Ever wonder what sets highly successful people apart? I’ve polled countless executives and entrepreneurs about the things they’re doing every day which help them succeed, and it’s not rocket science. In fact, often they credit simple daily routines which have been proven over time to give them an edge. Check out these quotes from 24 high-achieving individuals who share the habits which help them get ahead in business and life.
1. Give yourself unrealistic deadlines.
“To boost productivity, it’s important to set deadlines that are on aggressive side. Not outrageously aggressive, but difficult to achieve. Setting milestones makes it possible to measure progress. It creates a process, forces transparency, and definitely fosters urgency.”
–Todd Krizelman, CEO of MediaRadar, an advertising intelligence company
2. Do more outdoors.
“Use the outdoors to clear your head and get priorities in order. I usually sit outside, admire the golden hour, and write down what I want to accomplish for the day. Start with the 4 most important things, then list everything else (perhaps things you didn’t get done the day before). Then think about what you can delegate or combine.”
–Josh Sowin, CEO of Brainjolt, a viral content company that makes articles, quizzes and videos for the social-web with content which reaches half the U.S. population and 300 million people worldwide every month
3. Visualize while you exercise.
“Where does your mind go when you exercise? For me, exercise has become a daily habit that contributes a lot to my success but so does visualizing success before it happens. As someone who is always trying to improve my effectiveness and efficiency, I noticed that while I exercised I had mental time that I wasn’t using effectively. Usually, while I’m exercising my mind would wander and worry about the day ahead or just daydream about random topics that didn’t matter. I then realized I could use this time to combine my daily visualizing. Both created a synergy, the workout became more enjoyable and the visualizing became more vivid.”
–Seth Au, CEO at Dorado Financial, an alternative investment company increasing clients wealth through real estate
4. Feed your soul.
“Every day I make sure to make a connection with my customers. As a hospital leader that includes our patients, associates and physicians. Hearing from them about compassion, caring, healing and a strong dose of empathy…it feeds my soul. It gives me the knowledge to know how to align our organization with their needs. When I talk to the patients, I can better inspire our associates and be a better partner to our physicians. This is amazing work and has been my formula for success and what drives me every day.”
–J. Scott Steiner, CEO of Detroit Medical Center’s Detroit Receiving and Harper-Hutzel Hospitals
5. Give more than you take.
“Touch base with someone who’s helped you or your company, and in turn respond – even if briefly – to someone who’s asked for help. A few years ago, I met Adam Grant, a Wharton professor who’d put some science behind this and just published ‘Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success.’ In the end, it comes down to giving a bit more, and showing gratitude.”
–Leona Hiraoka, president and CEO of Keiro, a mission-driven organization engaged in improving the quality of life for older adults and their caregivers in the Japanese American and Japanese community of Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura counties
6. Make sure you are looking around the next corner.
“I have always approached each day with a curiosity about what’s around the next corner. No matter the project, the plan or the client relationship, it’s about creating value and helping others to look at the incoming ‘radar blips’ and begin to understand how they will affect things immediately, in the near and long-term future business cycles. Triangulating data and preparing for sudden movement are vital. It’s about strategic visioning and reading the road map. This habit has brought me success in my career, great value to my clients and enduring professional relationships with those I have had the privilege of working with and learning from.”
–Michael Hunn, founder and president of HUNN GROUP LLC – Healthcare Advisors, a California-based healthcare advisory firm specializing in health system, hospital, health plan and medical group operations, finance, M&A, strategic planning, marketing and media relations
7. Get your day off to a good start.
“I find that having a productive morning routine keeps me on track for the rest of the day. If you start behind you’ll likely finish behind. Starting focused early on and limiting distractions from the get-go should lead to better afternoons and evenings.”
–David Johnson, COO of Fireman’s Brew, a collection of micro-brewed beers, sodas and coffee
8. Take time to mediate.
”Meditation lets me create space and get clear about what I want out of the day. Closing your eyes for just five minutes is eye-opening (no pun intended). When you set some time aside to listen to the voice, it will guide you.”
—Rick Steele, founder and CMO of Select Shops and author of “30 Days to Launch, An Entrepreneur’s Diary to Building a Billion-Dollar Business“
9. Practice kindness.
“Normative behaviour in business tends to favour people who are selfish and take what they want. Relationship and family oriented people tend to take a broader approach. Practicing kindness to yourself and others is a free investment you can make in your health, work, and community every day. Giving without expectation of return or extending gratitude brings me a lot of happiness every day, and others appreciate it too.”
