If getting ahead can seem like a struggle, know this: To be highly successful, you need to be highly disciplined. I've asked hundreds of executives and entrepreneurs about the things they do every day which help them succeed, and inevitably they credit simple routines which have been proven over time to give them an edge. Check out these quotes from 23 high-achieving individuals who share the habits which help them get ahead in business and life.
1. Start your day with intermittent fasting.
"It's a method that splits your day into eight-hour 'eating periods' and 16-hour 'fasting periods.' Although lots of people talk about the need for a hearty breakfast, new research indicates that intermittent fasting is a great way to lose or maintain weight, as well as heighten concentration. I also start my mornings by hitting the gym with my trainer, drinking large amounts of water, and then having my first meal of the day at noon. This routine has increased my energy and helps keep me motivated throughout the week, so I can tackle whatever comes my way."
--George Arison, founder and CEO of Shift, a peer-to-peer car marketplace
2. Welcome criticism.
"Creating an environment where it's a positive thing to provide criticism, and continually asking for feedback is key to long term success. It's great to hear positive feedback but customers, colleagues and friends who truly care will tell you what you're missing, or what you can improve. Sometimes the simplest frustrations for a customer can impede sales and fixing those might be just a simple as the frustration itself."
--Liz Kakar, head of operations at Pink Elephant Organics, a girl's clothing line
3. Talk it out.
"You will have lots of stupid ideas and not know it. Bouncing ideas off a trusted colleague or friend each day will help you refine your ideas before you waste too much time going down the wrong path."
--Ben Parr, cofounder and CMO of Octane AI and author of Captivology: The Science of Capturing People's Attention
4. Be what you do best.
"Authenticity is powerful. I made the mistake of trying to be the leader that I thought people expected me to be. Over time, I got more comfortable with responsibility and became less afraid to be myself and to create my own personal brand of leadership. This brand is unique, not replicable, and has appreciated in value over time. It belongs to me. All young leaders should gravitate to their strengths and build their brand around qualities that they are proudest of."
--Chris Soukup, CEO of Communication Service for the Deaf (CSD)
5. Find a morning routine that works for you.
"I think the key to success is how you start your day. Every morning, I wake up and focus on a routine of prayer, coffee and exercise. I never set an alarm. I'm up with the sunrise and cherish my moments of quiet gratitude, prayer and meditation before the work day begins. Coffee is a must! A good cup of caffeine can help me multitask with calls, the treadmill and watching CNN."
--Micki Purcell, founder and president of Walking With Anthony, an organization with the mission to change the recovery outcome of spinal cord injury
6. Don't wait until it's perfect to get started.
"Just get started and make improvements along the way and continue to evolve. Every great product wasn't perfect when they first launched. Just go for it and be glad you did."
--Gina Hoensheid, CEO of Seat Sitters which provides reusable seat covers for use on airplane and theater seats
7. Put yourself in the customer's shoes.
"I constantly critique my own shopping and buying experiences with other stores, brands and companies. I assess the good and the bad and I've realized the Golden Rule is extremely relevant in entrepreneurship and business. I turn it around and think 'what am I looking for in a company, how would I want to be treated, and what would make me return to a brand?' That translates over to our customer service every day."
--Jenny Ross, founder of Grateful Bags, a patented handbag line with the ability to customize a wide range of styles with interchangeable monograms in a variety of fonts and patterns
8. Feed your why.
"Meaning, why do we do what we do as entrepreneurs? Each day I continue to identify, feed and cultivate my purpose. I do this by driving through neighborhoods I desire to live in, test drive cars I will have in my garage, listening to and watching leaders I desire to have a relationship with such as Mark Cuban and Barack Obama. I do this exercise even more intensely when I am under the most pressure in business and my personal life."
--Cedric Cobb, president and CEO of Best Wardrobe Solutions, a men's fashion technology company that provides a family of fashion accessories, wardrobe resources and a free mobile app
9. Know your strengths and weaknesses.
"By knowing your strengths, you will be able to focus on those areas and then team up with the right partners and companies that can help you with your weaker areas. I think this enables you to have the right infrastructure in place for the most success."
--Ashley Whitman, founder of Romp & Roost, a divided playpen which provides a safe place for children to rest and play
10. Laugh a little.
"Laughing and having a good sense of humor keeps us going strong. When something doesn't go our way we find the humor in it. It keeps us optimistic and plowing forward. If someone makes a fumble we don't beat them up, we laugh. Nothing can be that bad. It helps to keep spirits high."
