Having a set of strategic daily habits is especially important when you’re in a leadership position. In addition to aiding your continual self-development, these habits are what will help you stay organized, focused, and, perhaps most impactfully, productive.
People are products of their routines––the daily habits they cultivate and follow in working to become better and more productive. One reason Michael Jordan became such a great basketball player, for example, is because he made a daily habit of practicing tenaciously. Santana? Same thing, except he traded a basketball for a guitar.
People can, of course, cultivate bad daily habits which make them worse, but great people are born from practice. And that’s true not only of athletes and musicians, but of CEOs, too. In fact, having a set of strategic daily habits is especially important when you’re in a leadership position. In addition to aiding your continual self-development, these habits are what will help you stay organized, focused, and, perhaps most impactfully, productive. Leading, inspiring, creating scalable systems––these are skills that are honed and perfected over time, day after day.
Or, at least, this is what’s proven true for me in my role as the CEO of Skylum. I can trace my improvement as a leader and company-builder directly back to the decisions I make and actions I consciously take every day. My habits are the bricks making up the foundation atop of which my future development and growth will be built.
That said, here are the habits I practice every day that have proven most impactful for me and my work as a CEO—and why they could be helpful to your life and your ongoing project to become the best version of yourself possible.
1) Writing notes
Your brain is bound to forget things. This very much includes good ideas that come to you in the middle of the night, next steps detailed in meetings with project managers, and minute details relating to your next product release.
So, when ideas come to you, or when important next steps are agreed upon in meetings, write them down. Since making a habit of writing notes all the time, I’ve found that not only am I able to remember much more than I used to, but that I’m also better organized in general. I feel more in control. And as a CEO, staying in control and knowing everything that’s going on inside your company at any given moment in time is perhaps your chief responsibility.
2) Going to the gym every morning
Going to the gym has plenty of benefits, but top among them for me is the manner in which it rejuvenates both your body and your mind. (And a sound body equates to a sound mind.)
Simply put, it makes you feel good, and when you feel good, you play good. Which is to say, you become more productive and more effective. You become a sharper version of yourself.
3) Reading or listening to books on tape
Speaking of “sound minds,” to stay as mentally sharp as possible, it’s not enough to just work out your body. You also have to work out your mind, and perhaps the best way to do that is by reading.
Why? Because reading widely broadens your perspective and allows you to see the world through a wider variety of lenses. This is especially crucial for CEOs, who need to understand what makes people tick and who need to think about things in unique, creative ways. (A great example of this is Steve Jobs, whose reading habits famously helped him design both products and product teams in innovative ways.)
So, build reading into your daily routine. I prefer getting in at least an hour a day. If you’re pressed on time, though, you can use apps like Smart Reading or Blinkist to digest books by way of their main points. Or you can listen to audiobooks on your commute. Either way, it’s important to prioritize reading. The knowledge you gain from books––and the accuity you acquire from working out your mind by reading regularly––will make you smarter, more empathetic, and more creative.
4) Getting out of your comfort zone
As much as I can, I push myself to do something new and potentially uncomfortable. Sometimes it’s as simple as striking up conversations with strangers at restaurants. Other times, it’s as daring as agreeing to speak at a conference.
The key is that the action in question doesn’t feel easy. This is important because pushing yourself equates directly to growth. It helps you acquire interesting experience, and, on the social side, it correlates to making more potentially useful connections.
Networking is both a task and a skill. In other words, it’s something you need to prioritize and practice. The good news is, you can network in a variety of ways. Personally, I’ve made a habit of spending a few minutes on LinkedIn each day forming new, solid connections or scanning for exciting opportunities. Then, I seek to set up in-person meetings with those stakeholders.
The benefits of this are varied but meaningful. For example, this is how I discovered the company SmugMug, a photography storage and management company who create websites and portfolios for photographers. Upon establishing a connection with them, we worked together in promoting the release of Luminar 4, our most recent product release. That doesn’t happen for you as a CEO unless you make a habit of proactively seeking connections and working every day to bolster your network.
6) Reading customer feedback
Finally, I believe it’s crucial for all CEOs to pay close attention to how customers are interacting with and responding to your product or service. It amounts to building awareness.
That’s why I’ve made a habit of forwarding emails from Skylum customers to my inbox each week. Every morning, I read a few of those emails. This allows me insight into how we’re doing as a company, which itself gives me the information I need to more effectively deliver the type of product and experience our customers want.
In establishing habits of your own, start small.
You don’t need to copy the habits I’ve listed here, nor do you need to wake up tomorrow ready to abide by a new and complicated laundry list of productivity enhancements. And, of course, it wouldn’t be smart to strive right off the bat for intense, “big-impact” habits, like a daily 10-mile run. Your brain––that same muscle that’s not all that great at remembering stuff––doesn’t like change. Or, rather, it needs to ease into new routines slowly. Purposeful, productivity-enhancing daily habits are things you build slowly and get better at by practicing over time.
So, give it that time. Be patient in establishing your strategically designed habits. Build momentum. Otherwise, they won’t stick.
At the end of the day, establishing a useful and strategic daily routine is something all eminent people and leaders do. One doesn’t become great or ultra-effective overnight. Rather, it takes incremental improvement realized by doing the same things excellently day-over-day.