Coasting will never result in achieving great things. Rather, the most successful people you know are intentional about how they spend their time and attention. Want some ideas on how you can push yourself to the next level? Here's how two dozen executives do it.
1. Stop multi-tasking.
"By cleaning up clutter in real time--this includes emails, too--you free up valuable mental space and can untether yourself from tasks that are either not important or should be handled by someone else. Perhaps more importantly, draw a hard line between work and life, rather than multitasking 24/7. Allocate time for work, and time for other activities that enrich your life. When it's time for work, work efficiently and intensely. When it's time for life, give your friends, family and activities that same presence."
--Dr. Shu Li, chairman of laboratory for Advanced Medicine, recipient of six U.S. and international patents for various therapeutic inventions and co-author of three books on regenerative medicine
2. Organize and delegate.
"Operating a startup in the California Bay Area while simultaneously raising two toddlers, is probably the most challenging job on the planet. As both are a huge priority in my life, organization and delegation are the two concepts that allow me to excel in both entities. Most startup founders don't understand how important and life-changing these simple concepts can be, especially when done right. It's unnatural, particularly in a startup environment, to trust others with your high-priority items but building trust and letting your team take on specific tasks can free your mind to focus on what is most important to you."
--Aman Sareen, cofounder and CEO of ZypMedia, operating in in 230 U.S. markets and enabling 2,900 sellers to offer audience-extension advertising solutions in the $150 billion local advertising market
3. Shut off email.
"Many executives forget there's no such thing as multi-tasking, and it hinders their productivity. When 'multitasking' the brain merely jumps back and forth from task to task at a pace that may feel like multitasking, but isn't. The main medium that divides attention and reduces leaders to ineffective, multitasking cognition is email. I shut off my access to email for at least two hours every day, sometimes more when I have many big decisions on my plate that require me to think deeply about one thing for a long duration of time. Answering emails gives us a quick rush of dopamine to the brain, but it prevents us from falling into deep think and achieving what psychologists call 'flow,' the intrinsic state of enjoyment that comes from focusing intensely on one thing over a long period of time. Shutting off my email intermittently not only makes me a more effective problem solver, it also makes my work more enjoyable."
--Scott Cramer, president of Go Solar Group, a multi-market solar company in the Western United States, which has leveraged the non-profit entity of its company to provide more than 4 million hours of clean reading light for children in Ugandan villages via micro-financed solar solutions
4. Always take face-to-face meetings.
"For many years, I took calls and meetings with nearly everyone who reached out to me for a coffee. I met international CEOs traveling through Silicon Valley, who wanted to see the startup from the inside, to grad school students who were looking to find their way. My professional and personal network have both grown due to my willingness to take a chance on people. You never know what resources and contacts you'll need in the future, so broaden your network and have a good time getting to know the people interested in your profession."
--Assaf Wand, cofounder and CEO of Insurtech company Hippo which currently provides insurance to homeowners in 10 states and will be available to more than 60 percent of U.S. homeowners by the end of 2018
5. Keep in touch.
"We have all met literally thousands and thousands of people in our lives, and certainly dozens and dozens of these individuals have had a meaningful impact on us. We tend to significantly underestimate the value of those relationships, and the missed opportunities of not keeping in touch. I go out of my way to check in with former business associates, whether calling them on their birthdays, or reaching out to get together when I travel to their hometowns, or making an introduction to another person in my world with whom they have something in common. The line between professional and personal friendships is thin, if not indistinguishable..."
--Jonathan Kempner, president emeritus of TIGER 21, a peer membership organization for high-net-worth wealth individuals with more than 600 members in 50 Groups in North America and Europe
6. Play hard to work harder.
"Make time to unplug from the issues of the workplace by unleashing your inner competitor and tackling a fun challenge. For me, that's our family's die-hard fantasy football league, where my nephews and I have a friendly competition that allows me to temporarily focus my mind on something outside the walls of the office. It's like ringing out a washcloth--when I return to work, my mind is clear and I think more strategically."
