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Morning Routines of the Super Successful

I’ve never been a morning person. Or so I thought. Before I got married, my typical weekday schedule was waking up around 7:30 a.m. and dozing off around 11:15 p.m. as I watched Friends. My morning routine consisted of showering, dressing, and grabbing a breakfast Hot Pocket as I dashed out the door (don’t judge). On the weekends, I would go out with friends or binge watch movies until the wee hours of the morning and sleep until 11 or 12 the next day.

When I met my husband ten years ago, my comfortable schedule was interrupted. Rino typically gets up at 4:00 a.m. (that is not a typo). On the weekends, he would wake me up at 8:00 a.m. Before long, I was going to sleep by 10:00 and waking up at 7:00.

About two years ago, I was complaining that I didn’t have enough time to myself each day. Rino suggested I start getting up earlier to have some time in the morning. At the time, we had a newborn baby, and two other children under five. The thought of waking up early was not appealing to me, yet I craved some personal time in the day. I decided to experiment with getting up one hour earlier–at 6:00 a.m. That experiment two years ago has turned into a daily habit that has helped me to jumpstart my day and feel calm and productive.

I’ve been studying successful people for years, and over and over again, the morning routine turned up as a habit of the super successful.

Below are the most common elements in morning routines based on my research of highly successful people. The routines typically last anywhere from one to three hours (for those super early risers up at 4:00 a.m.!) and take place before they even get to the office.

  • Meditation: In his book, Tools of Titans, Tim Ferriss shared that 80% of the highly successful people he interviewed meditate at least once a day. In my research, meditation came up time and time again. Organizations like Aetna, Google, and Apple all offer meditation classes to their employees. Since I pretty much feel a sense of urgency almost every minute of the day, I never thought I would be able to meditate (or at least do it well). I started meditating a year and a half ago, and I have seen an improvement in my focus, patience, and calmness. I meditate most days for 20 minutes in the morning. The bottom line: those who meditate report that they are able to keep calmer and handle the stresses of life better.
  • Prayer or reflection: Taking time in the morning to be grateful, pray, or set an intention for the day is typical for those who are very successful. While this practice was individual to each person, most report that this practice keeps them centered. Personally, I set an intention for my day to go well, and I visualize everything on my schedule, whether a presentation, a workshop, or a meeting, going exactly as I want. I take a pause before each segment of my day and make an intention to be present and connected to the person or people I am with.
  • Planning: successful people are very deliberate about how they spend their time. They don’t rush into the day and let others overtake their schedule. Most successful people report spending some time in the morning planning their day. I recommend taking this a step further and planning your day the night before. This allows you to jump right into your most important priorities instead of wasting time looking at your long task list and feeling overwhelmed (and then procrastinating by going on Facebook, looking at your credit union account, etc.). Pick your top two priorities, and schedule them in your calendar. In the morning, review your priorities list and get into action.
  • Exercise: Many successful people exercise in the morning, reporting that getting it done in the beginning of the day gives them energy and ensures it’s a priority.
  • Check email: you may be surprised that about half of successful people report checking email first thing in the morning (or maybe you are not surprised since it’s the first thing most people do). Most report scanning through their email and not reading or responding to each one. Although most experts advise not checking email in the morning, I find that unrealistic. The point is to not get engrossed in emails and let it derail your day. Be intentional about your time.

Although they have common elements, the routines of highly successful people were not all the same, so the key is to create a routine that resonates with you. While these routines took place for most people in my research before getting to the office, you can set up a routine to start your day at work too. Whether it’s reviewing your priorities list, reading an inspirational quote, or making a cup of tea, taking a few minutes to breathe and center yourself in the morning can help you to be more intentional and mindful as you go through your day.

If you want some further reading on morning routines, below are recommended articles:

The Morning Routines of the Most Successful People

The Morning Routines of 12 Successful Women

I also recommend the book, The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod

I’d love to hear from you. Do you have a morning routine? What practices help you to set your day up for success?

My Tips for Increased Energy

I just returned from a relaxing getaway in Cancun with my family and it was just what I needed to recharge and refocus. One of my personal goals this year is to schedule more downtime. I can very easily get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life, and sometimes neglect to take care of myself and ensure I am getting the time I need to recharge.

So what does this have to do with leadership? In my experience, many leaders get so caught up in work, that they leave little time for leisure. I used to be one of those leaders. I enjoyed my work, and would often work long hours. I would come home mentally and physically exhausted, which left very little time and energy for exercise, eating right, and taking care of myself. I like to keep busy, and at the time, leisure time sounded unproductive.

I admit that I sometimes still struggle with prioritizing leisure time, but I have made consistent progress and continue to focus on making small changes. To be an effective leader, we need frequent mental and physical breaks to de-clutter our minds and recharge physically. We can’t possibly run on overdrive and be effective. Attending to the physical, emotional, and spiritual side will ensure we have the energy and mental capacity to bring the best to our work.

Below are some changes I am implementing to make sure I can work at peak performance and have the energy to bring my best to my work.

Pre-schedule vacations and getaways. I used to do this backwards. I would put all of my work commitments in my calendar, and then a few months before I wanted to take a vacation, I would try to fit it in. This caused more stress since I often didn’t have room in my schedule for any time off. This past year, I started scheduling my downtime first. I blocked out several weeks I wanted to take off (even if I didn’t have a destination yet), and committed to taking that time I need. I also blocked off at least two full days a month with no commitments so that I could use that time for planning and creative thinking. Blocking this time in my calendar has served as a constant reminder that this time needs to be a priority.

Make health a priority. This is nothing new, and I think it’s easier said than done. When I am busy, I grab convenience foods like unhealthy snacks. My family is working on cutting out most processed foods this year and planning our meals ahead of time. This can be challenging–like when my husband bought four box of Girl Scout cookies this weekend–but we are making small changes that are really adding up. I follow a website that has been an excellent resource called 100 Days of Real Food. Check it out here: www.100daysofrealfood.com. I have used many of these recipes to make food on the weekends to have for the week.

Get some sleep. Unless you are a giraffe (they only need a total of 1.9 hours of sleep a day), you probably need at least eight hours of sleep a night. Nearly 8 in 10 Americans say they would feel better and more prepared for the day if they got more sleep. Technology is one reason why many people don’t get enough sleep–they stay up surfing the Internet, watching television, working, or playing games on their phone. This is one area that is non-negotiable for me. I aim to get about nine hours a sleep a night (as long as my 3 year old and 1 year old cooperate!). If I get less than eight hours, I absolutely feel a difference the next day–I’m tired, sluggish, and have very little motivation to focus.

Get clear on limiting beliefs. I ended last year exhausted and ready for a break. I had been running at full speed all year, and felt like I didn’t have the breaks I needed to regroup and relax. When I reflected, I realized that I had a subconscious belief that work should always come first. This limiting belief was apparent in my decisions, and it was having a negative impact in my life. I would choose work over things that I said were priorities, like exercise and meditation. If something for work came up, I would often shift personal commitments to accommodate my work schedule. I realized that this had to change. There will always be work. And if I treat the personal needs as optional, they will never rise to the top of the list. Now I schedule my personal needs in my calendar months ahead of time to make sure they get the focus they need. Sometimes I will need to shift something, but I am making a lot of progress in prioritizing my leisure time.

Small habits lead to big changes. As a leader, I know you have a very busy schedule. Adding more commitments probably seems impossible. Start with small changes and build from there. In my work with leaders, I find that the most successful people are those who make small habit changes and are consistent. They stick to the changes and focus on improving and making better choices in each moment. It’s great to have a big plan, but it’s even better to get results.

What is one thing you do to recharge and re-energize?