Highly successful people don't rise to the top by behaving like everyone else. They understand that achieving great things means getting more done, taking excellent care of their bodies and thinking in ways which promote greatness. Here are the daily habits more than two dozen executives say helped them get where they are today.
1. Write everything down.
"I've found it's really helpful just to write everything down. It lets you collect fun or creative ideas you have for later to revisit them at a later time. Even if a lot of the things you are writing down at the time don't seem like good ideas, they may be a good inspiration or relevant later at a different time or context. Here quantity can lead to quality. If you are always writing down the ideas, some of them will turn out good."
--Jeremy Keeshin, cofounder and CEO of CodeHS, an online platform to teach computer science in high schools and middle schools used by hundreds of thousands of students
2. Leverage worry and fear.
"Worry is interest paid on trouble before it is due. I'm a believer that harnessing fear by developing a strong backbone--not wishbone--is a key to success every day. Successful people don't wish for success, they work at success in spite of their fears. Stay mentally and spiritually strong in the face of adversity in difficult and painful circumstances by replacing worry and fear with determination."
--Miron Lulic, founder and CEO of SuperMoney, a financial services comparison platform which has recently surpassed half a billion dollars in loan inquiries in less than one year since launching
3. Increase your energy level.
"There was a period in the early days of Tophatter when we were going through a tricky period and many questioned whether we'd survive. One of our early investors told us the primary factor of whether we'd make it through this was simply our level of energy. Pursuing a big mission and navigating business challenges is largely about how you manage your energy."
--Ashvin Kumar, cofounder and CEO of Tophatter, a mobile shopping marketplace which sells more than 3 million items a month and generated $320 million of gross merchandise volume in 2017
4. Put first things first.
"The startup life is a grind. It can easily consume you if you let it. Lots of startups make the mistake of establishing a culture of working day and night. In the interim, their families are neglected, their health deteriorates, and tragically they fail in the end anyways. This isn't a sprint, it is a marathon. So train your mind, body and spirt for the long haul and help your team to do the same. Spend less time at work and more time with your family. Spend less time worried about getting one more hour in the office and focus on your fitness and your health. Delete Slack from your phone and completely unplug when you leave the office. Allow yourself to be physically, mentally and spiritually rejuvenated each day to bring your best and greatest joy to your work and to your team. When you put first things first, you empower yourself and your team to enjoy every day of this beautiful journey and achieve heights that can't be reached by neglecting what is important in life."
--Adam Metcalf, cofounder of ZeeMee, an app that partners with over 200 colleges and universities allowing students to share their unique stories in the admissions process via video and connect in community before arriving on campus
5. Take inventory of routine tasks that can be outsourced to others.
"I'm constantly asking myself if what I'm doing or what's on my calendar is the highest and best use of my time and talent. If not, I look to delegate that task to a trusted member of our team. This allows me to use my time more effectively, but also saves my mental energy for the big problems we're trying to solve. "
--Nick Murphy, former NFL player, founder of Mid-America Careers and host of The Job Lab Podcast on iTunes
6. Define success for the day each morning.
"First thing in the morning, decide what you need to do to consider that day a success. Setting that expectation, with yourself and with your team, ensures everyone is clear on what is a priority, and helps to track progress and maintain accountability. Better yet, in a world of never-ending to-do lists it provides a yardstick of when to consider the day done and go home."
--John Frerichs, CFO of WePay which works with more than 1,000 platforms including Constant Contact, GoFundMe, and Meetup to incorporate payments
7. Practice mindfulness.
"I believe mindfulness is the single most important habit to cultivate if you want to be truly successful. And the good news is: it's fundamentally very simple... You just have to stay aware, stay present, and observe the various situations that come into your life. When you give people and circumstances your full attention, you can really hear, interpret, understand, and learn from them. You will start to realize that all of the information you need will come to you in the right timing. Mindfulness will help you to embrace the changes that occur, and detach from clinging to any particular results. Ultimately "success" comes and goes, like everything else in life. But if you choose to embrace and be content with each and every moment, that, in and of itself is an accomplishment that should make you feel more connected, and therefore more able to be truly successful."
