Ever wonder what sets highly successful people apart? I've polled countless executives about the things they're doing every day which give them an edge, and certain themes have surfaced over time. These high achievers often get up early, proactively manage their health and practice mindfulness, as opposed to flitting from one electronic task to another while neglecting important human relationships. Check out these quotes from 28 high-achieving individuals who talk the daily habits which help them get ahead in business and life.
"This one is simple. Motion creates emotion. The idea of the desk needs to die. Walk for calls, walk for meetings, walk for thinking. You're better when you're walking."
--Chris Hale, founder and CEO at Kountable, a San Francisco-based platform connecting investors and entrepreneurs.
2. Set a routine.
"I have a set routine that makes a big difference. I get up at 5:15 a.m. and start by meditating, praying and writing 20 things I'm grateful for. I exercise from 6 to 7 a.m., have oatmeal for breakfast then go to work. I don't start checking emails until after breakfast, to make sure I'm in the best frame of mind to deal with them. At night I write another 20 things I'm grateful for before going to bed. I do this routine every day. It helps me stay positive and deal with whatever life throws at me."
--Ash Shilkin, founder and CEO at mobile digital banking app ChimpChange.
3. Deny yourself.
"I try to practice humility and empathy every day. I was raised by very loving parents who despite limited means provided me with amazing opportunity and privilege but preached the gospel of selflessness and understanding difference. These values served me well during my days as a foreign correspondent and now as an executive, having to actively listen to views and perspectives that I do not necessarily agree with but finding the principle to report on them fairly, and account for them in my daily decision making. Seeking to understand why individuals act in ways that may be foreign to me provides insight and intelligence that makes me a better manager of people."
--Calvin Sims, president and CEO of International House, a New York City residence and program center of graduate students from more than 100 countries.
4. Exercise every morning before looking at email.
"For me, the best way to ensure that I get to work in the right mindset, where my head is both clear and sharp, is to exercise, typically running or swimming, every morning. I make sure it is the first thing I do in the morning, before looking at email or checking messages of any kind. By doing this, I get my blood flowing and stay fit, which is psychologically important to performance, while also getting a solid block of time to consider things that are more strategic or important, rather than simply the emergency or minutia of the day to come."
--Jon Ziglar, CEO of Parkmobile, an app which lets people pay for metered parking nationwide via their smartphones.
5. Put everything on the calendar.
"Everything goes into my digital calendar, and I mean everything. From scheduled calls to menial tasks like 'pick up dry cleaning,' if it's not on my calendar it won't happen. I use it almost like a check list and if some things are more important than other, they are placed earlier in the day so I know I'll get them done."
--Jacqui Woofmints, all-natural doggie treats which keep Fido's breath fresh.Rosshandler, creator of
6. Don't react--ever.
"Process even the smallest issues for some time, preferably hours or a day before responding. You'll find 70 percent of them dissipate by then and nothing much needs to be done. It saves your energy and keeps stress low."
--Catherine Exoceauticals, a skincare brand combining exosome biology with next-gen natural ingredients.Enright, founder and president of
7. Make the problem personal.
"Find a way to relate the issue to whomever you are speaking with. For example, if you're proposing a user-experience solution that will streamline the check-out process, remind your audience of how frustrating it can be when you have to repeatedly enter in your billing, address and contact information when checking out from a site you shop on a regular basis. By relating to your audience on a personal level, you're more likely to create an emotional connection, ultimately making a stronger use-case."
--Laura Scott, VP of supplier and international operations for online home store Wayfair.
8. Remind yourself where you want to go.
Take a few minutes after waking to review personal and professional goals. While the goals sometimes change or evolve over time, looking back, it is humbling to see what has been accomplished, and also exciting to remind myself of where the future is heading."
--Jim Robeson, CEO of PiinPoint Inc., a location analytics solution that helps organizations monitor the financial performance of current store locations and identify optimal expansion sites for the future.
9. Start the day with healthy hydration and meditation.
"Each morning I alternate between having warm water with lemon or warm water with fresh turmeric to ensure a healthy immune system. I follow this with a 30-minute session of Buddhist chanting. Once I complete that I get ready for my day and make a healthy shake comprised of vegetables and fruits. I believe a healthy and strong body leads to a healthy and strong mind. This in turn ensures I start each day with a fresh and new outlook to tackle anything that might come my way.
--Luvleen Sidhu, cofounder and chief strategy officer at BankMobile, a low-fee digital bank which offers checking, savings, lines of credit, joint accounts and access to over 55,000 surcharge-free ATMs nationwide.
10. Exercise every day, twice a day.
"Starting and ending my day with a rigorous work out gets me into the right frame of mind. The mental benefits of working out easily match the physical benefits. Exercising both 60 minutes at the start and another 60 minutes at the end of the day helps provide the focus I need at work. I find that my mood is improved, I am more composed and I am more productive. I also encourage my employees to work out because active employees bring more energy to the office and they are healthier, taking fewer sick days.
