14 routines and rituals of high-flying entrepreneurs
© Diane Hill
Behind every high-flyer is a well-oiled routine. We asked some successful people to reveal their winning habits.
While there's no one winning formula for achieving success, if you look at the lives of those who have cracked it you'll notice a common theme – routine. From tech-free mornings to titanic task lists, we asked some of Britain’s leading high-fliers about the daily habits that have contributed to their success.
1. Creating a list of priorities each night
Leon Ifayemi is CEO and co-founder of SPCE, a pioneering student rental app. He creates shareholder value by providing vision, strategy and management in developing his product.
"I strive to reduce friction throughout my day by establishing a list of priorities each night – firstly to eliminate decision-making tasks in the morning (when I'm least likely to be productive) and secondly, to create efficiencies in the execution of my work. Interruptions and a lack of planning are some of the biggest contributors to dwindling productivity, so this is how I enhance my workplace performance."
2. Setting an early alarm
Celebrity hairstylist Jay Birmingham runs a boutique salon in Edgbaston. An average day might involve him doing anything from fitting extensions to prepping a client for a red carpet event.
"I make sure I wake up early, pre-7am, to seize the day. Being awake ahead of the crowd provides you with more time in your day and the early bird really does catch the worm. It’s also a quiet time of focus before everything steps up a gear. I exercise regularly, too; it refocuses your mind and gives you a clearer head, which is something I find vital when managing such a busy schedule."
3. Tech-free mornings
Sami Wunder is a global dating coach, a role that sees her coach VIP clients, create self-study programmes and lead group education sessions.
"Mornings are so important in setting the tone of the day right. I don’t touch any phone or laptops before breakfast and I don't compromise at all. Otherwise, it’s very easy for my emails, clients and business to take precedence over my wellbeing. I like to enjoy this time alone on my balcony and use it to anchor myself into a good mood."
4. Prioritising balance
James Bell is head of campaigns for the Government Communications Service. He delivers priority campaigns for the UK Prime Minister's Office and Cabinet Office.
"Wherever I am in the world, I take my gym kit and battered old trainers with me and try to squeeze in a quick run or workout in a hotel gym. I do this as much for the mental health benefits as the physical. The communications industry is based on relationships, so an important part of any week is spent socialising, usually at the pub replacing the calories I burned off from the exercise."
5. A morning walk
Margie Nomura is a chef and host of the Desert Island Dishes podcast. She splits her time between cooking, researching and editing her show.
"Walking my dog is a really important part of my day where I get some fresh air and get away from my desk or the kitchen. I try to always leave the house first thing and walk for 20 minutes or so and I’ve found this makes a huge difference to my productivity for the rest of the day."
6. 15 minutes a day of breath control
Nimisha Brahmbhatt is a freelance global strategist and founder of the Legacy Business School, where she juggles consultancy with client meetings and drafting business plans.
"One of my favourite methods of easing stress comes from the teachings of Indian guru Ramdev, known as Pranayama (a Sanskrit word meaning “breath control”). Doing this for 15 minutes every morning increases my energy levels, improves my digestion and leads to fantastic sleep – all of which are key to being productive. It’s great for grounding and centring."
7. Waking up and giving thanks
Gavin Bloemen is co-founder of Thegroundwork.co.uk, the antidote to the dating game for the Tinder generation. He works on building awareness, blitzing tech issues and developing his product.
"One of my great interests is astrology, so I do something that I call my 'prayers to the planets'. Each day has a planet associated with it; Moon-day, Saturn-day, etc. I found something online a few years ago and adapted it to my own style. Waking up each morning and giving thanks in this way really helps me to get into a routine and creates focus."
8. 30 minutes of exercise at 10am
Diane Hill is a decorative artist and designer, a vocation that involves painting samples for clients and creating hand-drawn murals and wallpaper to scale. "I start by doing emails and tidying/organising, then I go to the gym at around 10am for a 30-minute workout. This is essential for me to feel energised and happier, plus I work alone at home, so it helps to mix things up. I then work solidly until 6:30pm, always with a playlist on: the key for working productively!"
9. Writing three to-do lists
As founder of popcorn snack alternative Not.Corn, entrepreneur Rushina Shah is often found taste testing, strategising and pitching to retailers.
"The geek in me loves a good to-do list, and I spend my first 15 minutes setting out my goals for the day. I bucket these into 1. My least favourite tasks, which I make sure that I get done first thing; 2. Things that I am excited to complete; 3. Personal admin. Writing this list makes my day more productive and I find it super-satisfying crossing tasks off as I get them done."
10. Getting in work early and standing up for meetings
Simon Rabin is the CEO and founder of Chip, one of the UK's fastest-growing FinTech companies. He spends his time managing the team, meeting investors and working on new product ideas.
"I arrive at the office by 8am, before the team arrives, to be able to send some important emails and collect my thoughts. Around 9am, everyone arrives at the office and I have a stand-up coffee with the management team to discuss upcoming events and set the tone of the day right. By standing up, we create more energy and keep the dialogue flowing at a good pace."
11. Creating perfect 'flow' conditions
Jono Taylor is a mechanical engineer who designs innovative products for consumer, medical and business-to-business industries.
"Flow, as I call it, is central to my routine – it’s when I'm really concentrating on a particular part of a design. If I get interrupted in this state, it’s possible I'll forget something while editing the 3D model and some aspect of the next prototype will end up not working properly. To find the ideal conditions for flow, I recommend some ambient music playing quietly in the background (Brian Eno, for example). I also need to clear or schedule my other tasks, so I have no stress lingering at the back of my mind. And a little chocolate is helpful, too!"
12. Monday badminton
Valentina Kristensen is director of growth and communication at ACORN OakNorth, a multi-billion dollar FinTech company. She manages events, drafts speeches and handles all media relations.
"I start my week playing two hours of badminton after work on Mondays. The reason being that it’s a competitive sport that sets me up for the week, getting me in the mood and mindset to win. You can’t get this from doing something like yoga. I also read inspiring business books such as Zero to One and Brotopia."
13. Setting clear boundaries between work and personal time
Nutritional therapist Rachel Kelly is founder of Nature Provides Ltd, where she sources natural products to help people take control of their health.
"I set clear boundaries with my work and automate as much as possible. Having your own successful business isn’t about working every hour of the day and night. I’m then free to be creative and take a more active, personal approach where it matters. Perhaps crucially, I don’t have a TV or spend much time on social media unless it’s for my business."
14. Leaving the phone downstairs
Steph Douglas is the founder of boutique gift service Don’t Buy Her Flowers. Her days are filled with image shoots, visiting suppliers and finessing her website.
"When you run a business there is always more to do and you will never be "done”. About a year in from launch, I worked out that switching off is essential if you don’t want to feel overwhelmed. I now always leave my phone downstairs at night, so the first and last thing I do every day isn't scrolling through emails and social media. It’s amazing what a change this makes to feeling calm and in control."