The most successful people don't get to the top by doing things like everyone else. One thing they typically have in common: Consistently doing the right things, day in and out. Here's what more than two dozen high achieving executives say are their secrets to getting ahead in business and life.
1. Read on high speed.
"I was really having a hard time with keeping up with books and articles on my reading list, as well as the growing amount of podcasts deserving my attention. I tried to move anything I could from written form to my Audible and Podcast apps. I gradually upped the speed I listened to them, and can now listen to most things on 2.5X or 3X speed. This obviously cuts down on the time it takes to make it through the materials and has allowed me to digest much more information in shorter time frames. Going back now, it's amazing how slow 'regular' speed sounds."
2. Bring a pet to work.
"Pets are always in the office and we encourage employees to bring their pets to work, as well as rescue pets that are shared in the office. We consider the interaction with pets a good de-stressor for everyone, and by interacting with furry creatures, the employees are continually entertained on a daily basis."
--Patra De Silva, CEO of NHV Natural Pet Products, which provides veterinarian-formulated supplements derived from natural botanicals to support the health and well-being of pets, including dogs, cats, and small animals
3. Conduct intermittent partial fasting.
"I stick to eating during an eight-hour window, with 16 hours of fasting in between meals (for example, finish eating at 8 p.m. and no food again until noon the next day). This practice can potentially help prevent diseases, decreases fat, and improves body composition. I also stick with a primarily plant-based diet, including fermented foods at each meal. If I can't get these, then I take a soluble fiber supplement in one or both of those categories. Practicing these three habits helps curb my unhealthy cravings and allows me to stay focused on the task at hand throughout the day."
--Peter ISOThrive, a manufacturer of microFood for improved gut healthSwann, MD, co-founder, and chief medical officer of
4. Focus on one big thing each day.
"Every day, so many people are overwhelmed trying to check off items on their to-do lists and keep up with emails. One of my simplest and most effective daily habits is to focus on doing one big thing each day to further the goals of my life or our business. This kind of focus really adds up to larger, faster success over time."
--Chris Miller, co-founder and CEO of Recall Masters/Motorsafety.org, a company that harnesses big data to help automakers and dealers expedite the repair of recalled vehicles and help drivers easily find their car's recall status
5. Say a positive mantra during a cold shower.
"As soon as I wake up, I take a cold shower. There, I close my eyes, fill my hands with the cold water, and as the water flows over in my hands, I repeat the words 'abundance, abundance.' I remember that like the river that keeps feeding my life full of everything I need to succeed, we need to close our eyes and feel that abundance."
--David Zamir, founder and CEO of Nana.io, a service that connects customers with high-quality cleaning and appliance repair services by vetted and skilled workers
6. Stay curious.
"I subscribe to a number of blogs, trend reports, and Google News alerts, and carve out time each day to keep up to date with what's happening around the world that is important to my business.... It's easy to become internally focused as you work the day-to-day in your own company, so it takes discipline to have a voracious appetite for trends that can be adopted and adapted to what we do with clients around the world."
--Craig Hanna, chief creative officer at Thinkwell Group, a global leader in experience design and location based entertainment
7. Make lunch count.
"Circadian science tells us that the digestive strength is best at mid-day. The afternoon is when the brain demands much of the fuel taken from the mid-day meal. Skipping lunch forces the brain to scavenge fuel from sugar, snacks, coffee, or an energy drink--none of which provide the fuel to the brain to make intelligent decisions. I make a point of stopping and eating my main meal in the middle of the day, in as relaxed a fashion as I can muster."
--Dr. John Douillard, author and creator of LifeSpa.com, an Ayurveda health and wellness resource on the internet
8. Participate in education.
"[I] let employees know that I take education seriously. Invest in employee continued education. People want more than to just improve how they do their job. They want to improve as a person. Be a role model. I invest in my own education."
--Larry Light, a global brand revitalization expert, co-author of Six Rules for Brand Revitalization, and CEO of Arcature, a marketing consulting company
9. Visualize putting armor on.
"Before I leave my home, I spend 60 seconds visualizing wrapping my body in protective gear and putting armor on, which provides a layer of protection and reinforces that only I can allow the outside influences and challenges of my day to enter my space and take me off target."
