Source: Inc.

By Christina DesMarais

February 25, 2017


One thing the highest achievers have in common? A steady dose of discipline.

Study high achievers and you'll find the recipe for success is fairly consistent and includes hard work, perseverance, as well as a willingness to take risks and learn from failure. A steady dose of discipline doesn't hurt, either. Take it from these executives, who share their words about the daily habits that helped them get to the top and stay there.

1. Use Alexa and Slack to stay on top of things.

"I typically do parenting duties in the morning, so I have a limited amount of time to get up to speed on anything that is non-parenting. I get my flash briefing from Alexa, which gets me a hands-free summary of what's on fire in the real world, and I do a quick check of Slack on my phone, which gets me a quick summary of what's on fire at work. If someone would come up with a Slack skill for Alexa, my world would be complete--granted I'd need to hand out NDAs to the family."

--Alvaro Hoyos, chief information security officer at OneLogin, which provides single sign-on and identity management for cloud-based applications

2. Hang out upside down.

"I recently purchased an inversion table and spend 15 minutes each morning hanging upside down. I find the practice relaxing and it helps me focus for the day. I also like to cook, so occasionally I enjoy whipping up a nice breakfast like you'd get in a hotel breakfast buffet. My personal favorites are omelets, bacon, hash browns, grilled tomatoes, and French toast. Cooking is very absorbing and active for your brain and keeps you in the present."

--Todd Thibodeaux, president and CEO of the nonprofit IT trade association CompTIA

3. Stay on track with index cards.

"[I keep] to-dos, ideas, and trains of thought on old-school index cards. I find that if I do this every single day before I start my day, then I have a grip on the priorities and areas to push on with my team. I have tried many different apps and programs but nothing replaces the speed, quick updating, and always-with-me benefits of the index card. In recent years, I did finally upgrade with a Levenger leather holder...but the approach is the same and it has never failed me."

--Blake Waltrip, CEO of The a2 Milk Company, which produces dairy milk from cows that naturally produce the easily digestible A2 protein

4. Get the tough tasks out of the way first.

"Do the task you least want to do during your day first. Otherwise, it becomes the task you avoid and the task that will never get done."

--Russ Reynolds, CEO of Batteries Plus Bulbs

5. Say what you mean.

"My communication style is direct, blunt. This was something I came to appreciate while working at Bertelsmann, a German media company. I prefer an open discussion and work best with direct reports who can reciprocate."

--Todd Krizelman, co-founder and CEO of ad sales intelligence tool MediaRadar

6. Keep updated on industry trends.

"Every day I read EODs [End of Day summaries] from each of our 60-plus urgent care centers. In a dynamic, fast growth, bi-coastal, multi-site business, it can be difficult to maintain your connection to the front line, the critical point at which your business either succeeds or fails. The EODs give me a quick, daily barometer of the health of each component of our business, including our culture and whether we are living up to our patient promise to 'put them first.' Every day of the week, even Saturdays and Sundays, since urgent care is a 365-day-a-year business, I look forward to hearing from our caregivers about their day--where we exceeded expectations or saved lives, as well as where we fell short of our goals or saw process or infrastructure breakdowns, so that we can learn from those experiences and deliver even better care the next time."

--Todd Latz, CEO of GoHealth Urgent Care

7. Clear your head after you wake up.

"Every morning, the first thing I do is clear my headspace. Before I even check my email, I spend 10 to 15 minutes in quiet meditation, followed by another 10 to 15 minutes deliberately visualizing the day ahead. Then, I do one simple thing that has become a critical part of my routine: I write down on paper a single thing that I absolutely must get accomplished in the next 24 hours."

--Sunil Thomas, co-founder and CEO of mobile app analytic company CleverTap

8. Invest in your physical strength.

"I train three to four mornings a week with a personal trainer or on my own. I find that this is the best way to start the day, get clarity, and stay mentally alert. I also do not look at my emails on my phone until I've done this. The first few hours of the morning, from 5:30 to 7:30 a.m., are for myself."

--Rupa Ganatra, co-founder of the Millennial 20/20 Summits

9. Shut off devices and wind down.

"Every evening, I switch my iPhone to 'Do Not Disturb' and spend 45 minutes walking down the beach, reflecting on the events of my day and visualizing how I plan to maximize tomorrow. This works best for me when I'm near water and is critical to help recharge my mind and focus. Without it, the stress builds up."

--Rees Gillespie, co-founder and COO of personal safety device and service company Ripple

10. Make your bed.

"Making your bed in the morning allows you to accomplish one task before you leave for work. It may seem like a small thing, but if you do it once, it becomes routine and motivates you to be productive in general. It takes just two minutes and sets a positive tone for the rest of the workday."

--Doug Baldasare, founder and CEO of ChargeItSpot, a provider of secure cell phone charging stations for retail stores

11. Escape into music.

" music for a few hours--guitar and drums. It clears my head and provides space to do some real reflection and thinking without the distractions and noise of the world around me."

--Moti Cohen, founder and CEO of Apester, which allows publishers to embed polls, surveys, and quizzes into online content

12. Take time to reflect.

"It's important that you take time a few times a week to step back and get clarity. I find this benefits effectiveness, productivity, and energy levels. I usually do this by starting the day with a workout, run, listening to music, or grabbing a coffee outside the office. It's very easy to get stuck in the minutiae of a rapidly growing business, and it is imperative to take time to clear the head and think about the bigger picture."

