The most successful people are intentional about the things they do every day which set them up for productivity. They understand that achieving great things doesn't happen on its own. It's because the quality of your life is directly proportionate to your habits. Here are the ones more than dozens of executives rely on to get ahead in business and life.

1. If it can be done in a minute, do it now

"The best productivity advice I've received (and put into practice every day) is that if something comes across your desk that will take less than 60 seconds to complete, do it immediately. The buildup of multiple one-minute assignments throughout the day can create a constant state of catching up. Dynamically clearing your backlog helps you tackle to-dos efficiently, and keeps you focused on bigger picture objectives."

--Sam Bobley, co-founder and CEO at Ocrolus, a fintech platform for analyzing data from bank statements and other financial documents which has more than $30 million in funding

2. Hydrate and exercise with intermittent fasting in the morning

"I wake up every morning at 5 a.m., and the very first thing I do is hydrate. I drink a large glass of water with Himalayan salt and lemon juice to replace the electrolytes, minerals, and vitamins I've lost overnight. I then head straight to the gym. I have around 45 minutes to work out, so I can be home before my son wakes up. My workouts are largely a combination of rowing and weights. These morning workouts are non-negotiable for me. They reduce my stress, make me feel more alert for the day and help me get to sleep at night. It is also important to note that breakfast (or ingesting any calories for that matter) is not part of my morning routine. I practice intermittent fasting, so I will not eat my first meal until noon, which is approximately 16 hours after my last meal. Intermittent fasting increases my energy and cognitive function, promotes cellular repair, reduces insulin resistance, and promotes longevity."

--Matt Schiffman, VP of brand management at RSP Nutrition, a nutrition brand distributed at retailers such as Amazon, Bodybuilding.com, GNC, and Vitamin Shoppe, in over 5,000 U.S. retail locations and over 80 countries

3. Take small but concrete steps to turn large visions into reality

"Large visions or dreams can be very daunting, which is why so many people will live their lives without even attempting to realize them. I have found that taking small but concrete steps towards my visions leads to relatively quick and tangible rewards. For example, I envisioned a specific target demographic for the dental business I co-founded. Once I identified my target demographic, I brainstormed how to maximize my business's exposure to this demographic and took subsequent steps to market effectively to this audience. I reached out to bloggers and local businesses that target a similar audience, and I was quickly able to effectively collaborate with them to jumpstart our marketing. A simple call, email, or just physically walking into a local business was all it took to get the ball rolling. Large goals or endeavors may seem insurmountable at times, but taking steady, digestible steps towards these dreams is surprisingly doable and amounts to significant success over time."

--Heather Kunen, orthodontist and co-founder of New York City's Beam Street, a dental studio which has more than quadrupled its clientele within six months of opening and has appeared in multiple media outlets, such as Healthline, Fox News, and Parade

4. Swim at the crack of dawn

"When I first started working, I fell off the exercise wagon big time. Used to having a full but flexible schedule, I poured myself into my work as priority No. 1, but without exercise I had less energy and no healthy stress relief. I didn't feel as good about myself, which translated to a lower performance at work and had negative effects on my personal life. I was used to afternoon exercise, usually a run, but it caused me to go to bed late. I then decided to join a masters swim group that met at the crack of dawn, which gave me my mojo back and improved my stroke. The hardest thing about my new exercise routine was adjusting my schedule, not only to get up earlier, but also to go to bed earlier to get a solid seven hours of rest. Once the routine set in, the benefits were obvious. I was working out more often and feeling better, and I had more energy. Focused exercise results in a temporary vacation from worrying about work which equates to stress relief. Despite a couple of lapses in the routine due to kids and other events, I've kept it up. I have mixed it up with running, biking, yoga, and strength work to keep motivated. I feel like I have a head start each day now, and the productivity and good karma flows."

--Randy Shuken, co-founder and CEO of Qüero Shoes, which has increased online sales by over 250 percent year-over-year since 2018

5. Say no often

"Focus on the trade-off. The more I think about what I'm giving up when I say 'yes' to something, the easier it is to say 'no.' 'I'm flattered that you thought of me, but I'm afraid that I do not have the bandwidth' and 'I would very much like to but I'm overcommitted' are phrases that I use often. It's very easy for me to get distracted from what would have otherwise been my highest level of contribution."

