Imagine you come to the end of your days and you're given the space to reflect. Certainly, at that point you would thoroughly understand the precious value of your minutes, hours, and days. So, what can you be doing today so as to not waste your time? And what can you be doing every day to maximize the success of your endeavors and influence the people within your circles? Take some advice from two dozen high-achieving individuals who are intentional about how they spend their time.
1. Carve out some time to learn something new.
"As a curious person, I like to continuously learn new things. I find that there are many lessons I can learn and apply from other disciplines to my work, which inherently helps me stay sharp. It's too easy to get caught up in your day-to-day and stay focused on what's right in front of you, but decompressing by engaging in a new topic is not only mentally stimulating but also allows you to amp up productivity and effectiveness. Given that time is at a premium, I find a great way to accomplish this is by listening to Audible while I work out or am in the car. Once you learn something new that's interesting and actionable, make sure you pay it forward and share it with those around you."
--Greg Munves, CEO of 1010data, an analytical intelligence and consumer insights solution used by more than 850 companies
2. Remain calm: Hardly anything is unsolvable.
"Too often people get consumed by circumstance versus stepping back and understanding that at the end of the day business issues are not that complicated. Take a moment and reflect to help clear any panic and recognize the situational bias. This allows me to diagnose the issue and offer a solution."
--Scott Rosenberg, CFO of Kabbage, a global financial services, technology, and data platform serving small businesses that recently announced it is extending access to more than $10 million per day to small businesses via its automated lending platform
3. Identify the one thing that matters today.
"As a parent of four kids and a CEO, my to-do list for each day and for the next week and for the next month is very very long. Rather than focusing on the entire to-do list, I start each day by identifying the one or two must-do items that have to get done to move the business to the next level today. It is easy to get overwhelmed and exhausted if you look ahead at everything you need to get done over the next month. That is why focusing on that one most critical next step helps me focus and invest my energy into the highest impact activity."
--Jed Putterman, co-founder of Kogniz, a technology company using computer vision and artificial intelligence to enhance security and safety that recently announced a $4 million seed financing round led by the Entrepreneurs' Fund
4. Influence the success of the people around you.
"It's easy to forget the 'why' behind your day. The one thing I always have top of my mind is that my success depends on how I help others become successful. It's a pretty simple concept, but in the heat of the moment it can quickly be forgotten. By taking a step back and focusing on the success of others, I believe that you'll find your greatest success."
--Austin Mac Nab, managing partner of VizyPay, a credit card processing company that has brought payments transparency to thousands of small businesses across the United States
5. Lead with empathy.
"I believe that empathy is the most important way to get to know what makes individuals tick and what is going on in their lives. Every week, I schedule multiple one-on-one meetings with individuals I don't normally work with, at all levels of the organization, so I have a real perspective of what motivates them. This gives me a more people-focused approach to help make executive decisions."
--Brad Schneider, co-founder of Rightpoint, a customer experience agency with technology at its core that works with more than 250 Fortune 1000 companies and has been named one of Crain's 50 Fastest-Growing Companies in Chicago for four consecutive years
6. Take time to meditate and connect to your breath first thing in the morning.
"What I know from personal experience in business and mindfulness is a simple truth: I must create room in my mind to be an effective leader. When I fail to generate that spacious awareness, the natural stream of thinking, amplified by the hyper-digital environment we live in, creates a wild, scattered, and ultimately less effective version of me. However, when I make time to do my meditation, I acquire a sense of spaciousness and go through the day with an alert awareness and a heightened presence that allows me to see more clearly through the incessant stream of situations, thinking, stimuli, and emotions coming my way. My effective decision-making, positive influence, and productivity dramatically increase."
--Ivo Grossi, CEO of SportsArt, a green fitness company whose Eco-Powr line of sustainable gym equipment captures human exertion and turns it into electricity; Eco-Powr has generated 1,962,093 watts of energy across the globe
7. Start the day with an agile and growth-focused mindset.
"Enter the day with as agile an agenda as possible and a growth mindset. The agile plan affords me the ability to apply my efforts to the most meaningful work of the day without the pressure of sticking to a prebuilt calendar. A growth mindset helps me process information from the market, my team, and myself so I can increase the odds of making the best decisions related to achieving our objectives."