--Zandre Campos, CEO of Angola Capital Investments, an international investment firm that invests in companies in the healthcare, technology, energy, transportation, hospitality, and real estate sectors throughout Africa.
11. Make time for family fun.
"As a mother of two teenage boys, there is always a friendly competition of ping pong, basketball or 'fill in the blank.' Taking a few moments every day--while I'm still invited--to join them in a match is not only great quality time with my family, it keeps me grounded in what's important and in a positive frame of mind when I turn my attention back to work."
--Lisa Skeete Tatum, Landit, a New York City-based company offering a career platform for women looking to revitalize or advance their careers.cofounder of
12. Build a support network.
"Nothing ever goes according to plan and the constant bumps in the road make people skeptical. I have to be constantly focused on the vision and remind the team of the big picture and our goals. It is amazing how negative people can be and how difficult this makes it to remain motivated especially in the early days of a start -up. It takes both internal and external factors to keep going. Great determination, focus, belief and passion on the inside. And loving, caring, motivating support from the outside. I am incredibly lucky to have my family, my wife and four children who support, encouraged and inspired me."
--Jon Sumroy, CEO and inventor of the mifold booster seat.
13. Plan ahead.
"During my drive to work, I think about the top two to three tasks or communications I need to take care of that day. When I arrive at work, the first thing I do is check yesterday's sales. The second thing I do is to scan my email subject lines to make sure there are no urgent matters. Then, before I touch those emails or go to meetings, I take care of the top two to three tasks or communications. That helps the day doesn't get away from me without hitting those top priorities."
--Maia Haag, CEO of I See Me, founder of the digital outlet creating memorable personalized books and gifts for babies and kids.
14. Wake up with a great attitude.
"Understand that your day is dictated by your attitude the moment you awake. You may not be able to control circumstances, but you are the only one that can control your attitude. So, I am very purposeful each and every day to be in the habit of waking upbeat with anxious anticipation to start and conquer the day. My son was home from college recently and we were discussing this. He said, 'Dad, I am not sure you have ever had a bad day!' I responded, 'I have had too many days that certainly did not start or go the way I had planned or imagined. However, I always make sure to start the day strong and focus on not letting circumstance or what others think define my limitations or opportunities.'"
--Bryan Nooner, president and CEO of Illinois-based outdoor cord protection product company Twist and Seal and Distinctive Home Builders.
15. Give yourself "me" time.
"Every day I spend an hour at the gym, on a walk, listening to music or reading a book. Taking this hour for myself makes me a better wife, a better CEO and a happier person. I encourage my employees to do the same. The Educents office has a Get Fit Club that's dedicated to integrating healthy habits into our daily work. We take walks, stretch, and invite yoga instructors to lead a class. The club reminds our team that taking care of your body will take care of your mind. After all, working for a startup is a marathon, not a sprint."
--Kate Whiting, cofounder and CEO of Educents.com, an online marketplace for discovering products that will get kids excited about learning.
"I knit every day! And while I understand that most people don't knit, finding a way to work meditation into your daily life can be an incredible stress-reducer. As a founder of a small business, my brain is constantly going and turning it off to get some much-needed quiet time can be pretty difficult. Knitting has been shown to deliver the same benefits one gets from meditating. Its repetitive quality, like meditation, can lower your heart rate and lower cortisol levels in your blood... And yeah, meditation is cool and all, but having a finished product at the end of it is even cooler, if you ask me."
--Christina Fagan, founder and CEO of Sh*t That I Knit, a high-quality knitwear collection based out of Boston.
17. Keep to-do lists.
"I keep a to-do list on my computer. It helps me prioritize what needs to be done, and helps alleviate the late night worry that I might be forgetting something. Even the most mundane things go on there. If something stays on the list too long it tells me either it's not really important and can be moved down to another list, or I need to break it out into smaller steps to tackle it. I also keep a 'pending' list that reminds me to check in on projects which are on hold while waiting for someone else.
--Cynthia Matthews von Berg, president of Matthews 1812 House, a Connecticut-based, family-owned and operated business that started in 1979 and ships handmade specialty desserts throughout the U.S.
18. Work on the sprinkles at the same time you're baking the cake.
"While your business likely has major goals to get to in the next six months to two years, don't ignore the little things that make experiences for your customers more awesome in the meantime. Particularly in a startup, it might seem silly at first glance to spend time on small things that delight your customers, when you have so many big problems. But it's the little things--the sprinkles--that make all the difference as you're waiting on your business, or your cake, to finish baking."
--Marc Gorlin, founder and CEO of Roadie, Inc., an app-based shipping community that connects people with stuff to send with drivers heading in the right direction.
