A few months ago, I finally bit the bullet and bought a Fitbit.
I’m a runner and general exerciser; I figured I was “active enough,” so I never really saw the appeal. However, one of my recent goals has been to integrate walks into my daily routine, and I assumed (correctly) that some fun wearable tech would make it easier to build this habit.
As an “office worker” (even though I work remotely), it can be easy to stay cooped up inside all day; cultivating a walking habit has helped me disengage, clear my mind, and ultimately made me more productive.
Discovering this was like unlocking a productivity cheat code. Eager to continue learning more about what habits contribute to success, I reached out to the entrepreneurs from the Young Entrepreneur Council to share the daily habits that make them more productive, successful, and happy overall.
Here are their can’t-skip daily habits (and stealing one or two for your own use is highly encouraged).
1. Practicing a creative skill
Even if your job isn’t inherently a creative one, you might want to inject a little creativity into your daily routine. After all, it’s been suggested that having a creative hobby can actually improve your job performance.
For Nanxi Liu of Enplug, her creative outlet is playing the piano. “Practicing piano every day has helped me stay disciplined and focused,” she says.
Liu also notes that regularly practicing her skills as a musician has helped cultivate an attitude that helps her be a more successful entrepreneur. “I’m constantly trying to challenge myself with more difficult pieces to play, and that attitude has translated to ensuring my company is always growing,” she says. “It’s a reminder that skills aren’t acquired overnight, but rather are honed through years of work.”
2. Planning frequent meetings to connect and network
One of the downsides of being an entrepreneur? It’s potentially fairly isolating.
“As a solopreneur, it’s possible for me to go an entire day without speaking to anyone,” says Alexandra Levit of Inspiration at Work. “Over time, though, I’ve realized that this is not good for me either personally or professionally.”
To ensure that she has more social interaction in her professional life, Levit makes an effort to schedule meetings throughout the day. “I now build in at least one meeting every day that’s a combination of social and business conversation,” she says. “Not only does this keep me engaged in my industry, but there are often unexpected networking benefits.”
3. Implementing strategic time management
“The single most impactful part of my daily routine is consistent and effective time management,” says Kristopher Jones of LSEO.com.
To both maximize your productive output as an entrepreneur and still manage to live a balanced, happy life, getting in the habit of managing your time well is essential. This looks different for everyone; it might mean pen-and-paper lists or rigorous adherence to your Google Calendar. The key is picking a time management strategy that works for you and can become habitual.
“I use a program called Rapid Planning Method,” Jones says. “Every Sunday, I spend one to two hours planning my week. Every single hour is accounted for, planned ahead and scheduled via Google Calendar. As a result, every hour is maximized and I produce results like a ninja warrior.”
4. Note taking and journaling
“Sometimes, the best way to quiet the mind is to write everything down,” says Ross Beyeler of Growth Spark.
If you’re feeling stumped for ideas or a little less creative than usual, you might want to try this strategy. Rather than spinning your wheels on a new project and wasting time unable to get traction, make a habit of writing down everything you’re thinking, feeling, or concerned about.
“A free-form jotting of thoughts, feelings, and ideas can be quite cathartic,” says Beyeler. He also argues that this habit helps him unearth patterns he might have otherwise missed. “It also provides a record available during reflection to see if there is any correlation between moods and progress in your business.”
5. Going for a midday run
Getting out of “work mode” completely and actively switching gears can be a great way to break up the work day and leave you feeling refreshed, energized, and able to work more efficiently.
“I like running because it clears my head and gives me time to think,” says Roberto Angulo of AfterCollege. “It’s one of the few moments in the day where I get some alone time. For a CEO, this is important.”
Angulo makes running during the day a habit by scheduling a certain amount of runs a week. “I try to go running at least twice during the week, and I do it at noon to break up the day,” he says. “It’s good for the mind and body.”
6. Setting iPhone to airplane mode
If you’re constantly available, you’re shortchanging yourself the valuable time you need to disconnect from your workday.
Checking your email and phone for important work updates is a huge culprit here. Brian David Crane of Caller Smart Inc. recommends taking advantage of “airplane mode” to force some much-needed disconnection.
