We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.
It’s been said that if you want to be in the top 5% of the world’s most successful people, you must do what the other 95% of people are not doing. Many of the world’s most successful CEO’s have spent years honing their self-discipline. One of the key ways they do this is by mastering a productive morning routine.
Most people prefer to hit the snooze button and enjoy the warmth of their beds for “just a few more minutes”. But if you’re reading this, then we’re going to guess that you aren’t most people.
On average, people in positions of leadership roll out of bed at 6:15 am because they know the value of getting an early start. These early hours are free from distraction, giving them a chance to focus and be productive before their email notifications start pinging.
In this blog, we’ll give you some of the best tried and tested tools for a productive morning routine, according to the world’s leading CEO’s. Ready? Let’s go.
Get up early
Yes, we’ve already covered this one, but we’re saying it again because if you don’t complete this step then you may as well forget the rest. This is about being in the top 5%, not the 95%.
Even if you’re more of a night owl, it is possible to train yourself to wake up a little earlier each day until eventually you’re rising before everyone else and squeezing more juice out of every day. If you struggle to wake up early, put your alarm on the opposite side of the room so you’re forced to get out of bed to turn it off instead of pressing snooze.
CEO tip: Tim Cook, CEO at Apple, starts his day at 4:30 am to get a head start on emails and be at the gym by 5:00.
Get enough rest
It’s infinitely easier to be the early bird if you’ve had a good amount of rest the night before. Working late into the night can often cause us to underperform the next day. The unintended result is a chain of events that undermines our productivity.
We recommend being disciplined about switching off all electronic devices, like laptops and cellphones, at least 2 hours before going to bed.
CEO tip: Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos, believes in getting eight hours of sleep every night. He’s also a big fan of waking up naturally, without an alarm.
Make your bed
Yes, really. The seemingly small act of making your bed each morning can promote self-discipline and productivity throughout the day.
In 2019, Best Mattress Brand surveyed their customers and this is what we learned:
- 82% of people said they are more productive throughout the day after making their bed
- 74% of bed-makers felt a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day compared to just 50% of those who leave their beds unmade.
- 92% of regular bed-makers feel so strongly about the topic that they would recommend making your bed to others
So, keep that in mind next time you’re getting out of bed. Perhaps it’s the smallest change in behaviour that could have a really big impact on who you become.
Being physically active is another way that top CEO’s stimulate productivity. Regular exercise, especially in the morning, offers so many benefits that we can’t list them all. Here are just a few reasons to incorporate it into your moring routine:
- Increases blood flow to the brain, which improves function and helps you form new neural connections
- Stimulates the release of endorphins and serotonin, which make you feel good and combat stress, anxiety and depression
- Helps to reduce your cortisol levels at night so that you sleep better
CEO inspiration: Anna Wintour, Editor-in-Chief for Vogue, typically starts her mornings between 4 am and 5.30 am. First, she catches up on international news and then enjoys an hour of tennis before heading out for a coffee on her way to the office.
Take a cold shower
This one is not for everyone, but many CEO’s and founders swear by taking cold showers each morning.
According to CNBC, the technique grew in popularity in Silicon Valley after Dutch extreme athlete Wim Hof travelled through the area giving talks and workshops in 2017. Triathlete and TED speaker, Joel Runyon, also weighed in on the cold shower technique, saying, “doing something uncomfortable every day makes everything else seem doable, a particularly valuable technique for entrepreneurs.”
Aside from the psychological benefits, cold showers have loads of physical benefits too:
- Increase blood circulation and lymphatic circulation
- Reduce inflammation
- Burn away unhealthy fat
- Release dopamine into the body
- Like exercise, it kickstarts your body
Do you have the courage to give this one a try?
CEO tip: Internationally renowned coach, Tony Robbins, is a cold shower convert and he plunges into 13-degree water every morning (that’s Celsius, not Fahrenheit). He’s convinced that it is essential for maximum health and productivity.
So, now that you’ve woken up early, exercised, showered and eaten well, the next stage of your productive morning routine is training your mind.
Meditation is a great way to finetune your mental performance and we think it should be part of everyone’s productive morning routine. You might not be surprised to learn that it’s a secret weapon for many successful CEOs all over the world. Spending just 10 minutes meditating in the morning can reduce stress and encourage clearer thinking throughout the day.
CEO tip: Ariana Huffington, Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey are just some of the world’s top CEOs who practise daily meditation.
Set your priorities & eat that frog
Have you ever found yourself spinning between several half-finished tasks, only to realise at the end of the day that you forgot to do the most important thing on your agenda? By taking time to think about your intentions and priorities each morning, you can consciously design your day and keep yourself on track.
This priority list can include everything, from sending a critical invoice to spending time with your kids. We suggest you rank them in order of difficulty so that you tackle the most difficult task first.
By tackling the hardest task on your to-do list, it means you can get it out the way before your day has even begun. This means it won’t be lurking at the back of your mind and you’ll be more relaxed throughout the day.
Book recommendation: Eat that frog by world-famous self-mastery author, Brian Tracy
Get your nutrition in
Eating a healthy, nutritious breakfast shifts your body out of its sleep state (which conserves energy) and into its wakeful state. It also boosts your metabolism and brain function, giving you a higher level of concentration and allowing you to be more productive throughout the day.
Some CEO’s prefer intermittent fasting as a way to improve focus, while others believe that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Whichever you prefer, it’s the nutrition and quality of your food that you should pay attention to.
Avoiding junk food, caffeine and alcohol, and staying hydrated are just some of the basic ways to keep your body and mind healthy. Following these rules will help you to enjoy sustained energy and focus. Most CEOs agree that being conscious of your diet is critical for peak performance in running your business.
It starts with self-discipline
Now you know what it takes to be in the top 5% of successful people and create a productive morning routine that a top CEO would endorse. All it will take to make this a daily ritual is a healthy dose of self-discipline and relentless consistency. Which morning habit are you going to change first?
Remember: you aren’t most people.
- The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8 AM), Hal Elrod
- 5 am club, Robin Sharma