--Richard Brand, CFO of Laboratory for Advanced Medicine, which recently commercialized a patient blood test for the early detection and monitoring of cancer, using AI and machine learning based on the study of more than 40,000 patient samples
7. Be your authentic self and always set clear expectations.
"I like to stay true to who I am as a person in the boardroom. This not only makes you honest, transparent, and trustworthy, but it also allows someone to get to know you on a deeper level beyond numbers on a paper. It's in these unique relationships when the best deals happen. Finally, always remember to set clear expectations and share the bigger picture. We all work as a team to move the business forward but there are times certain departments can feel siloed in regards to the overall company goals. It's great to share the company's vision with the entire team so everyone understands that their collective efforts can yield incredible results."
--Adrian Dubler, CEO of Foap, a visual content platform that connects brands and marketers with its global community of nearly 3 million content creators to generate exclusive, authentic visual content to increase campaign engagement and ROI
8. Make decisions based on how it will evolve your family.
"My dad had a conversation with me when I was in my early teens that has fueled my motivation and ambition throughout my entire career. He told me, 'The only thing that matters is the evolution of the family. If you are able to move our family forward by giving your kids more opportunities than you have been given, then you are a success.' This conversation has not only followed me, but has influenced almost every decision I make. I ask myself every day, how doing this or that will help move my family and the families of those that work at [our company] forward."
--Andre Swanston, cofounder and CEO Tru Optik, an audience intelligence and data-management platform across over-the-top (OTT) and connected TV (CTV) with an OTT Data Marketplace mapped to over 75 million homes in the U.S.
9. Get eight hours of sleep a night.
"As much as we like to brag about the all-nighters and the times we burned the midnight oil to get an important product release out back in our early startup days, that pace simply isn't sustainable. Not only you burn out faster, but work that gets done when you're sleep deprived usually has a lot of mistakes that need to be redone later on. In the worst cases, bad business decisions that can't be undone get made when your brain doesn't function properly. I remember accidentally destroying our entire user database back in our early startup days because I was so sleep deprived. I spent the next two days rebuilding and fixing our database while customer support complaints were piling up. Since that experience, I always make it point now to at least get eight hours of sleep every night. When I travel, I do my best to avoid red-eyes. I would rather work on the plane than sleep. The time saved by overnight flights is useless if you're exhausted the next day."
--Derek Ting, CEO of TextNow, a freemium wireless service using cloud-based technology and serving millions of users
10. Learn how to quickly forget.
"[N]ot every day or circumstance is going to work in your favor, but how you choose to deal with it makes all of the difference. Dwelling or putting too much emphasis on any negative action will halt any positive momentum you could be gaining towards accomplishing your goals. Instead, try channeling your inner great athlete by not allowing the last missed shot or bad play to define the rest of the game. Equally, your productivity does not care about your most recent success, so dodge any contentment by keeping a clear mind and focus on making the next move count. This self-discipline will help generate more consistent energy to get you further and faster in your journey."
--Dustin Ray, who leads business development and growth initiatives at Incfile, a national incorporation service company which has assisted in the formation of more than 150,000 corporations and LLCs since 2004
11. Assess, address and move on.
"Even the most well-planned missions will have speed bumps, but in the Navy, you especially train to adapt in the face of adversity in all environments. The biggest lesson I've learned while serving my time in the Navy is to never quit or make excuses as to why something isn't successful. Instead, quickly assess your situation, address the problem and move on your newly successful path. Even when things are running smoothly, there are always ways that processes can be improved--which is why you constantly learn and adapt."
--Christian Lachel, a fourth-generation veteran of the U.S. Navy and executive creative director and VP at BRC Imagination Arts, an experience design and production agency serving brands and destinations including Jameson Distillery Bow St., The Ford Rouge Factory Tour, The Guinness Storehouse, The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and the World of Coca-Cola
"I start my workday with a 10-minute morning meditation--a silent sit--as a way to ground myself and prepare for the day ahead. The silence provides me with a clear perspective and helps me to better prepare for the many challenges I'll no doubt face during the day."
--Mark Frohnmayer, president and founder of Arcimoto, makers of a FUV (fun utility vehicle) electric vehicle that has been pre-ordered by more than 2,800 customers, representing $42 million in anticipated revenue
13. Develop relationships in person.
"Face time still matters. And I'm not talking about FaceTime via iPhone. Real in-person face time, and real relationships, matter, especially at the CEO level and especially in the digital age. Making the effort, despite the travel grind and busy daily schedules, to develop relationships through in-person meetings with key parties in your company's ecosystem really matters."
