The most successful executives and entrepreneurs you can think of likely didn't get where they are by chance. Typically, achieving great things involves hard work and perseverance, as well as a supportive network of friends and family. But another ingredient typically goes into the mix: discipline. Take it from these executives who share the daily habits that boosted them to the top and help them stay there.
1. Get to the point.
"We are living in a world where everyone is consuming bite-size messages. Long-winded emails either do not need all the details to get the point across, or are not read because the recipient simply doesn't have the time to digest the long message. If the email is getting to be longer than four to five sentences, consider a different medium."
--Wayne Baker, chief commercial officer of clinical payment solutions provider Greenphire
2. Read fiction.
"Most of your job as a founder or executive involves storytelling, and the best storytellers in the world are the ones who get paid to do it. A good book of fiction sparks the imagination, builds empathy, and can even help bridge creative solutions for problems at work. Reading fiction also gives you perspective that you lose sometimes when you're lost in the day-to-day minutiae. And besides, most business-focused books are terrible anyway."
--Kiran Bhatraju, founder and CEO of Arcadia Power, a renewable energy company
3. Practice Zumba.
"Zumba helps me succeed in life for two reasons: It reduces stress and keeps me happy. As CEO, I'm often working long hours or making late-night calls, but by practicing Zumba throughout the day, I have enough energy to keep me going late into the night. Zumba also helps motivate me to reach my goals and reaffirms that there is no target I cannot reach as long as I set my mind to it."
--Sarah Lahav, CEO of SysAid Technologies, a provider of help desk IT service management solutions
4. Request the opinions of others.
"It's easy to dismiss others' opinions on collaborative materials when you are the executive with the final say. However, I make it a point to seek the opinions of others on a daily basis. Listening to the opinions of others with different perspectives and life experiences, especially ones you disagree with, expands your thought process on the topic and can lead to ideas and designs you may not have previously considered. In the end, I make a decision and continue on, taking all decisions and their outcomes as a learning experience."
--Dotan Bar Noy, cybersecurity expert and CEO of ReSec Technologies
5. Play an instrument.
"Prior to launching my company, I was a professional drummer signed to Polydor/Universal; drumming is something that I continue to do regularly even though I've moved into digital advertising. At the end of the workday, I do my best to go to a private music studio near Times Square to play for a little. Drums are a technical instrument, so my mind has to be in the moment I'm playing. It helps me practice mindfulness the same way that others might meditate."
--Dominic Joseph, CEO of search intelligence company Captify, which has offices in New York, London, Paris, Hamburg, and Kiev
6. Make time for family.
"Every night when I come home from work, I shut off my phone and have family time for at least two hours. When my kids go to sleep, that's when I pull my computer back out and focus on work. Creating this separation is very important, and often easier said than done."
--Matt Murphy, co-founder of Chime, a lead generation and CRM solution for real estate professionals
7. Read history.
"It's a conscious way to slow down, reflect on the big picture, and learn about how decisions are made in the real world. It's also a way to stay personally inspired. Human history is full of individuals who transformed the world through little more than grit and imagination. That's a great regular reminder for anyone trying to do the same."
--Connor Wilson, co-founder and COO of Thursday Boot Company, a premium men's and women's boots and accessories brand
8. Make your bed.
"This could be a metaphor--to leave things in pristine condition when you walk away from them--but I mean literally: Make your bed. You start the day feeling productive, and you end the day enjoying the rewards of keeping to your commitments. Your spouse--and/or dog--will sing your praises [for being a] master of commitment [and] keeper of the house."
--Jonathan Regev, CEO of subscription-based healthy pet food company the Farmer's Dog
9. Make someone laugh.
"With a brand like Man Crates, it's not hard to see how laughter, comedy, and fun fit into our business model of selling tastefully irreverent, lightheartedly sincere gifts for men. I've long realized that humor is a remarkably powerful tool to bridge divides, tear down walls, communicate heartfelt emotions, and ultimately keep our customers connected to the people they care about. In an office setting, I've seen laughter help teams coalesce more quickly, keep work engaging and entertaining, and help co-workers build bonds in exactly the way that most corporate team building exercises tend to fail. Since we spend most of our lives at work, I think we might as well smile, laugh, and enjoy the ride along the way."
--Jon Beekman, founder and CEO of men's gifting company Man Crates
10. Make a to-do list.
"In the mornings, I sit down while drinking coffee and write out the top three to five tasks that need to be accomplished for the day. That keeps me focused on the key objectives that need to be done and limits distractions that might occur. In the evenings, I go for a three- to five-mile run to think about the day and get away from the computer."
--Janis Krums, Opportunityco-founder of lead generation tool
11. Prioritize "mommy time."
"I make time every day to play with my 20-month-old daughter. As an older mom, many of my peers have grown kids. They tell me that what they regret most is missing the small moments as their kids were growing up. Career matters, but family has to come first. I've found that the key is to prioritize the time between work and bed, and make it fun. We have dinner as a family, and then play until bedtime. It's not always easy, because the emails and projects are waiting, but I catch those up after 8 p.m. That little bit of play time is a great stress reliever for me, and my daughter loves the routine. Her favorite word is happy!"
