The most successful people you know didn't get where they are by doing things like everyone else. One thing they likely have in common: Consistently doing the right things day in and out. Here's what dozens of high achieving executives say are their secrets to getting ahead in business and life.
1. Make your bed.
"I can't leave the house without making my bed in the morning. It's proven to make you happier and gives a sense of accomplishment. Most importantly, though, making your bed in the morning and getting between the sheets at night becomes a special ritual to bookend your day."
--Ariel Kaye, founder and CEO of bedding essentials brand Parachute
2. Spend 15 minutes reading during lunch.
"I'm the type of person who likes to sprint, rest, repeat. Usually, I'm in sprint mode from the time I wake up until the time I leave the office. Since I hate taking breaks during the day, I often eat lunch in my office. I still want to be productive over lunch, so I spend a few minutes each day reading books on leadership, tech, and future trends. Little spurts of reading help disengage you from the stressors of your day without taking your head out of the game entirely. This type of reading also contributes to your ongoing professional development. Spend 15 to 20 minutes over a lunch break reading nonfiction such as Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive While Others Die by Chip Heath and Dan Heath, or Whiplash: How to Survive our Faster Future, by Joi Ito and Jeff Howe."
--Rebecca Stavick, CEO of technology library Do Space
3. Keep a regular sleep schedule, even on weekends.
"Consistency is key. I used to be an erratic sleeper, especially when on the road. Now, no matter where in the world I am, I aim to be in bed by 9 p.m. and awake at 5 a.m., even on the weekends. I've found that committing to that time makes the quality of my sleep much better."
--Victoria Tsai, founder and CEO of Japanese luxury skincare retailer TATCHA
4. Reconsider the impossible.
"My business card says that I'm the CEO of a tech startup. But let me tell you a secret. Long before I became a CEO, my first job was a magician, and I'm still a magician at heart. Magic is simply a way of thinking. The first thing I do when I wake up is anticipate what my day is going to look like, and then reconsider the impossible--and those aren't just empty words. I came across this quote from Mark Twain at the beginning of my career: 'They did not know it was impossible, so they did it.' I never expected that just a few words could entirely change my life. From now on, my daily goal as CEO is to bring a touch of magic to work, and to show that nothing is impossible."
--Vincent Magency, a SaaS solution that boosts interaction and collaboration in meetings, trainings and corporate eventsBruneau, founder and CEO of
5. Get a whole day in by 9 a.m.
"Anthony Trollope got up at 5:30 a.m. and wrote for three hours before his full-time job. That's inspired me to make sure my day is a success by 9 a.m. If the rest of my day is derailed, I take comfort in knowing the important stuff was done. For me that means: get up early, write, run, a time of quiet reading and thinking, and completing a major task before I head to the office."
--Josh Sowin, CEO of online publisher Brainjolt
6. Get a quality night's rest.
"Getting a good night's sleep is incredibly important to me. I find that I'm noticeably more productive, can think more creatively, and can better help my team tackle their obstacles when I'm well-rested. I also find that I rely less on coffee, which certainly isn't a bad thing."
--Amy Jain, cofounder at jewelry retailer BaubleBar
7. Take a walk and talk.
"I love our office environment, but I can get mentally stale bouncing between conference rooms and my desk all day. That's why I often hold walking meetings for one-on-ones with team members. You'd be surprised how a little fresh air and circulation--and the absence of a computer--can spawn creative solutions to the day's problems."
--Eric N. Shapiro, cofounder and CEO of ArcTouch, a company which designs and develops custom mobile apps
8. Say you're sorry.
"Saying 'sorry' is one of the easiest ways to get along with other people. It's so simple, but has so much power. [It's] acknowledging that you were wrong about something, which means--for me at least--there's something to be sorry about in any given situation. Saying 'good work' is important. Saying 'thank you' is really important. But I can't think of a social interaction that creates so much goodwill for so little effort as when I tell someone they were right and I was wrong, as long as I mean it."
