Ever wonder what the most successful people are doing differently than everyone else? It's not so much about a better education, a robust  network of connections, or more open doors as it is about doing the right things day in and out. Here are the habits 20 executives say they incorporate into their lives every day that make the biggest difference when it comes to getting and staying ahead.

1. Don't accept complaints you can't resolve.

"Get into the habit of not accepting random complaints about people or things that don't directly concern you or have immediate resolution. Chronic, random complaining creates a  negative energy that counteracts productivity. Hold people accountable for their complaints, and encourage them to direct them to the places where they can get resolved. Don't allow your office to be a dumping ground."

--Noelle Federico, CFO of the stock photography site Dreamstime.com, which boasts more than 12.5 million active users

2. Dress the part.

"When you look good, you feel good. That mantra is something I strive to abide by, whether I am meeting with clients or enjoying lunch on Miami's coast. When you feel good, you radiate that confidence in such a positive way, and I think it is such a great attribute to have and to feel when you are meeting new people or just in day-to-day business endeavors."

--Tim Lobanov, managing director of Verzasca Group, a South Florida-based residential and commercial real estate development firm

3. Read the news.

"Always know what's happening, not just in your industry but around the world. Just because you operate in one industry doesn't mean another doesn't have an indirect impact on your business. It's important to be aware of worldly events and, of course, be aware of what your competitors are doing."

--Michael MacDonald, chairman and CEO of weight-loss program company Medifast

4. Really listen. 

"I read once that one of Abraham Lincoln's best qualities was that he was a great listener. I think teams that accomplish the most have leaders who spend a lot of time listening."

--Kevin Pomplun, CEO and co-founder of the car insurance iPhone app  Go

5. Pick a theme song for the day. 

"I pick a song that can play in the back of my mind, harness my energy, and give me focus for the day. My suggestions--for a major meeting: 'Ready or Not' by the Fugees; to get pumped up: 'Lose Yourself' by Eminem; and to focus and be productive: 'Exit Music' by Radiohead."

--Elizabeth McMillan, CEO of Dictionary.com, which has garnered more than 100 million mobile app downloads

6. Break down barriers.

"In my new role as CEO, I came in with a true desire to immediately get face time with the staff as a whole, in small groups, and one to one. I wanted to break down barriers and not stand on the sidelines, with the objectives of letting the staff get to know me and open up to me, while at the same time getting the team to start [becoming] cross-functional allies. My style is not to get mired in details but to provide vision and set priorities, and then empower the full organization to move forward on execution."

--Michel Veys, CEO of cloud-based voice and text platform CallFire

7. Take control of your email.

"It's important to have a strategy for quickly handling your email to ensure the day is not dictated by the sheer volume of it. With every email that comes in, I make a conscious decision to act immediately, delegate, flag for followup, or do nothing. One important consideration is for leaders not to automatically respond to emails that others should address. While challenging, this has a high payoff in making others accountable."

--Beth Gerstein, co-founder of  Brilliant Earth, the global leader in responsibly sourced fine jewelry

8. Clear your mind.

"Every day will present a new challenge, roadblock, or setback that can translate into stress. I'm a big believer in taking time out to do what you love. For me, that's hockey. Hitting the ice often helps me clear my head and focus."

--Mark Ghermezian, CEO and co-founder of mobile marketing and CRM company Appboy

9. Focus on balance.

"Almost all people in successful leadership positions are highly motivated and thrive on the challenges, but often, without warning, you find that you have allowed things to get out of balance, becoming almost one dimensional. Over time, this situation makes you far less effective, especially outside of the day-to-day work environment. You have to make time for other interests. Set aside time for breakfast with your spouse, make sure you work out and stay healthy, and have a hobby that is completely unrelated to your career. It helps make you a more satisfied, effective, and interesting person."

--Bill Lutz, CFO of  Advanced Technology Services, a productivity and profitability service for manufacturers that provides managed services of production equipment maintenance, industrial parts services, and IT solutions

10. Help people each day with the full breadth of your capacity.

"This pays more than you expect in that you're banking energy in hundreds of micro investments that turn into fruit when you need it most."

