High achievers don't get to the top by behaving like everyone else. One thing they typically have in common: Consistently practicing the right habits, every single day. Here are the simple routines more than two dozen successful executives say are their secrets to getting ahead in business and life.
1. Force yourself out of bed, even when it sucks.
"Try to start your day as early as possible. I have to constantly train myself to get up early. Once you take that (always painful) first step, there's something about seeing the sunrise that gives you the feeling of already winning the day. While most people are still asleep, you have a leg up on planning your day while sipping a warm cup of coffee."
--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
2. Have an ongoing checklist of what's due.
"Have one set that's for attending urgent issues and a second list for longer-term objectives. On each list separate it for external (client) vs. internal issues. Keep the list in a high-profile place, affixed to your screen or pinned to a board. This way you never lose sight of your goals."
--Todd Krizelman, CEO of MediaRadar, an advertising intelligence company
3. Ignore notifications.
"Unread emails, notices, messages, and likes are all great distractions but not a definition of something important. As the amount of message services are growing, I've found they've hit the point of diminishing return. I try to shift my time by having live conversations with real people or by doing reflective work where I spend time structuring my thoughts."
--Peter Arvai, cofounder and CEO of Prezi, a cloud-based presentation software company
4. Help and mentor someone.
"Whether it be students, interns, friends in transition, or colleagues, I find mentoring especially helps boost employee morale and engagement, which is an invaluable asset to any company."
--Ed Jankowski, CEO of XpresSpa, a luxury travel spa business, serving almost one million air travelers each year at its 53 stores across 22 airports in the United States, Amsterdam and Dubai
5. Embrace "no, you can't" as an answer.
"So many people will tell you 'no' at every step in the journey: investors, suppliers, friends [and even] your conscious. It's easy to find the reasons why you can't do something, but you have the power to decide whether you concede to them or succeed despite them. Jenna and I have learned to treat each rejection--and we have received many--as an opportunity to learn more and get creative about finding a solution. A year ago we were told we'd never be able to figure out how to produce bras, since they are one of the hardest garments to make - today we're shipping thousands of bras to customers across all of North America. I now embrace every moment we hear 'no, you can't' as a challenge to find a way we can."
--Jane Fisher, cofounder of bra company Harper Wilde
"Every morning, write down something positive from the day before to relive that experience and motivate yourself to achieve another positive accomplishment for the day."
--Michael Abramson, president of D1 Training, a national fitness concept based on the five tenets of athletic-based training with more than 30 locations open across 24 states
7. Make time for hobbies.
"Whether it's fishing, gardening, farming, traveling, music [or] concerts, make time for what brings you joy outside of the office. Not only will this free your mind, it can inspire new business products and programs."
--Dr. Tina Bacon-DeFrece, president of Big Frog Custom T-Shirts & More, a high-technology garment decorating retail store where customers have the freedom to design their own apparel with more than 80 locations open across 22 states
8. Find inspiration.
"Before starting the work day, find an inspirational quote that has personal meaning to you to remind you of how far you've come and that there is always more to achieve."
--Rosalie Guillem, CEO of Le Macaron French Pastries, a French patisserie that offers guests authentic French macarons and pastries at over 50 locations nationwide
9. Treat time as a commodity.
"There are only 168 hours in a week and you need to make them count. Rather than sleeping eight hours a night, by getting up two hours earlier you'll provide yourself with an extra two months to focus on your goals and develop your craft. Successful people don't serve time, time serves them."
--Devan Kline, cofounder and CEO of Burn Boot Camp, a national boutique fitness concept aiming to inspire, empower and transform women around the world with more than 70 locations open and more than 300 in various stages of development
10. View optimism as reality.
"Attitude and relationship building are everything. Listen more than you speak, and tell those around you that you appreciate them. You can't be truly successful if you're not happy, so enrich your life by doing things daily that are meaningful and give more than you take."
--Heather Harris, president of CycleBar, a premium indoor cycling boutique that offers energizing rides tailored to all fitness and experience levels, which is on pace to have 150 studios open to riders in 2017 with over 200 additional locations in development
11. Set a daily goal.
"Every morning, ask yourself, 'What is my intent for the day?' Then, after the day has passed, ask yourself, 'Did I move the needle in a positive way for the company?' By bookending your day with goal setting and reflection, you create a crystal-clear vision of how well the company is performing, where the company is headed and how you can help get it there quickly and efficiently."