--Christina Russell, president of the pet care franchise Camp Bow Wow
12. Practice chameleon-like flexibility.
"The most successful people are the most flexible. Unfortunately, leaders regularly impose their personality style on others rather than adapt to the needs of their people. One place this is particularly noticeable is when leaders provide feedback. Practice flexibility by considering the needs of the person you are speaking to and give the person feedback in his or her style, not yours. For detail-oriented people (Owls), provide specifics. For result-oriented people (Eagles), focus on bottom-line impact. For social people (Parrots), be enthusiastic. And for soft-spoken, harmonious people (Doves), convey sincerity. Be the Chameleon!"
"I have been meditating daily since 1975. No matter what position you have in a company, stress can build up over the course of a workday. I find a few minutes of quiet meditation once or twice a day focuses my thoughts and improves my concentration. This allows me to address whatever comes up with a fresh perspective."
--Doug Waggoner, chairman of the board of directors and CEO at Echo Global Logistics
14. Open up with employees.
"I like to spend time with my team. Every day, I take a few minutes to catch up with them on their lives outside of TrialScope. This simple activity helps to build relationships, trust, and loyalty, but it also gives me insight into where my team members' heads and hearts are on any given day."
--Mike Forgash, CEO of TrialScope, provider of clinical trial transparency and compliance solutions
15. Help the people around you succeed.
"I put my team's needs before mine. By giving people the freedom and resources to do what they need to do, and by creating an environment where they can succeed, we all get to a better place as an organization."
--Dwight deVera, president and CEO of Forerunner Group, provider of RXTransparent, an end-to-end drug supply chain compliance solution for the health care industry
16. Don't trap yourself on an island.
"No matter what your role is, being too proud to dig in and ask tough questions can lead to trouble. What's worse than asking too many questions? Not asking enough before making an uninformed decision."
--Frank Morgiewicz, CEO of ArrowStream, which combines expertise in data science and analytics to improve the way supply chains perform
17. Protect your time for your priorities.
"I block off time on my calendar daily for both personal and business matters. When something tries to get scheduled during that time, I decline with empathy, explaining I already have something scheduled during that time. This habit not only helped me prioritize what were truly priorities, it also made sure I treated them as such by making sure I allocated time for them."
--Matthew H.J. Kim, founder and CEO of Vigilant Biosciences, a developer of solutions that aid in the early detection and intervention of cancer
18. Draw for inspiration.
"Having been a freelance cartoonist for many years, I doodle every day, especially during business meetings. It may seem counterintuitive to be multitasking during a business meeting, but I find it de-stresses me and helps me tap into some much-needed creativity. Thankfully, our partners and customers don't seem to find it rude. In fact, at the end of the meeting they often ask me to see the final work of art."
--Steven LeBoeuf, president and Valencellco-founder of performance biometric data sensor technology company
"I start each day with a few minutes of meditation. It's a great way to start a day with a positive outlook on life and it only takes three minutes."
--Elizabeth "Bizzy" Chance, founder of Busy Living Sober, a nonprofit dedicated to educating youth, teens, adults, and families on the topics of addiction, recovery, and clean, healthy living
20. Practice hot yoga five times per week.
"[It] gives me both the time and the space to think, while also providing a great physical workout. Spending 60 to 90 minutes in a 105-degree room removes me from the stresses of my day-to-day and allows me to simply focus. [It's] my way of staying sane and fit."
--Michael Hansen, CEO of Cengage, an education and technology company
21. When stuck, get out of the office.
"When the team gets stumped on an idea, I push them to leave the office to recharge and seek inspiration from our stakeholder ecosystem to help them get out of their own way. They often hear me say, 'The answer is not inside these four walls.' Inevitably, the team come back with more energy than when they left and our planning sessions are more productive, because they've had a chance to step outside their work zone and get into the marketplace by talking with patients, caregivers, and payers."
--Mark Carbeau, CEO of Interleukin Genetics, a life science company focused on the genetics of chronic inflammation
22. Stay connected to as many people as possible in meaningful ways.
"At home, with brutal work schedules, I try to stay connected to my wife and all the kids by asking them [to tell me] something good and something crappy about their day. I also ask the kids to tell me one thing interesting about their homework. I still can't believe how much I learn from that across every middle and high school subject. At work, it's as simple as making sure you ask a person you don't usually interact with what they are working on, and what's challenging them from getting even better results. Staying connected is critical to maintain your pulse on the family and the business."
--Monte Zweben, co-founder and CEO of Splice Machine, which has built an open-source relational database management system
23. Be positive first.
"It can be easy to be critical. Compliment and provide positive feedback to your team and others you work with whenever you have the opportunity to do so. It keeps motivation and morale high and can make it easier when there are challenges or areas for improvement to discuss."
--Sue Greenphire, provider of clinical payment solutionsVestri, CFO of
24. Use your product daily.
"There are great rituals that leaders use like daily exercise (check!), reading overnight reports (check!), and keeping a notepad next to you at all times (meh). The most important habit for me as a CEO is to use our product daily. It gives me a solid understanding of where the product and brand are at and reminds me to keep focused on the most important thing: the consumer. After all, if we don't use our own products and believe in them, how are we able to evangelize them?"
--Elliott Grant, CEO of the nutrition app ShopWell
25. Make time for face-to-face communication with each employee.
"Most employees hold on to a question or concern because they don't think it's that important to bring up. Validating that their concerns are very important no matter how big or small truly can make or break a solid team. So much is gained in that person's work ethic, motivation, and desire to do their best at their job. There's nothing like real human one-on-one communication, especially in this world of texts, emails, DMs, and iMessaging."
--Darice Smolenski, president of licensed medical marijuana dispensary the Reserve