--Dayton Miller, managing partner at BFG Partners, a venture capital firm investing out of a $100-plus million fund to accelerate growth for CPG brands

6. Set aside a few minutes each night to reflect on all of the day's events

"As I do so, I jot down in a journal the biggest takeaways from each day in an effort to retain lessons learned. Eventually, I thought, 'If this ritual of thoughtful reflection helps me better myself, then perhaps it could positively impact the rest of my team as well.' Now, every Sunday night, I review the full week of journal notes and compile them into one 'Sunday Night Thoughts' email sent to my entire global corporate team. I look for ways to identify how my experiences from the week relate to our company's overall goals. Kicking off each week with this recap has become a way for me to continue my own personal habit for continued growth while simultaneously keeping the lines of communication open and transparent between me and my team."

--Adam Zeitsiff, president and CEO of Gold's Gym, a 55-year-old fitness brand with more than 700 gyms operating across 28 countries

7. Use your down time to fill your head with positive thoughts

"When I'm not working, I strive to fuel my 'mental factory'--a.k.a., my brain--with nothing but positivity. In the mornings on my drive to work, I listen either to music that I enjoy or to uplifting, motivational podcasts. Then, to wind down at night after a long day, I read acclaimed self-help books written by successful business leaders and life coaches. I've found that maintaining positive vibes throughout the day when I'm not focused on work translates to keeping my spirits up when I am met with workplace challenges."

--Shannon Hudson, world champion kickboxer and founder/CEO of 9Round, an international kickboxing fitness franchise with nearly 800 locations across 19 countries

8. Schedule time for self-care, both physically and mentally

"I specifically designate time in my calendar each day to work some sort of physical activity into my afternoon, and I prefer to spend this time alone. Whether through a full workout or simply a walk around the perimeter of the office, I find that being on my own during this time helps me think clearly without distractions. Simultaneously, I benefit physically by checking off the all-important exercise box on each day's to-do list."

--Mike Bidwell, president and CEO of Neighborly, a global holding company of 22 home service franchise brands that offer homeowners professional services ranging from plumbing to painting

9. Listen to new music

"Each day I find some quiet time to listen to at least one current piece of music. I find that it has a meditative effect on me, and as I try to understand the lyrics and decode the music, my mind clears and I am recharged. Focusing on genres that are unfamiliar to me forces my mind to make new connections and feels like I have had an intellectual stretch. Exploring new music also gives me an opportunity to connect better with my 18-, 20-, and 22-year-old sons. I will never be cool to them, but sometimes a simple song can trigger a really meaningful and unpredictable conversation."

--Rob Price, president and CEO of School of Rock, an international music education franchise with over 300 schools open or in development across 11 countries

10. Turn your morning coffee break into a casual brainstorming session

"Before everyone is in full work mode, I like to set aside five to 10 minutes each morning to enjoy a power coffee with someone in my close circle of colleagues. If we cannot meet in person, I'll pick up the phone for a quick call. Doing this before the workday starts not only makes it a more casual conversation, but it's also when I find everyone is most alert and open to critical thinking. Taking these few minutes each morning to connect one-on-one with people whose opinions I value gives me the opportunity to bounce new business ideas off of them or address any thoughts I may have. In my 20-plus years as an entrepreneur, I've found that some of my greatest business ideas have been cultivated during these power coffee sessions."

--Tariq Farid, founder and CEO of Edible Brands, the parent company of Edible Arrangements

11. Take a look in the mirror

"I call it my morning mirror meditation, and I credit this life-changing habit to reading The Man in the Mirror by Patrick Morley more than 20 years ago. This single book has made the most lasting personal and professional impression on me, and every morning since then, I look at my own reflection and take a daily inventory for how that person is prioritizing family, faith, and business for the day. As Morley impressed upon me, if you are constantly trying to run faster and jump higher in the race of work and life, then change what you see. I've had million-dollar deals on the agenda only to change my schedule if the man in the mirror reminds me that something else is more important for that day. And it has always worked for the best."