“Before I sleep, I set my iPhone to airplane mode and keep it in another room so it can’t disturb me,” he says. “This also keeps me from automatically checking it first thing in the morning or playing with it if I’m having a restless night of sleep.”
He also adds that he makes it a habit to block out time for work without disruptive texts, calls, and alerts during the day. “When I’m at work, I also set my iPhone to ‘do not disturb’ so that I can focus without interruption in the morning,” he says.
7. Disengaging completely
On a similar note, it’s important to be able to disengage—whatever this means to you personally.
This doesn’t only mean turning your phone off every once in awhile (although it’s a good habit to get into); it also means finding something that resets and relaxes you and helps to clear your mind.
“I find meditation, riding my bike, or going for a long walk to be something I need to do at the end of almost all work days to help me disengage,” says Kevin Telford of SurfWatch Labs. “Other folks may find running, cooking dinner, praying, going to the gym, or simply playing with their kids is what they need.”
Telford is an advocate for cultivating a habit of disengaging, even though what that looks like will be different for everyone. “I believe you need to create routines with non-work activities to train your mind to turn off, so it can recharge for the next day,” he says.
8. Going to sleep early
“Going to sleep at a reasonable hour—before 11 p.m.—each day ensures that I will get up early after a good night’s rest, have time to exercise and meditate in the morning, and get to work early or on time,” says Anshey Bhatia of Verbal+Visual. “This singular tactic makes all the difference in my personal health and business success.”
Bhatia’s point is well put: It’s important to go to sleep early not only so that you’ll be well rested, but also so that you can use the morning time to get more done. After all, the addition of extra daily habits (running, yoga, practicing that creative skill you’ve selected) all take time. Going to sleep earlier will help you rise earlier, enabling you to take better advantage of your mornings.
9. Scheduling something great the next day
It’s infinitely easier to take on each new day with enthusiasm if you have something to look forward to. ”I always love having something to look forward to the next day,” says Brandon Bruce of Cirrus Insight. “It tells me it’s going to be a day of opportunity, creativity, and success.”
While every work day might not feel just like Christmas morning, implementing this tactic will make each day more enjoyable. It will also enable you to face difficult days head-on. “As long as I have something exciting to look forward to the next day, I can handle anything, whether it’s a big meeting, time to work on a project, or a call list,” says Bruce.
10. Practicing mindful breathing
Taking time to meditate, be mindful, and pay purposeful attention to your breathing can be excellent ways to find a bit of calm and quiet in the midst of a busy day.
“I can easily go from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. without a break if it isn’t consciously scheduled,” says Justin Lefkovitch of Mirrored Media. “For me, it’s important to find at least five minutes to sit in my office with the door closed and just breathe. Finding a few uninterrupted minutes to re-center myself, slow my heartbeat, and just concentrate on breathing keeps me focused and productive all day.”
11. Delegating tasks
If you’re doing everything yourself, it may be worthwhile to develop a habit of delegation.
After all, if you’re taking on all the aspects of running your business, you’re likely wearing yourself thin. Not only that, but you’re probably doing tasks that could easily be accomplished by someone else.
“Time is valuable, so you should only spend it on things only you and no one else from your team can do,” says Daisy Jing of Banish. “Similarly, know your weaknesses. Delegate things that you’re not really good at. That way, you can focus on more important things that you should do.”
Jing emphasizes that if you’ve found a solid, reliable team of employees, delegation shouldn’t be a difficult habit to create. “It’s best to find the suitable person for each role in your company, so you can trust that your team’s work will pass your standards,” she says.
12. Using positive affirmations
“I take time every morning to go over my goals because I truly believe that success is in your control,” says Hillary Hobson of Highest Cash Offer.
The idea of affirmations can make some of us feel uncomfortable, but Hobson can attest to the power of honing in on what matters to you. “Your mind is powerful. I’ve proven to myself that anything is achievable by looking back at my past goals that seemed out of reach,” she says. “Taking the time to slow down and recognize this keeps my momentum strong.”