--Shannon O'Brien, ranked number one career coach and number one life coach in Boston on Yelp and founder of Whole U, a career and life strategy consultancy she started after seven years working and studying at Harvard and MIT
8. Make adjusting part of your day.
"Act with intention and constantly adjust: staying focused on daily goals is a challenge, particularly when you're leading multiple departments. A plethora of daily distractions can threaten a day's work if you're not careful. I find myself constantly evaluating current tasks and adjusting if too many inconsequential things are distracting me from larger priorities. If they are, I course correct. It only takes a moment to reset intentions, but it allows me to stay focused on what matters."
--Amy Zimmerman, head of people for Kabbage, a global financial services, technology and data platform serving small businesses which has raised more than $1.6 billion in funding and lent out $4 billion overall
9. Take a nap.
"I admit it, I have been a closet napper for years. I have pretended and lied... but no more. Backed by research proving that napping is actually a way to significantly improve mental performance, I am proudly coming out to proclaim that yes, I am a napper. I believe it is essential to increase professional productivity and quality time with family. Everyone should take a short nap when safe to do so. It's amazing."
--Mike Lowe, founder and CEO of Kidoodle, an award-winning video platform for kids, featuring quality TV shows and movies within a safe viewing environment that has received over $10 million in financing and closed major licensing deals
10. Learn from your mistakes but don't wallow in them.
"Entrepreneurship is a long arc that transcends any one project or company. Strategic missteps and tactical errors are a part of growth and leadership and can often provide the most powerful insights and correction for future success. It's important to lean from your mistakes. It's also important to not get stuck by them. When something doesn't work, do a quick post-mortem, decide what you would do differently, and move on. Each morning, contemplate the next positive step you're going to make, not what didn't work in the past."
--Daniel Putterman, cofounder, co-CEO, and head of business for Kogniz, Inc. which recently released AICam, fully-autonomous surveillance cameras with artificial intelligence that identify people and threats in real-time, using video-based facial recognition and object detection; also having founded and run venture-backed technology companies over the last 20 years including MaxInfo, Inc. (acquired by NETM), EoExchange (S-1), Mediabolic, Inc. (acquired by ROVI), and Cloud Engines, Inc.
11. Wake up every day excited for the unknowns.
"We tend to plan our day and when unexpected things arise they can create chaos or panic. I like to wake up each day knowing the checklist of things that I need to do while still being excited for the unexpected things that couldn't be planned. On most days, the unexpected are usually the most entertaining."
--Stormy Simon, former CEO of Overstock.com, e-commerce and cannabis expert, advisory board member for KIND and CannaKids
12. Identify your brand pillars.
"Sharing your passion helps people buy into your mission, whether it's helping employees understand the greater purpose, inviting customers to feel like they are part of a movement, or explaining why you are always working to your understanding family. Identify your brand pillars and infuse them in everything you do. Allow them to become your compass, guiding every business decision and brand message, keeping you on course."
--Melissa Papock, melanoma survivor and cofounder of national UV safe apparel brand Cabana Life which has partnered with Stand Up To Cancer and Melanoma Research Alliance to raise funds to help further skin cancer research, education and prevention
13. Find the good.
"We value family dinners, and every night, share three good things with one another, going around the table and explaining three good things that happened to each of us throughout the day. It is so easy to lose sight of the good in every day. We aim to instill in our children the importance of seeing the light, being positive, and paying it forward."
--Ash Eldifrawi, chief marketing and customer experience officer at Redbox, a kiosk and online-based movie and games rental hub
14. Hire smart.
"Hire for personality, not skills. You can train someone to do the job. You can't train someone to be smart, personable or energetic. Find people with solid foundations that you can build on. In addition, always be on the offense. It's easy to think you've won and to stop pushing, but the moment you do so, you've already started to lose. Stay excited. Stay aggressive."
--Eric Lupton, president of Life Saver Pool Fence Systems, the largest pool fence company in the United States
15. Always be a student.
"As a cofounder and company leader, I'm always trying to stay-up-to-date on industry developments and advancements. In order to be an expert in my industry, I need to constantly be learning. I spend a minimum of 30 minutes every morning reading on new technologies and industry trends and predictions in my field. My morning reading is like a mental gym for me. Not only does it sharpen my knowledge base, but it also allows me to think of the possibilities for my own company, which puts me in the mindset to conquer my day."
