Updated: Nov 9, 2021
Many of us start the day with a ringing alarm clock, a big cup of coffee and a quick check of our email. But if you analyze the morning habits of very successful people, that's exactly what they don't do. A big part of my morning ritual is about what I don't do: when I wake up, I don't start the day by looking at my smartphone. Instead, once I'm awake, I take a minute to breathe deeply, be grateful, and set my intention for the day.
These five morning habits of highly successful people will help you kick-start your day so you can achieve greater focus, clarity and productivity.
Morning habit #1: Ditch the alarm clock
swears by eight hours of sleep each night. He's also a big proponent of waking up naturally, without an alarm. Oprah also wakes up on her own. In her wellness book she explained how she sets her internal clock: "I have never set an alarm, I don't believe in them. They are…alarming! I put the number in my mind, and I wake up before that, usually between 6:02 and 6:20, because the dogs are trained to go out around that time. According to the National Sleep Foundation, Huffington's early bedtime allows her to get eight hours of sleep—the recommended amount of sleep for most adults. It also ensures that she wakes up naturally without an alarm clock. "Just think about the definition of the word alarm," explains Huffington, "a sudden fear or distressing suspense caused by an awareness of danger." Beginning the day in such a startling manner creates a flood of stress hormones and adrenaline as our body prepares for danger. Not the best way to start the day!
Habit #2: Avoid coffee first thing
Grabbing a cup of coffee first thing in the morning may seem like the logical choice, but health experts say water is better. After going several hours without H2O, a serving of water first thing can hydrate the body while aiding digestion and metabolism. Water is an essential nutrient, and the organs and tissues in your body depend on it to function. Since your body loses water regularly, you need to compensate for these losses to avoid dehydration. It's very important to start your day off with a lot of energy. For me, that starts with getting up, brushing my teeth, and drinking some water—I drink a liter of water straight down. A refreshing glass of water can revitalize you and help you feel more positive about and prepared for the day ahead.
Habit #3: Move your body
Morning exercise is a daily habit of many successful leaders. Actress Gwyneth Paltrow, the owner of lifestyle company Goop, says that she works out every morning after checking emails. Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates likes to multitask during his morning treadmill workouts by watching movies while exercising. Your physical health is one of the most important parts of a successful morning routine.
Habit #4: Fail to plan, plan to fail
Sometimes the best way to have a productive morning is to get a head start the night before. Many successful people spend their evenings getting ready for the following day because it frees up their mornings to get a jump on meaningful work. Former Kenneth Chenault the CEO of American Express ends his evenings by writing down three things he wants to accomplish the next day. Try rateing the items in order of importance: A, B or C. The A's are where the gold is—the things that will move my business ahead and make me money. Creating a to-do list at night is more time efficient, reduces morning stress and marks a definitive end to the day resulting in greater work-life balance.
Habit #5: Look at yourself in the mirror
Self-reflection in the morning can set you up for success the entire day. No one knew this better than the late Steve Jobs. Too often, we go through our lives on autopilot, only to realize later that we've lost sight of our values, goals and passions along the way. You can avoid this scenario by asking yourself one fundamental question in the mirror every morning: "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. This self-awareness technique is genius. Imagine waking up every morning not wanting to do your job and feel that way for months or years on end. If you're answering no to this question day after day, it's likely time to make a career change.