When looking for productivity advice, people often get hooked by quick fixes, hacks, and shortcuts to improve their performance. The truth is, these can only take you so far. A more effective way to change is by looking at the repetitive actions you do every day: your routines.
A morning routine is one of the most powerful ways of impacting your long-term success. But what morning habits are worth pursuing? In this article, we’ll look at the morning routines of successful people to get you inspired and help you create your own.
Why Is It Worth Investing in a Good Morning Routine?
The importance of productive habits for achieving the results you want is well-documented by science. This applies to success at work, health, personal goals, and virtually anything you want to achieve.
Rather than focusing on immediate results, you’re better off focusing on creating a routine that allows you to achieve the desired change over time. Even if you take small steps, but take them every day, their benefits will compound over time.
Creating a consistent morning routine is a great way of implementing this. Morning hours are when you have a clean slate and are yet unimpacted by the day’s events. This means you can pick actions more consciously, deciding what serves you.
According to VeryWellMind, some benefits of having an intentional morning routine include:
- Quality time for yourself before the workday starts
- A chance to kick-start your day on a positive, confident note
- Space that allows you to process what’s going on in your relationships
- The ability to deliberately plan how you’ll spend the rest of the day
- The opportunity to prioritize your well-being and do things for yourself you may not have the time for later on
So what does a good morning routine consist of? Before you answer this question for yourself, let’s look at what successful entrepreneurs do to set the tone for their days.
8 Morning Routines of Successful People
What do successful people do in the morning, and what impact does it have on their well-being and goals? It differs from person to person. However, there are a few common habits that keep coming up over and over.
We looked at the most popular morning routines of successful people and compiled them below. This is a blueprint you can follow to create your own morning ritual.
1. Arianna Huffington: No Social Media or Alarm Clock
The founder of Thrive Global focuses her morning routine on what she doesn’t do. Because she usually gets the recommended 8 hours of sleep, she doesn’t need an alarm clock to wake her. In Huffington’s opinion, getting up naturally is a much more relaxed way to begin the day.
Then, she makes it a point to not jump to her phone or social media in the morning hours. Instead of getting distracted with notifications, she uses this time to connect to herself, practice gratitude, and meditate.
2. Oprah Winfrey: Cardio Workout and Healthy Breakfast
Not long ago, the iconic TV host and author Oprah Winfrey lost 42.5 pounds. This isn’t due to a diet regimen but rather because of her commitment to a morning cardio workout.
In one of her interviews, Oprah said that she usually starts her day with an hour in her home gym, working out on a treadmill and elliptical. Of course, not everyone will have that much time to exercise in the morning. However, science suggests that even short daily workouts can significantly boost your mood, energy levels, and performance.
3. Cameron Diaz: A Glass of Water Instead of Coffee
After a whole night of sleep, it’s important to rehydrate your body. Many successful people make it a point not to start their day with coffee, but go for water instead.
Cameron Diaz is someone who takes this very seriously, as she gulps down one liter of water right after waking up. Many scientific studies confirm the benefits of starting your day with water: It improves your mental performance, benefits your skin, and boosts your mood.
You don’t necessarily need to drink a whole liter in one go. A glass of water as part of your morning routine is enough.
4. Steve Jobs: Self-Reflection Through a Simple Question
The late Steve Jobs certainly was very deliberate about how he spent his time. Every morning, his routine included one non-negotiable element. He stood in front of the mirror, looked himself in the eye, and asked:
"If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today? If the answer is ‘no’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something."
Asking such a powerful self-reflection question in the morning prevented him from straying off-track. You can also do that as a way of checking in with yourself.
5. Jack Dorsey: An Hour-Long Meditation Session
Meditation is one of the most powerful practices to clear the mind, relieve stress, and prepare for the day ahead. Research points to benefits such as better concentration, resilience, and emotional regulation.
Jack Dorsey, the co-founder of Twitter knows those benefits very well. That’s why, every morning at 6:15 a.m., he kicks off with an hour-long meditation session. This helps him create a clean slate to tackle the day ahead.
If you want to incorporate mindfulness into your morning, you can start by using apps such as Headspace or Calm.
6. Benjamin Franklin: Journal About What Good You’ll Do Today
There’s a ton of research on the benefits of journaling — from relieving anxiety to improving performance. And it’s even better to do it in the morning. When you have a chance to do some goal-setting or emotional processing first thing after waking up, you’re setting yourself up for success.