--Brad Deutser LLC, a consulting firm that advises leaders and organizations about achieving clarity, especially in times of transition, growth, or crisisDeutser, president of
"I've been competing in triathlons for 28 years, so by 6:30 or 7 a.m., I am either swimming, biking, or running. Since I am a goal-oriented person, I find having a race to look forward to keeps me motivated to train. Clearly, exercise has many benefits, which include reducing stress, boosting happy chemicals, and time to think without interruption."
--Bill Green, author and founder and CEO of The Crestar Group of Companies, and CEO of LendingOne, which provides real estate bridge and rental loans to non-owner occupied real estate investment properties
11. Reach out to at least one or two clients for a conversation about how they are doing.
"This call is typically not about business but them.... My interest in them as a person seems to build bonds, establish collaborative relationships, and lead to long-term engagements. They hire us to help them change--which they know they have to do but hate it anyway. That daily touch seems to add comfort, support, and an opportunity to talk about something that is on their minds but not on the business plan or the work to be done."
--Andi Simon, PhD, author, public speaker, corporate anthropologist, and founder and CEO of Simon Associates Management Consultants, which helps companies use the tools of anthropology to better adapt to changing times
12. Set aside thinking time.
"Setting aside time to think through larger problems keeps me proactive and focused. Packing your schedule back to back is tempting, especially when there is so much to do, but I've found that setting an hour or so a day aside to think through complex organizational, strategic, or operational problems has massively improved my ability to execute. This is best done very early in the morning or very late at night, with no distractions whatsoever. That means putting the phone and laptop away."
--Anthony Ghosn, CEO at Hearth, a home improvement financing platform
13. Find time to play.
"Success is an endurance sport. You'll burn out before you get there unless you find time to play. You know you're doing it right when you're laughing and getting exercise at the same time."
--Rudd Davis, CEO of Blackbird Air, an alternative air travel service
14. Read news story comments.
"In order to better understand consumers, I've always believed it imperative to get a feel of the public's mood. But one can't just get this from the articles, but from the comments to the articles. [It's] very eye-opening."
--Dr. Harold Katz, founder of The California Breath Clinics and author of The Bad Breath Bible
15. Meditate before the storm.
"On big days, I get into the office before everyone else arrives--usually around 6 a.m.--to do a candlelight meditation. I set out a single candle, relax at my desk, and for 10 to 15 minutes observe the movement of the flame. This moment lets my mind rest before the long hours of the hyper attention required to manage the moving parts of a frenetic, growing startup. Sometimes you don't get to plan the day. Sometimes the day plans you, and that's why these moments of focused stillness are important."
--Dave Krauss, founder and CEO of NoiseAware, a noise monitoring tool used by short-term rental communities
16. 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
"Every morning, as soon as I wake up, I down a tall glass of water plus my morning supplement regimen containing nootropics and Omega3s. For the rest of the day, I make sure to stay constantly hydrated. I keep a liter water bottle at my desk, and I make sure I've refilled it at least three times by the end of the day. This trick helps me stay on track to drink at least three liters a day. It's easy to forget to drink water during a busy day, and staying adequately hydrated is such an easy and basic ritual that pays dividends in terms of mood, energy, and productivity."
--Geoff Woo, CEO of human enhancement company HVMN
18. Make a gratitude sandwich.
"Leading a business is a roller coaster of daily emotion that comes with an array of challenges hour by hour. I start my morning preparation with a few minutes of gratitude. I jot down the three things I am most grateful for every morning. Often, I take time to send a quick hand-written note to someone who has done something I find myself grateful for at that time. I end the day with gratitude as well. This has an amazing effect on everything I take on during my waking hours. We are a blessed people in a blessed time, and reminding yourself of that every day as you fire up your engine will help you get in the right mindset to take care of your team, your customers, and your family."
--Steve Elliott, founder and CEO of scaled Agile management platform AgileCraft
19. Take a five-minute freezing cold shower.
"I wake up every morning at 4:45 so I can do three things. First, I meditate. Next, I lift heavy weights. The weight routine is hard, but having accomplished something challenging early in the day charges me up. Finally, I jump in a cold shower and spend five full minutes in the coldest water my shower can pump out. It's uncomfortable, but that's the point. Pushing through it trains me to not be controlled by discomfort. A lot of your day is about mind over will. If you frame your morning right then it's all downhill from there."
--Manny Medina, CEO of the sales automation platform Outreach
20. Block out social media.
"Apps that limit my exposure to social media have been a game changer in terms of productivity and focus. Using Freedom and Siteblock on my laptop, and the Restrictions on the iPhone, I cut off access to news and social media for two five-hour periods during my workday. Not only does that help me concentrate, but it also breaks the habit of incessantly checking the phone for the new new thing."
