A few months ago, I had a major revelation: I don’t like morning meetings anymore!

Actually, to be honest, I don’t think I have ever liked them, but as a businessperson I didn’t see them as optional. For more than 20 years as a portfolio manager, I booked according to the preferences of my clients, and if they wanted mornings, then mornings it was.

Times have changed. For nearly three years now I’ve made my living as a researcher, writer, and consultant and I’m at my best when I am at my best. Late last year I had to admit to myself that there was a new pattern of behaviour emerging: I was cancelling morning meetings at the last minute. I wasn’t proud of this and the guilt was tremendous. I sat myself squarely in front of the mirror one day and asked myself why?

Answer: I love to start my days writing. I love the peace and quiet of a few hours alone with my coffee (dark roast, cream, no sugar), my dog, and my thoughts. This is what sets me up for success. Voila! I guess you could say I woke up and smelled the coffee. My new daily routine is now firmly in place. I’m happier and I live up to my commitments: I don’t need to cancel any more, since I don’t schedule my mornings in the first place.

I started to wonder…what do other women do? What are the little things that make a big difference to their daily lives?

Five successful women shared their ’little’ winning habits:

#1 Respect the scale

Ester Levanon, Board Member, Banking, IT and Academy – Tel Aviv

“I weigh myself every single day…whether I like to or not! Throughout my life (and particularly after I travel) I found that I would gain two kilos, come home and lose one of the kilos…but keep the other one. My weight would creep up gradually over time. When I finally decided to try and lose a bit of weight and stay slim, I started feeling so good that I fell in love with the idea of staying lean and fit! Now I watch my weight all of the time and I’m happy about it.”

#2 Build business karma

Aline Reichenberg Gustafsson, Editor In Chief, NordSIP.com – Stockholm

“Every day I focus on creating ‘business karma.’ Often, I meet someone interesting and highly competent, but we don’t see any immediate and concrete opportunity to collaborate. These ‘unusable’ contacts still make it onto my mental match-making list, because I don’t want our interaction to go to waste.

Why do I care about this? First, I (selfishly) enjoy being the source of successful introductions. Second, I am paying forward those introductions that have benefitted me throughout my career. Last, but not least, I know that the more I help people, the stronger our relationship will be. They will remember me, talk about me and generate a positive buzz around me and my business.”

#3 No socializing on Sunday nights

Sarah Bevan, President & CEO, UBS Canada – Toronto

“I have three little habits that make a big difference for me: 1) I exercise every morning for an hour; 2) I volunteer every week to give back to the community and to put life in perspective; and 3) I rarely commit myself to any social events on a Sunday evening and instead I prepare myself for the week ahead.”

#4 Be nice

Claudia Stanghellini, Head of External Management, AP3 – Stockholm

“The little thing I do every day? I am nice to people! I was once at an event, listening to a high-profile woman talking about her career in finance. During her talk she mentioned something that really got to me. She said “Be there for your co-workers and be nice to people. Be nice! And be helpful! You will make a lot of friends without even realizing it and down the line, when you will need it, people will be there for you.”

When I heard this, I thought, “she is absolutely right!” From that day on, even when I am having a bad day, I am nice to the people around me. It creates a good environment, positive energy and I believe it is very much appreciated.”

#5 Running Dates

Hanna Pri-Zan, Chairman of the Board, Peilim Portfolio Management – Tel Aviv

“Every morning my husband and I do a 30-minute run together. This activity offers us precious time together, keeps us mentally and physically healthy, gives us energy, and sets us up for the day.”

What little thing do you do that makes a big difference to your day? Is it time for your wakeup call?

Barbara Stewart, CFA is one of the world’s leading researchers on women and finance, focusing on real life financial behaviours and providing global insights into how smart women think and communicate. Barbara is an advocate for women, for diversity, and for financial education. In addition to her Rich Thinking® research, Barbara uses her proprietary research skills to work as an Executive Interviewer on a project basis for global financial institutions seeking to gain a deeper understanding of their key stakeholders, both women and men. Barbara is a frequent interview guest on TV, radio and print, both financial and general interest. She is a contributor to the CFA Institute’s Enterprising Investor website. For more information about Barbara’s research, please see www.barbarastewart.ca.