Every leader has their own habits and routines that help them manage their day-to-day tasks. Some, like making a to-do list, are pretty universal. Others are unique to the individual and can actually turn out to be their secret to success.
The experts of Forbes Coaches Council often work with management and executive-level professionals to help them become more effective at their jobs. Below, 15 of them shared some surprising daily habits that have helped their most successful clients thrive as leaders.
1. A Powerful Morning Routine
My most successful clients have benefited enormously from a powerful morning routine habit. Setting up as little as 30 minutes of deliberate time every morning on a routine that incorporates mindfulness and gratitude, identifying a few non-negotiable strategic goals for the day and setting an intention to show up as a seasoned, strategic and inspiring leader during the day has been priceless. – Shefali Raina, Alpha Lane Partners
2. Blocking ‘Thinking Time’
My most successful clients do a great job of blocking “thinking time” on their calendars. Whether it’s time to think independently or to sit with someone else to help them think through how best to tackle a difficult challenge, having uninterrupted time can be invaluable. It helps leaders gain perspective, solve problems more creatively and maintain the energy needed to thrive in today’s world. – Christine Andrukonis, Notion Consulting
3. Daily Exercise
It is often tempting for people to deprioritize physical exercise the busier they get. However, daily cardiovascular and strength exercises have been shown to have so many benefits on both the body and the brain. I’ve seen clients flourish even more when they add regular fitness to their schedules. If needed, some clients multitask and get family time or work tasks done at the same time. – Susan Madsen, Utah Valley University & Madsen Global Leadership
4. Having Conversations Versus Sending Emails
I learned early as a leader, the more email you send, the more email you receive. Most successful leaders know it’s easy to get buried behind a desk responding to emails. Instead, engage in conversations—the old-fashioned two-way style of communication where stuff gets done. Close the laptop and engage your people. You’ll solve problems, connect with people and get unchained from your inbox. – Sheryl Lyons, Culture Spark LLC
5. Planning Your Day First Thing
If you feel stressed, anxious and frenzied, take a cue from my executive coaching clients who reduce their stress with one small habit: Every day, you come first. You will feel more settled, clear and aligned to your goals if you follow this rule: Before you look at your calendar, open your email or join a meeting, take 15 minutes to plan your day. You will be more likely to achieve your goals. – Joelle Jay, LRI
6. Drinking More Water
Drink at least 32 ounces of water during the first hour of your workday and consume more water than you think you need throughout the day as well. When water is flowing through your body, things in and around you flow more easily too. In addition to waking up the brain, it helps with productivity, focus, energy levels and flow of communication. – Natalie Ehmka, With Heart Communications, Inc.
7. Pursuing Hobbies
Every genuinely successful person I know shares this surprising habit in common: they have a hobby. Something they care about that brings personal satisfaction and builds a skill. It’s on their calendar weekly and in their thoughts every day. It matters. It creates a broader world view with a personal twist. Escape? Perhaps, but I think it’s more than that. It is a creative space to be ourselves. – Kathi Laughman, The Mackenzie Circle LLC
8. Tackling Difficult Conversations First
Never delay the difficult conversations. Meet conflict head on and create and cultivate an environment that allows managers and employees to “fail forward” with dignity. Your team will blossom under the protective cloak of psychological safety while igniting creativity to take bold and innovative leaps without fear of public retribution and humiliation. Praise in public and correct in private. – Debbie Ince, Executive Talent Finders, Inc
9. Conducting A Daily Self-Assessment
Clients who realize consistency in their effectiveness and productivity are highly disciplined in the practice of daily self-assessment. They begin each day focusing on managing their energy, not their time. At the end of each day, they assess completion and priorities for the next day. Most importantly, they ask themselves key questions that measure their behavior against their vision and values. – Lori Harris, Harris Whitesell Consulting
The best leaders I know read daily. And, perhaps even more important, they read things that expand their thinking. It’s important that we get out of our comfort zones and round out our business acumen. Too often, we stick with certain authors or genres. By picking up books that cause us to think differently, we not only exercise the mind, but we usually can find unique ways to solve problems. – Ed Krow, Ed Krow, LLC
11. Reviewing Your Calendar With Your Staff
Working with clients to establish a daily habit of assessing (or evaluating) their daily calendar with appropriate staff to determine the priorities and who will handle which ones has proven to be a habit that not only makes the leader more successful, but also allows them to learn how to empower their staff—even if an action is handled differently or simply incorrectly. – Sandra Hill, New Horizen Coaching & Professional Growth Advancement
12. Taking Real Breaks Away
It used to shock me when a high performer or an executive would go for a 20-minute walk or be reading a book that had nothing to do with immediate business. The difference? They cleared their mind and took a few true breaks every day. To their employees it showed calmness and demonstrated that being overwhelmed and busy was not the goal. Productivity is, and real mental breaks properly propel. – John M. O’Connor, Career Pro Inc.
13. Keeping A Gratitude Journal
Keeping a gratitude journal—writing three things you’re grateful for every night before bed—yields great results for my clients. They remember (and focus on) the good things that happen over the course of their day and they sleep better since the practice calms the mind. The best part? This positivity boost and better sleep come from a habit requiring less than five minutes a day. – Kate Dixon, Dixon Consulting
While many leaders find it difficult to unplug, meditation has proven to help them become more clear, calm and confident. Taking the time to quiet the chattering mind and focus on a problem-solving question brings clarity, where otherwise it brought sleepless nights. My clients have seen this proof in their life. – Susan K. Wehrley, BIZremedies
15. Saying ‘No’
Perhaps the greatest barrier to success is having too many priorities. This leads to a lack of focus and wasted time. And while we like to think we have focus, we often let others distract us with requests for our time and energy. Successful leaders do say yes, but they are also comfortable saying no. Say no to keep others from interjecting their priorities into yours unless they are aligned. – Jim Vaselopulos, Rafti Advisors, LLC
Founder & President of Executive Talent Finders