--Shawn Singh, CEO of VistaGen Therapeutics, a clinical-stage biopharma company developing new-generation medicines for depression and other CNS diseases and disorders currently collaborating with the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, part of the NIH, in a NIH-sponsored Phase 2 study
14. Provide absolution for employees going down the wrong path.
"Any successful company--whether it's a startup, medium-sized company or large corporation--is built by people who care and are laser-focused on results. Sometimes, though, if a change in direction is needed, these individuals end up going so far down a path that it's hard for them to self-correct. They are unable to simply stop doing what they thought they should do initially and refocus their energy in a new way. As a leader, to ensure that employees succeed, providing absolution is key to helping them switch gears. This means acceptance, forgiveness and support--and relieving them of any guilt or burden that they may be carrying as a high-achiever. This helps employees to clear their conscience so that they can freely move forward in the right direction for their company. Top employees often beat themselves up or worry that they're coming up short of perfection in the eyes of management. Good leaders provide absolution to empower these employees to propel ahead, get out of their own way and excel in business as a result."
--Melissa Burstein, cofounder and executive VP of Ra Medical Systems, which was started in 2002 to design, develop and commercialize excimer lasers for the treatment of dermatologic and cardiovascular diseases which filed an S-1 in July 2018
15. Incorporate stretching into your workday routine.
"Last year I started exercising and stretching regularly. Beyond my time in the gym three to four times a week, I also keep exercise equipment in the office to build regular workouts into my workday. If I have my headset on for calls, I'm using my flexband or weights. If I am on a video call, I can still use a lacrosse ball to stretch out my leg muscles. I've noticed these exercises throughout the day provide me with much needed energy, especially that after-lunch crash. I also find that I've been doing some of my best thinking when I'm moving. Prior to a regular exercise program, I used to think I didn't have time, but now I realize that exercise gives me more time. Not only can it fit right into my schedule but one hour of exercising gives me up to three additional hours of energy. It's the best time management ROI I've ever found."
--Chris Husong, director of sales and marketing of Elixinol, one of the largest distributors of hemp oil worldwide retailing in 40 countries with roughly 110 percent year-over-year revenue growth in the past year
16. Respond to every email.
"During the day, I can receive hundreds of emails, and I respond to every single one of them. Most times, I respond to an email out of courtesy and to foster relationships with the people reaching out to me. Most emails present me with new possibilities, and if I get into the habit of skimming or skipping emails, I may miss a great opportunity. It may take extra time, but when I answer every email, I actually have to read the message. Not every email is going to be a fit, but you never know where that individual ends up next. What starts as a few cold emails back and forth could lead to a career-long working partnership."
--David Yu, cofounder and CEO of ECOMI, a blockchain company with roughly $2 million in funding and one-dozen name-brand partners
17. Categorize your work into priorities.
"From meetings with brand executives to full-day productions, I never know how my week will fall into place until the days before, so it's impossible to create a routine where I check my emails while drinking my morning green juice. Some mornings I'm lucky to glance at my phone to check the time, let alone answer emails. Rather than getting upset every time my routine is thrown off, I categorize all my work into four main priorities and fill them with blocks in my schedule around larger meetings and events. If I only have an hour of time at my computer in the day, I'll pick signing and sending contracts over campaign planning. By treating my schedule as an ever-changing puzzle, I can still stay organized without getting derailed when a last-minute studio session with a client falls in the middle of my afternoon."
--Libby Biason, founder and CEO of ent! Marketing, a modern marketing agency connecting multi-million dollar brands including Samsung, Visa and YouTube with their audiences through entertainment and music-focused campaigns
18. Squeeze value out of your commute.
"I will always pick a podcast or an end-of-day news-recap over music during my morning and evening commutes. When I am driving in the car, I have a leadership or business podcast playing. If I am on the subway, I'll be reading the latest news headlines. I don't often get time to read the news or listen to podcasts for pleasure, but by doubling up my idle time, I can still enjoy leadership talks without cutting into business hours. As an entrepreneur, I think it's important to stay up-to-date on industry developments and world news, but it can be difficult to fit it into my already packed schedule. Therefore, my daily travel time is my time to listen, absorb and process new and diverse information. The commutes are also more bearable when there's something to think about."