--Abraham Piper, founder and chief creative officer of online publisher Brainjolt
9. Be curious.
"Often times you may think an idea is so simple that the 'big guys' should be doing it. But they often have more red tape to get off the ground. Be curious as to why it may not have been done before. It could be because no one tried."
--Sirine Swed, founder of false lash brand Battington
10. Exercise every day.
"I find time to work out every day. Having a busy lifestyle, I find it's empowering to dedicate time to find balance, take a breath and refocus on what's important like staying active and fit. Working out is essential to how I approach my day as it gives me the feeling that I've carved out quality time to take care of myself. Our culture at Keds is one where we have recognized that our consumers, like all of us, live incredibly busy lives. We've used this insight to create shoes that take the women who wear them wherever they need to go. So taking the time to work out is not only essential to my productivity and focus at work but it's also emblematic of the versatile lifestyle that our brand supports."
--Gillian Meek, president of Keds
11. Lay on a bed of nails and meditate.
"My wife thinks I'm out of my mind, but it's unbelievable what it does for you. You have to be able to put yourself in very uncomfortable places and be able to get your mind thinking right. This will help you make much better decisions when you're under stress."
--Eric Casaburi, CEO of Retro Fitness, a 155-plus unit fitness chain which provides members with big box gym amenities for $20 a month
12. Study the numbers.
"From the moment I wake up, I look at sales and social media reviews for each and every one of my franchisee's shops. I'm specifically looking at the sales from the day before. The results, ultimately, determine the entire management team's mood that lets us know if we will be having a good day or a bad day. I know it sounds totally cliché but after building franchisors for the last almost 20 years, 'as the franchisees go, so does the franchisor.'"
--Michael Haith, chairman and CEO of Teriyaki Madness, a fast-casual Asian restaurant concept featuring a Seattle Teriyaki menu
13. Hand wash the dishes and do the laundry.
"I'm not someone who desires to relax, though one thing I love to do is to cook for others. I know it sounds strange, but I like to hand wash the dishes after the meal. I find it therapeutic. It's my form of relaxing. The same goes for laundry. I don't let anyone ever wash or fold my clothes because no one can do it the same as me. It would be the exact opposite of relaxing because I would be anxious."
--Mark W. Davis, chairman and CEO of PuroClean, which provides fire and smoke damage remediation, water damage remediation, flood water removal, mold removal and biohazard clean-up to commercial and residential customers
14. Run daily.
"It's my yoga. I think, reflect, plan and vision. I don't time my runs or consider pace or even a route. I just go where my feet take me, which usually means the trails behind my house. I bring my dogs and get lost in body and mind. I have learned I don't like routines and regularity. My daily schedule is different each day because I have four young kids, lots of employees and franchisees to support and I thrive by resetting priorities daily versus in a structured and mapped out week. When the business first started in 2001 there were so many unknowns and fires to put out, and early entrepreneurial life was much different. I have an established set of personal core values that I use as my compass in business and life."
--Andrea Scott, cofounder and CEO of Skoah, a 17-unit membership-based, facial-only shop with locations throughout Vancouver, Seattle, Boston and Calgary
15. Hand write your top five for the day.
"Each morning for the past 15 years, I've carved out the first 15 minutes of my day to hand write my 'top five' for the day--the things that I need to get done to move my larger goals forward--on a new page in a bound notebook. I know that I probably can't get all five things done each day, but I can definitely get the one most important thing done. This daily ritual ensures that I get over 300 critical items done every single year."
--Adam Robinson, Hireology, a hiring and retention platform that empowers multi-location, owner-operated, and independent owned businesses to build teamscofounder and CEO of
16. Never stop asking for advice and help.
"Even today, I met with an old client to pick her brain on issues she faces and dig for problems we might have in our model. You have to let go of your confidence and experience and just listen. This way you can stay critical enough to look for new opportunities or ways to make your products better. This is Lean Startup 101, but it's too easy to ignore."
