What do successful leaders like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Oprah Winfrey, and Richard Branson all have in common? They all have morning routines. Create your own morning routine and master your day and work life.
This makes sense: If your mornings are chaotic, always seeming to end with you running out the door, the rest of your day will feel just as hectic. But what if you begin each day in a manner that leaves you calm, focused, and mentally and physically primed for the day? You’d likely feel much more purpose-driven and productive.
What’s more, routines can give you enough energy and stamina to make it through the day. They can encourage you to keep moving forward, regardless of how you feel. They can also help you become more resilient and relaxed.
But what’s the most effective morning routine? Well, there’s one set of guidelines guaranteed to set you up for success.
Wake up earlier.
Leaders like Oprah Wilfrey and Richard Branson are known for waking up incredibly early — “before the sun rises” early. This isn’t some strange badge of honor, either. A 2008 study published in The Journal of General Psychology found that early risers procrastinate less than night owls.
If you’re more of a night owl, however, this may actually be counterproductive. Instead of fighting your circadian rhythm, align your sleep schedule with your body’s natural cycle. If Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg can sleep in until 7 or 8 a.m., I think you’ll be just fine.
Whether you rise at 4 a.m. or 8 a.m., I suggest you at least start waking up before everyone else in your home. Personally, this gives me some quiet time before my children clamor for my attention.
If you’re dreading waking up earlier, gradually work your way up instead of jumping into it. Start by getting up 15 minutes earlier every day for a week; then, wake up 30 minutes earlier the next. Keep doing this until you wake up at your new desired time. (Of course, this means you should start going to bed a little earlier as well.)
Banish the snooze button.
Both Arianna Huffington and Oprah Winfrey avoid using alarm clocks. Instead, they wake up naturally. The reason, as Renzo Costarella explains, is that “when you rise in the morning you want to be ready and energized to tackle the mission ahead.” Hitting the snooze button is really just wasting time.
Besides, because it takes around 90 minutes to get into “good sleep,” dozing off for another 10 or 20 minutes isn’t beneficial. “In fact, it’s often detrimental as it will throw off the rhythm for your entire workday,” Costarella says.
Additionally, if you use your phone as an alarm clock, this prevents you from checking your phone as soon as you wake up. Jari Roomer points out in a Medium post that that’s a good thing — it decreases stress and anxiety and prevents your time from being hijacked. Most importantly, if you kick off the day by getting distracted, you’ll be primed for distractions the rest of the day.
Get into a positive mindset.
Imagine having a hectic and stressful morning, like oversleeping and then stepping on a toy. You didn’t start the day on the right foot — literally — so how do you think the rest of your day will be? You’re likely to see everything through a dark lens.
You can set the tone for your day by using your mornings to get into a positive mindset. You can achieve this through meditation, journaling, and practicing gratitude. You could also use self-affirmations, which have been found to improve decision-making and reduce stress.
Also, take a minute to think about something you’re looking forward to today. In studies, people have actually reported more intense emotions during anticipation than during retrospection.
Exercise and eat a real breakfast.
“Researchers at the University of Bristol found that people who exercise during the workday have more energy and a more positive outlook, which are both critical to getting things done,” writes Dr. Travis Bradberry. “Getting your body moving for as little as 10 minutes releases GABA, a neurotransmitter that makes your brain feel soothed and keeps you in control of your impulses.”
Exercising first thing in the morning means you’ll have the time for it, no questions asked. It will also give you an energy boost to start the day. If you don’t have time to hit the gym, even a quick cardio workout, like a brisk walk, is enough to get endorphins flowing.
Also, don’t forget to refuel by eating a nutritious breakfast. To avoid the temptation of grabbing a doughnut or greasy breakfast sandwich on the way to work, prep the night before. Having yogurt, oatmeal, fruit, or hard-boiled eggs handy will keep you energized without wasting time.
If you’re not a breakfast person, at least hydrate yourself with water, lemon, and hot tea, like green, chai, or ginger. A cup of coffee probably wouldn’t hurt, either.
Schedule your to-do list.
While things are still quiet and you’re in the right mindset, focus on what needs to get done today. Jot everything down, prioritize your to-do list, and then schedule the high-priority tasks on your calendar.
“Scheduling forces you to confront the reality of how much time you actually have and how long things will take,” Cal Newport, author of Deep Work: Rules for Focused Succcss in a Distracted World, said. “Now that you look at the whole picture you’re able to get something productive out of every free hour you have in your workday.
You not only squeeze more work in but you’re able to put work into places where you can do it best.”
If there’s one thing that could help you become more successful, it’s implementing a morning routine. Of course, don’t expect to do this overnight (no pun intended). Tweak things a bit until you find the routine that works best for you — and be consistent until it becomes automatic. Before long, you’ll be fueled every day to make great decisions for both you and your company.
John Hall is the co-founder and president of Calendar, a scheduling and time management app.