--Jason Polstein, CEO of Rip-It, a sporting goods company creating and selling equipment and apparel made specifically for female softball players, and working with more than 250 softball teams from across the U.S.
8. Do the same thing every day.
"I drop my kids off at 8:15 a.m., sharp. I get to work at 8:30 a.m., sharp. Then, I don't sit down, stop working for lunch, or socialize until at least 2:30 p.m. In those six hours, I am 100 percent dialed in from my standing desk and get more done than most people do in a 16-hour day. I also wear nearly the same thing to work every day to avoid figuring it out (something I learned presidents and executives like Mark Zuckerberg do as well). I wear a black T-shirt, gray shorts, and red running shoes 98 percent of the time."
--Chris Smith, a USA Today best-selling author and the co-founder of Curaytor, a digital marketing and sales coaching company used by more than 800 businesses, booking annual revenue of more than $12 million, and ranked No. 303 on the 2017 Inc. 5000 and No. 9 among companies in both Boston and Orlando, where it's based
9. Schedule each day down to the minute.
"Each day I ensure every minute is accounted for. I plan my calendar a week in advance, and each evening I write out a full schedule of the next day from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., including items you don't think you spend much time on--getting dressed, your morning commute, your work schedule, and meetings you have. I schedule time for tasks that are non-appointments and of course schedule in family time with my daughter. As a busy executive, it's really tough to make time for everything, but we all have the same hours in a day. If we account--or try to account--for it in 15-minute increments, you'd be surprised by how many things you can get done."
--Suneera Madhani, founder and CEO of Fattmerchant, an integrated payment solution with omnichannel technology and a subscription-based pricing model that has received more than $18 million in funding to date and transacted more than $2 billion in processing
10. Keep your daily routine simple.
"While much has been written about the importance of daily routines--such as workouts, meditation, email boundaries, and more--I firmly believe the most meaningful daily habit you can have is a focus on simplicity. Try to break down your day into manageable pieces. Avoid distractions, and focus on uncluttering your decision-making process. By doing this, you create clarity, which paves the way toward your success."
--Joe Dzaluk, president and CEO of Special Olympics 2022 USA Games, a flagship event for Special Olympics North America featuring more than 4,000 athletes, 10,000 volunteers, and 125,000 fan athletes with intellectual disabilities
11. Focus on the most important thing first.
"The first thing I do when I get to the office early in the morning is dedicate at least 60 minutes to the most important task of the day. On top of getting a major task completed before the day even really starts, this practice is also a great way to start the day in a proactive mindset, rather than simply reacting to everything happening around me. I've found that by starting my day off with a win, and getting a major task crossed off my to-do list, I'm able to confidently give my full attention to unexpected issues that arise throughout the day."
--Brian Mech, president and CEO of eSight, the creators of electronic glasses that have restored or enhanced sight for thousands of individuals worldwide who are living with vision loss and legal blindness
12. Lead with precise focus and purpose.
"I'm a firm believer in leading with an authentic focus and purpose in everything I do, both personally and in business. With many distractions and temptations that test our strength and character as a leader, it's easy to get sidetracked on what's hot and trending in hopes of crushing it for the big win. Having lived through my own mistakes, I've grown fond of being comfortable in my own shoes and coming to realize what I'm really good at and equally passionate about. I personally make sure 80 percent of what we do aligns with our purpose and 20 percent is driven by innovation. I also socialize our focus and purpose with my team every day to ensure everyone is aligned and the train stays on track. It's the only way to drive innovation and get to the finish line."
--Roger Sholanki, founder and CEO of Book4Time, a cloud-based booking business management platform used by spa and wellness businesses in more than 70 countries
13. Start with the necessary evils.
"I always begin my morning with the hardest task I have on my plate--addressing client concerns, reviewing complex agreements, vendor negotiations. These necessary evils have to happen to allow our team's new ideas to grow and breathe in the long run. Tackling these tough chores first also allows me to better focus and frees me to have a more positive and productive day. In the morning, I take on the biggest challenge with a new perspective and an attentive (and freshly caffeinated) mind."
