Examine the people running profitable companies and you’ll find leaders who often share one remarkable trait: consistency. Check out these quotes from 25 successful executives regarding the daily habits that help them get ahead in business and life.
1. Never waste a lunch
“Since I eat every day it doesn’t make sense that I waste that time alone. I find that when my days are filled breaking bread with other owners, clients, key employees and close friends, not as many crises come up. Why? Maybe because most crises originate from our closest circles, or maybe I’m just better informed. Either way, it’s a smoother sail.”
— Charles Antis, CEO of Antis Roofing & Waterproofing, which serves more than 1,000 California communities.
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2. Write one thank you note every day
“Whether it’s to a customer, business partner, mentor or friend, it only takes five minutes and serves as a simple way to acknowledge the folks who have helped you, to memorialize and to be grateful for what has been accomplished. It’s also a great way to re-inspire yourself in the process. Showing gratitude is a forgotten practice in today’s world, but it goes a long way.”
— Anna Brockway, cofounder and and Chief Curator of SF-based Chairish, a website and mobile app for buying and selling vintage and pre-owned furniture, decor, jewelry and accessories.
3. Be in the moment
“Focus on one task or one meeting at time. Otherwise, you’ll find your mind wandering and you might miss essential information, which can lead to poor business decisions.”
— Giovanni Marcantoni, founder and CEO of Social Leagues, which organizes and produces social sports leagues in New York, Baltimore, Denver, San Francisco and Charleston, S.C.
4. Don't hide in your office
“Too many CEOs are separated from their businesses and their teams by taking the big corner office. I strongly believe that as a CEO I’m a more effective leader by being with my team. I hear more of what is going on. I am more approachable and I can address problems quicker by dumping the office and being with the team. Sure, you need to deal with sensitive meetings and calls sometimes, but all you need is a small meeting room.”
— Ashley Leonard, CEO of Verismic Software, an award-winning cloud-based IT management technology and green solutions company.
5. Play and be silly
“It’s easy to be serious when you’re moving at a non-stop pace. While this can be important, it can also create a negative culture over time and limit creativity. I think it’s necessary to let yourself be a little silly throughout the day. My favorite way is to walk like the ministry of silly walks from Monty Python. It helps lighten the mood and… can help people be more creative. After all, feeling playful is how we find our states of flow.”
— Aaron Horowitz, cofounder and CEO of Sproutel, which makes toys for health and wellness education.
“Whether it’s leading workshops on database development, mentoring new hires, or showing my kids how to play guitar, I find that teaching others gives me a strong sense of purpose and requires that I stay on top of my game. A successful day is one in which I’ve learned something new or passed along knowledge that someone else will benefit from.”
— Bob Bowers, CEO of Soliant Consulting, a nationwide service firm that creates custom FileMaker, Salesforce and Web Applications for organizations including Apple, The Gap, Stanford University and Wells Fargo.
7. Work out
“Exercise is really important for managing stress, and everyone knows that starting a business can be stressful. Working out even for a short amount of time helps take the edge off after a busy day and refreshes your mind and body. I’m a basketball player, so there’s nothing that beats a good workout on the court.”
— Davyeon Ross, cofounder and COO of ShotTracker, which makes wearable tech for basketball that tracks shot attempts, makes and misses.
8. Plan tomorrow today
“I find mornings can be terribly inefficient unless I wake up to a clear plan of action I have laid out for myself. Trying to assess priorities at the start of each day is a waste because I have to rebuild the momentum and context from the day before. If I wake up to a clear plan, I don’t have to make any decisions–I just jump in and get the ball rolling. The last thing I do every night is to put a clear, scheduled plan of action in place for the next day. It may get blown up, but it gets the day moving quickly and my mornings are much more productive.”
— Stephen Bradley, CEO of AuthorBee, a platform that helps people follow topics or interests on Twitter.
9. Enter every day with a positive attitude
“Every day is a challenge… You can caught up in the negatives and quickly forget about what a great opportunity each day presents to us to change ourselves, our relationships, our products and our company.”
