The most successful people don’t get to the top conducting themselves like everyone else. One thing they typically have in common: Practicing the right habits, every single day. Here are the simple daily routines more than two dozen successful executives say are their secrets to getting ahead in business and life.
1. Sweat it out in the morning.
“My most successful days always start with me waking up around 5:30 a.m., playing tennis, and still getting to the office before it fills up so I still have some peace and quiet time before the emails and questions start flooding in. Working out in the morning allows me to take my mind off of work and get in the ‘attack the day’ mindset.”
–Michael Fishman, cofounder of Pure Cycles, which offers city bikes, road bikes, track bikes, commuter bikes, beach cruisers, balance bikes and an e-bike
2. Bank on a consistent breakfast routine.
“I have the same breakfast routine every day. I don’t want to start my day trying to figure out what I want for breakfast. I know, it sounds boring–but decision fatigue is a real thing–you can only make so many decisions in a day, don’t waste them on something as trivial as breakfast.
–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. Practice random acts of kindness.
“I start most days with meditation and reflection time. I make it a personal priority to express gratitude and appreciation to at least one person every single day. If I can make that person laugh, all the better. I am a firm believer in servant leadership, and as such, I practice random acts of kindness. Perhaps it is simply buying a cup of coffee for the stranger in the car behind me at Starbucks, or anonymously providing an employee with everything on their children’s wish list for Christmas. This form of giving back keeps me in the spirit of service and grateful for the little things in life. Successful leadership is about humility and service. I encourage everyone to start a gratitude journal. End each day in reflection and journal the positive interactions of the day.”
–Sherry Adams, founder of Stratford Schools, an independent private school founded on the belief that education is a significant influence in the life of a child
4. Make time for exercise.
“I try to wake up at 6 a.m. every morning, at least five days a week, and lift and go running for about 90-minutes. I run on a treadmill and I have a few TVs that each have something different playing, so I can get caught up on the news while I am running. I think that this helps keep my stress levels in check. It is also where I get to be alone with my thoughts and think of things that need to get done and different ways to look at marketing questions and other problems.”
–Nathan Jones, CEO of Xlear, which makes xylitol-based nasal and oral care products
5. Profess affirmations of gratitude.
“The first thing I do every morning is make my bed. It gives me closure from the night before, and starts my day off in a clean, tidy and organized way. The second thing I do is an affirmation of gratitude, whether it’s for my immediate fortunate surroundings [such as] family, friends, health, home or gratitude for unknown people and unforeseen situations that come my way. Every person that enters your life and everything that happens to you has some greater meaning. It’s up to you to dig deep and ask why.”
–Angela Mavridis, founder and CEO of TRIBALÍ Foods, a brand of high-quality, organic grass-fed and finished protein patties with globally inspired flavors that foster eating and living well
6. Understand what energizes and de-energizes you.
“As an entrepreneur, especially in the early stages, you’ll find yourself with a hand in nearly every department. Understand those activities that energize you. For me, this is branding, user experience and design. Equally as important is to understand those activities that de-energize you. For me, it’s accounting and legal. People tend to talk about the things they love to do and work on as an entrepreneur, but tend to gloss over the fact that your job also entails some areas that may be more challenging or more taxing. The better you can understand this, the better you can balance your days and weeks, and find ways to reenergize throughout busy days.”
–Jenna Kerner, cofounder of bra company Harper Wilde
7. Make time for crises in the morning.
“Most mornings I try to keep the first hour open completely. There are often issues that will surface with a major client, or with key personnel, that require my attention at the start of the day. I keep a running list of internal and external tasks that need attention. Internal are projects inside MediaRadar and external is everything else.”
–Todd Krizelman, CEO of MediaRadar, an advertising intelligence company
8. Fuel the morning.
“I usually have 1,000 calories in the morning, starting with one of my protein shakes and a big breakfast filled with whole, plant-based foods. This keeps me fuller longer and more productive throughout the day, not to mention the sooner you eat when you wake up, the faster your metabolic engine starts to burn.”
