Ever wonder why getting ahead can sometimes seem like such a struggle? The truth is: If you want to be highly successful, you need to be highly disciplined. I’ve polled countless executives and entrepreneurs about the things they’re doing every day which help them succeed, and typically they credit simple daily routines which have been proven over time to give them an edge. Check out these quotes from 33 high-achieving individuals who share the habits which help them get ahead in business and life.
1. 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.”
2. Keep a daily journal, but do it the right way.
“Most people use their journal to record events or to vent. But there’s so much more you can do with your journal and get immediate results in your life. Use your journal to write what you want your life to be. For years I’ve kept a journal to chronicle my life, plan for my dreams and strategize my goals. It is one of the important success habits that I do daily. Journaling empowers me to take my ideas and turn them into reality. What’s written is real. Once the words and images hit the paper, you have now crystallized a thought or idea. You can use the power of pen and paper to strategize and create anything you want. Journaling is one of the best methods of self-care therapy. When you’re journaling consistently, you tend to ask questions about life, your direction and your business.”
3. Work out for a strong body, which holds up a strong mind.
“Successful entrepreneurship requires more than just mental fitness, it requires physical fitness as well. I have a daily workout regime that started in 2013 and has grown and evolved in step with our business. It started with CrossFit (high intensity interval type training) and has expanded from there. Clearing your mind and challenging yourself physically with a tough workout every day prepares you for the daily challenges of business. A strong body holds up a strong mind.”
4. Remove fear.
“I find when working with others, when we seem to reach a barrier to getting something done, the barrier is really about their fear of failure, fear of being blamed, fear of accountability, etc. This fear is rooted in their prior experiences with another boss, another colleague, or even a family member. What I’ve learned is that if I tell them ‘I’m in this with you, and if this heads south I’ll accept as much or more responsibility for that than anybody,’ we can get beyond that fear and become extremely productive.”
5. Unplug without a device.
“Time away from the digital world is critical for my sanity, productivity and general wellness. Late night walks along the ocean without my phone provides a tranquil way to get exercise, digest the day, plan the next day and enjoy nature.”
6. Check your pride at the door.
“Great leaders understand that they are not the best at everything, but rather realizing their greatest asset is deciphering valuable information and how to action it quickly. Business owners have to be able to make tough decisions, but they need good reliable facts. Leaders who listen to their teams come out ahead and complete a better execution vs. leaders who only believe their way is always the right way.
7. Never give up.
“My daughter would say my favorite saying is ‘Never give up!’ It sounds trivial, but there are so many times that if I accepted ‘No,’ I would not have moved along the pendulum. It’s a delicate dance of fortitude, polite aggression and compartmentalized fear. Sometimes you just have to hit at it from a different angle. I often conceptualize chipping away at the wall. Different angles, different tools and a little muscle. Rarely you get the answer you want out of the gate and often times through the process you find you need to adjust your approach, but the end goal always the same.”
8. Surround yourself with positive people.
“Social media has become a cesspool for the haters and trolls. Don’t let negative people hold you back. Understand that negativity generally comes from unhappy people and those who envy you. Happy successful people don’t tear others down. Surround yourself with ambitious, positive people. It’s too easy to focus on the negative and there’s just no upside to that.”
9. Listen and learn.
“Listen to your peers, employees and customers. You will always learn something from listening. I also find that it could facilitate relationships just by listening, and really let people feel that you care. It helps ease any tensions, even if it doesn’t immediately solve a problem, it could relieve any negative feelings just by letting people express themselves whether it be an unhappy customer, a stressed employee or colleague.”
10. Put in extra effort to stay organized.
“Making lists and setting daily goals helps us stay focused each day. There are so many fires to put out each day when you own your own business and working to stay organized and task oriented helps us stay on track and meet our goals. We also have planning meetings to map out our vision and goals for the next six and 12 months. This helps us focus on the big picture of growing a new business and measure our success and failures over the year.”
11. Pay attention to details.
“Refuse to cut any corners when it comes to ingredients or any aspect of the manufacturing process. While many have told me that my attention to detail is counterproductive, I feel that it has been very helpful with growing sales and ultimately earning customer confidence. Basically, I have depended upon my inner voice regardless of trends and well-intentioned advice that did not feel right to me. Go with your gut and don’t deviate from your brand’s mission.”