— Will Margiloff, CEO of IgnitionOne, a digital marketing services and software holding company.
10. Get up early
“After a long day of working and interacting with people, I rush home to spend time with my two girls before they go to bed. They’re little, so bed time is regimented to 7:30 to 8 p.m. daily. After they are put to bed, I have dinner with my wife. By the time all family stuff is finished, I have learned it’s too late to open up my laptop and work because then I will have trouble letting go and falling asleep. I’ve learned that I can be much more productive if I wake up early, between 4:45 and 5:30 a.m. and get one to two hours of solid work done before my family starts their day. It also makes me happy that I’m reserving time for my wife and girls at the end of the day. All in all, this is a well-balanced work-life system.”
— Toffer Grant, founder and CEO of PEX Card, a business prepaid card that helps companies control employee spending, approve purchases, allocate funds, and restrict spending in specific merchant categories.
11. Hibernate to relieve stress
“Over the years, I’ve learned that getting in quality sleep makes a marked difference in my ability to focus, ideate and lead. When stress levels peak, this can even go up to as much as 10 or more hours a night. Some nights I even find myself turning in at the same time I’m tucking in my 3- and 5-year old boys at 8:00 p.m. To fuel my habit, I’ve indulged in a Tempur-Pedic mattress, high quality sheets and a good pillow and look forward to this stress relief outlet every night.”
— Fred Hsu, CEO at Manage, a provider of mobile in-app advertising solutions for advertisers and publishers which reaches 80 percent of global mobile device users. Prior to Manage, Fred founded Oversee.net, growing it to more than 225 employees and over $200 million in revenue before selling a minority stake to Oak Hill Capital Partners for $150 million.
12. Schedule some days as "focus" days and some as "free" days
“On focus days, I try to spend at least 80 percent of my time on the most critical aspects of my business–creating content, managing my team and developing new partnerships. I leave email and other non-critical tasks for the days in between. On free days, business is hands-off. I try not to even check my phone or read work-related articles. An entrepreneur’s work is never done, so forcing myself to take free time has been crucial to avoiding burn out and maintain a healthy family life.”
— David Weliver, founder of Money Under 30, a website providing free personal finance advice for young adults that has grown traffic, email subscribers and revenue by more than 100 percent in the last year.
13. Focus a few minutes every day on the young members of the organization
“Walk around and encourage them and challenge them to push themselves to do more than they are comfortable with. You will soon find the rock stars.”
— Dan Reardon, CEO of North Highland, a nearly $400 million global management consulting firm, serving a number of Fortune 500 companies in various industries and functional areas. The firm has 22 offices, with a global network of more than 2,600 consultants in North America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
14. Always carry a dry erase marker in your pocket
“In a collaborative environment… meetings can pop up unexpectedly. Most of our walls are covered in IdeaPaint, so rather than carry a notebook with me at all times I started keeping a dry erase marker on-hand. I can illustrate a point to my team whenever I need without being encumbered by my other belongings.”
— Scott Bailey, Managing Director of MassChallenge, an accelerator based on Boston, London and Israel.
15. Ban the one-hour meeting
“If I could change one default setting on any device or application, it would be the one-hour meeting in calendar appointment software. There are few times matters cannot be discussed and handled in 30 minutes or less, so why have we decided one hour as the norm? Setting shorter time periods for your meetings sends a message to attendees that it will be a focused, productive meeting. An agenda always helps too.”
— Jim Whitehurst, president and CEO of Red Hat, a provider of open source solutions with more than 8,000 employees across 80 countries.
16. Do an endurance race with your team
“Once a year, I do a Tough Mudder race with my team. Endurance races like these are extremely exhilarating and help create great team spirit that then transfers back into the office. It is a team-building exercise with each member of the team helping each other to complete the course. This also helps to develop personal relationships which definitively helps overall company culture.”
— Dr. Conor MacCormack, CEO of Mcor, a manufacturer of affordable, full-color, safe and eco-friendly 3D printers.