--Dasha Moore, founder and COO of Solodev, a web solutions and content management system company that works with thousands of clients globally and doubled annual revenue in two years by leveraging partnerships with cloud-hosting provider Amazon Web Service (AWS)
14. Serve your staff before you.
"I drop my ego at the door. I have found that empowering a team of talent means you must inspire them first with a servant leadership approach. Serving the needs of your team ahead of your own boosts their confidence in themselves and you as a leader, which will ultimately increase performance and productivity. This will also trickle up to your clients or customers. No matter someone's level on the totem pole, I always make a point of asking the opinion of each team member. Many times, the best feedback or direction we've received for a project has come from the administrative level. Additionally, I check in with my whole team every morning to ensure they have everything needed to run their day efficiently."
--Jacqueline Ball, lead creative director and digital strategist at Sozoe Creative, a full-service digital marketing agency specializing in design optimization that maintains a 100 percent client retention rate and is projected to grow by 400 percent in the next year
15. Schedule focus time.
"Every day, I schedule blocks of time specifically for individual focus and reflection--for both personal and professional reasons. No meetings. No emails. Only time to strategize, plan, read, and reflect. While this may seem like a straightforward and easy thing to do, I've learned that without putting time aside specifically for this purpose, it often gets pushed aside and never done. Juggling multiple projects and tasks becomes much easier when you begin each day with a clear direction."
--Dena Jalbert, founder of Align Business Advisory Services, a mergers-and-acquisitions firm specializing in the lower-middle market that has experienced 250 percent year-over-year revenue growth and has facilitated more than $1 billion in total M&A investment activity
16. Practice "early to bed, early to rise."
"The age-old adage rings true. I'm usually in bed by 9 p.m. and up by 5 a.m. the next day. The two hours I have to prepare for the day before the sun rises allow me to work while the rest of the world sleeps and get things done without any interruptions or external events. I take those two hours to enjoy my first cup of coffee, watch a half hour of news, read through Google News, respond to unanswered emails and Slack messages, and scroll through Twitter and LinkedIn to catch up on the latest news from the tech world."
--Jon Robinson, president of Lunar, a technology-based software as a service (SaaS) provider, Salesforce consulting partner, and Ticketmaster Nexus partner that has a 100 percent client retention rate and an average 10 out of 10 Salesforce Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) rating
17. Laugh constantly and relentlessly every day.
"Starting and growing a young company is hard work every single day, so one thing I make sure to do every day is to take the time to laugh--at myself, with others, and at the world at large. We are human, we screw up continuously, and it's hilarious. I'm talking constant, relentless, real-life humor--that's my favorite form of stress relief. I can tell you from experience that this one daily habit can brighten a day and improve your work and outlook on life."
--Alex Leyn, president and CEO of Aterica Digital Health, a consumer-focused company that develops health measurement, monitoring, and diagnostic products; based in Toronto, it broke into the U.S. market in 2018 with a smart Epipen case
18. Carve out time every night to reflect on what you've achieved.
"Schedule time to reflect on actual progress at the end of each day, and to define what progress should look like for the next day. It's very easy to get bogged down by the endless 'to-do' list, but this is the fastest way to get nowhere. An entrepreneur needs to maintain an awareness of the details, but retain a view to the big picture and long-lead strategic goals. I find that spending 20 minutes at around 11 p.m. every night understanding what the business has achieved (or failed to) each day enables me to maintain focus, and drive meaningful impact within the business each day, driving the collective team toward the big strategic end goals."