--Jomari Peterson, founder and CEO of The Digital Reserve Network, a responsive monetary system closing the gap in unmet financing through a crypto-economic design operating in 74 countries and partnering with over a dozen human rights organizations worldwide
19. Start the day with yoga.
"As a female entrepreneur, I understand how busy and stressful running a company can be. That's why I start my day doing yoga, it centers me and allows my creative juices to flow. Then I check emails and catch up on industry news, all while seeing my children which is challenging with six of them. Once my day begins, it's non-stop go... phone calls, meetings, and travel. I try to touch base with my employees to make sure everyone is on the same page and make any adjustments to help make the company culture as friendly and inviting as possible. I work hard every day; my motto has always been 'Losing is not an option.' I believe in perseverance and checking my ego at the door and this has always worked for me."
--Elizabeth Stavola, president of MPX Bioceutical Corp., a vertically integrated holding company in the cannabis industry, with an expanding footprint in Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada and Arizona
20. Embolden your leadership.
"One of the early lessons I learned in the Navy was the importance of empowering leaders to make their decisions without feeling the need to check with headquarters. We live in a dynamic and changing world, and I've made it a habit to empower leaders in my organization to act quickly and do the right thing to support our members. Members appreciate this approach, and our employees do as well."
--Cutler Dawson, president and CEO of Navy Federal Credit Union, which has more than 8 million members
21. Focus on attitudes, not experience.
"I have a habit of when hiring, promoting, and building teams, focusing on attitude and aptitude over experience. People who are smart and motivated are far more effective and impactful than someone who has been doing the same job for 10 years and is complacent. This approach is a win all around--for the company, the team and the employee."
--Dan Goldsmith, president of Instructure, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) technology company that has connected millions of instructors and learners at more than 4,000 educational institutions and corporations globally
22. Plan your day with specific action steps.
"Plans can help bridge that gap between goals and achievement. And without plans, your goals are really just dreams. Make a plan for your day that includes specific action steps towards your goals. These need not be big steps; your brain will reward you with a dopamine boost for small successes, too. With enough doable steps, you can create a virtuous cycle that ensures you have a steady supply of motivational fuel to reach your goals."
--John Assaraf, CEO of NeuroGym who was featured in the movie "The Secret," and is author of two New York Times best-selling books as well as author of the new book "Innercise: The New Science to Unlock Your Brain's Hidden Power"
23. Dial into a conference call dubbed "The 5AM Club."
"I've always been a morning person and just recently, my wife introduced me to the 5AM Club... Since I already rise at 4:30 each morning to hit the gym and get ready for my day with exercise, the 5AM Club became the perfect fit for me. The 5AM Club is designed to reach out to hundreds of ambitious business-minded people. The call takes only five minutes with over 1,600 high-achievers and entrepreneurs dialing in. The level of inspiration the call provides is unparalleled and can be used in every type of business and even in your personal life. The call allows you to re-focus your everyday routines and stay on course to achieve daily and future goals whether it be personal or business oriented. By taking part in the 5AM Club you are making a commitment to yourself by waking up every morning at 4:45 to achieve greatness in your life and in your business. The call provides inspiration, wisdom, discipline and a desire to stay committed to your goals."
--Kevin Newman, CEO and founding partner of Newman Garrison + Partners, a Southern California-based architecture firm that has been recognized with over 90 industry awards in the past 18 years
24. Be uncomfortable being comfortable.
"If you're uncomfortable it means you're either doing something you're not great at or you've never done before. This is crucial for growth and success. You can't accomplish or achieve anything new if you're consistently doing the same things you've always done. If you want something new, you'll need to do something new, and that could feel temporarily uncomfortable. Become comfortable with being uncomfortable, and vice versa, because the lack of progress, achievements, and accomplishments should be what really drives us crazy."
--Harrison Rogers, founder and CEO of HJR Global, a platform helping businesses achieve strategic growth, which has doubled in revenue every year for the past four years