--Toby Mander-Jones, co-founder and chief commercial officer at keyboard company Brydge

13. Work out hard.

"Working out is not only a hobby but a means for maintaining balance in my life. Intense workouts provide me with a stress release that keeps me balanced and focused in every other aspect of life. I love high intensity workouts and work out anywhere and everywhere to make sure I fit it into my day, even if I'm traveling. For example, I lifted weights with the guide in the middle of the bush when I was on a safari in Tanzania. I've done one-legged squats on the top of Kilimanjaro during my honeymoon and even handstand pushups in an alleyway in Taichung, Taiwan. I've taken the workout to a whole new level by instituting a workout-of-the-week challenge for the entire company, which is posted on our intranet. The idea is to create very short, high intensity workouts that can be scaled to various fitness levels across the company. Participation is high, and it's a great way to contribute one of my passions to company culture."

--Martin Rawls-Meehan, CEO of Reverie, a Detroit-based sleep technology company that makes mattresses and adjustable beds

14. Always be recruiting.

"I take a long view on talent--hiring, growing, and nurturing great people. I try to spend a few minutes each day helping folks with their careers--whether or not I am trying to recruit them directly to my company. In the long run, these support helps create a strong and productive network, and very often, whether in my current role or a subsequent one, creates a strong bench of talent as I grow teams."

--Kira Wampler, CEO of, an online destination for high-quality wall art

15. Reward your employees.

"A very positive activity is to ascertain a set of benchmarks or goals for various performance metrics. I have found that it's best to offer a modest reward on a regular basis for achievement to all employees involved in obtaining the desired result. The reward should be meaningful to the employee to motive him or her to continue achieving successful results. While a reward provides employees with a sense of recognition and self-worth, it's equally important to ensure that the rewards are only given during performance months, and as a result of hard work and success, to continue driving overall company growth."

--Carl Wolf, chairman and CEO of Mama Mancini's

16. Tune into the outside world.

"Every day, I dedicate time to get outside of my own head and help me keep perspective on what's happening in the world. I'll read an article or blog post, listen to a podcast or music album, [or] watch a TED speech. It's always no less than one hour, and when I'm done, I find myself with new ideas and more energy to bring to the business."

--Lance Neuhauser, CEO at 4C Insights, a data science and media technology company

17. Read a crime novel every night.

"To run a business, you have to be deeply involved in all the minutiae, from strategy to product to hiring. To avoid getting bogged down in the details and keep creativity at its highest, I've found a very simple routine that's proved effective: I read a chapter or two of a crime novel before going to sleep. Diving into the story, identifying with the characters, and trying to solve the mystery has two effects on me. First, it is a very efficient way to disconnect from all the problems I face in the business. Getting lost in the details of the story, instead of the details of the business, lets me stay focused on the big picture for the business. Second, it immediately unlocks my creativity. My mind has no limits while I'm reading, and it shouldn't while I'm conducting business."

--Michel Morvan, founder and CEO of The CoSMo Company, a provider of decision management technology

18. Work to find inspiration.

"Pablo Picasso once said, 'Inspiration exists, but it must find us working.' Be inspired, dream big, and put together the steps to accomplish your goal. Then, roll up your sleeves and get to it. Until you take action, all the dreams and planning are just that. We are constantly checking ourselves to make sure that our good ideas are being realized. This principle can be applied to every part of your life and business. If you want it to succeed, put in the effort."

--Philip Pavkov, COO of Solfire Clothing

19. Read voraciously.

"Everything that we need to know about anything is available online. I have five books on a variety of topics and multiple news feeds going on at any given time. I spend about 40 percent of each day reading about various topics, including leadership, teamwork, sports, politics, meditative principles, or health. Jacking into my brain knowledge written by people much smarter than me makes me a better person, executive, and family man."

--Paul Marobella, CEO of global advertising company Havas Chicago

20. Demonstrate gratitude.

"Every day, with persistence, I demonstrate gratitude to someone in our company. In some way, shape, or form, I make sure to express my thanks and appreciation for their work. And not a day goes by that I don't have something to be genuinely grateful for. I imagine most executives could say the same, but if you don't take the time to recognize those things, you risk your team taking them for granted...creating the monster of ingratitude. Demonstrating gratitude makes teams stronger, knits employee hearts to the 'why,' and helps keep leaders humble. While immeasurable in terms of true impact, gratitude is simple, it's free, and fosters an environment where epic results can be achieved."

--Bryan Miles, co-CEO of BELAY, a virtual services company dedicated to growing organizations

21. Start the day early.

"It gives me time to see the day coming. I arrive early to greet everyone. People appreciate it, learn the benefits, and start to adopt it. It's very productive."

--Sharone Ben-Harosh, founder and CEO of moving company FlatRate

22. Praise publicly and give feedback privately.

"I use the Dale Carnegie approach of publicly recognizing performance and praising team members for a job well done. However, I always deliver critical feedback in a private meeting, away from colleagues and peers. This helps reinforce a positive culture, keeping our team motivated and positive."

--Ken Staut, founder and CEO of GrowthFountain, an equity crowdfunding platform

23. Operate with complete transparency with your employees.

"Employees are much more likely to work hard if they understand how their individual efforts affect overall revenue growth, profits, and other measures of success. I go out of my way to make sure everyone understands our big picture business objectives, and how each of their individual contributions is critical to the success of the entire team."

--Phil Shawe, founder and co-CEO of translation and content management company TransPerfect