–Ryan Smith, founder and CEO of FTSY (“footsy”), an AI platform for matching people to shoes that fit
10. Cleanse your brain of thoughts.
“I begin my day at 6 a.m., grab a coffee and practice my journaling. There is a famous saying, ‘garbage in, garbage out.’ Over the course of the day we collect energy, thoughts, and ideas that pull us into many directions. This collection of days can often add up and narratives begin to plague the mind of these collective waves of knowledge, data points, and emotions. Each morning I get them out. I cleanse my brain of thoughts so that I am able to be fully present where I am. To look at the information I do receive in a day and see how it fits into the big picture. This can only transpire effectively when the mind is clear. Once I write, meditate, and exercise, I am free to focus on the day ahead and the next hand life may deal me in the pursuit of a dream.”
–Janice Taylor, founder and CEO ofMazu, a social media village built on core values, safety, and curated content for families
11. Say “thank you.”
“As a leader, it’s important for your team to understand your appreciation for all the risks they’ve taken to be part of the journey and all their hard work. A simple ‘thank you’ every day will go a long way. Make it a habit.”
–Derrick Fung, CEO of Drop, a millennial-focused reward program that lets users accrue points while shopping their favorite brands
12. Practice perfect punctuality.
“Although the virtue of punctuality seems to have been lost in our over-scheduled world, I practice it with near religious zest. In fact, I can count on two hands how many times I’ve been late in the last 10 years. Whether I’m meeting with a colleague, client, or partner, you can guarantee that I’ll always arrive on-time and prepared.”
13. Get some rest.
“Getting the right amount of quality sleep is the most important thing I believe improves one’s ability to be productive, creative, and enjoy life. I have learned this over the last five years with my work at Sommetrics, a company focused on improving sleep quality starting with the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea and snoring. I used to think that sleep was a waste of time. Now, I believe that it is one of the three pillars of health, the other two being exercise and diet. I also believe it’s important to have a regular schedule. I pretty much eat at the same time, go to sleep at the same time, and sleep the same amount every day. It may sound boring but I feel like a million dollars (actually millions of dollars).
–Avram Miller, former corporate VP of business development at Intel, the cofounder of Intel Capital, and current board vice chairman of Sommetrics, a company developing products and services aimed at enhancing health and well-being by improving sleep quality
14. Suck up the blame and push down the praise.
“Leadership is an achievement of trust. How a leader reacts in times of failure or success shows the level of trust he or she has in their team. In times of failure, instead of finger pointing I take as much responsibility as possible, thus protecting my team and gaining their trust. In times of success, I try to deliberately recognize the wins and give credit where praise is deserved. When leaders deflect blame or take all of the credit, the trust bond is broken between the leader and his or her team. Once trust is broken it becomes very difficult to lead and inspire a team effectively.”
–Matt Clark, COO of Corcentric, a wholly-owned subsidiary of AmeriQuest Business Services, LLC., which provides cloud-based financial process automation solutions which protect the financial assets of organizations
15. Schedule think time.
“It’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day of answering emails, reviewing work, and producing components of short-term needs. My calendar runs my world, so I set aside time to think every week about the bigger picture. I’m attuned to the time of day and week when I’m my most creative, so I make sure to set this time aside to explore the ‘what if’ and tackle larger challenges.”
–Jason Grunberg, VP of marketing at Sailthru, a cross-channel experience management platform for retail and media companies
16. Ask yourself: “What if I started over?”
“It’s really easy to fall in love with the first draft of any project, so I try to check in with myself at every stage of the process with this question. It forces me to re-think all of my assumptions and consider all of the choices I’ve made up to that point. If I can come up with a better solution, then it means I need to go back to the drawing board. And if I can’t come up with a better solution, then I have that much more confidence in my approach.”
–Mitch Grasso, CEO and founder of presentation software companyBeautiful.ai
17. Make a list.
“Like most busy CEOs, I am most successful when I stay laser focused on my goals. I firmly believe that if you are not addressing your company’s biggest challenges head on, you cannot thrive, so at the beginning of each month, I make a list of the top five issues I need to address to reach our goals. Every morning, I block out time to focus on and tackle one of those issues. I listen to classical music while I work in the early mornings which helps me keep my mind from wandering and be productive. This allows me to accomplish a lot of my agenda before the rest of the day’s meetings and while my mind is fresh. I work to quickly troubleshoot and delegate so I can pull myself back to my list of goals to get me where I want to go.”
