Think about the most successful people you know. Chances are they didn't get where they are because of a lucky break, but rather because they possess characteristics or a state of mind that sets them apart from people leading average lives. Check out these quotes from 29 successful executives who credit simple daily habits for helping them get ahead.
1. Call your mother.
"Ever since she suffered some health setbacks, it has been hard for my mom to be as mobile as she used to be. With my dad still working, she spends more time at home alone than she would like. Calling her every day makes her happy and it also helps me appreciate the people in my life who helped me get where I am and my obligations to others. Taking a few minutes every day to think of someone outside of your immediate professional world shows respect for others and puts your own day-to-day concerns in perspective."
--Morris Panner, CEO of cloud medical image management solution DICOM Grid
2. Come in early.
"I get into the office early each day and go through the details before anyone else shows up. I have found that if I focus on the most important projects and tasks early and first, I can spend the day leading others and addressing topics, opportunities, or problems that were not there yesterday. If you come in later than others, they have the opportunity to control your day for you."
--Craig Dunaway, president of Penn Station East Coast Subs, a sandwich franchise with nearly 300 locations
3. Impact others.
"Each day I ensure that I have a positive impact on at least one person. The opportunity to invest in another should never be overlooked. When you step outside of yourself to impact someone else, they will benefit and so will you."
--John T. Hewitt, founder and CEO of Liberty Tax Service, which has more than 4,200 offices in the U.S. and Canada.
4. Notice the positive moments.
"In the evening or over dinner I find it beneficial to talk with my family members about three good things that happened to us that day. This give us a chance to inspire one another and to take time to focus on the positive."
--Evan Hackel, CEO of interactive e-learning services company Tortal Training and author of the book Ingaging Leadership
5. Tell the truth.
"A day without truth is a lie, so every day I speak up about something. It does not always make me popular but it does stop me accepting the way things are in the hope of making us all think more carefully about the way they should or could be."
--Dan Gregory, speaker, author of Selfish, Scared and Stupid and co-founder of The Impossible Institute, an innovation think tank that has worked with large organizations including Coca-Cola and the United Nations
6. Review your calendar and prioritize your tasks.
"I start every day by reviewing my calendar and determining what to keep on it and what to move. Then I create a prioritized to-do list. I use an inverted pyramid and put the most important and time-consuming items in the largest section at the top and the less important ones at the bottom. I also drink espresso -- lots of espresso."
--Jeffrey Hayzlett, chairman of C-Suite Network and author of Think Big, Act Bigger
7. Make a "have done" list.
"We all make to-do lists, but it goes without saying that most of us don't get through everything as planned. At the end of each day, go back and review what you did and didn't get done. It's the only way to hold yourself accountable and help make your next day's to-do list more than just wishful thinking."
--Dan Ruch, CEO of Rocketrip, a company which helps companies reduce travel expenses by incentivizing employees to save on their business trips
8. See life through the eyes of everyone you encounter.
"Get into the habit of understanding the motives and objectives of people in all situations, and understand their circumstances when you have an exchange with them. This is accomplished by learning as much as possible about what is happening in the person's life you are speaking with, so you can respond supportively. Often, people see life only through their eyes, which creates animosity, derails objectivity and deters loyalty. This practice is not only critical to being an empathetic person, but also trains you to be great at reading people overall, allowing you to distinguish between sincerity and insincerity."
--Ric Militi, CEO of the technology think tank Crazy Raccoons, developers of Zip -- the Question Answer App, which receives more than one million engagements per week
9. Don't always chase the shiny object.
"Working in sports I often get amazing opportunities -- whether it's courtside seats, exclusive access to events, or opportunities to meet star athletes. It's always tempting to say yes, but if being at that event isn't going to further the success of your business or provide value to the person that invited you, it might be a wise decision to politely decline. Passing on opportunities like this shows a level of respect and dedication that can often lead to even more amazing opportunities down the road."
--Craig Howe, CEO of sports digital strategy and tech venture firm, Rebel Ventures
10. Safeguard your mental space.
"It's easy to let work become your life when you're running a company. It will take up 100 percent of your mental capacities, if you let it. I believe you can be a more effective leader if you give your physical and mental health priority. Exercise, nutrition, and meditation are top priorities for me. I work them into my daily schedule just like meetings, no matter how crazy my day. Being in good physical and mental health keeps my energy high, my mind clear and sharp, and my decisions grounded. "
--Daniel Farrar, CEO of Switchfly, a global technology company that powers travel commerce
11. Limit your choices.
"I'm the youngest of nine kids, and my mother taught me a lesson that is the basis for one of my primary daily habits. Her key to success in the grocery store was to get in and get out fast -- by setting priorities and limiting choices. I apply that strategy to daily decision-making. Making decisions in a world in which we're drowning in data is no easy task, so I follow Mom's example. I limit the scope of any given situation to facilitate quick decision making and maximize my own productivity."
