off the things that could save you millions and are instead spending too much time on things that could save a few hundred bucks. Big wins are missed by sweating the small wins (and losses) too much. Understand what you and your team's time is worth and focus accordingly."
--Brooks Powell, founder and CEO of Thrive+, a supplement designed to alleviate the negative effects of alcohol and most recently seen on the season finale of ABC's Shark Tank
14. Pick up the phone.
"For years I avoided the phone, preferring emails or texts and thinking I could resolve something more quickly that way. But it's not the case and so much gets lost in translation. I now love to grab a quick phone conversation with someone. I can communicate how much I appreciate them and get the information I need at the same time. Emojis just don't cut it. Going by the wayside, however, are coffees and lunch meetings. They're just unnecessary time-sucks."
--Sara Snow, CMO of Bambino, a membership babysitting app recently featured by Gwyneth Paltrow on her lifestyle website Goop, as well as an Emmy-award winning TV producer, news anchor and TV host, public speaker, and media contributor
15. Hang with customers.
"If I ever have important decisions to make, or I'm having a frustrating day or just need the reminder of why I'm waking up each morning, I hang with my customers. My passion to help people is what helps me continue to do very difficult things in this fierce business world... I have always found it odd that other business owners are not on the front line of their social media, interacting with the people whose lives are touched by their work. I hang with customers almost daily. I keep my vision tied to those lives I want to change, and then the success chases me."
--Ashley Black, bestselling author of "The Cellulite Myth" and inventor of the FasciaBlaster
16. Outsource the unimportant.
"If there is a task that you're required to do which doesn't help you achieve your greater life goals, outsource it. It's important to routinely evaluate activities that you're doing and decide if they help you achieve your objectives or not. As an example, laundry probably doesn't help you achieve your life goals. However, perhaps a large savings balance would help you achieve your goals and as such doing your own laundry makes sense. Set clear goals and let those dictate where you spend your life--the only thing you cannot purchase more of."
--Matthew Tillman, founder and CEO of Haven, Inc., a software company that builds technology to streamline global trade which is processing more than 100,000 containers annually in ten months after launching its latest product
17. Have fun.
"Fun is my business. I live that every day. If I'm not enjoying myself, if I'm not really having fun, I'm not serving my customers or employees well. It is a daily habit, lifestyle and my personal brand."
--Andy Wexler, founder of Pali Entertainment Group, which has grown in 28 years from a day camp for 40 kids to an overnight camp for nearly 3,000 and an outdoor education and science camp for 25,000 students during the school year
18. See everyone you meet as a learning opportunity.
"There are very few people, or casual conversations that can't be steered into a learning opportunity for your world view, or area of business. Understanding how different people think, what they know about their industry, and how things get done in their line of work or hobby will almost certainly prove useful."
--Christopher Prendergast, founder and CEO of Jamstack, a portable amp that attaches to any electric guitar and bass and connects to a smartphone, who raised over $400,000 in crowdfunding to begin production