4 habits of today’s most successful CEOs

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We’re all working with the same 24 hours in a day. So why does it seem that successful CEOs accomplish more by lunchtime than most people get done in a week?

Many of today’s most successful leaders will credit their achievements to some of their simple daily habits, which have been proven over time to give them an edge. There’s certainly no “one size fits all” daily agenda to guarantee success, but maintaining a healthy daily routine can help to boost your productivity, accomplish your to-do list, and help you to feel good while doing it.

Here are a few daily habits some of today’s most well-known CEOs swear by to get ahead in business and life:

They wake up early

A productive day starts as soon as you wake up, and although it’s not necessary for the alarm to go off at the crack of dawn, there’s something to be said for being ready to start your day by 7 a.m. Since your morning routine sets the tone for the rest of your day, these precious first hours count for a whole lot.

An early wake-up call is one of the most universal habits among today’s CEOs — New Jersey Nets CEO Brett Yormark gets up at 3:30 a.m., Virgin America CEO David Cush starts his day at 4:15 a.m., and Disney CEO Bob Iger says he gets up at 4:30 every morning. The list goes on, but the idea remains the same: if you want to join the ranks of today’s top CEOs, you won’t do so by laying in bed.

Waking up a couple of hours earlier offers you the opportunity to make the most of this extra time. Many of today’s professionals like to use their mornings to fit in a bit of personal time. Whether it be taking your dog for a walk around the block, meditating for a few minutes, or even making a nutritious breakfast, these types of habits start your day on a positive note before the hustle of the workday takes over.

If you’re more of the “up and at ‘em” type, the mornings are also a great time to get a head start on work. While the rest of the world is asleep, you can get into whatever work you need to get done in the morning, without many of the distractions you might face later in the day.

They exercise

If you feel like you’re always busy, you might argue that there’s no time for exercise in your daily schedule. However, many successful business executives and leaders credit their fitness routine as a critical component of their success. In fact, there are many scientific studies that support the impact of exercise on productivity. One study from Bristol University found that exercise improves concentration, motivation, and speed to complete a project. Surely this is why CEOs like Mark Cuban, who does an hour of cardio per day, make sure to fit in time for their daily fitness.

Exercise and workplace productivity go hand in hand. When you exercise, you’re also increasing blood flow to the brain, which can help sharpen your awareness and make you more ready to tackle your next big project.

According to the American Council on Exercise, exercise also increases levels of a protein called BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), which has been shown to boost your cognitive abilities. In addition, regular exercise can have a positive impact on your mental health. It’s been shown to curb the effects of stress, which many of us face on a daily basis. When you exercise, your brain releases serotonin that helps you feel better and improves your state of mind, making the stressors of work easier to handle.

Not to mention, playing sports for your daily dose of exercise can teach you some valuable business lessons too. Take it from Mark Hurd, CEO at Oracle and previous collegiate tennis player at Baylor University who says, “Tennis is a space where you have to go out every day, rain or shine, and you’ve got to perform. It’s just like the business world.” Whichever reasons you choose to exercise, be sure to do it daily. You’ll be reaping the benefits in no time!

They read

Reading is fundamental, especially for successful CEOs. CNBC once reported that Warren Buffet, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, typically reads six different newspapers every day. In fact, he’s revealed that he spends 80% of his day reading. In his documentary, Buffet recommends that people try to read at least 500 pages a day. “That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest,” he says.

Even the younger generation of CEOs, like Mark Zuckerberg from Facebook, have acknowledged the value of reading and even publicly taken up the challenge of making it a habit. Zuckerberg himself has resolved to read a new book every two weeks.

Surely we spend a ton of time reading digital content on our phones and tablets, but when was the last time you devoted time to reading an actual book? Yes, consuming online content improves our knowledge, stimulates cognition, and makes us more learned individuals. However, having information accessible with a tap of a key or a click of a mouse removes a number of powerful attributes that help build important leadership skills like discipline, dedication, and self-motivation.

Reading not only can help you develop valuable qualities that you can carry into your professional life, but it also has multiple benefits for your personal health. Reading silently for just six minutes has been shown to reduce heart rate and ease muscle tension. In fact, that small amount of reading worked better for relaxation than other proven methods such as listening to music, going for a walk, or sipping a cup of tea. Next time you’re feeling stressed after a long day, try cracking open a good book. You might find it to be one of the quickest and simplest ways to ease your brain and prepare for the next day.

They utilize their evenings wisely

When you’re hoping to accomplish a certain set of tasks, it’s often best to plan your day the night before. This way, you’re less likely to be caught up in the hustle and bustle of a hectic morning or sidetracked by new tasks that might arise throughout the day. Planning ahead centers your focus on what needs to get done between the hours of nine and five. Former American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault uses his evening time to reflect and write down three things he wants to accomplish the next day.

Similarly, U.S. President Barack Obama takes advantage of his evenings to plan and prepare for the following day. When serving in the Oval Office, Obama would often stay up working after his family went to bed, using his alone time at night to catch up on work and get ready for the following day. A self-declared “night owl,” he once told Newsweek, “I’ll probably read briefing papers or do paperwork or write stuff until about 11:30 p.m., and then I usually have about a half hour to read before I go to bed … about midnight, 12:30 a.m. — sometimes a little later.”

Just like you have a set morning routine, it’s also advantageous to create an evening routine for yourself. This puts a productive end to your day. By doing a little bit of work at the end of the day, you can take care of any loose ends or unfinished tasks, providing you with a sense of accomplishment before you go to bed. In addition, you’re well-prepared for the following morning. When you set a few goals for the next day, you hit the ground running knowing exactly what needs to be accomplished over the course of the day.