--Amy Freeman, CEO of The Spice and Tea Exchange, a specialty retail franchise with over 50 locations nationwide
12. Keep your calendar as up to date as possible.
"One thing that is a must for me is an updated calendar, so that I can manage my day filled with meetings, emails, and interviews. With the start-up life you don't really get to say bed time is at 10 p.m. and breakfast is at 8 a.m. Some days I work until 5 a.m. and it is helpful to have an updated calendar so I know when I need to wake up for my next meeting. If I see my first meeting is at 11 a.m. I know I'll get to sleep a bit and I won't wake up every hour wondering if I'm late to something. When you fall asleep with your mind at ease I think it allows for your body to really relax and sleep."
--Jessica VerSteeeg, CEO Paragon Coin, a tech company developing a new cryptocurrency
13. Be the first person to arrive at work.
"Mornings are super important for me both personally and professionally. It's in the quiet of the early hours that I take time for some deep breaths and set myself up for a successful day. I love being the one who turns on the lights at the office. Nearly three decades into my career, I still feel lucky every day that I get paid to do what I love. It's the hours before the office is humming that I am at my most creative, so I tap into that morning energy to tackle the work that demands the greatest focus and fresh thinking."
--Melinda McLaughlin is CMO of Extreme Reach, a cloud technology platform for TV and Video ad workflow and talent and rights management
14. Walk as much as you can.
"I make sure to walk as much as I can during my commute. On the way to the office, I plan my day and on the way out I think about the next day. I walk to and from the train station--three quarters of a mile--every day, and always take the stairs versus the elevator. Why? It's my time to think without devices, people, or office distractions."
--Kristin Savilia, CEO of JOOR, a digital wholesale marketplace connecting brands and retailers
15. Know yourself and seek self-improvement.
"Every morning, I take 15 minutes to critically assess the previous day, before looking at e-mail and before any meetings start. I just take time to reflect on what happened the day before in order to make today more effective. It is too easy to arrive at work and instantly become inundated, making a habit out of poor routines."
--Marc Alacqua, CEO of Signafire, a data analytics platform for risk management
16. Talk to someone smarter than yourself.
"I always try to talk to one person every day who is smarter or more experienced than I am. Sometimes these are just touching-base calls to maintain the relationship. Often, I ask them about a specific project or problem I am working on. Gaining multiple perspectives is always helpful, even if I don't end up taking their advice. I do have to be careful, however because if I never take someone's advice, they will stop giving it to me."
--Michael Sonnenfeldt, author of "Think Bigger: And 39 Other Winning Strategies from Successful Entrepreneurs" and founder of Tiger 21, a peer-to-peer learning network for high-net-worth investors
17. Connect with people, personally, over the phone or in person.
"The ability to reach out and touch someone, deepens relationships and keeps the door open for potential collaborations and win-win business opportunities. Not to diminish the overall impact of technology and the power of data, people make the world go 'round."
--Raymond Ealy, founder and executive director of STEAM:CODERS, a nonprofit organization teaches underrepresented and underserved students and their families the fundamentals of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math), in preparation for academic and career opportunities
18. Take a nap.
"When I am behind on sleep, I take a quick 10 to 15-minute nap or I try to find a quiet place, close my eyes, and clear my head to re-energize myself. This power nap is really effective at clearing my head and gives me that little extra boost to power through the rest of my busy day. I find planes and ride sharing services / taxis are great times to snooze. Additionally, diversify your thoughts. Engage in thoughtful discussion with people you respect. Diversity in thought and experience forces you to reevaluate your positions."
--Michael A. Giardello, Ph.D., cofounder and president of Innovate Pasadena, which aims to create a vibrant ecosystem of technology and design innovation in the greater Pasadena area that supports sustainable economic growth
19. Remind yourself to be open to spontaneous partnerships and new synergies.
"Like Chuck Noland from Castaway said, "Who knows what the tide could bring in?" While it is easier to work vertically and stay in my lane, I've seen the power of collaboration with others. Especially when human suffering is urgently on the line--like in our disaster response work--partnerships are key to making sure the best skills are at the table. Keeping my eyes up each day and being open to relationships that the tide brings in helps me to be successful and means that I am ready, aware, and waiting for opportunity to show. I focus on what it takes to be an even greater force for good--and that often looks like leveraging other people and creating teams to work smarter."