12. Keep some balance in your life.
“If you let your work consume you, it will. Pushing away from the laptop and cell phone for a break each day is critical. It’s not always easy when you’re chasing a deadline. Small distractions, however, can have an incredibly refreshing effect. Inject a little daily balance into your life–dinner with the family, an hour of exercise, going to see my child participate in an extracurricular activities or 30 minutes with a book or newspaper.”
13. Write down your gratitude.
“First thing when I wake up, I write down three things I have to be grateful for, three things that would make that day great, and one daily affirmation. Right before I go to sleep, I write down three amazing things that happened that day and answer the question: ‘How could I have made today better?’ The daily practice of writing down what I have to be grateful for, and reflecting upon who I want to become, helps me rewire my brain and improve my happiness.”
14. Deprioritize opportunities which don’t fit with your goals.
“After SmartGurlz aired on Shark Tank, my inbox became inundated with all kinds of opportunities. I have written my two major goals for the company on a Post-it note that is stuck to my monitor. If a request comes in that does not support those, I force myself to down-prioritise them or even say ‘no.’ Keep your focus and move on to more productive tasks. Learn from the experience that you cannot do it all. Once the butter is spread too thin, it is difficult to go back.”
15. Adapt to what the present holds.
“Here’s a quote that I repeat often to myself from The Art of War by Sun Tzu: ‘In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.’ It keeps me focused, knowing that even in moments when it all looks and feels like chaos, I am moving forward, I am looking for solutions, that may open new doors with endless possibilities. It reminds me to be flexible and adapt to what the present holds.”
16. Pick three things to do each day.
“Running a business can be quite overwhelming, with the work truly never ending. When you have a lot to do, my philosophy is to just pick 3 things to do each day. Do those three things first in the morning, and then wherever the rest of your day takes you, you know at least you’re progressing and have accomplished what you needed to.”
17. Start the day with a small, meaningful win.
“I start almost every day by talking to one of our customers. On Sunday night I spend about 30 minutes lining up informal calls for the week, and use my 20-minute drive to work to have those conversations. Jumping on the phone and hearing first hand what’s working for them, their frustrations, and just how hard they’re hustling gives me motivation to help them be as successful as possible. I try to carry their passion through the rest of my day. When the day starts with a small win, the momentum continues.”
18. Use Sundays to plan out your week.
“Between today’s hyperactive communication landscape and the nonstop news cycle, it can be hard to stay focused, which is why I plan my week out before it starts. Every Sunday I spend time on Evernote walking through a regimented process of what I want to accomplish in the coming week, making sure it aligns with monthly, quarterly, and annual goals. Sure, fire drills come up and to-do lists change, but this approach to planning keeps me focused across different functions so that I can be as strategic as possible in my day-to-day.”
19. Protect your Sunday nights.
“I have a post-it up in my kitchen that says, ‘Sunday is not a workday, so back off anticipatory brain!’ I have to consciously force myself to protect the empty space and recovery time. Having a small visual reminder gives my subconscious permission to wait until Monday morning to start working again. This is about recovery and time with family but it’s also about creating blank space in your head so new ideas can pop up.”
20. Make a list of goals for improvement.
“I keep a running list of goals for improvement in the back of my daily notebook. It makes me more conscious of where I can do better. Before major meetings and presentations, I run through the list to make sure I’ve internalized relevant points, and afterwards I’ll run through any feedback with my co-founder or, if available, watch a recording of the presentation to add new goals to the list.”
21. Walk while talking on the phone.
“Walking around the neighborhood while I’m on even the most important phone calls is key to energizing me and being a creative problem solver in the moment. I’m sure there’s some physiological science behind it (hence walking desks), but walking outside and talking is key to keeping me sane during the day. It also helps being in El Segundo and having plenty of parks and neighborhoods to stroll through.”
22. Accept that one amazing thing will happen every day.
“When I wake up in the morning, I remind myself that no matter how impossible things seem, there’s going to be at least one really awesome and unexpected thing that’s going to happen that day. This really helps me get going, and 99 percent of the time, it turns out to be true.”