—Saagar Govil, CEO of Cemtrex Inc., a 550-person public company focused on industrial and electronics manufacturing solutions
18. Seek inspiration.
“The first thing that I do when I wake up is have cup of coffee and go through all major social media platforms. It’s important for me to stay up to date with the fashion industry and seek inspiration before I tackle my day. Being on top of everything that has to do with my business helps [my company] stay relevant and creative.”
–Nick Leonidou, founder of Nikleon, a luxury handmade handbag provider
19. Seek simplicity.
“My three-mile walk before sunrise, is not only my most important daily habit, but it also led me to start my company. During these quiet moments, I am able to see, hear, and feel the simplicity within the complexity of the things around me — the sun rising, the trees waving in the wind, the dew on the grass. This appreciation for simplicity is both the genesis of our platform design, as well as my constant reminder to provide an effortless experience to our customers.”
–Chris Meyer, cofounder and CEO of Magilla Loans, a search engine for loans which connects borrowers to banks without requesting personal information
20. Focus on positivity.
“When you manage a results oriented company you must find a way to be positive about approaching each situation and resolving it while ensuring a positive outcome. At the end of the day, never confuse activities with success. Regardless of the situation, results are what counts so look to accomplish something major every day, approach it with a positive mindset and produce a positive result.”
–Joe Sardano, cofounder, chairman and CEO of Sensus Healthcare, a medical device company providing non-invasive and cost-effective treatment options for non-melanoma skin cancers and keloids
21. Always be learning.
“Whether you’re a CEO, business leader or entrepreneur, it’s important that you feel passionate about what you do on a day-to-day basis. When you get home at the end of the day, having creative interests will ensure you don’t feel burned out. What I try to do to keep my mind fresh is constantly read about new topics that peak my interest. At the end of each day, I’m consuming knowledge that keeps me curious and gets my mindset outside of the day-to-day tasks. For example, I’m currently reading about quantum computing because not only does the technology provide immense opportunity, it will completely transform the way we think about mobile infrastructure and cyber security over the next decade.”
–Carl Rodrigues, founder, president and CEO of SOTI, Inc., a provider of mobile and IoT device management solutions, with more than 17,000 enterprise customers and millions of devices managed worldwide
22. Prioritize your work-life balance.
“For me, it’s about setting priorities and not letting the daily minutiae distract you from your bigger goals. Although the pace of a startup can be hectic and stressful at times, it’s important to strive for work-life balance in order to avoid mental burnout. I achieve that balance by getting outside to exercise, where I often do my best thinking. So, I find the mantra of ‘healthy body, healthy mind’ to be very true.”
–Jack Regan, CEO of LexaGene, a biotech company that is developing a rapid, sensitive, automated pathogen detection technology that will transform the way that industries all over the world – from food safety and water quality testing to veterinary diagnostics and even human pandemic prevention – prevent and diagnose disease
23. Don’t let naysayers derail or affect your progress.
“I listen and adjust if appropriate, but for most cases, this type of negative energy offers little in the way of solutions. I keep focused on the real goal and pursue every solution toward that goal. Perseverance and tenacity often solve the most complex challenges.”
–Dean Irwin, CEO of Ra Medical Systems, maker of cardiovascular and dermatology catheters and excimer lasers
24. Read about your industry and beyond.
“I spend an hour, usually after dinner, reading about my industry, related industries, current events and pop culture. I start with daily curation emails like Jason Hirschhorn’s REDEF series and then branch out. I bookmark and tag (first with Delicious, now with Evernote) posts that I like and might refer to later. When possible, I share these posts, along with a brief summary of my rationale for sharing, with my team or friends. If nothing else, this process helps me remember the salient parts of the post and gives me time to explore how they fit into my larger view of things. This is my version of something Alvin Toffler wrote about that likened our world view to a filing cabinet in our brains: whenever new information gets presented to us, we catalogue and file it and then it goes on to inform our worldview in some small way. There’s tremendous power and opportunity in understanding how seemingly unrelated trends and events will go on to affect the work you’re doing.”
–P.J. Worsfold, head of product, FTSY (“footsy”), an A.I. platform for matching people to shoes that fit