–Rocco DiSpirito, award winning chef and author of Rocco’s Healthy + Delicious
9. Take a walking break mid-day.
“It’s easy to look at the lull in the middle of the day, when emails and phone calls slow somewhat, as an opportunity to push through that to-do list. But I find it critical to take those minutes to disconnect. A short walk helps refresh the body and releases tension but it also allows the brain to switch from focused thinking to a more diffuse mode that allows for better problem solving and idea generation. You will return energized and ready for more challenges.
–Buffy Simoni, president of party and packaging supplier Paper Mart
10. The team comes before the individual, always.
“One of the first things I taught my team is that we fail and succeed together. A successful company (and culture) doesn’t have time for personal agendas. As a CEO, my number one priority is to do everything I can to ensure my teammates win in everything they do, and everyone else on the team is also expected to add that to their personal agenda.”
–Peter Burns, CEO of protein bar company ONE Brands
11. Meditate while on the go.
“I start every day with scrambled eggs with my husband and two kids, reminding me that being present with my family matters most. Then I fill my travel mug with coffee, drop my son off at school and listen to the NYT Daily podcast to stay informed about the world. I drive over the Bay Bridge in silence, appreciating the San Francisco skyline, thinking through my priorities and intentions for the day ahead. It is my own style of meditation–peaceful but still on-the-go.”
–Leigh Rawdon, CEO of Tea Collection, a globally-inspired children’s apparel brand
12. Breathe and relax.
“I have a series of large singing bowls that were cast for temples in the highlands of Vietnam that bring me back to the present and align my mind, soul and body at the start of each day (even in sleep our minds are working hard). Before I pick up my phone or laptop in the morning, I find sanctuary in breathing and being present while relaxing my body and my mind. The effect is tangible and helps me approach each work day with a clear mind and calm collectedness…This is powerfully productive for me.”
–Duncan Berry, cofounder and VP of Innovation at Fishpeople, a different seafood company bringing pure, sustainable, traceable fish to consumers
13. Schedule time for yourself.
“Walking my 85-pound Rottweiler 2.5 miles both morning and night keeps me balanced and focused. It’s seriously my board room meeting with me, myself, and I. It’s such a multifaceted experience to start and end each day with this special time to regroup, figure out strategies and chill-ax. I couldn’t live without it.”
–Danielle Dietz-LiVolsi, founder and CEO of NuttZo, maker of seven nut and seed butter snacks
14. Take time to reflect.
“Give yourself time throughout the day to think. Don’t fill your day with back-to-back meetings. Schedule breaks so you can reflect and catch up on work.”
–Andy Hinrichs, president and CEO AutoGravity, a car financing mobile app
15. Step outside.
“We all know the benefits of being outside, going for a walk and getting fresh air. This becomes even more therapeutic in a particularly tense or hectic work environment. Schedule 15 minutes in your calendar to get outside each day…leave your phone at work or in your pocket so you can disconnect. I’ve found this short break outside releases tension and clears the head, making for a more productive and focused rest of the day.”
–Erin Simons, business unit director at KEEN Kids Footwear, a Portland-based manufacturer of hybrid outdoor and casual footwear
16. When business is complex, take care of yourself and things become simple.
“Business success today is far different than even a decade ago and that requires constant adaptation and innovation. Anytime a gym or franchise partner has a bad day, I absorb those feelings so we can strive towards excellence. Every leader needs to take care of their mind and body which will result in a fighting spirit that others will see and feel. The leader’s spirit sets the tone for an entire company and results will follow. Get your team to fight!”
–Adam Sedlack, president and cofounder of UFC GYM, the first brand extension of UFC bringing mixed martial arts (MMA) safely to the masses
17. Be in motion.
“As an entrepreneur and father, the days are full and it takes energy to get through the day. As often as I can, I start my day with some kind of activity that has me in motion; a bike ride, a swim or a brisk walk. Starting the day in motion provides me with the momentum to get through the day.”
