Coffee. Get the kids up and ready. Feed and walk the pets. Shower and dress. Quick check of email and social media. Snapshot of the news. Out the door.
Does this sound like your usual morning? Executed at breakneck speed? Or do you have a more leisurely approach?
I’ve always been intrigued by the discipline involved in creating a productive, yet balanced life. So, I’ve been studying different models.
Breakfast of champions
Are you energetic and enthusiastic about bouncing out of bed every morning, passionate about starting the day? Or are you stressed, exhausted and anxious — wanting to pull the covers over your head?
Make no mistake about it. The way you start your day has everything to do with how it flows from there.
And, whether you think you have a morning ritual or not, you do. It just may be haphazard. Which brings me to question how successful business people start their days. While researching the book “Morning Ritual Mastery” and analyzing surveys from Entrepreneur, Reader’s Digest and INC magazines, I found some interesting nuggets.
Here’s a summary of common practices, along with some unique approaches.
Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon
Anyone who can grow an online bookseller to the top online marketplace in the world — for just about any product — deserves a lot of respect. With four children on top of a global business, you’d think Jeff Bezos would burn the candle at both ends.
Not so, says writer John Boitnott who recently profiled lifestyle habits of successful entrepreneurs. Bezos, along with author/Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and publishing queen Arianna Huffington, all advocate eight hours of sleep for peak productivity.
Avoid early meetings, cautions Bezos, in favor of using this sacred time for thinking and planning.
Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX
Musk is inaccessible on purpose — and he relies on communication methods that don’t require real-time responses. He uses an obscure email address so he doesn’t waste time sorting through idea pitches and requests.
Avoiding phone calls whenever possible allows him to stick to his own agenda. “I’m very good at email,” Musk says. “It’s my core competency.”
While it may not be practical for you to follow a schedule like this, there are some takeaways. When you’re writing a document or working through a spreadsheet, for example, do you keep your email open? If so, you’ll likely be distracted.
Unless you’re “on call” for a time sensitive alert, take a look at 20-30 minutes of concentrated time to finish those documents before being reactive. I know this can be difficult, as I’ve traditionally been a “first responder” myself.
This behavior was instilled in me years ago as communications director for a governor — when one of my major responsibilities was to be responsive to the press. And I continued it as CEO of a marketing corporation. Much of my concentrated writing and work was often done after hours.
Creating pockets of time for focused concentration yields big dividends.
Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple
Face life’s biggest questions first, advised Jobs. He began each morning by looking in a mirror and asking, “If this was the last day of my life, would I be happy with what I’m about to do today?”
Oprah Winfrey, founder of O Magazine and OWN Network
Getting in touch with her higher power is essential to Oprah’s morning routine. She’s up by 6:00 a.m., and her first focus is her spiritual well-being — with a devotional practice in her meditation room.
Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group
“Get your head in the game.” Branson rises early, in order to spend time with his family, which puts him in a good mind frame before getting down to business. “I leave the curtains undrawn so the sun comes straight into my eyes,” he says. “I love to bounce up early.”
Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft
Gates kicks off the day with an hour on the treadmill, while watching educational videos.
Sarah Blakely, inventor of Spanx
“Expand the commute,” says Blakely. While she only lives five minutes from her office, she often drives out of her way to spend extra time in the car, stating that it helps her get focused for the day.
“Sometimes I leave an hour before work — just to drive,” she says.
Hmmm ... when most of us want to speed up that commute!
Benjamin Franklin, U.S. Founding Father
Franklin’s regular daily question was: “What good shall I do this day?”
Jack Dorsey, co-founder, Twitter and Square
“Expect the unexpected,” advises Dorsey, “and, whenever possible, be the unexpected.”
Mark Zuckerberg, creator of Facebook
“I’m not a cool person,” says Zuckerberg. He rises at 8 a.m. — when he hasn’t been up all night working. And he wears the same T-shirt every day to avoid wasting time deciding what to wear. (Hopefully, he has several versions!)
Morning rituals of millionaires
- Start the day before it begins. Most 7-figure earners have their day scheduled the night before.
- Drink lots of water. Stay hydrated throughout the day for energy and peak performance.
- S-T-R-E-T-C-H. Get your system moving. Don’t overdo it, though, as your muscles are not warmed up yet.
- Eat protein for sustainable energy. If you can get 20-25 grams of protein into your system, you’ll feel much more satisfied. Greek yogurt, nuts and eggs can help. And don’t be afraid to heat up last night’s beans or salmon!
- Get into the morning light.
- those happy hormones!
- Give thanks, meditate or pray.
If you can’t tackle it first thing, jot down some ideas. This will lead to a sense of accomplishment, rather than having a cloud hanging over your head.
Not all of these nuggets will speak to you, although you may want to try out a couple of approaches.
Here’s to starting your day off right!