--Tom Lounibos, co-founder and CEO of digital performance management platform SOASTA
12. Talk to people face to face.
"I keep two things within reach on my desk -- a fountain pen and a smartphone. I use them both every day -- the former for personal, one-to-one communication and the latter for quick, real-time communication, often with hundreds of people. In business, however, it's easy to become dependent on indirect communication, so I also strive to actually get in front of people every day. In the workplace, pens and phones are poor substitutes for eye contact."
--Suri Suriyakumar, CEO of document and information management company ARC Document Solutions
13. Bring in outside ideas.
"You don't have to blow your marketing budget with guest speakers at every company event. I take business books, such as Great by Choice and Team of Teams, and read chapter summaries at the end of every staff meeting. The team then discusses how that thinking affects what they are doing and can yield new ideas and plans. It gives us all an opportunity to bring in outside thinking."
--Gary Meyers, CEO of supply chain intelligence company FusionOps
"It's vitally important to stay in shape and maintain good health, and nothing ensures this like regular exercise. But I make sure not to multitask when exercising. I don't read a book, listen to music, or do anything other than exercise. This helps me focus on one thing only. Whether it's running, doing martial arts, or just engaging in a cardio workout, by focusing solely on the exercise, I both get the benefit of the exercise itself, and also give my mind a complete break."
--Tanya Candia, CMO of network security and advanced analytics company NSFOCUS
15. Identify solutions to problems.
"When an issue arises, come up with at least two or three possible ways to solve it. This will help others within the company get the ball rolling with figuring out the right solution path quicker. Keep in mind that perfect is the enemy of possible. In a fast-moving environment, you have to iterate and deliver quickly, therefore the first step is to make the solution possible. Perfection can be honed over a period of time."
--Manish Sood, CEO and founder of data-driven applications company Reltio, which publicly launched in March 2015
16. Overcommunicate and walk the halls.
"Yes, we know we live in a digital age, but enough with the Tweets, Instagrams and Facebook posts, or even emails. Personal engagement -- the boss walking down the halls, making eye contact and answering questions honestly -- makes a huge difference in this environment. Conversely, there's nothing worse than the boss who's in the office but never seen or heard from except through terse memos."
--Eric Chiu, president and co-founder of HyTrust, a cloud security and control company that saw revenues triple in 2015
17. Don't let the highs get you too high or the lows get you too low.
"For any company, and especially for a startup, the business day can be something of a roller coaster. If things are going great, it's important to celebrate those accomplishments, though stay levelheaded while doing so. Build on achievements and translate the highs into long-term success. Conversely, if something goes wrong, don't let it get you down. From a leadership standpoint, don't show dejection that could affect the team. I always look to find a solution to problems with a positive can-do attitude."
--Evan Singer, president of the online SBA marketplace SmartBiz, which has processed more than $2 billion in loan applications
"Start the day with 10 to 15 minutes of meditation. So many people get rushed, scattered, anxious, overwhelmed with everything that has to get done in the day, they're frantic and unfocused before they start. Starting calm, focused, and confident helps dramatically."
--Jeff Ernst, co-founder and CEO of social word-of-mouth platform Smync, which helps brands and agencies such as ConAgra, Phillips, and Global Prairie to ignite brand advocacy.
19. Expand your perspective.
"I find myself drawn to documentaries, whether it's on the history of the human evolution or science related to astronomy or physics. It gives me a different perspective to human life and purpose in a broader sense, reenergizing me and inspiring my work."
--Anil Jwalanna, Silicon Valley technology entrepreneur and founder and CEO of WittyParrot, a content management and delivery platform that helps companies speak with one voice
20. Move the needle.
"I try to move the needle meaningfully in four areas every day: quality time with family, physical and mental health, knowledge, and career. Checking all four boxes in a day makes for a restful night of sleep."
--Andrew Fischer, founder and CEO of digital marketing platform Choozle, which tripled its team in 2015 and grew revenues 650 percent
21. Set aside time for personal improvement.
"I set half of each day aside for learning something new, or enlightening myself on a specific subject. I will typically clear my calendar for that time, as personal improvement is very important to me. The topic doesn't necessarily need to be business related... so long as it makes me more well-rounded."