23. Start your day with meditation.
“I’ve been meditating for a few years now, first thing after waking up each morning. It’s made a huge difference to me and to the people around me. Focusing on your breathing, just for 10 to 15 minutes in the morning gets you into a mindset where you’re better able to step back from the thoughts and emotions that might cloud your thinking. Through mindfulness, you are able to approach situations with much more clarity to better focus on what’s really important and prioritize your time accordingly, both professionally and personally.”
24. Walk in the park.
“To achieve better mental clarity, I try to go for a 30-minute walk in the park near my house every day. I find that taking that period to be outside by myself allows me to quiet my mind, organize my thoughts and find ways to approach different situations more objectively. I’m able to visualize the bigger picture associated with the big decisions I need to make professionally and personally, and ultimately, I’m better able to determine the correct course of action.”
25. Think like a customer.
“I try to approach our daily brainstorming sessions from the perspectives of our customers. I encourage my team to join me in coming to these meetings with a list of recent customer reviews and feedback to help us keep our customers top of mind as we develop new collections and work to constantly improve the shopping experience. This helps our entire team stay laser-focused and removes our egos from the mix.”
26. Invert the traditional working hierarchy.
“Every day as I interact with the team that reports to me, I actively and continually invert the traditional organizational structure. Instead of asking what they can do for me, I instead ask what I can do for them. As CEO, I view my role as making my general managers successful, not the other way around. I try to remove obstacles, reduce friction, give them better tools and impart guidance. Anything that frees them up to deliver bigger and better results, which in turn, helps create a better company. I have for a long time believed that the ego is the number one destroyer of companies, and I have seen many examples of this in action. So, long ago, I decided to check my ego in at the proverbial front door and instead approach my leadership role as one of making divisional leaders as successful as possible. And that has seemed to have made a material difference.”
27. Let music influence your mood.
“When I’m in the car to and from work each day, I blare my music and make sure to sing along with whoever I’m listening to. Great way to gear up for the day or wind down after a particularly long one. Only downside is that it gets a bit awkward at a red light when you catch the next car staring at you while you’re belting out to Ed Sheeran.”
28. Create a sense of calm.
“Creating a sense of calm each day helps me to set goals, prioritize and reflect. Whether this means waking up early for a yoga class or practicing breathing and meditation on my morning commute, I have found that even five minutes can make a difference. This habit has allowed me to be more engaged, thoughtful and ultimately make better decisions in both my work and personal life.”
29. Make time for music.
“I listen to music every day. Not all day, just two songs minimum–one familiar and one random. One of the first things I do when I get out of bed in the morning is play one song I know will have a positive effect on me. This gets me going and puts me in the right mindset for the day. Then I’ll play at least one random song on my commute. Sometimes I get one I love or haven’t heard for years, sometimes I get neither. The variable reward not only keeps me coming back, but is exciting. For me, music has noticeable and powerful effects on my brain. It changes my mood, motivates me, and boosts my concentration.”
30. Give yourself time to relax.
“Take an hour at the end of every day to decompress and unwind. Not only will you get to relieve the day’s stress, but you’ll give yourself the chance to really absorb everything you learned during the day and evaluate your next steps. Entrepreneurs – myself included – tend to be workaholics, but it’s important to take a break from the grind and let yourself breathe. Your business can only be in good shape if you are, too.
31. Tell the future you what to do.
“Increase productivity by allowing yourself to focus on the task at hand. An effective way to do this is by splitting your time into two categories: 1) telling yourself what to do, and 2) doing what you tell yourself to do. I use my calendar, email, and a to-do list on the wall to tell future me what to work on. Before the end of every day, I make sure it’s updated so that when I get to my office in the morning I know exactly what I need to do.”
32. Get inspired by reading something inspiring.
“It’s easy to sometimes get trapped in monotonous work or life patterns which can affect your mood and overall performance. When that happens, read something uplifting. If I’m dragging or feeling uninspired, I try to reset my attitude by reading a book that I find inspiring to give me a boost or just break the cycle of scheduled sameness.”
33. Move your body.
“Literally move your body, whether it’s taking time to work out or a quick walk around the block after lunch. I’m more bookish than athletic, but as I’ve had to learn to manage myself along with my business, I’ve found that even a little bit of exercise gives me extra energy and a more positive outlook. Plus, there’s something about a simple walk that gives your brain time to sort through and resolve problems.”