--Dr Anshul Vikram Pandey, a 2018 Forbes "30 Under 30" winner for enterprise technology and the co-founder and CTO of Accern, a predictive-analytics start-up that has experienced 1,000 percent year over year growth since its inception in 2014 with clients including Credit Suisse and IBM
16. Leave spaces on your to-do list.
"My to-do list is a staple of my day, and every day. I leave space on my list for unanticipated tasks. As a creative director, I wear many hats and need to transition from one responsibility to another at a moment's notice and my to-do lists help me keep track of everything. By leaving blank spaces in my to-do list, I'm already making time for the unexpected tasks, which prevents frustrations later on in the day. I'd be flooded with anxiety if I didn't have both structure and flexibility day-to-day. My to-do lists break down my goals into manageable tasks, and there is nothing better than the feeling after you cross off everything on your list, especially after it has grown throughout the day."
--Rodrigo Lizaragga, creative director of the New Society for Wellness (NSFW), an influencer agency for vice-category brands which has seen monthly revenue grow over 400 percent
17. Don't take yourself too seriously.
"Oftentimes, executives--and employees at all levels--are afraid to make mistakes, but that could be the biggest mistake of all. Taking calculated risk and trying new things can lead to innovation."
--Cyrus Claffey, cofounder and CEO of ButterflyMX, a smart intercom and building entry platform which has facilitated over four million door release transactions in multi-tenant properties across the United States and is present in more than 105,000 units nationwide
18. Turn no into yes.
"I turn no into yes by writing down a bulleted list of reasons why the person may have said no and then I come up with specific solutions to each of their issues. If I can't find a true solution, I try to find a sufficient work-around. Then I roleplay the conversation with a team member so my responses are fluid, concise and well thought out for our next conversation."
--Tal Rubinstein, cofounder and CEO of SHUPPERZ, a peer-to-peer platform that allows global consumers to enlist talented local shoppers to shop for them in-store which raised $3 million in investment capital in 48 hours and in two months of initial testing has had over 2,000 transactions and received 35,000 downloads in three weeks
19. Plan what you will get done.
"The magic is all in how I start and end my day. I take 30 minutes each morning to block out, in 15-minute chunks, the entirety of my day and what I hope to get done. I have a weekly list of things I create on Sunday (or early Monday) from which I pull my to-dos so I don't have to think through all I need to do each day of the week. I can refer to the week's list of priorities which makes daily planning fast and simple and doesn't require thinking big. That's for Sunday. Then I end my day with reflection. I write down my three big wins for the day, what I am most grateful for, the moment I was the best version of myself, the moment I was the worst version of myself and any lessons learned. Being deliberate about how I am going to spend my time and then reflecting (that day) on what went well and what I could have done better are a powerful combination for me."
--Stacey Boyd, founder and CEO of Olivela, a luxury e-commerce site which has grown revenue 240 percent this year, and founder of Schoola, an online retailer that sells gently-worn clothing to support schools in need
20. Build space and thinking time into your working week.
"To make truly great things happen you need time to think. I've always been an early morning person but in the past year I've taken my wake ups to pre-dawn. This time is usually the only distraction-free time I get during a day so I spend it getting set up for the day-listing things that are a priority and I drink a couple of cups of coffee enjoying the quiet."
--Kristian Tapaninaho, founder and CEO of Uuni, a wood-fired oven that heats to 932˚F in 10 minutes and can cook a pizza in under 60 seconds with products sold in more than 80 countries and with 250 percent year on year growth
21. Habitually try not to form habits.
"I try to do whatever needs to be done at any given moment to help create success for myself and my team. And that means not falling into habitual behavior. Habits can stand in the way of recognizing something out of the ordinary that needs to be done to create success. It doesn't matter if it's strategic planning or taking out the office trash, whatever needs to be done at the moment to help create success is what needs to be done. There is no such thing as an important step or an unimportant step. A step forward is still a step forward."
--Dr. Phil Marshall, product innovator who has built healthcare information solutions at WebMD and Press Ganey and cofounder of Conversa Health, which helps physicians communicate and engage with their patients between visits
22. Tell the truth.
"Stop screwing around (literally) and get after it. Marriages fail, businesses collapse and people play small because they lie about: what we truly want; who we are; what we're truly capable of; how we truly feel; where we want to go and what we're really afraid of. These lies lead to addiction, sedation, destruction and mediocrity. Face it. We all lie. That little voice that said, 'Not me.' Yes, you. Most of us started telling lies and burying the truth as boys [and girls] just to avoid being judged and to please parents, teachers, church, friends and coaches. These lies have you feeling alone in your pain. Small business owners and entrepreneurs are at the most risk of sedation, suppression and feeling alone. When you dig deep for courage to tell the truth and stop hiding lies, the path to success in health, wealth and love unlocks. Telling the truth: that's the key."