--Gary Findley, CEO of water damage remediation company Restoration 1 and bluefrog Plumbing + Drain, with over 250 locations open or in development across both brands

12. Exercise

"For me, exercise is a daily habit that starts my day and contributes a lot to my success as I think through decisions to be made and challenges to break through. Whether it is the increase in oxygen or stepping away from the keyboard, exercising allows me to gain clarity, and I always use my voice-memo app to capture an idea, headline, or new solution to bring to market. The new dictate feature is even better, removing the need to transcribe my notes and enabling me to cut, paste, and send to my team to take action before my heart rate even reaches normal."

--Mary Stanhope, SVP of product and marketing for Unitas Global, a provider of managed connected hybrid cloud solutions including AWS, Azure and Google Cloud for global enterprise and data centers

13. Make the bed

"Making the bed each morning is the easiest way to start your day with a win. My grandmother lives by the mantra: If you can't get something as simple as making the bed done in the morning, how could you ever imagine having a successful day? It's so easy for entrepreneurs to start the day sprinting, and there are a million ways to calm that pace--exercise or meditation or reading industry news, for example. My morning routine always starts with a freshly made bed. Plus, there's an added benefit of setting up a good evening headspace as well. It's always better to come home to a clean and organized home."

--Allison Kopf, founder and CEO of Artemis, an enterprise cultivation management platform serving the fruit, vegetable, floriculture, cannabis, and hemp industries, and investment partner at XFactor Ventures, a fund that invests in startups with at least one female founder

14. Make connections

"I regularly invest 15 minutes in a day to talk with someone whom I typically wouldn't talk with but is related or has some interest in something I am focused on--this could be either professionally or personally. I look on social media, LinkedIn connections, etc. There's no agenda, no expectations, and you'd be surprised what you learn and how it opens your thinking just that much more. Just a few questions and bit of discussion does just that much. My favorite question to ask is 'What should I know about you?'"

--Jim Malcolm, CMO of Humaneyes Technologies, a 3-D/virtual reality holistic solutions developer with more than 70 patents

15. Set aggressive goals and don't make compromises

"From the moment you wake up, there are compromises that you can make. Should I hit the snooze button? Should I skip today's workout? These small compromises will not directly prevent you from achieving your goals, but each of these decisions is habit-forming. Thus, it's critical to get the small wins that will snowball into the motivation and momentum that's required to hit your BHAGs (Big Hair Audacious Goals). For example, my pre-bed/morning routine over the last 10 years has been lay out workout clothes before bed, wake up at 5 a.m., make my bed, workout, and write out what I need to accomplish for the day. Each of those build momentum for the next, and sets me up to have a successful day."

--Ryan McQuaid, co-founder and CEO of PlushCare, an online virtual health platform providing health care to over 100,000 patients in all 50 states

16. Focus on how many tasks you can get done before you have to go to sleep

"That's a different mentality than working for a number of hours in the day. One of the other aspects of being an entrepreneur is that, generally, the more ambitious the goal, the more motivating it can be. Simultaneously, ambitious goals can be very difficult and it's daunting to see a path to attain them. So you need to get really good at breaking things down quickly to the first possible step you can take, and then take that step. What can I do today?"

--Richard Thorpe, designer and founder of Gocycle, an urban e-bike brand with 25 percent annual global growth in each of the last five years

17. Tell yourself what went well today, every evening

"When I start my day in the morning, I'm usually full of energy and optimism. By the end of the day, however, I find myself more irritable and more tired from a day spent trying to solve tough challenges. So on my drive home, I try to remind myself of all the good things that happened that day as a counterbalance to those challenges. It helps me make sure I can be present and positive when I step in to see my family in the evening."

--Raj De Datta, co-founder and CEO of Bloomreach, a digital commerce experience platform that is used by more than 250 global brands, like Albertsons, Capital One, and REI

18. Don't let meetings run over

"I rely on my calendar to manage all my commitments, personal and business. I manage my inbox very closely. I aim for zero unanswered emails in my inbox by the end of the day, which helps me stay organized. Also, I have dozens of meetings each week, so I like clear agendas where I know what we're trying to accomplish. I try to make sure each meeting ends on time, so everything else, and everyone else, can stay on schedule."