--John Lyon, president of World Hope International, a Christian relief and development organization working with vulnerable and exploited communities to alleviate poverty and suffering
20. Start the day by making a list.
"Each morning I start with making a list of the things that I have to get accomplished that day. This includes writing down any emails that I have to reply to. I generally have five to 10 must-do things on the list that I must do that day. I love getting those crossed off as early in the day as I can."
--Beau Mann, CEO of Sober Grid, a geo-social mobile networking application which connects sober people
21. Make time for personal relationships.
"This is one way I prevent burnout. As an entrepreneur, you work crazy hours and tend to be on the go all the time. Time blends into a blur; suddenly days have turned into weeks and weeks have turned into months. For me it's important I set aside time each week to catch up with friends and family to talk about subjects other than work. This down time with the important people in your life will give you perspective and make you realize why you're working so hard in the first place."
--Bryan Barnes, CEO of All Masters Plumbing, a plumbing service utilizing technology in a unique way to bring customer service to another level
22. Eat the frog.
"Everyone has their strategy for getting momentum in their work day. For me, I live by the adage "Eat The Frog," a concept developed by self-development guru Brian Tracy. That is, each morning when your energy is at its highest and your focus brimming with intent, you tackle the most difficult item on your to-do list for the day. After that, you won't have this weight on your shoulders and will move freely into tackling the smaller items on your list for the day. Some tackle smaller items as a way to build momentum and small wins, but for me, this works best."
--Catherine Jacobs, COO of McQuarrie, a multi-practice law firm optimally sized to serve the needs of businesses, individuals and institutions since 1967
23. Meditate to recharge.
"Meditation is all the rage these days, but it's in fashion for good reason. To manage the increasing demands of our global and mission-driven organization, I've turned to meditation--sometimes for only a few minutes each day--to ground myself, to recharge, and to perpetually return to the present moment. Mindfulness has helped me form a deep connection with the work I am doing, the people I am working with, and, perhaps most importantly, the incredible customers of our life-changing technology."
--Jeffrey Fenton, director of outreach and communications at eSight, which develops electronic glasses that enable the legally blind to actually see
24. Sleep enough and strengthen your core.
"In my experience, I've learned that balancing enough sleep with exercise has kept my mind sharp over the years. Just like you would prioritize all business efforts around the core of your company's mission, it's equally important to strengthen your core muscles. They carry you. It's also vital that you clear your mind once in a while with an activity that requires your full focus so work cannot slip in. For me, it's taking my 4x4 out for spin."
--Gideon Shmuel, CEO at eyeSight Technologies, the leading provider of embedded computer vision and deep learning solutions, bringing user awareness and gesture recognition technologies to a variety of devices and industries
25. Make your bed.
"Make your bed first thing every morning. You'd be surprised how a simple routine gets you focused and into other good routines. Get in motion and trust your instincts. If it's a good thought based in positivity, your instincts are probably right. And finally, plan your day and work your plan. Write down everything you want to accomplish today. You probably will not make it through your list, but it feels really good crossing those items off and moving on to the next item."
--Mark Stahl, SVP at MAXIMUS Lighting, a home security company providing easy-to-install smart home security solutions
26. Pick one day per week to worry.
"When you are trying to take on a big mission, there are a hundred little worries that will keep gnawing at you (no matter what you do). The trick is not to suppress them entirely: about once a week, I realize that today is the day that I'm just going to let myself worry about them, but only for that one day. The day after, I'm surprisingly refreshed and 100% better equipped to deal with the mission."
--Matt Toner, CEO of Biba, a Vancouver-based startup involved in the smart playground movement to decrease screen time and get kids outside through mobile games
27. Make appointments with yourself.
"When starting a new venture, it's critical to stay focused, especially if funding is involved early. When I started the company, I would plan out every fifteen minutes of my day, and have an over-arching goal for the day in my calendar. I'd literally make appointments with myself to get things done all day."
--Aaron Cavano, president of Care Motion, an online retailer for home medical equipment
"Right now, I'm running and cycling and I've found that it's a great way to clear your mind and come up with new ideas. Also, make an effort to step out of your comfort zone to explore, network with people, and say yes to opportunities. Be positive!"
--Øyvind Birkenes, CEO of Airthings, a technology company that manufactures accurate, user-friendly smart radon detectors to safeguard homes and keep families healthy
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.