--Matthew Lanfear, CEO of Great Eastern Energy, a supplier of natural gas, electricity, and renewable energy in the Northeast
22. Stay informed about future trends, be inspired, and consider how to build a better tomorrow.
"Each morning I read updates from futurists including Ray Kurzweil and David Houle. I get inspired reading about the technologies and trends that have yet to become commercialized and mainstream. In addition, I hope to be doing my part in helping make that better future a reality."
--Jonathan Shapiro, co-founder, president and CFO at Fragmob, an international mobile sales automation app developer enabling direct-selling companies and their fields to realize the benefits of a mobile solution
23. Find your own definition of success.
"Successful people don't prescribe to the standard definitions of success that others lay out -- they write their own version. Every day, I set priorities and goals based on what I value, and I constantly challenge myself to continue to define these. At the end of the day, I reflect on these daily goals to hold myself accountable."
--Ryan Jeffery, co-founder and partner at Roniin, a company that connects experienced CEOs with emerging entrepreneurs
24. Say "yes" more often.
"The real success factor of my life is not how I manage planned situations that come along but how I've adapted my plans, ideas or certainties in new scenarios. Having 'yes' as a first option daily means to be unafraid to fail and move forward. Saying 'yes' allows me to explore and understand other people's ideas and motivations when they are different from my own. Being ready to say 'yes' to out-of-the-box ideas without limiting our mind is amazing and is a true test to how much we can enjoy and achieve in life by being open to new challenges."
--Facundo Diaz, co-founder and CEO of virtual reality music platform VRTIFY
25. Learn how to say "no."
"Sometimes people say 'yes' because they don't know how to say 'no.' Women in the workplace tell me they are particularly stricken with this because they think their male counterparts are all saying 'yes' -- and the dumb ones probably are. 'No' is a perfectly appropriate answer when someone randomly asks you to take on a task you either clearly should not be doing, or simply don't have time for. The trick is to say it with a great deal of charm and a smile. Once finished, shut up. The next one who talks, loses, and if you say your piece and keep quiet, expect to hear something like, 'Oh, OK. Thanks anyway.' Of course, if the request comes from your thoughtful and very competent boss, the correct answer is, 'I can't think of anything else I'd rather do!' Then figure out how to get it done."
--Bert Thornton, former president and COO of Waffle House, Inc., and author of the new business book, Find an Old Gorilla
26. Eat the same lunch every day.
"For the duration of my childhood, my mom made my dad the same lunch to bring to work every day -- American cheese on a Kaiser roll. Over the years, I've applied that same principle to my lunch. On days when I'm not at a client meeting or event, I have someone order me the same salad, which minimizes time making choices and allows me to work right through the lunch hour. On these days, I use food as fuel to power me through the remainder of the day, as opposed to as an opportunity for relaxation or recreation."
--Sarah Berman, president of New York City corporate communications firm The Berman Group
27. Start the day with clear intentions.
"Make a habit of anchoring every day with clear intentions for two things: what you will focus on and how you want to engage people. Rather than show up and hope everything falls into place, take time before you get to the office to think about the 'big animals' that you want to tackle for the day, so your days add up to goal achievement rather than a series of low-impact tasks and interruptions. Then take a few minutes to think about how you want to engage people: Do you want to be a better listener and encourage others to speak up? Communicate more decisively to give your team more clarity and execution confidence? Convey positivity to breed creativity? Bringing these two things to mind every morning sets up a successful day --you may not get it right all day long, but you'll get it more right than you otherwise would have."
--Deidre Paknad, CEO of Workboard, a provider of real-time goal management solutions
28. Set a defined sleep routine.
"I always try to be up an hour before others, which enables me to collect my thoughts and plan for the day. That means I also need to hit the sack earlier to ensure I get my six hours of sleep. It's easy to slip up when juggling multiple tasks, so feeling refreshed and having my priorities established for the day makes it easier to spend my time and attention on the right things."
-- Kishore Kumar, CEO of personal gadget assistant app AllThingsMine
29. Listen before you speak.
"I am big believer in listening. For example, I will regularly take my employees to lunch and listen to their ideas and concerns. When you listen more than you speak you learn many important things from other people. Good listening is not just being silent. Good listening involves asking thoughtful questions, being patient, and having a positive attitude."
--Aytekin Tank, founder of JotForm, an online form builder with two million users