--Eric Johnson, CEO at Nintex, a provider of process management and automation, with more than 8,000 customers in more than 90 countries

19. Make time for music

"Keeping a positive attitude about work is important to me. Positivity helps you better connect with colleagues, customers, and partners, and it makes you more memorable in their eyes. To stay positive, I make time for music every day. I let music influence my mood. Some of my favorite good-mood artists to listen to are Shinedown and Sade."

--William Crockett, VP at Tanaka, at 100-year-old precious metals company with more than 5,000 employees worldwide

20. Have at least one conversation outside of your bubble

"As a C-suite leader, it's very easy to get caught in a bubble, only talking and engaging with other C-suite leaders or executives each day. I believe it's important to create real, genuine relationships with colleagues across different levels and departments. To me, a collaborative workplace where different ideas are shared and acknowledged is a place where the best work gets done. It's important to try and grab a coffee or have a conversation with someone at work who might not be in your section of the office each day. I try (as best I can) to make sure my colleagues--from interns to C-suite--feel comfortable in bringing new ideas to the table and speaking up for what they believe in. Only then do employees feel valued and see the potential in one another."

--Steve Beauchamp, CEO of Paylocity, a provider of payroll and human capital management (HCM) software solutions which has achieved 20 percent growth over the last 10 quarters and was named one of the 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For

21. Get outside your comfort zone

"Embrace the unexpected and pursue the unfamiliar. I try to do, read, listen to, watch (or even eat) something new every day. Whether that's related to my professional development or personal enjoyment. I've observed over my career that those who are able to draw from a vast base of knowledge or variety of experiences have an advantage. They are able to see things from multiple perspectives, meaning they are often the most innovative and the best problem solvers. Additionally, they are the most enjoyable to work with because they are more interesting and empathetic. Sometimes getting outside your comfort zone is intimidating, but more often than not, I've found it proves to be immensely rewarding and helps make life richer."

--Eric Smuda, principal of CX strategy and implementation at InMoment, a Forrester-recognized customer experience and intelligence platform

22. Use time blocking to get the most out of your day

"Ever since I started time blocking, I've become more efficient and effective. While you can't always plan ahead for the unexpected fire drill or change in plans, blocking sections of time to focus on routine tasks ensures they are completed. By blocking time daily to read industry trade journals, respond to emails, and work on projects, I'm able to apply routine efficiency to each category. Making time for things like reading up on the latest news keeps me on top of not only what's happening inside my organization, but also looking ahead to what's next. Blocking time ensures that I am creating time to focus on all that I want to do, not just what needs to be done."

--Sean King, EVP of Veritone One, an audio advertising agency which creates native and traditional ads for brands like Dollar Shave Club, DraftKings, and Tommy John

23. Ensure you're getting enough exercise

"Whether it's jogging, cycling, lifting weights, playing tennis, or even walking, numerous scientific studies have shown that regular exercise is amazingly beneficial not just to your physical health, but mental wellbeing, too. It's part of the reason why I try to get at least three to four outdoor runs and bike rides in per week, even when travelling. I find that I'm more productive and focused, less stressed, and simply happier on days that I do exercise versus those where I don't have time to. Longer solo runs and bike rides can be especially meditative/cathartic and excellent opportunities for reflection, contemplation, and creative thought. Some of my most fruitful ideas come to me during this time."

--Andrew Boni, co-founder and head of product at Iterable, a growth marketing platform that powers cross-channel customer engagement for hundreds of brands, including Zillow, SeatGeek, and Box

24. Pause before clicking send

"Each day, I take the time to think, really think through any email, text message, or voicemail before clicking send. Was it direct and, more importantly, was it genuine? No matter what position you're in--executive, associate, or even friend--it's important to be authentic and real with the people you interact with. No politics or waffling, just deliver the truth in the most respectful and considerate way possible. If you don't, people will see through the veneer. So even under the tightest of deadlines, I pause before clicking send, reflect on what I stand for, and make sure that's represented in my message."

