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11 CEOs share the bad habits they want to ditch in 2019

We asked 11 CEOs about the habits they plan to kick in 2019—and why you should drop these bad habits, too.

11 CEOs share the bad habits they want to ditch in 2019
[Photo: Ferenc Horvath/Unsplash]

While you’re busy making lofty resolutions for 2019, it’s important to also think about the things you don’t want to do in the new year. Whether you’re spending too much time fielding emails or reading the news, chances are you could be more productive—or simply happier—by making a few tweaks in and out of the office. We asked a number of CEOs about the habits they hope to kick in 2019.

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Multitasking in and out of the office

It’s no secret that your productivity suffers when you multitask—a habit multiple CEOs said they want to cut back on. Hussein Fazal, the CEO of travel startup SnapTravel, notes that people often spend “downtime” checking work emails and messages—and then spend their “work time” looking at personal emails and messages. (Perhaps this sounds familiar?) “It is super important to compartmentalize these time blocks,” he says, “to ensure maximum productivity while working and to minimize work distractions while enjoying downtime.” To that end, Fazal has turned off nearly all notifications on his phone and frequently keeps his phone on “do not disturb” mode.

But even when you don’t let personal agendas interrupt your workday, it can be difficult to truly focus on one task (and one tab!) at a time. That’s why Heidi Zak, CEO of lingerie startup ThirdLove, no longer brings her laptop to meetings. “I’ve found I’m much more engaged and present,” she says. Cheryl Kaplan, cofounder of shoe startup M.Gemi, says that because she often finds herself multitasking, in 2019 she wants to “focus on being present,” whether it’s at work or at home. “Face time is precious, but sometimes it gets difficult to focus on what or who is in front of me,” she says. “My goal is to put all my attention on the conversation or task at hand, instead of trying to give partial attention to a few different things at once.”

Taking your phone into the bedroom

If you’re dreaming of more peaceful sleep in the new year, you’re on the right track. “Stop trying to be a ‘hustler’ who works 24/7 and never sleeps,” advises Peter Shankman, the CEO of The Geek Factory and an author who has written and spoken extensively about living with ADHD. “Take care of yourself first and foremost. You can’t make a million dollars if you’re dead.” Founders like Tara Foley, the founder of beauty startup Follain, plan to make sleeping well a priority in 2019—even if it means not finishing work. “I get a more restful sleep if I get in bed earlier, and I get more done with my day if I’ve gotten enough sleep,” she says. Alana Branston, CEO of the retail startup Bulletin, intends to start going to bed before midnight.

For some CEOs, sleeping more soundly means unplugging. “I am working on creating a phone-free bedroom environment,” says investor Anu Duggal, who started Female Founders Fund. And Ariel Kaye, the CEO of bedding startup Parachute, is already on her way to a bedroom devoid of screens. “This is extremely challenging for me,” Kaye says. “I’ve started using an alarm clock and charge my phone outside of the bedroom. I’m already seeing the benefits—not only do I sleep much more soundly without the blue light from my phone, but I’m now in the habit of reading at night.”

Plus, the better you sleep, the less likely you are to hit the snooze button—a bad habit that Shankman cautions against. “Getting up a half hour earlier will radically improve your life in countless ways,” he says.

Stretching yourself too thin

One way to address both multitasking and sleepless nights is to take on less and say no more, as Eunice Byun—the founder of cookware startup Material—hopes to do in 2019. “As an entrepreneur with an under-one-year-old business, I catch myself feeling like we need to be ready to seize every opportunity,” she says. Over time, she has realized that when she is “more purposeful and intentional” about where she spends her energy, it is easier to stay true to her company mission. “It’s fun and exhilarating to be in hyper-growth mode, but saying ‘no’ can be just as important to growing long-term,” she adds.

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As a founder, doing less also means delegating effectively—something that can be difficult if you have built a company from the ground up. “The single worst habit I have—that I continue to work on—is micromanagement,” says Zahir Dossa, CEO of beauty startup Function of Beauty. “It isn’t easy to detach from the day-to-day tasks that I was once used to occupying. The most important thing that leads me to let go of things, however, is trust in the people [who] now lead these initiatives.”

Not counting your wins

Vivian Shen, founder of coding startup Juni Learning, says that in 2019, she wants to focus on creating good habits. One of those is making time to take stock of positive developments. “Given all the negative news throughout the past year, I believe it is more important than ever to practice gratitude,” she says. “We so often focus on what went wrong or what we could have done better. We don’t intentionally take the time to reflect on and truly celebrate the wins at work or in our personal lives. As a CEO, I feel that consistently showing appreciation for our team’s accomplishments needs to be core to our company’s DNA if we’re going to build a successful, long-term company.”

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About the author

Pavithra Mohan is an assistant editor for Fast Company Digital. Her writing has previously been featured in Gizmodo and Popular Science magazine.

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