--Rich DiTieri, CEO of Startup Institute
17. Do not quit.
"Quitting is too easy. If you are looking for a way out, rest assured that you will find one. Every startup will inevitably hit a point where sales aren't where you want them to be, your cash balance isn't where you want it to be, or your team isn't where you need it to be. When PerformLine was struggling to break even, I could have easily walked away from the business and gone back to working for somebody else. But I thought about how far the company had come and how much I wanted it. Even though it may sound counter-intuitive, I decided that quitting would have been way too easy. For me, learning how to balance the highs and lows was a central part of the entrepreneurial adventure. To this day, I don't always get that part right, but I get it right enough of the time so that we can continue to thrive as a company and enjoy the work we are doing."
--Alex Baydin, CEO of PerformLine
18. Clean up email.
"I usually reserve one to two hours both at the beginning and end of the day for emails so that I can respond to clients and team members promptly, stay up to date on projects and keep my inbox manageable. For me, an email cleanse works the same way as a juice cleanse--it feels great once I'm done."
--Marie Chan, partner at Vivaldi, a growth, innovation and brand strategy firm
19. Get something important done.
"I try to select one project or task first thing in the morning and focus all of my attention on getting it done. I don't check email or get distracted by anything else until it's completed. If the rest of the day gets away from me, I can still feel pretty good knowing I was able to get an important project checked off my list."
--Nick Francis, CEO of software development company Help Scout
20. Exercise both sides of your brain.
"I like to wrangle my schedule before it wrangles me. I get ahead of each day by knowing what's in store for my entire week, then setting the tone and pace in advance. Over time, I've gained a real understanding of how my body and mind respond at different times of the day and I adjust my schedule accordingly. I sprinkle the right amount of left and right brain activity into my week to create a comfortable work balance. I try and create the right mood for big picture thinking, whether it be location, time of day or atmosphere."
--Pete Abel, cofounder and CEO of AbelCine, a provider of products and services to the production, broadcast and new media industries
21. Call someone important to you.
"On my way in to or home from work, I like to call someone important in my life. Talking with someone instead of texting, emailing or instant messaging allows me to feel connected, challenge my points of view and laugh about daily happenings."
--Katie Kemerling, CMO of digital marketing agency Ervin and Smith
22. Make a problem list, not a task list.
"Until recently, my task list ran my life. I would review it every morning, and it would decide what I needed to accomplish that day. But I found that this kept me chasing short-term goals and avoiding difficult problems. Six months ago, I decided to write down a list of the biggest issues in my business that were keeping me up at night and review it every morning. I'd try to make meaningful progress against one of those problems each day. By focusing on hairy problems rather than rote tasks, I believe I'm able to face down bigger issues and make more progress."
--Brad Hargreaves, founder and CEO of co-living startup Common
23. Exercise first.
"I like to get up early and workout before the rest of the house is awake. Exercise is essential for managing stress and allows me to clear my head and set priorities for the day. The first hour of the day helps set the tone and focusing on myself first allows me to focus on everything else throughout the day."
--Marie Tillman, founder and CEO of children's clothing retailer Mac and Mia
24. Play daily.
"I started Seedling because play is such an integral part of brain development and this doesn't stop just because we're adults. Playing is a great way to problem solve, de-stress, break up your routine, bond with others and there's really no better way to kickstart creativity. I challenge our team to infuse a little playfulness everyday even in a work environment, it can be while testing our products, team painting events, battling on old arcade games during lunch or getting kids in the office to play with us at an all hands meeting (usually over summer). Sharing this spirit with the entire team helps release the pressure of being at a startup, lets us laugh with each other, and reminds us why we are all here--because play creates happiness."
