Think about your best days. Either you're on vacation and getting nothing done, or you're at work banging out a ton of work and feeling good about your level of productivity. Vacations aside, I've heard from hundreds of successful executives regarding the practices which help them achieve more and several themes always surface. Here are a handful of things you should be doing if you want to get ahead in business and life.

1. Use a to-do list every day.

It's a daily habit widely practiced by high-achieving individuals. Hand-write your list on paper every night before bed, or first thing in the morning and keep it visible in your work area. Now, give yourself a deadline for crossing items off and make sure it happens. Delegate, hire out or give up on tasks which don't drop off the list for several weeks at time--they're just a distraction.

2. Keep a tidy home.

Make your bed first thing in the morning. It reflects organization and discipline, two factors which are highly correlated with success. And if scrubbing toilets, showers and floors isn't something you love doing, hire a house cleaner. An orderly, clean and nice-smelling home environment creates cognitive space which can enable you to think clearly, be more creative and get more done.

3. Shut off notifications.

The chime on your computer or the ping on your phone is only a temptation for distraction. Highly successful people understand that multi-tasking doesn't work if you really want to be productive. Stay focused on the work you're doing and forget about checking email, news or any app which wants your attention.

4. Stay out of your email.

Along the same line, set aside only a certain amount of time every day for dealing with email, such as once in the morning and another point in the afternoon. It's a rabbit hole which keeps you in response mode, which is a zone that prevents you from checking things off your to-do list.

5. Maintain your relationships even when your address or job changes.

It takes countless hours to create friendships, partnerships and client relationships. Moving to a different city or making a career change doesn't mean you need to abandon the investments you've made in your social capital. You never know when you may need an old friend, former coworker or previous client to open a door for you.

6. Purge your stuff.

The clutter which results from having too many things will clog your ability to be productive. Researchers have found the more items in your visual field, the more distracted you will be. If you haven't used or looked at an item for one year, you don't need it.

7. Stop watching TV, drinking alcohol and smoking (anything).

These vices are massive time-sucks. How would your life change if instead you invested your time learning new things? Imagine the interesting people could you meet if you took up archery. Or, what social experiences could you have if you learned to play the guitar? How could you change your career trajectory if you took night classes to master a challenging subject?

8. Exercise for at least 20 minutes before you start work.

It's another daily habit nearly all highly successful people practice. Intentionally pumping blood quickly through your muscles, organs and body tissues is therapeutic on so many levels. Not only is exercise good for your emotional state due to the feel-good hormones it produces, researchers have found that aerobic activity decreases levels of fatigue and helps people feel more energized. And, prioritizing exercise before your day starts means it won't get pushed to the back burner.

Published on: Sep 28, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.