A classic example of how journaling can help you be successful is Benjamin Franklin. He started his journal at the age of 20 and continued using it throughout his life to develop moral virtues in himself. Almost 300 years later, his process can still serve as a blueprint to incorporate morning journaling into your day and help you be a better person.
7. Tim Cook: Simply Wake Up Early
In 2013, The Guardian conducted a series of interviews with famous CEOs and entrepreneurs. Every single one of them turned out to be an early riser — and most claimed to get out of bed as soon as they woke up.
There’s proof that people who wake up early tend to procrastinate less than night owls. Apple’s CEO Tim Cook seems to be taking this very seriously. Reportedly, he wakes up every day at 3:45 a.m. to tackle the most important tasks and hit the gym by 5 a.m.
If you don't want to be as extreme as Cook, you can still set yourself up for a productive morning. Try waking up 10 minutes earlier at first and gradually work your way toward your desired wake up time.
8. Barack Obama: Read in the Morning
Reading in the morning reduces stress, enhances cognitive performance, and has a host of other benefits for your health. It’s also a great way to learn something new, especially because at this time of day, your brain is still fresh and relaxed.
Former President Barack Obama is a fan of morning reading. He uses early hours to catch up on what’s going on in the world and read blogs. Other people known for their morning reading habit are Warren Buffett and Bill Gates.
If you have a self-improvement or fiction book you want to read, try reading just five to seven pages each morning. This way, you can read up to one book per month just during your morning routine.
How to Pick Morning Habits that Work for You
Now that you know the morning habits of successful people, it’s time to think about creating your own. But don’t try to simply copy and paste all the above into your morning. Just like too much work leads to work burnout, trying too hard to improve yourself can feel daunting.
The point of creating a good morning routine is for it to feel satisfying and pleasant — not stressful. That’s why we recommend starting low-key and not taking too much on too soon. Building your perfect morning ritual takes time and experimentation.
To help you make gradual changes to your morning, here are three questions to guide you through the process.
1. What Do You Need?
First of all, ask yourself what you are expecting of your morning. In an ideal world, how would you like your morning routine to impact your life?
Is it about feeling energized and happier? Being better prepared to tackle the day ahead? Or maybe, you just want to find some time to work on a passion project, read, exercise, or do something else you don’t have the time for throughout the day.
Don’t create too many expectations, and pick just one outcome of your morning routine that feels most important. Based on that, you’ll then look for activities that support it.
2. What Don’t You Like About Your Mornings Right Now?
Nir Eyal, the author of “Indistractable,” wrote, “I discovered that living the life we want requires not only doing the right things, it also requires that we stop doing the wrong things that take us off-track.”
This applies to optimizing your morning. Before adding anything to your existing routine, look at things that you may want to eliminate first. What are you currently doing that isn’t supporting your goals?
For example, if you’d like to wake up early, hitting the snooze button is probably sabotaging that goal. If you want to feel energized, you may consider eliminating a sugary snack you’re used to having in the morning.
Whatever your goal is, see what you can take out from your existing routine before you add to it.
3. What Would You Like to Add to Your Morning?
Now that you freed up some space, it’s time to think of a new habit to introduce into your morning. Remember not to overdo it — we strongly recommend starting with just one new thing in your morning routine. You can always extend it later.
There’s a ton of pleasant and productive things to do in the morning. This article contains only a handful. If you’re not convinced by the morning routines of successful people we listed above, feel free to come up with another idea: Creating art, having a morning bath, playing an instrument, or singing are just a few creative options.
Whatever morning habit you go for, remember this isn’t set in stone. You can make adjustments whenever you want — experimentation is the key to getting it right.
Use a Time Tracker to Discover the Impact of Your Morning Routine
Once you create a new morning routine, you may be curious to verify if it actually has any impact on the rest of your workday. This may be hard to realize — unless you have a good tool for tracking your time.
Using a time tracker like Rize allows you to run A/B tests and turn this into an exciting self-experiment. Try tracking your work time with and without your morning routine. Then, compare them and see if the structure of your morning makes a difference to the rest of your day.
Rize offers a free 14-day trial of its app. Sign-up with a few clicks and enjoy the benefits of time tracking.