How the Most Successful People Spend Their Mornings.

The secret’s been out for quite some time now: a solid morning routine will set you up for success throughout the entire day. Countless podcast episodes and self-help books are dedicated entirely to perfecting one’s actions from the moment they wake up. Hitting the snooze button ten times, rushing to get ready, and heading out the door frazzled, with a mug of coffee in one hand and perhaps a bagel in the other, is the typical start to many days for many people. 

We live our lives in a constantly connected sort of way. We read and respond to emails late into the night with our TVs on in the background, then wake up the following morning and immediately reach for our phones to check our inboxes and scroll social media. Of course, the reality is you have the same amount of hours in your day as anyone else– but a solid morning routine can undoubtedly give you the illusion of having far more. So it’s no shock the most successful people of this world have nailed down their morning routines. 

While everyone is different with exactly how they execute their first hours of the day, for the most part, successful people do these five things every morning:

Wake Up Early

And when I say “early,” I mean early, early. Disney CEO Robert Iger gets up at 4:30 a.m., and Apple CEO Tim Cook is up around 3:45 am. There are several benefits to being awake this early, and the most obvious reason is you have several more hours in your day just by doing so. You have more control over how your morning looks, and thus, a bit more control over how your day will unfold. 

Now, getting up at 3:45 am for the average person, or even 4:30 am, might be a bit extreme. But you can start small by setting your alarm clock 15 minutes earlier every several days until you’ve found your very own sweet spot. 

Avoid Your Smartphone

One of the beauties of waking up before the majority of your friends and colleagues awake is that no one is really expecting your calls or email just yet. Your focus can be entirely on yourself and your own personal health and goals. Arianna Huffington has said, “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.”

Whether we want to believe it or not, our smartphones can be a large trigger for stress. And even if you don’t feel particularly stressed by looking at your phone right away each morning, the goal here is to ensure the focus of your mornings is on both you and how you’ll tackle the day. According to Dr. Nikole Benders-Hadi, “immediately turning to your phone when you wake up can start your day off in a way that is more likely to increase stress and leave you feeling overwhelmed.” So, while you may not consciously notice this habit is stress-inducing while you’re scrolling within 30 seconds of waking up, that doesn’t mean you’re not potentially setting yourself up for a more hectic mindset throughout the day. 

Give yourself the gift of a smartphone-free hour each morning. 

Pour Yourself Some Water Before You Down Some Java

Of course, the benefits of drinking an adequate amount of water each day are well-known. Experts believe replenishing your body with water first thing in the morning before you’ve had any coffee can effectively jumpstart your system. There’s a reason an entire market for reusable water bottles that encourage people to drink water throughout the day exists. It’s an extremely simple step in a morning routine that a shocking amount of people just don’t do, and they continue not to drink water all day long. 

Our bodies need water, and our cognitive function is greatly affected when we’re dehydrated. Actress and author Cameron Diaz swears by this practice: “It’s very important to start your day off with a lot of energy,” she says. “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 and prepared for the day ahead.


If you’re up early, then there’s no excuse here; you need to get your body moving. You don’t need to adopt some intense crossfit-style workout regimen (but if you’re into that, great). You can simply do yoga, like Christies CEO Steve Murphy does. The goal is to get your blood flowing while reducing stress levels and boosting your endorphins. 

Exercise helps our brains work better, and getting your preferred workout in first thing in the morning sets you up for a more focused day ahead. It also negates the possibility of you wrapping up the day later on and skipping any sort of exercise altogether. And if your goal is to be more successful, in whatever field you’re in, you need to treat your body and mind well in whatever field you’re in. This means daily exercise, even if your version of that is a brisk 30-minute walk around your neighborhood. 

Plan And Eliminate

Don’t wait until you’re already at the office or starting your work hours to hash out what your day will look like. Some business titans plan out their to-do lists the night before, like former American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault, who ends his evenings by writing down three things he wants to accomplish the next day. Shark Tank host Barbara Corcoran makes her to-do list before leaving the office at night, and she ranks each to-do item in order of importance. 

Once you know what your plan for the day is, you can “Eat That Frog.” This concept suggested by Brian Tracy, author of the book Eat That Frog, is one highly successful people swear by. In the morning, the willpower of highly successful people is fresh and ready to go. So, this is the ideal time to knock out whatever frog you may have for the day. 

Pick your frog– only one– and stick to completing it before you even get to eat breakfast.

Settling into an effective morning routine requires consistency. Waking up early to take care of your own priorities first is not a habit most people can pick up overnight. That said, you can start quite literally tomorrow and commit to it. As mentioned above, you can start by setting your alarm clock just a little bit earlier every few days until you’ve adjusted to a wake-up time that you can consider your very own “sweet spot” and go from there.