--Alon Tamir, founder and CEO of Studio Proper, a Melbourne-based product design studio that has doubled revenue over the past two years and is expanding into the U.S. market
19. Demonstrate physical discipline.
"Success and discipline go hand in hand. With that, discipline is in the everyday, right? It's the process, putting in the work, and never easy. I make room in my schedule to head to the gym to get some powerlifting in. I believe the saying goes, "Two hundred pounds is two hundred pounds." Some days, the weight really moves; other days it's just plain heavy. But, if you show up, you get stronger. There is immense carryover in having an external/physical discipline to achieving a strong internal/mental edge. Moving forward in all areas of life is sometimes disguised as a barbell. This change of pace holds clarity: time to think through solutions, develop new ideas, and recenter during a busy day."
--Jared Powell, CEO of Frontier Label, a printer of stickers and labels that has remained successful for 37 years, shipping to clients in 23 countries
20. Banish email from your morning.
"The key for kicking off a successful day for me starts by not starting with my email. You heard that right--not checking, reading, or replying to any email until 9 a.m. It's crazy how differently your day starts off when it's not dictated immediately by the demands in your inbox. It keeps my morning fresh and my head alert, and allows me to enjoy things like drinking coffee and reading, doing yoga, or just relaxing for an hour. Try it for a week and see how differently your days start off. Can't commit to that? Try giving yourself one full hour in the morning for quiet time. Your brain and your teams will be better for it!"
--Zach Holmquist, co-founder and chief of workplace experience at Teem, a productivity company recently acquired by WeWork that has recaptured 12,000 days' worth of time for its customers
21. Add time to recharge into your routine.
"Starting and growing a business is a lot like running a marathon. That's almost a cliché. But running is not just a metaphor for me. I'm not a marathoner, but running is part of my regular routine and how I manage the stress of entrepreneurship. When I'm out on the road, I don't think about work or how my business is performing. That's when I'm able to clear my head and recharge."
--Eyal Lifshitz, founder and CEO of BlueVine, which has financed more than $1 billion in working capital to 10,000 small businesses
22. Draft and answer emails on the spot.
"Most of my daily communication happens by email. As someone who loves writing, is detail oriented, and prizes clarity--especially in work-related matters--my natural inclination is to spend time thinking through emails that I draft or respond to. But if left unchecked, this can lead to wasted hours spent sifting through an inbox, or worse, leaving an email unanswered with the intention of getting back to it, only to forget about it for an unduly long time. But when you're growing a tech company, the pace is not one that affords the luxury of lengthy contemplation before communicating. Now, my default is to answer emails more or less as soon as I see them; I fire them off without too many frills, and in that way, I keep all my balls rolling instead of losing momentum."
--Dana Gibber, co-founder and COO of Headliner Labs, a chat marketing platform that opens chat platforms like Facebook Messenger as a key revenue channel for retail companies such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Cole Haan, Sally Beauty, and Kenneth Cole and many digitally native brands, including Carbon 38 and Ouai Haircare
23. Tap into your creative side.
"For about the past year, I have been spending time each day thinking about big-picture questions like 'What am I most excited about right now?' 'Do I feel fulfilled by my group of friends?' and 'Where do I get my drive?' Questions and answers to save in my piggy bank for when I need them. It has become a muscle I've been building. This has been one of the biggest unlockers for me over the past year."
--Ben Hindman, co-founder and CEO of Splash, provider of event marketing software that maximizes event impact and is used by Uber, Sundance Institute, Fortune 500 global corporations, and more than 250,000 event planners in its community
24. Start the day with meditation.
"Having and sticking to a morning routine has the ability to prime you for a productive day. Our entire team works remotely, and so it's extra important to stick to a morning routine and go through the motions to kick-start your day. This helps you separate your day in two, with time designated to work time and to personal time. When remote workers approach their desks straight from their beds, or worse, don't leave bed to start their workday, it can leave them feeling unmotivated. For me, I start the day at 5 a.m., and before sitting down to work, the most important part of my routine is to sit still for 10 minutes in quiet alertness. This calms my mind, keeps me relaxed, and ensures that I start the day in the most focused manner possible."
--Adam Trouncer, CEO of Athletic Greens, maker of an all-in-one whole-food-sourced supplement used and recommended by health and wellness experts and entrepreneurs such as Michael Gervais, Peter Diamandis, Tim Ferriss, and Joe De Sena, and used by tens of thousands of other people each morning