--Alita Haytayan, cofounder of Gadgit Girlz, LLC., a household hacks brand
11. Find three things to be grateful for.
"Big or small it doesn't matter. It's the act of lifting out of the daily grind and celebrating the wins as defined by you. You are acknowledging that amidst a day that always feels packed with challenges and too little time to address them, there are also victories."
--Rana Lustyan, founder of Edoughble, an edible cookie dough company
12. Take it one step at a time.
"Set a lofty goal, but remember to take a step at a time. No matter how many floors there are, we can only take one step at a time. Similarly in business, aim for the sky, but remember it's the addition of all the little steps, and the little decisions, that make or break you."
--Ashoo Jain (AJ) Founder of ONGO Energy, a multi-use compact oral spray that delivers a more natural, sustainable energy boost as compared to traditional energy drinks
13. Get out of your comfort zone.
"As a new entrepreneur it is easy to fall into what is comfortable and feels safe. Being able to push yourself into areas that you feel less secure in ensures that you really explore the full potential of where your business can take you. The mindset of stepping beyond your own limitations opens the door for your business to flourish beyond even what you initially envisioned."
--Jamie Lawrence, founder of apparel brand Evicii Athletica
14. Sleep on it.
"Your first reaction when receiving an email filled with not-so-good news might be to reply immediately. Instead, write your reply immediately (venting without holding back is a form of therapy, after all), then save it to your drafts. The following day, re-read your reply, and edit it, before hitting send. You'll be surprised and thankful how different your response is from one day to the next. Your message will be clear and concise without all the emotional drama."
--Wendy Colson, CEO and founder of Boobie Bar, an herbal lactation bar formulated to support a healthy breast-milk supply
15. Organize your minutes.
"Spend some time each morning going through your to-do list and allow a certain amount of hours per task. Set your timer and when it goes off, set that task aside and work on the next item. The organization actually helps you mentally feel as though you were able to get something done."
--Michelle Wolett, founder of Once Upon A Book Club, a subscription based book club
16. Align yourself with a strong mentor.
"Push yourself out of your comfort zone and seek out a mentor who is an executive or department head. Networking with your bosses isn't always easy, but finding the right person to champion you and guide you in your career is the key to advancement."
--Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, CEO of Hawthorne, a company which combines brand messaging with proprietary analytic systems to create and deliver integrated advertising campaigns
17. Treat employees the way you want your customers to be treated.
"An engaged workforce that cares about the business, product, and service will impact the overall consumer experience."
--Ian Small, general manager of Audiobooks.com
18. Automate everything possible.
"Use self-service automation platforms to reduce the time you spend with routine tasks like copying information between systems. This is critical if you're a solopreneur running your own business, and even more important when you have dozens or hundreds of employees. Automation helps you save time for yourself and others and lets you focus on high-value, innovative thought and problem solving, not routine administrative work."
--Andrew Filev, founder and CEO of the work management system Wrike
19. Use your product.
"It doesn't matter what you build, what you sell or how good you are. Be a perfectionist, never stop collecting feedback and always use your product. It will allow you to think like your customers do and see their perspective. Persuading friends to try it and getting real, candid feedback from them is just as useful."
--Serban Enache, founder and CEO of stock photo community Dreamstime
20. Allow for free time.
"I always try to keep 20 percent of my time open to serendipitous experiences. It also helps to have entire days where you literally have nothing to do. You want to have mind space to properly reflect."
--Brian Wong, cofounder and CEO of Kiip, a moments-based mobile ad and data platform
21. Make a sawdust list.
"One of my mentors taught me to make what he calls a 'sawdust list'. I write down my task at hand at the top of a page and on the right I keep my sawdust list. This is where I write everything non-essential to my task that pops into my head. This can be anything from 'order more Post-it notes' to 'add fix bug ticket to Trello'. This keeps me focused on my work by clearing my mind of all the random distractions of the day. Once I've accomplished my task, I go through the sawdust and see what still needs to be done."
--Alex Salvator, cofounder and CTO of beam, a social impact app which turns everyday retail experiences into opportunities for social good
22. Get up early.
"With such a hectic work schedule, it is important that I base my daily habits on simplicity. I get up early and meditate, and then I focus with a single mind to complete specific daily goals. I am unwavering once I make a decision, I stick to it and that's what keeps me driving forward."
"Even when you're working 12-hour days, find time to sweat. I do my best creative thinking while running."
--Chris Molnar, founder of Goodlife Clothing