--Phoebe Hayman, founder and CEO of Seedling, which offers creative activity kits for children
25. Get outside the office.
"I try to do at least one 1:1 with a ThirdLove team member outside the office--at the local coffee shop, over a quick lunch, or in the outdoor gazebo if it is nice outside. The change in scenery is an easy way to get feedback. It's the best way for me to really learn what is going on personally and professionally and how I can help them be more successful, or what we can do better at as a broader company."
--Heidi Zak, cofounder and co-CEO of bra and underwear brand ThirdLove
26. Don't overdo it.
"It's important to set expectations for yourself in work and life and focus on goals without overdoing it. I've found that dialing back a bit on my approach to life simply makes me enjoy everything more. For instance, my daily workout is usually four to five times per week as opposed to every single day, and though I watch what I eat, I don't say 'no' to the occasional ice cream, mixed drink or anything on a tortilla chip. Life isn't a competition, and when you know your limits, it's easier to remain rejuvenated, refreshed and renewed. This in turn leads to clarity and creativity and, I hope, sustained improvement at work and my health and wellness for years to come."
--Patrick Smith, founder and CEO of meal delivery service Territory
27. Treat people as you would want to be treated.
"As a privately-owned family business in a service industry, we believe the engagement of our Pyle People is our single most important strategic competitive advantage. In fact, empathy, striving to treat others--both customers and fellow team members--as we want to be treated, is Pyle's first core value. To this end, consistently exercising genuine stewardship in making ownership decisions which are in the best long-term job security interests of our Pyle People and their families creates a durable and sustainable culture which captures the engagement and discretionary effort of our most important asset, our people."
--Peter Latta, CEO of transportation and logistics provider A. Duie Pyle
28. Ask yourself why you do what you do.
"There is a lot going on in my life on a daily basis. I'm being pulled in all directions - flooded with emails, trying to manage a business, managing clients, managing my personal life and managing myself and my happiness. My secret to staying motivated, focused and sane is by asking myself every day that I wake up, 'Why am I doing what I'm doing? What impact do I want to make?' By keeping that in mind before I start my day, I have a clear focus on what to say 'yes' or 'no' to, how to approach business decisions, balance my personal and professional life and have 'me' time."
--Foram Soni Sheth, cofounder and career coach at coaching company Ama la Vida
29. Stop chasing the investor and get the sale.
"How does a pizzeria make it? They don't get an investor, they sell pizzas--that's how they stay in business. If you don't have cash flow you can't stay alive, you need sales to grow. Focus on the sales and if you can drive revenue the investors will come."
--Ron Ben-Zeev, founder and CEO of World Housing Solution, creator of composite structures for the U.S. military
30. Inspire your team.
"Each week for the past four years, I have started every week on Sunday off with a 'Welcome to the Week' email to the team. I want to let everyone know what is on my mind and stay close to them. With a young workforce that is spread amongst disparate locations, I want them to know I am still zeroed in on what is affecting them and how I can help inspire them to be better leaders."
--David Osterweil, founder of Fitlife Foods, a lifestyle brand committed to creating fresh, all-natural meals
31. Spend one full day not working.
"I try to spend one day on the weekend not working and doing something outdoors. The outdoors is the best stress reliever and doing something sweaty always clears my head. I grew up near Rocky Mountains and I love getting on my bike, my skis... or going sailing in the summer. It also lets me disconnect from email and technology for a short while. It can also be a great chance to catch up with friends. Last weekend, I ended up shooting hoops with gold medalist Donovan Bailey."
--Michele Romanow, Dragons' Den investor and CEO of Clearbanc, provider of transparent financial services
32. Spend time where it all began.
"I make sure I spend some time where it all began--on the court, shooting hoops--every single day. I cofounded ShotTracker out of my passion for basketball, so it's important for me to make time each day to enjoy the physical side of the game and not just the analytics side from behind the desk. It keeps me in shape, it keeps my mind sharp, and it ensures my skills are always ready for a quick pick-up game. Some of my best ideas and inspirations have come from my daily sessions on the court."
