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The Compass  /  Health & Grooming  /  11 Morning Routines of Successful People

11 Morning Routines of Successful People

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Morning Routine Ideas to Help You Succeed

It’s true what they say, the way you start your morning sets the tone for the entire day. Even if you’re wearing your all-time favorite suit, hitting snooze three times and calling a Starbucks pastry “breakfast” isn’t going to have you firing on all cylinders from the jump. If you want to start your day in beast mode, take a look at the morning routines of the most successful people you know and see what they do each and every day to stay ahead of the pack. Designing a daily ritual of healthy habits can help elevate you into the elite company of CEOs, visionaries and countless other high-powered people who swear by their morning routine ideas.

Men’s Morning Routines Are Critical

And not just for men but for both men and women, it’s only natural that we want to succeed at the highest level, but trying to succeed without structure is like trying to build a palace on sand. Though it may work temporarily, the unstable foundation is bound to bring it all crashing down. Even if you don’t strive to be the next genius entrepreneur, the productivity hacks of a successful morning routine are a rock-solid infrastructure that can bring you greater energy, focus, and calmness throughout the day.


The 11 Morning Routines of Successful People

Creating your very own morning routine takes some experimentation and some morning routine ideas may just not line up with your lifestyle — that’s okay. We’ve collected eleven of our favorite morning routine ideas here for you to sample and draw inspiration from. Instead of incorporating all of these ideas at once, try them out one at a time and take note which ones you resonate with and which ones yield the best results for you.

1. Wake Up Early

window showing sun rising over a city

You had to have been expecting this one, right? We’ve all heard it before (and probably all from our parents), the early bird gets the worm.

Though we don’t realize it in our youthful zeal to ignore every bit of parental wisdom, there are several actual advantages to waking up early, especially for productivity. Rising early allows ambitious people like Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, to get a head start on their day while the rest of the world is still out cold. In fact, Branson is such a proponent that he penned an article singing the praises of early mornings. Branson isn’t alone, Apple CEO Tim Cook himself praises an early wake-up call, so much so that he wakes up at 4:00 a.m. so that he has extra time to read customer reviews and hit the gym (more on the importance of this later).  

The advantages of waking up earlier are backed by science, but they’re also kind of obvious. In an article about sleep quality published by Entrepreneur.com, biologist Christopher Randler states that people who wake up earlier are proven to be more proactive and deal with stress better.

Think of it this way, have you ever woken up late and scrambled to work barely coherent and running late for your 9 a.m. meeting? Of course, and we’ve all done it. Starting the day with a stressful morning will likely contribute to a stressful day, and by waking up early, you can be proactive, ensuring a calmer, conscious morning. This is also advantageous if you need time to iron your dress shirt or decide on your matching shirt and tie combination for the day.


2. Set Your Alarm For The Same Time Every Day

phone with alarm showing 6 am

In addition to waking up early, research has found that setting your alarm for the same time each morning (yes, even weekends and days off) can have a wealth of beneficial effects. Much like our bedside alarms, our bodies include a fully functioning 24-hour clock called the circadian rhythm. Rhythm requires repetition, which is why waking at a consistent hour helps your body adapt and habituate to your preferred schedule.

With your circadian rhythm rockin’, your body is ready and prepared for the day when you wake up (you might even consider skipping coffee). Bob Iger, CEO of Disney, understands the importance of consistency and wakes up at 4:30 a.m. every single day even if it’s just to read the paper, listen to music, or watch the news (this includes weekends, too).


3. Ask Yourself A Powerful Question

rodin's thinker with word bubble showing a question mark

We’re all driven by personal ideas, goals, and philosophies that guide us on a day-to-day basis. It’s true, these values are intrinsic to us, they become a part of who we are and a part of our self-identity. But that self-identity can become clouded when our environment becomes chaotic.

When life is at its most hectic, starting the day with a powerful question can be a great way to affirm the ideas, beliefs, and values that mean the most to you so that your decisions match your long-term goals and personal mission. Steve Jobs used this tactic, noting in his 2005 commencement speech at Stanford University that his question was “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?”

