Successful CEOs seem to have an uncanny ability to do it all, even though they’re presumably allotted the same 24 hours each day as everyone else. Although there’s no one-size-fits-all agenda that they follow, there are a striking number of similarities in the habits of the most successful CEOs.
If you’re looking to channel a little of their brilliance yourself, try incorporating these strategies into your daily routine to see how your efficiency and satisfaction at work and home improve.
Here are six habits of many of the world’s most successful CEOs:
1. They get up early.
Rising early is a nearly universal trait among successful CEOs. New Jersey Nets CEO Brett Yormark gets up at 3:30 a.m. Virgin America CEO David Cush starts the day at 4:15 a.m. Robert Iger, CEO of Disney, says he gets up at 4:30 every morning, and Dan Akerson, the former CEO of General Motors, says he rarely sleeps past 4:30 or 5 in the morning. The list goes on, but the theme stays the same. If you want to rise through the ranks and join these big players in the business world, you won’t do it by staying in bed.
If you don’t even know what 4 a.m. looks like, you’re missing out on a big opportunity to add more productivity to your day. Rise early and get the work day started right. This extra time will make it easier for you to incorporate the rest of these smart CEO habits.
2. They exercise regularly.
Regular exercise is almost as common among successful CEOs as getting up early. In fact, this is one of the first things that many of these professionals incorporate in the day. Andrea Jung, the former CEO of Avon Products, always got up at 5 a.m. to use the gym before work. Unilever CEO Paul Polman rises at 6 a.m. so he has time to run on the treadmill in his office. He says he uses the early workout time to reflect on the work day ahead.
Haim Saban, the CEO of Saban Capital, works for an hour, then does 75 minutes of exercise before he feels that he’s really started the day. Yormark, who has the honour of being the youngest CEO in the NBA, works out every morning as well. If you feel like your day isn’t starting off the way that you’d like, try fitting a jog or other form of exercise into your routine before you go to the office.
3. They meditate every day.
Meditation is a wildly popular strategy for clearing the mind and focusing. Oprah Winfrey is so devoted to the practice of transcendental meditation (TM) that she has TM teachers instruct everyone in her company who wants to learn the art of meditation. She fits at least 20 minutes of meditation into every day and aims for two 20-minute sessions.
In an article on her website, Winfrey cites many benefits from the practice, saying that “the results have been awesome. Better sleep. Improved relationships with spouses, children, coworkers. Some people who once suffered migraines don’t anymore. Greater productivity and creativity all around.”
Rupert Murdoch, head of News Corp, is getting in on the trend as well. He tweeted: “Trying to learn transcendental meditation. Everyone recommends, not that easy to get started, but said to improve everything!”
4. They cut back on meetings.
Meetings are a huge drain on time and resources that some CEOs have deemed completely unnecessary. Instead of building more bagels and muffins into the budget for frequent get-togethers, consider the alternatives and see if you can reduce or eliminate these meetings altogether.
Serial entrepreneur (and owner of the Dallas Mavericks) Mark Cuban puts it best, saying, “Meetings are a waste of time unless you are closing a deal. There are so many ways to communicate in real time or asynchronously that any meeting you actually sit for should have a duration and set outcome before you agree to go.”
If you’re wondering how you’ll fit all this exercise and meditation into your day, eliminating most of your meetings may offer a solution. Try restricting your communications to email or other alternatives instead, and see how much time you can free up in your day.
5. They organise the details.
Busy CEOs have a lot on their plates, and organisation is the key to making things run smoothly. Danny Meyer, CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group, has a memo system that helps him keep up with all his responsibilities without succumbing to numerous interruptions throughout the day. His executive assistant sends him a daily memo with the next day’s schedule, questions that came up during the day, FYIs, and long-term reminders.
Of this streamlined system, he says, “We started the memos only last year, and I don’t know how we managed without them. I care about the details. This way, I don’t worry that I’m missing anything.” You can copy this strategy by setting aside a portion of the day just for addressing small details. Dealing with them all at once keeps them from slowing you down throughout the day.
6. They cultivate creativity.
Above all the other habits on this list, cultivating your own creativity is perhaps the most crucial. In any organisation, it takes a great deal of inspiration and creativity not only to succeed but also to sustain that success.
And perhaps nobody embodied this creative spirit more prominently than former Apple CEO Steve Jobs. His approach to creative leadership focused on the importance of design and upon innovating the “everyday products,” as he called them. His thoughts on creativity, of course, were characteristically nonchalant. He famously said, “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it; they just say something. It seemed obvious to them after a while.”
He nonetheless instilled his own sense of creative standards upon everyone that worked beneath him, and it eventually grew to become Apple’s key competitive edge. If you still need more convincing, check out this Fast Company poll where 60% of those surveyed said that creativity will be the most important leadership quality over the next five years.
Whether you grab one new trick or try them all, these are proven habits that serve as a common thread between not just one, but many CEOs who have seen major success.
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