–Alon Ozery, founder and co-owner of the family-owned Ozery Bakery
18. Invest in your staff.
“Our company has seen success because we have a strong team behind us. A lot of our executive team has been with us a long time – almost all of which started at the store level as our staff members at the restaurants. Something I make an effort to do as a habit is to sit down with someone different every day, which allows me to get to know each of my team members on an individual basis. I like to meet with team members who work within our store levels to continue to foster our working relationship and get to know them on an individual basis as well as hear their feedback and stories. Because when employees are happy, it builds for a stronger, longer lasting team that is able to go the distance and yield more successful results.”
–Joshua Liang, CEO of Ono Hawaiian BBQ, a fast casual restaurant concept with 65+ locations in California and Arizona
19. Be positive.
“The most important daily habit is leading with complete and mindful positivity! There are two ways to think about the world–negative and positive. The greatest gift you can give others is an injection of positive energy that makes people feel motivated and excited to be the most passionate and successful person that they can be!”
–Nicholas Reichenbach, founder and CEO of Flow Water, a premium brand of boxed alkaline spring waters sourced from the founder’s family-owned aquifer in Southwest Ontario
20. Prioritize your to-do List.
“Like most entrepreneurs, I sit down at my desk each morning with a seemingly endless list of to-dos. Instead of feeling overwhelmed that I won’t get to it all, I write down the three most important (instead of urgent or recent) things to focus on that day for Babiators. I finish them with a nice sense of accomplishment and don’t spend unnecessary time on the less important tasks.”
–Molly Fienning, cofounder of Babiators, aviator-style sunglasses for babies and kids providing 100% UVA/UVB protection
21. Reflect on Thanksgiving.
“Before picking up my phone, answering emails or figuring out my priorities for the day, I take five minutes to reflect on what three things I’m grateful for that morning. It allows me to start my day with positivity, which helps me become less reactive and laser focused on the things I want to accomplish that day, both personally and professionally.”
–Patricia Dao, CEO of dailyKARMA, a place where users are able to bundle their favorite charities into one profile in order to donate and fundraise in one transaction
22. Get your blood flowing first thing.
“The best days are always the ones when I exercise before anything else–a cycle class, run or yoga. The blood is flowing and decision making is that much clearer. Snapper Rock has been built upon thousands of small successes and even more small failures. I try and remember those failures every time I’m faced with a new decision and it steers me to make the right one.”
–Liz Eglinton, CEO of Snapper Rock, children and adult swimwear brand with UV50+ protection with fashion forward styles and patterns for the whole family
23. Set daily goals.
“Before jumping into my work, I take 15 minutes to list my daily goals and re-assess priorities. Within my list, I include at least one sales-driving activity and one task that I will be inclined to put off. I time-box and tackle those items first.”
–Payal Kindiger, CEO of Storymakery, an interactive experience in which kids become authors of their own books
24. Practice what you preach.
“Maya Angelou said ‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’ Behavior is everything. That’s why I practice persistent and optimistic problem solving, as I believe these to be fundamental to long-term success and value creation. I practice living our core values, because if I can’t model our values, how can I expect others to? And, above all, I strive to practice the Golden Rule.”
–Andrew Grauer, founder and CEO of Course Hero, an online learning platform that empowers millions of students and educators to succeed
25. Trust your team.
“[This is] simple, but not easy. Only hire those whom you can trust and help them understand crucial methods to maintain and build more trust, such as transparency, honesty and consistency. People flourish when they feel they are trusted and it is a sufficient reason to trust your team… Teams with a high level of trust spend less resources on interaction, because team members do not waste time hedging against unexpected developments from their peers or managers.”
–Greg Jakacki, founder and CEO of tech recruiting assessment company Codility
26. Take time for self-appreciation.
”Every morning, I get up, walk to the mirror, and smile at myself for 30 seconds. I know, it sounds awkward, but when you put that much effort in appreciating yourself, the confidence really pays off!”
About Ono Hawaiian BBQ
Ono Hawaiian BBQ is a fast casual restaurant concept with locations in California and Arizona, serving up “aloha in every bite” through their Hawaiian-inspired plate lunches and island specialties. Every Ono Hawaiian BBQ dish is created with fresh ingredients using authentic Hawaiian recipes, and made-to-order in each restaurant. Ono Hawaiian BBQ operates 65 restaurants throughout their two states of operation, with plans to open more in 2017.