First, let’s look at the typical morning routines of successful people:
- You wake up, and start your day with morning pages to get all of your anxieties and fears down on paper. (Tim Ferriss, author of the best-selling book The 4 Hour Workweek.)
- You ask yourself, “what’s my resolution for the day?” (Benjamin Franklin.)
- Instead of Doom Scrolling, you take a minute or two to breathe deep and reflect on things you’re grateful for. (Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post.)
- Before eating, you head outside for a brisk run or walk to get your blood pumping and to think. (Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft.)
Now, let’s look at what I’d label a typical morning routine:
- You wake up, sprint to the bathroom to take a piss, and splash water on your face.
- While taking a long, drawn-out dump you Doom Scroll through Facebook until you hate your life.
- You head to the kitchen and quickly shove some kinda healthy bar down your gullet in the name of sustenance.
- Finally, you rifle through some work emails.
At no point in this series of events have you consciously thought about, what do I want to get done today? How do I want to feel? What makes me energized and happy?
You’re just unconsciously going about your day, driven by whatever external or internal forces seem to be the top-priority.
Which of these sounds more intentional and less chaotic?
7 morning routines of successful people that will improve your life.
First, I won’t pretend that by doing any of these things, you’ll instantly become an overnight success.
Success is as much a byproduct of luck and circumstance as it is good routines.
But, everything I’ve listed below is backed by convincing research supporting the great physical, mental, and emotional benefits behind each of those activities.
In this article, I’m going to explore seven different morning routines from best-selling authors, billionaire entrepreneurs, and ultra-zen experts that’ll give you a chock-full of ideas for things to implement into your day.
1. Exercise for at least 15 minutes like Haruki Murakami.
Haruki Murakami is a world-renowned writer and an avid runner, and a big inspiration behind my daily writing habit.
He runs every day, according to his book on the topic, and typically in the afternoon after a long morning of writing:
I run in order to acquire a void. But as you might expect, an occasional thought will slip into this void. People’s minds can’t be a complete blank. Human beings’ emotions are not strong or consistent enough to sustain a vacuum. What I mean is, the kinds of thoughts and ideas that invade my emotions as I run remain subordinate to that void. Lacking content, they are just random thoughts that gather around that central void.What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, by Haruki Murakami.
I hated running for years until the end of 2019 when I decided to force myself to get back into and made the reward at the end of the rainbow of pain a warm (or cold) cup of coffee.
Since then, I’ve run at least 3 or 4 days a week for the last year or so, non-stop.
I haven’t taken a week off, even during the coldest days.
Even just a 15-minute run a day has been shown to have significant benefits for your mental and physical health.
Additional reading: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami.
2. Write morning pages like Tim Ferriss.
Sometimes, in the middle of a restless night, I’ll grab my nearby journal and just start brain-dumping all of the shit that’s bothering me.
This often helps me at least get those things out of my head, so that I can at least worry about them tomorrow.
Another routine that’s similar to this is called Morning Pages – this was popularized in the book, The Artist’s Way, and is something that Tim Ferriss, author of the 4 Hour Workweek and host of the Tim Ferriss Show often credits for being immensely critical in helping him process things in the morning, and, “the most cost-effective therapy” he’s found.
Further, in his blog on the topic, he writes:
Morning pages don’t need to solve your problems. They simply need to get them out of your head, where they’ll otherwise bounce around all day like a bullet ricocheting inside your skull.
Additional reading: The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron.
3. Plan your day like Benjamin Franklin.
Benjamin Franklin was known for having an extremely regimented day that looked something like this:
- 5-7 a.m. Rise, wash and address Powerful Goodness! Contrive days’ business, and take the resolution of the day; prosecute the present study, and breakfast.
- 8-11 a.m. Work.
- 12-1 p.m. Read, or overlook my accounts and dine.
- 2-5 p.m. Work.
- 6-9 p.m. Put things in their places. Supper. Music or diversion, or conversation. Examination of the day.
- 10 p.m.-4 a.m. Sleep.
He’s quoted as being a massive guardian of his own time and energy:
Dost thou love life? Then do not squander Time; for that’s the Stuff Life is made of.
