Positive thinking can be a powerful thing for anyone in business. But a sunny, optimistic point of view can slip away during the day-to-day grind, under the combination of stress, packed schedules and a constant flow of incoming messages.
Making smart use of time and energy can translate into a positive and productive outlook on personal and professional matters. Here’s a look at some habits that can help CEOs.
Wake up early
For every early bird CEO, there may be another that works deep into the night, making a crack-of-dawn wakeup call a challenging prospect. It could be worthwhile for night owls to experiment with early morning hours, however. Before the noise of the work day starts, those hours can be spent in productive ways, including exercise and preparing for the day. In a story for Business Insider, JT Ripton notes that “rising early is a nearly universal trait among successful CEOs,” including Disney CEO Robert Iger and former Virgin America CEO David Cush.
“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,” Ripton writes. “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.”
For many — perhaps even most — professionals, this is easier said than done. It’s hard to find time for everything, and the drive to be a success may cause some to ignore their personal lives. But it’s not impossible. Learning how to unplug can serve a CEO well, as Melissa Thompson writes for Forbes.
“Almost all employees have to work late occasionally, but if you continually work late every night and answer emails when you get home, you could easily burn out,” she says. “Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has spoken out on the value of work-life balance multiple times. By spending time with friends and family, your brain can relax and appreciate the positive stimulation of social interaction.”
There are people that scoff at the idea of meditating. It may not be for everyone. But for others, meditation is a key element of personal balance, something that would benefit a stressed-out CEO. As Ripton explains, “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,” Ripton writes. “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.’”
Step away from social media
It wasn’t that long ago when social media wasn’t a constant part of our lives. It may seem harmless to mindlessly check the various outlets for personal updates or news stories to pass the time. As Deep Patel points out in a story for Forbes, using that time for more productive things is a better option.
“You would be amazed how quickly the minutes add up in a day,” he writes. “If you can start to make a few small shifts in your schedule, you can take in so much more of the right information. Scrolling through Instagram and Facebook tends to do nothing but clutter the mind. As a leader, what you’re going for is the opposite. … Instead of looking for ways to waste time, see how many little moments you can make productive instead. These might seem like nominally small shifts, but small shifts add up.”
Be around positive people
The role our friends play in our overall outlook can be significant. From longtime pals to new acquaintances, the people we spend time with outside of the office can influence our attitude. In Patel’s story for Forbes, he writes that part of the “art of leadership” is “knowing how to surround yourself with the right kinds of people, forcing you to grow in ways you wouldn’t be able to otherwise.”
“Your friends are the best point of reference for how your time is being spent,” he explains. “And if you have friends that are constantly pushing themselves to become better individuals, you’re spending time with the right people. If they’re not, it’s time to change your friend group. Becoming a great leader isn’t about being mentored by a billionaire. Just start with the people you see on an everyday basis, and make sure they’re having a positive impact on your life.”
Ease the meeting load
When a CEO is stuck in meetings all day, there are many other matters that get neglected. Catching up on those tasks can then push the workday into personal hours, disrupting the aforementioned work-life balance. Though some meetings may be essential, there are other ways to address topics without a lengthy in-person discussion, as Ripton describes.
“Meetings are a huge drain on time and resources that some CEOs have deemed completely unnecessary,” he writes. “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.”
He shares a quote from Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban as an example: “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.”
It may sound trivial in the grand scheme of things, but reading can help executives get a good start on the day, or help to wind down at the end of it. In a story for CNBC, Marguerite Ward uses two of the country’s best-known success stories as examples: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. Buffett reads multiple newspapers in the morning and through the day. And, Ward points out, Gates wrote this on his blog: “Reading books is my favorite way to learn about a new topic. I’ve been reading about a book a week on average since I was a kid. Even when my schedule is out of control, I carve out a lot of time for reading.”
“Reading has several scientific benefits,” Ward explains. “Research published in the Journal of American Academy of Neurology finds that people who engage in mentally stimulating activities like reading experience slower memory decline than those who do not. It also boosts creative thinking. Brain scans taken of college students who had read a thriller showed increased activity in the areas of the brain related to language comprehension and sensation.”