--Dane Atkinson, CEO of SumAll, a data analytics tool that allows customers to view all of their social media, e-commerce, advertising, e-mail, and traffic data in one visualization

11. Listen to classical tunes.

"On the way to work, I always listen to classical music, not for a relaxing experience, but rather a cleansing of the mind. For me, it helps stimulate ideas and starts my day off with confidence no matter the challenges the day might bring."

--Lior Rachmany, CEO and founder of Dumbo Moving + Storage, a New York City-area residential moving and storage company

12. Plan a trip.

"It is a great escape for me to plan a destination trip and then make arrangements, learn about the culture, pick up basic language skills, and make reservations to great restaurants or sites. Each day, it allows me something to look forward to and gives me perspective that work should not dominate your life. It helps remind me that I work to live, not live to work, and having an escape on my calendar gives me the opportunity to work hard with a reward in sight."

--Lance Leonard, CEO of  True Drinks, and founder of AquaBall, a naturally flavored, zero calorie and zero sugar children's beverage

13. Leverage the commute.

"Find some podcasts or online courses that you can listen to on your way to or from the office and build up knowledge that while tangential, can help spark ideas for your business too."

--Alexander Goldstein, CEO of Eligo Energy, a Chicago-based technology-driven energy company that provides electricity to residential and commercial customers in deregulated states

14. Listen to your rested mind.

"I've wrestled thorny issues many times late into the night. I go to bed exhausted thinking I have a good answer, only to find a better one waiting for me early the next morning, when I have a rested and clear head. Whenever possible, I avoid sending important emails or making key decisions late at night."

--Eric Grosse, CEO and co-founder of Chairish, the online curated marketplace for vintage and used furniture and décor

15. Get an idea out of your head and onto paper.

"Ideas are great, but when they are in your head they do not seem real and rarely happen, so every day I get an idea onto paper or my screen. It can be related to anything happening around me--an idea from a conversation or an observation or seemingly out of nowhere. I just make it more tangible so I always have something new to write about, talk about, or innovate around."

--Kieran Flanagan, co-founder of  The Impossible Institute, a think tank that helps small businesses, entrepreneurs, and large organizations, from the United Nations to Coca-Cola and MTV, think differently

16.  Ask questions.

"[It] opens the doorways of possibilities that you have never seen before. I ask every day, 'What else is possible? How does it get any better than this?' It is amazing what solutions, ideas, and possibilities show up when you take the time to ask questions."

--Dr. Dain Heer, co-creator of  Access Consciousness and best-selling author of several books, including Being You, Changing the World

17. Do not seek perfection.

"My happiness no longer depends on having the perfect job or the perfect career. It is about the joy of creation. When I don't focus all of my energy on trying to get it 'right,' the possibilities multiply and expansion comes more easily."

--Lisa Henriksson, model, author, and CEO and founder of several companies, including Wisdom Stockholm and yoga and health centers Egen Tid

18. Position others for success.

"Each day, I try to put employees in a position of success by creating an environment that feeds upon their most basic, innate needs: responsibility, opportunity, and respect."

 --Jeff Winsper, president and founder of  Black Ink, a customer analytics platform for sales, marketing, and financial professionals to improve marketing performance

19. Make direct eye contact.

"In this world filled with opportunities for distraction, a very important sign of respect for another human being is to give them your full attention. It is a powerful person who can maintain eye contact, and it demonstrates confidence and a willingness to let yourself really see them."

--Karen Jacobsen, motivational speaker, singer, and voice in more than 400 million GPS and smartphone devices, whose  empowerment brand shows how to "recalculate" to get what you want no matter what

20. Meet with a mentor.

"CEOs and business leaders should have mentors to help keep them on track. Mentors can create clarity at the times you need it most, and help you find easy solutions that are challenging to see for yourself when you are in the weeds or feeling pressure."

--Meg Sheetz, CEO of Take Shape for Life, the direct selling division of Medifast that offers clients a free personal health coach and mentor to help them lose weight and cultivate lasting, healthy habits

Published on: Dec 22, 2015