Often, weeks can fly by without us ever actually taking stock of what’s happening in our lives or things we’re working on, which is why I reflect every morning and afternoon, once a week, and once a month on how things are going in my life and in the projects I’m working on.
I explore this topic more in-depth on planning your dream life in Notion.
Additional reading: Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson.
4. Daily gratitude and positive affirmations like Oprah Winfrey.
The brain only has the capacity to pay so much attention to things.
So, if you’re constantly feeding your brain with negative information, then you’ll find that it’s quite difficult to maintain any sort of positive outlook on the world.
(Word of caution: Most news outlets these days lean more negative, as well as most social media feeds.)
And research has shown that gratitude can have a positive impact on your overall mental health and well-being.
Ophrah Winfrey is a huge proponent of positive affirmations and attributes a lot of her success to that, too:
I live in the space of thankfulness… I started out giving thanks for small things, and the more thankful I became, the more my bounty increased. That’s because — for sure — what you focus on expands. When you focus on the goodness in life, you create more of it.
Additional reading: Gratitude, by Oliver Sacks.
5. Meditate like David Lynch.
In an interview, director David Lynch shares how he first got into meditating:
When I first heard about meditation, I had zero interest in it. I wasn’t even curious. It sounded like a waste of time. What got me interested, though, was the phrase ‘true happiness lies within.’
Since then, he hasn’t missed a day of meditation and typically spends time in the morning and in the afternoon meditating.
And he emphasizes the importance of meditation is showing up more fully in your relationships: “You’re strengthening yourself so you can be more effective when you go back out into the world.”
Additional reading: Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana.
6. Go for a long walk in nature like Bill Gates.
This is a habit that I’ve started doing far more often in the afternoon after winding down my day, but can just as easily be done in the morning — it’s something that big thinkers like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs often attribute to helping them get unstuck on big ideas.
In the Netflix documentary, Inside the Mind of Bill Gates, the documentarian and Bill Gates spend a lot of time on long walks through nature.
He’s also famous for going on week-long Think Weeks in a cabin far, far away from the world in order to clear his mind and focus on big vision things for himself, taking stacks of books, papers from his teams at Microsoft, and other reading materials to sift through.
And walking in nature is attributed to all sorts of medical and personal benefits.
Additional reading: Walking, an essay by Henry David Thoreou.
7. Write a note or letter to a friend, like Neil Peart.
This last routine is something that I picked up several years ago when I decided to start connecting with my friends in a more meaningful way.
I’d buy a stack of custom-designed postcards online (often with my face and a funny saying on it), ask for my friends addresses, write them a short note, and mail those out once a week or so.
In one of my favorite travel memoirs, Neil Peart — former drummer of the band Rush — would include long letters that he wrote to friends all across the country.
Reflecting on the importance of this, he writes:
Another ‘little goal’ for me right now is spending an hour or two at the desk every morning, writing a letter or a fax to someone like you, or Brutus, or Danny, who I want to reach out to, or conversely, to someone I’ve been out of touch with for a long while, maybe for a year-and-a-half or two years.Ghost Rider, by Neil Peart.
These are friends that I’ve decided I still value, and that I want as part of my ‘new life,’ whatever it may be.
And it’s rare that anyone ever gets handwritten notes these days, and a true differentiator.
Even to this day, my friends often recount how the postcards or notes I’ve sent them are so sweet!
For more on other ideas for how to develop more meaningful connections, I’d refer to my blog on this topic here.
Because nobody does it!
Additional reading: Ghost Rider, by Neil Peart.
Conclusion and final thoughts on the morning routines of successful people.
One thing I feel I need to clarify: the people I’ve mentioned in this article weren’t successful purely because they had some sort of morning routine.
In fact, I’d argue that luck played a major role in their success, too.
That said, having a consistent routine that makes you feel good will only serve to increase your likelihood of stumbling into luck.
In future articles, I’ll be exploring the notion behind why you should build a morning routine, how to stick to one, and the positive benefits of doing so, including tools and templates that you can use to do so.
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