Jobs wasn’t alone. Benjamin Franklin’s daily morning routine also included asking himself the question, “What good shall I do this day?” Use your morning question to determine which activities are most deserving of your time and energy, and to hold yourself accountable for staying true to your core values.


4. Nourish Your Body

healthy breakfast of an egg omelette, salad, grapefruit, and orange juice

Many of the world’s best morning routines begin with an age-old piece of advice: don’t skip breakfast. This is fundamental. Your brain cannot achieve peak performance if your body is not well cared for. And by breakfast, we don’t mean two donuts and a chocolate croissant. The kind of breakfast that will jump-start your day must be healthy, energizing, and have actual nutritional value.

Billionaire Warren Buffett knows not to skip breakfast; although he doesn’t choose the healthiest options, according to HBO documentary Becoming Buffett, rotates through three different morning meals depending on how much he wants to spend:

  1. $2.95 for a sausage, egg, and cheese sandwich
  2. $3.17 for a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich
  3. $2.61 for two sausage patties.

5. Exercise, Exercise, Exercise

dumbbells, towel, earphones, a bottle of water, and a cellphone

Another great morning routine idea is to get your exercise in before work instead of after. Exercise is essential to keep us physically and mentally fit, and can also serve as an excellent early morning energy boost to power you through the day. The numerous benefits of exercise go well beyond simple health — working out can also help you think more clearly, make you happier, reduce stress, increase your energy levels, boost your sex life and help you sleep better at night.

Exercising in the morning is also a great way to, let’s be honest, get it over with. We can all admit that we’re prone to making excuses once a long day of work is over with, so a workout in the morning can help you check off a major task from your daily to-do list early.

President Barack Obama, as both leader and now a private citizen, starts his day with a 45-minute workout, rotating between strength and cardio training. And thanks to exercising early, he opts for water to hydrate and skips over coffee because his body is already at high-alert.


6. Stimulate Your Mind

hand holding a pen and doing a crossword puzzle

While you’re beefing up your biceps, don’t forget to train your brain. A number of the world’s most notable men and women recommend mental stimulation as part of a proactive morning routine. Some advise reading before work while others suggest completing a crossword puzzle.

Bill Gates combines mind and body training by listening to audiobooks or watching the Teaching Company’s ‘Great Courses’ series while on the treadmill. This is a great way to incorporate two-morning routine ideas into one, but understandably, most people will want something a bit livelier when doing cardio. If Gates’ combination seems a bit over-the-top, try working on a simple crossword puzzle to startup your cognitive motor in the morning.


7. Start Your Morning On a High Note

a journal with prompt "today I'm grateful for..." and a cup of tea

Life is full of ups and downs no matter who you are or where you are in life. Unfortunately, we’re also equipped with a complex, but surprisingly primitive, brain with a bias for inflating our fears and worries, making the downs seem extra… well, down. While this may seem like an evolutionary glitch, it’s actually quite the opposite.

Over the span of two million years, the human brain adapted in ways necessary to increase chances of survival. One of those adaptations was to become disproportionately hypersensitive to negative stimuli so that we could avoid them and thus survive. This worked well for thousands of years, especially early on when humans weren’t at the top of the food chain and life expectancy was a small fraction of what it is today.

We no longer have to worry about which plants will kill us, the risk of starvation, or apex predators. But our brains have become hardwired to still over-index and over-respond to negative inputs, however trivial and not life-or-death in importance.

How does this biology lesson impact how we start our day? Well, taking into account our brains favor of inflating negativity, starting the day recounting all of your stresses and worries won’t be very helpful, yet we do it more than we realize.

Practice Positivity Instead

Counter these instincts by starting the day with a positive mindset. Each morning, take time to practice daily affirmations and count all of your wins, big and small. This makes for an excellent morning routine idea to start the day with elevated positivity and optimism. You’ll find daily affirmations common in many morning routines of successful people, whether it’s simply writing your thoughts down in a gratitude journal or by simply setting aside time for self-reflection.

Starting your day with a calculated period of positivity can have a potent effect on your mindset throughout the day. People who include a gratitude practice as part of their morning routine experience more optimism, inspiration, and happiness, as well as better health and more success at work.