19. Take walks with your employees.
"Instead of conducting one-on-one meetings with employees in the office, I prefer to take walks with them. Taking a walk with employees changes the scenery from the confines of the office, which can trigger a change in perspective and creative thinking. Also, taking a walk creates an informal environment that fosters more open and honest discussions."
--Assaf Resnick, CEO of BigPanda, a data science platform for centralizing and correlating all IT alerts.
20. Meditate on something beautiful.
"I am fortunate because my home is surrounded by majestic and awe-inspiring mountains. I start each day admiring their beauty and gaining renewed perspective. I find that this moment of contemplation helps set the stage for a satisfying and productive day at work."
--Kerman Kasad, senior director of product marketing and communications for ARC Document Solutions, which provides technology and services focused on document and information management for the architectural, engineering, and construction industry.
21. Dedicate time to think things through.
"With so many day-to-day phone calls, emails and meetings, it's easy to get caught up in issues that may seem like they need immediate attention but are small in the long run. I try to find time every day to really think through an issue completely--dedicating an hour or more of uninterrupted time."
--Dan Stockpile, a gift card for stock.Schatt, COO of Palo Alto-based
22. Say "no" to some good things every day.
"In the 'Good to Great' philosophy, I make sure I say no to three things every day so I have space and opportunity to plan and execute. Life is often about being able to take a great opportunity if it comes up, but I have found that I often would overly schedule my life with good things which would actually thwart my ability to take those great opportunities. So every day, I make it a point to say no to three things that are neutral or good, but not great."
--Dr. Michael Swann, board certified Dermatologist and expert in Mohs Surgery in Springfield, Missouri.
23. Set hours of operation.
"Everyone says that business owners are always working. And that's true. But you still need to shut down sometimes. I check my email between 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Trust me, it can wait."
--Dana Rae, founder of the luxury cosmetics brand, ABLE Cosmetics, which has been featured in Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, Harper's Bazaar, Seventeen Magazine, InStyle, W, and other various national publications since its launch in August 2015.
24. Save email for the office.
"Like many executives I know, I used to keep my iPhone on my nightstand and check my email before even getting out of bed in the morning. This automatically put me in work mode, which made it difficult to focus on my wife and children for the brief time I have with them before heading to the office. Earlier this year, I started waiting to check email until sitting down at my desk. Keeping my mind clear while I'm getting ready in the morning has helped me start thinking about the upcoming day in totality, instead of focusing on the emails that may have come in overnight. And starting the day with positive interactions with my wife and kids sets the stage for a productive day all around."
--Michael Barnett, cofounder and CEO of Romp n' Roll, a play-based educational program for children and their parents.
25. Don't be afraid to be transparent.
"Some leaders fear transparency because they believe they will be perceived as less authoritative and will lose power. However, the opposite is true. People want to relate to their leaders, know the ins and outs of the business, challenges and opportunities, and be a part of the solution. During the day-to-day, I continuously ask myself during every interaction, 'Does the team know everything they need, good and bad, to make strategic decisions and be successful?' Being open and honest about business, growth, finances, employee-relations, and aspirations are important not only in developing strong relationships, but in fostering a culture of trust that will ripple throughout the organization. Live by the tried-and-true test: You should never have to use the bcc line in email, and if you feel you do, ask yourself why."
--Eddie Goitia, CEO of the sports bar franchise company Tilted Kilt Pub & Eatery.
26. Ditch the computer in meetings.
"It's important to me to give the people I'm meeting with and the topics we're discussing my undivided attention. One simple and effective way to ensure this is to leave my computer behind when attending meetings. With fewer distractions, I can put my full focus on the issue at hand and have a more productive conversation."
--Yaniv Masjedi, VP of marketing at Nextiva, a provider of cloud-based communications and collaboration solutions designed to simplify the way businesses communicate.
27. Don't forget to eat, and eat often.
"It's crazy how often I can forget to eat, and when I do, I find myself in meetings not paying attention and getting easily irritated. But small, healthy snacking during the day makes all the difference. It helps me manage my blood sugar levels and my energy and ability to focus and be present. I also make it a point to not eat lunch at my desk. Most offices have common lunch areas and just going there to sit and eat is a mental break from the daily chaos. As a leader, I have found that doing this makes others more comfortable approaching me."
--Harris Bernstein, VP of account strategy at Criteo, an advertising technology firm offering personalized ad retargeting across devices for digital brands.
28. Use your commute for self-improvement.
"I use this idle time to study foreign languages, listen to books on tape or listen to tapes on updated medical procedures and advancements. Since you will be in the car or train anyway, it is a sure way to make learning a part of your day without much effort."
--Dr. William D. Yates, board certified hair restoration surgeon in Chicago, Illinois.