--Garrett J. White, founder of Wake Up Warrior, CEO of DKW Styling, author and podcaster who has worked with thousands of men to transform their lives
23. Radically focus on the essentials.
"When we were first starting our we knew that we only wanted to scale online for the first 24 months or so. However, when your company has very little revenue, you're tempted to take any low hanging fruit you can get. For us this came in the form of non-scalable offers such as: selling in a few retail stores, handing out samples at an event, getting a campus rep, etc. I shot my team down on all of these with a polite, but adamant no and an explanation that our time was best spent at doing what we're good at: selling online. In nine months we grew from $100 a day in sales to now as much as $50,000 a day. There's no way we could be pulling growth off like that if we were distracted with small things such as fulfilling retail orders, handing out samples, or dealing with campus reps."
--Brooks Powell, founder and CEO of Thrive+, a supplement designed to alleviate the negative effects of alcohol which recently appeared on the season finale of ABC's Shark Tank
24. Manage your business from a place of peace.
"I am huge on setting boundaries around my mental state. I just simply will not work if I am frazzled. If I have an important meeting, to write something for publication, a big decision to make, an invention to diagram or anything else that requires attention coming from a place of peace, I refuse to do it if I am feeling overworked, stressed, tired or indecisive. I literally will do whatever it takes to get into a peaceful space, I call it the 'joy zone,' for high performance activities. For me, this is usually a long nap, food I love such as sushi, beautiful piano music playing over the sound system, and phones and emails put aside. I often do this right in the middle of my workday. I know busy CEOs will claim they don't have time for this, but the reality is that I am more productive and make better decisions that payoff in the long run when I function in joy zone. It's very easy to have your employees, your clients, your vendors and anyone else you do business with, demand more of you than what you can do. So, I have to be firm. I tell people straight up that the call, the report, the whatever it is requires my joy zone attention. I will bump calls, move meetings, delay deadlines, whatever it takes to manage my business from a place of peace. I give my business the best of me, not the rest of me."
--Ashley Black, bestselling author of The Cellulite Myth, coauthor of the scientific paper "The Effects of a Fascia Manipulation Device on Subcutaneous Fat Tissue and Cellulite Appearance in Middle Aged Women," and inventor of the FasciaBlaster
25. Wake before the rest of your people.
"When I was writing my book I did the bulk of my writing at 4:30 in the morning. I could put in a solid three to four hours before even turning on my phone or opening up my email. That uninterrupted time was huge and was the reason I was able to deliver my completed manuscript on time, no extensions. I still get up earlier than the rest of my crew (both my work team and my home team). I get a jump start on my own well-being by knocking out my exercise and meditation for the day and can focus intently on one task on my to-do list before jumping into the thick of the day."
--Sara Snow, CMO of Bambino, a membership babysitting app recently featured by Gwyneth Paltrow on her lifestyle website Goop, as well as an Emmy-award winning TV producer, news anchor and TV host, public speaker, and media contributor
26. Start your day drinking two to three glasses of water.
"One of the most important things I do to help maximize my performance at work is to get your personal life in order through morning and evening routines. When you're growing rapidly, every day at work is different and new. Research has shown that having consistent and healthy routines outside of work significantly increases your mental capacity, positive mood, emotional strength and more. In leadership roles that have high visibility, being at your best every day is essential to creating an environment conducive to hyper-growth. Every morning I start off by drinking two to three glasses of water, then I do a five-minute work out, shower, drink a cup of black tea, eat a large cup of yogurt, and head to office. I don't, or at least try not to, check my email until I'm on the train or in the office. The best evening routine I have is doing the 'sleepy time bottle' feeding with my six-month-old daughter before bed. It's the ideal way to relax, disconnect from the pressures at work, and do something even more fulfilling to end my day. This consistent personal routine helps me be consistent in my mood and approach at the office."
--Roman Giverts, CEO of VuMedi, a video medical education network, used by more than 250,000 doctors and hospitals, for learning and evaluating treatment options in one place