--Imogen Moorhouse, CEO of Vicon, an Academy-Award winning provider of tailored motion capture systems for the life sciences, media and entertainment, location-based virtual reality, and engineering industries, serving customers in over 70 countries

25. Manage to-do lists

"At the end of each day, I write out the items I need to complete in order of importance (20 percent of the work that moves the needle 80 percent in productivity). I would then assign the amount of time I need for each task. I would also check my calendar to make sure I am set up for success to accomplish these tasks.  I would finish task No. 1 before starting No. 2, and so on. At the end of the next day, I would do it all over again. I would also write down if I was successful (why and why not) and what I can do better tomorrow. At the end of each week, I could look back at my week and summarize. What worked and what didn't? I would also ask myself was I able to get into my zone of genius (why and why not). Last but not least, I would include self-care as part of my notes: Did I sleep, did I exercise, did I eat well, did I build relationships?"

--Keshila Vallot Shannon, VP of marketing at 15Five, a continuous performance management solution used by more than 1,600 companies

26. Make sure you hear from the quietest person in the room

"During meetings, I make an effort to call upon the person who is most reserved about sharing their opinions. After hearing others share their thoughts, they often have the best perspective. Engaging the more introverted members of your team also demonstrates that they are an important part of the team and you value their contributions."

--Andrew Chastain, president and CEO of WittKieffer, an executive search firm that annually conducts more than 550 recruitments worldwide

27. Maintain perspective by staying human and taking the long view

"It's incredibly easy to get caught up in the day-to-day operations of running a business, so I try to constantly remind myself of the true strength of an organization: its people. Far more important than keeping my nose to the grindstone is ensuring I invest time in nurturing personal relationships. Those relationships end up serving as the glue within our organization and allow us to skate to where the puck is going, not where it is."

--RJ Horsley, president of SpotOn Transact, LLC, a payments and software company that recently announced $40 million in funding

28. Be here now before sundown

"My family has a saying: 'Be here now,' meaning that if I am with my family, I'm with my family in the moment--body and mind. I am not taking calls, discussing strategy, or texting colleagues. I practice that same concept while at work by remaining 100-percent focused on my role and whatever task or meeting is in front of me. Many times, we can be easily distracted by a previous interaction or thinking ahead to an upcoming meeting. As a leader, if I cannot dedicate my time and energy to my colleagues or the task at hand, what message does that send them? This 'be here now' philosophy also allows me to effectively recharge when I'm with my family, enabling me to be a better husband, father, and leader. We must remember that our time and energy are two of the most valuable things we can offer someone. An effective way to demonstrate this is a rule I follow religiously--the sundown rule. If a team member calls or emails me, I will always respond to them that day before the sun goes down. As within any company, our people are the foundation of our business and success."

--Labeed Diab, CEO of ATI Physical Therapy, a national health care company with more than 860 clinic locations in the nation

29. Read before picking up a device

"Every morning, before reaching for any electronic devices, I like to read for 30-40 minutes, generally books on philosophy or a good biography. Most recently, I read Seneca: Letters from a Stoic."

--Hamish Khayat, co-founder and CEO of Burst Oral Care, a line of sonic dental products backed by a community of over 20,000 dental professionals, with 220,000 subscribers at a nearly 90 percent retention rate

30. Wake up early

"As a CEO, the reality is that I get pulled in many different directions and every single one of them is a high-priority item. This leaves very little time to get things done that I need to accomplish throughout my day, especially if it involves a high degree of concentration. To stay on top of my tasks and be an effective leader at the same time, I must carve out slivers of me-time each day. I've found the best time for me is early morning before anyone else is awake and I'm able to focus undeterred."

--Barbara Rembiesa, co-founder, president, and CEO of IAITAM (The International Association of IT Asset Managers), a network of professionals in the information technology sector, focused on advanced education and training for individuals and organizations, with more than a thousand members across the globe, in over 100 countries

31. Stretch, breathe, swim, and set goals

"It's important to have a clear mind each morning in order to have the most productive day possible. I wake up each morning and have 15 minutes to myself to stretch and be aware of my breathing to relax my mind. Afterwards, I get my body moving by swimming for 30 minutes in order to increase my mental wellness, improve blood flow, and get ready to tackle the day. Finally, I set four to five key tasks that I want to achieve that day and make sure they are aligned with my monthly goals and strategy."

--Stephen Liu, M.D., founder, chairman, and CEO of wellness tech companies IFGfit and IFGworld, and orthopedic sports medicine surgeon who has performed more than 7,000 surgeries

Published on: Nov 10, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.