This morning routine idea is prevalent for life coach Tony Robbins who practices gratitude to energize himself during his 10-minute daily morning ritual he calls “priming”. Robbins introduced this to his morning as a way to counteract evolution and urged his listeners to try it themselves prefacing, “Whenever you want to make a change or improve something, the first place you want to prove it is in your mental, emotional state. If you do something from a pissed off state, from an exhausted state, from a frustrated state, from a weak state, it won’t matter what you do. The thoughts are weak when you’re in a weak place. The actions are weak.”


8. Meditate

man facing the back wearing gray shirt and blue shorts sitting on a rug and meditating

Many of the biggest names in business swear by meditation. And with the rise of meditation apps like Calm that make guided meditation accessible with just a few swipes, the practice is becoming more and more mainstream.
Meditation is an excellent way to slow down your thoughts and establish clarity. This is why meditation is very common amongst morning routines of successful people who face a daily onslaught of back to back meetings and tough decisions. A morning meditation routine clears your mind and reduces stress, putting your brain in a productive and focused state for the rest of the day.

Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter and Square, has spoken many times about the positive influence that meditation has had on his career. He even spent a birthday on a 10-day silent meditation retreat in Myanmar. While we’re not saying you need to go on a meditation retreat, meditation is a healthy morning routine idea that can be easily incorporated with as little as a 15-minute daily commitment.


9. Spend Quality Time With Loved Ones

man, woman, and child sitting at a breakfast table

Long hours at work may be good for your bottom line, but at what cost? Too much time at the office can take a serious toll on your home life and happiness. This is a common problem for entrepreneurs, small business owners, and anyone in between who is spending more time in the office than they’d like. Some morning routines of successful people address this common problem and aim to strike a balance between work and home.

Brad Feld, venture capitalist at Foundry Group, and Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter and Medium, make sure to spend their mornings enjoying quality time with their significant others and children. A long list of other big names, including Richard Branson, Gary Vaynerchuk, and Jeff Weiner, agree that setting aside time to connect with loved ones is essential to their success, and more so, their sanity.


10. Strategize And Set Goals

cork board with a to do list pinned on it

Humans often have trouble with foresight and longevity, but if you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never get there. This morning routine idea enables you to start your day by establishing a clear sense of direction. Set aside time to visualize and set goals based on what an accomplished day looks like, create a to-do list of practical action items to achieve those goals, and organize your tasks in order of priority.

Understanding your end goals and being aware of precisely what steps you must take to get there will make your day seem less frantic and be more manageable. The approach to this strategic morning routine is laid out by motivational speaker Brian Tracy in Eat That Frog! and has helped many high-performing people stay on top of their busy schedules and accomplish difficult tasks ahead.


11. Start The Night Before

window showing a city skyline during night time

Technically, this isn’t a morning routine idea, but how you end your night plays such a critical role towards how your day starts that we had to include it. No matter how perfect your morning routine may be, it won’t make up for bad nighttime habits.

Business leaders like former American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault, and real estate guru and Shark Tank investor Barbara Corcoran know that getting ahead in the morning starts with how you end the day before. Their strategies range from creating the next day’s to-do list before leaving the office, unplugging from technology at the same time every evening, and regulating sleep times to improve the quality of their sleep.

Habit formation expert Nir Eyal goes as far as setting an automatic timer to shut off his internet connection at 10 p.m. every evening to prevent habitual web browsing. Setting yourself up for success the night before and getting a restful night of sleep is in some ways the foundation that all of the other morning routines need to be built upon.


Put These Morning Routine Ideas Into Action

Like we said at the top, don’t feel obliged to dive into all of these women and men’s morning routines at once. Rather, do quite the opposite. Dip your toes into the water by picking a few that you feel resonate with what you’re looking for in your own morning routine. Eventually, you’ll find one or two that meshes with your lifestyle. You might even enjoy your new morning routine so much that you turn into a morning person.


Do you have a tried-and-true morning routine idea that we didn’t mention? Share your secret with us in the comment section below!


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