--Chris Nicholson, CEO of artificial intelligence company Skymind
21. List it out.
"Since I was in college, I have written to-do notes the day before. It relaxes me, especially during challenging times, because even when the list is long, I feel that I am at least paying attention to action items. The next day, I am always surprised that I did not remember everything I put on that list, which validates my need to write it the night before. There is nothing more relaxing than crossing an item off the list and the feeling that comes from getting things done."
--Phone2Action, a digital advocacy platformXimena Hartsock, co-founder of
22. Commit to three things in writing.
"Like many executives, I believe in the power of threes. Whether it's pillars of a strategy, supporting points on how you'll reach it, or ways in which your team needs help to stay on track, somehow organizing your thoughts in groups of three helps people memorize and access them. On a micro level, I write down the three things I must accomplish in any given day and try to knock them out regardless of my calendar demands. Even if they are small things, the sense of accomplishment in delivering on deadlines and continually moving key projects forward is, for me, still a rush."
--Lever, a talent acquisition suite for more than 1.300 companiesLeela Srinivasan, CMO of
23. Maintain an unwavering commitment to your people.
"As the business leader, your peers and direct reports have the most immediate impact on your given goals. Without their focus and support you cannot achieve the more important broad company goals, regardless of what type of business you are managing. Take the time to know the people who work with you. Understand what drives them, why they chose to work for with you, and where they want to be in the years ahead. In every conversation, in any situation, every day, invest the extra minute to care not only about the business, but their part of the business. I am clearly not able to help every situation every time, but by having this metronome-like habit and yielding influence on their behalf I am able to provide consistent and often unseen support, helping everyone working with me meet and exceed their goals."
--Joe Puthur, president of Mortgage Coach, a real estate app which helps people make a confident mortgage decision
24. Keep an updated to-do list.
"As your business grows, so do the number of items you need to track on a regular basis. If you get in the habit of keeping a to-do list--which includes specifics tasks, such as call or email X, to broader themes, such as check in with marketing on Idea Y or set a meeting this month with person Z--you can keep better control of the items you normally try to remember. Also, update and re-arrange the list, based on priority, every morning or night. This will also help you strengthen your memory recall."
--Hil Davis, founder and CEO of online retailer BeautyKind
25. At the end of each day, write tomorrow's top five priorities.
"Making the list while the day is still fresh in your mind will help keep the most important projects on track and remind you to tackle something you didn't get to. Checking that list every morning keeps me from getting pulled in other directions."
--Warren Webster, president and CEO of Coveteur, a destination for behind-the-scenes looks at all things fashion, lifestyle, and culture
26. Give yourself two hours of "do not disturb" phone time when you get home.
"When I get home from work, whether it's at 6 p.m. or midnight, I always put my phone on 'do not disturb' for two hours. This allows me to truly decompress without getting interrupted by phone calls or text messages. All day, every day, business executives are bombarded with communication from customers and employees. Give yourself two hours to be present each day when you get home. Your family will thank you. And you will be a much more engaged parent and spouse, even if it's only for two hours a day."
--Ed Mitzen, founder of the marketing agency Fingerpaint
27. Make time to daydream.
"I carve out time to think about blue sky ideas instead of filling the entire day with back-to-back calls and meetings. I ask my [personal assistant] to protect at least one full hour in my day for dreaming--either about new opportunities or radical solutions or any creative thoughts that can help my business evolve."
--Shazi Visram, founder and CEO of organic baby food company Happy Family
28. Win the morning.
"To win the day, you have to win the morning. My morning routine starts the night before. I set an alarm to force me to bed on time so I get a good night's sleep. In bed, I do three things: 1) I mentally take stock of the day. Did I achieve my three big goals? Did I live up to my expectations of myself as a dad, husband, leader? What can I do better? 2) I express gratitude for the things I have. 3) I read. To reduce friction the next morning, I put water next to the bed, lay out my gym clothes, and I note what I will need to wear for work, given the schedule. I plug in my phone away from my bed so I am not tempted. Having a routine and healthy habits helps maximize my energy and focus it on the things that I want to achieve today."
--Mike Steib, CEO of XO Group Inc., a family of brands including The Knot, The Nest, The Bump, GigMasters, and How He Asked