--Davyeon Ross, cofounder and COO of ShotTracker, a provider of automatic real-time performance data for basketball teams and wearable technology
33. Get in the mindset to win the day.
"I'm a big college sports fan, having started and coached the women's golf team at my university, University of Notre Dame. So, to get fired up to start the day, I listen to College Sports Nation on my satellite radio when driving to work. Listening in the morning as I am preparing for my day gets me in the mindset to win. Hearing great coaches and sports personalities talk about how they made a difference in the lives of others and in the success of their team helps me as I approach my day and my team. Business is all about competition, so what better way to start the day than to channel inspiration from the passion I have from college sports."
--Jim Rogers, chief marketing officer of Romacorp, Inc., parent company of Tony Roma's, a restaurant chain specializing in ribs
34. Exercise and meditate.
"Every day, first thing in the morning, I scan the phone for emails and check the latest major news. Before breakfast, I go for a quick run or workout, which increases my appetite and makes breakfast more enjoyable. After breakfast, I do a 10-minute meditation session, which helps me clear my mind and focus. Doing exercise and meditation in the morning, each day, gives me more energy and increases productivity throughout the day."
--Yury Rachitsky, CEO of LuxeDecor.com, an e-retailer site for luxury furniture and home décor
35. Listen and stop waiting for your turn to speak.
"Think of conversation as playing catch--you throw me a ball, I'll catch it, throw it back, and repeat. Equal parts throwing and catching. Conversation should be no different. If one person is doing all of the talking, or worse, thinking of what they're going to say next while the other person is talking, that person can't possibly be focused on what the other is saying. Great ideas, authentic connections and meaningful dialogue is completely lost. Not to mention, the side effects of awkward silences and ill-mannered body language could be hazardous to the relationship. Have real conversations by listening deeply, rather than just waiting for your turn to speak. Not only will the value of your conversations increase, the relationships you build with those you converse with will be far more meaningful. If you're in sales, you might even close a few more deals."
--Steve Alexander, founder and CEO of MVRK, a digital experiential agency
36. Program the coffee maker.
"We built a coffee bar in our bedroom about 20 years ago, and every night since then I have been programming the coffee machine to start brewing about 15 minutes before my alarm goes off. I'll grab my first cup and then settle back into bed for some quiet meditation before my day begins. These meditations normally last about 30 minutes--or however long it takes to finish two cups of coffee. Our yellow lab, Bria, is also on board with the routine. She settles down between my wife and me, and I'll just scratch her head and think about my goals for the day. It's often when I comes up with some of my best ideas for the private air service company that I founded with my wife following retirement from a career as a civil engineer."
--Charles "Chick" Gregg, cofounder and principal of Air Unlimited, a private air service company
37. Incentivize doing good.
"To instill a corporate culture of giving back, I ask all 1,000 employees to volunteer at least one day a year at a charitable cause of their choosing in order to qualify for their annual bonus. Volunteering is done on company time with pay so they are not giving up any income to give back."
--Richard Wood, CEO of Plaza Construction, a construction management and general contracting firm
38. Look for trends.
"When walking my French bulldog every day I look for new styles and colors for every season; shapes and color tones of clothes, shoes and handbags, as indicators of style trends that can be incorporated into our name badges and signs."
--Marla Kott, CEO of Imprint Plus, which designs, develops, manufactures and distributes name badges, plates, signage and other business branding tools serving 35,000 customers from 21 industries in 60 countries
39. Limit email reading.
"I don't read emails before my first cup of coffee in the morning or after 10 p.m. at night. It helps keep business concerns from disturbing my sleep."
--Tom De Vesto, founder and CEO of Como Audio
40. Keep a pen and paper by your bed.
"I keep a pad and pen by my bedside table to record thoughts upon waking up to make a list which may set up a schedule for the day."
--Fred Cummings, managing partner of Warshaw Burstein LLP, a full-service law firm with offices in New York City with over 50 partners