17. Do one thing at a time, do it well and then move on to the next task
“There’s no such thing as multitasking. The best way to be productive is to focus on one thing at a time and to do it as well as you can to completion.”
— Kamal Kalra, founder and CEO of Gennubi, creator of NubiDo, a web-based task management system.
18. Give and request feedback in the moment
“There’s a ton of science and research proving that performance is improved through small corrections in the moment. We apply this to things like sports training, but largely ignore it in business. Annual reviews are largely useless at improving individual performance and the process is incredibly time consuming and expensive. We’ve fostered a culture in which feedback is a gift, and our team holds each other accountable to give and receive feedback on a daily basis. As a CEO, requesting feedback is a powerful tactic. I’ve learned a lot from my colleagues about my performance by simply asking.”
— Kristen Hamilton, cofounder and CEO of Koru, a talent marketplace focused on landing college grads in jobs they love. Before serving as Koru’s CEO, Kristen worked as COO of a global non-profit, launched mobile media devices for a Fortune 100 company and helped take Onvia—which she co-founded—public.
19. Take everyone out to dinner
“At least once a year, I will travel to all of our business locations and take the team out for dinner. It’s a challenge to cover all of the miles to meet with our entire team, but I find that the time spent is invaluable to really understanding the issues and concerns of our people. Furthermore, it’s a lot of fun to have a beer and a burger with our team and get to know them on a more personal level, helping me to stay focused on improving the business for their benefit.”
— Dan D’Agostino, managing partner of Go Ape USA, a chain of treetop adventure courses with 12 locations around the country.
20. Read when you wake up
“First thing I do every morning is spend 30 minutes reading a book. The topic is whatever I feel like. Sometimes it’s business, other times it may be history or fiction. Currently it is science.”
— K.C. Hopson, founder and CEO of EventRebels, a one-stop-shop for web and mobile solutions for tradeshows, conferences and events.
21. Automate everything possible
“We’ve built dozens of applets or processes to automate or eliminate repetitive tasks. That means using services like youcanbook.me, or using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk either manually or via an API.”
— Rob Wray, founder and CEO of Whitebox, an e-commerce automation company that combines every e-commerce process into a single service.
22. Meditate daily
“Whether it’s at the end of the day before bedtime or when you wake up, take 20 to 30 minutes to meditate and empty your mind. During your meditation session, I recommend that you become aware of your sensations: the vision, the sound and the weight of your body. While you observe yourself doing that, watch your thoughts and stop feeding them until you reach a certain quality of silence. Then stay in that space of silence. This meditation will help you raise your level of awareness and increase your capacity for focus.”
— Micha Benoliel, cofounder and CEO of San Francisco-based Open Garden, creator of peer-to-peer mesh networking technology and “off-the-grid” messaging app FireChat. Open Garden was voted “Most disruptive” at TechCrunch Disrupt in 2012.
23. Find ways to remind yourself of your mission statement
“Days can be filled with tasks that veer you away from your company’s mission. For example, in my job, we live and breathe data. But I try to avoid data overload and only act on what’s important rather than every piece of data that comes my way. And if you’re in a rut trying to find innovations for your product, get back on track with your mission statement by analyzing recent and relevant trends and listening to your customers to gain perspective about where you should focus next.”
— Bob Bryant, chief technology officer of SlimWare Utilities, a cloud-based, crowdsourced line of software products that clean and optimize personal computers.
24. Plan the day ahead
“[I] figure out what I want to do and write down what I want to accomplish. I make sure that I follow through with the plan for the day.”
— Ajay Prasad, founder and president of GMR Transcription.
25. Keep your best advisors close
“For me, this advice is more than convenient, as my wife, Julie, has been both a co-founder and my business partner. We’ve started two successful businesses together, and Julie currently sits on the board of Ensighten. When you partner with someone who is invested in you both professionally and personally, you gain incredible support, as well as accountability. Nothing gets past her.”
— Josh Manion, CEO at Ensighten, an omni-channel data and tag management company with customers including Microsoft, Capital One, United Airlines and T-Mobile.