Meta Morning Habits of Successful People

This post was published more than a few years ago (on 2015-10-15) and may contain inaccurate technical information, outmoded thoughts, or cringe takes. Proceed at your own risk.

Since I was recently diagnosed with ADHD, my shrink suggested that I go to bed earlier, get up earlier, and have a regular morning routine. He recommended a few things, like meditating and eating a good breakfast with plenty of protein, but I thought I’d dig a little deeper, and see what the “top ten”-style lists say that you should do in the morning. I searched DuckDuckGo and from the top ten results, I tried to see what they all had in common.

You can see the full list of links below, but here are the results in order of which tips were shared most often:

  • Shared 8X: Exercise. I'm totally surprised that "wake up early" wasn't number one! 20–30 minutes of bodyweight exercises or other movement is recommended. If nothing else, walk around the block for 10m. It reduces the stress hormone, cortisol, plus the usual exercise benefits.
  • Shared 7X: Get up early. Like, crazy early. 5:30am, 4am, you name it. Get up at least an hour earlier than you're doing right now.
  • Tied at 7X: Plan your goals for the day. Take 10+ minutes to work out your plans, and visualize positive results for your goals. Planning longer-term goals is good too. Ask yourself, “If today was the last day of your life, would you still want to do what you’re about to do today?” (attributed to Steve Jobs) or “What good shall I do this day?” (Benjamin Franklin).
  • 6X: Meditate. It doesn't have to be any sort of religious practice; just be still. Sit and enjoy the morning calm. Start trying to meditate for 5 minutes, and gradually increase to half an hour.
  • 5X: Listen to motivational stuff for 15+ minutes. In line with your long-term goals, create a mantra for yourself that you repeat every morning. Maybe also set your alarm with a motivating song and/or "blast jams" first thing. Listening to inspirational music (even pop!) can apparently also lower cortisol levels.
  • 5X: Start with the hardest thing, or the thing you dread doing most today. Early in the day is when you have the most willpower. “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” (attributed to Mark Twain, but more likely corrupted from Nicolas Chamfort)
  • 4X: Eat a healthy breakfast. High in protein is best for brainpower.
  • 3X: Spend time with your family and/or partner. Make it a breakfast date.
  • 3X: Go to bed earlier. The amount of sleep you get is critical. You would think this would automatically go with getting up early, but for me, I know it's hard to break the cycle of being a night owl. I appreciate the extra nudge.
  • 2X: Coffee. Only two calls for imbibing the beverage that allows my brain to function at all‽ Must be nice not to need it.
  • 2X: Journal. Write down things you're thankful for, ideas, strategies, progress, reminders, etc.
  • 2X: Read, study, and learn. Read things that will improve your work/life, but also “fiction or non-fiction in fields not directly related to your own” as a cross-pollination thing.

Some additional one-off tips:

  • Lay out things the night before (workout clothes, whatever), so you have less friction in the morning.
  • Pack snacks, like protein bars. Good to keep your brain energy levels up, and less temptation to give in to Pop Tarts or whatever crap is in the office snack room.
  • Get exposure to morning sunlight to reset your body's clock and energize your brain. This certainly helps for me — and I have a wake-up light alarm clock for those dreary Seattle winter days.
  • Get rid of clutter. Throw one thing away. I like this one a lot, being a bit of a clutterbug myself.
  • Monday mornings, connect with your team face to face. You have a team, right? Get a team.
  • Only tend to urgent emails in the morning. Save the rest for later. It's a time suck and willpower drain.
  • Start with a quick win — which seems to directly contradict the “swallow the frog” advice above, but maybe on difficult mornings, this is a good fallback for a confidence boost.
  • Make your bed every morning. This one seems to fall into the “correlation is not causation” camp, but I don't suppose it would hurt.
  • Use rosemary, orange, or lemon scented toiletries, to “invigorate your senses.” Supposedly there's science behind this. I think you might have more luck with caffeinated soap.
  • Some sort of dream bullshit? I don't know. Maybe they were trying to go for visualizing successful outcomes, but it was coated in so much new age mumbo jumbo that I couldn't suss it out.
  • Commit to leisure time on the weekend — and other weekend things from that one HuffPo article that really isn't about weekday mornings. However, I see where they're saying that you need time to recharge and not let yourself burn out.

Got more tips? Let me know on Twitter or Facebook!

The top ten articles from my search were:

  1. Lifehack: 10 Morning Habits of Highly Successful People That Make Them Extraordinary
  2. Forbes: 10 Morning Habits Successful People Swear By
  3. Today: Steal the morning habits of the world's most successful people — an interview with Laura Vanderkam, who wrote a whole book on the subject.
  4. Lifehack: 7 Monday Morning Habits Of Highly Successful People
  5. HuffPo: 10 Daily Habits Of Successful, Intelligent People — mostly about weekends, oddly.
  6. Business Insider: 5 habits of people who are both happy and successful — overall habits, not just mornings.
  7. CareerBuilder: 7 Morning Habits of Highly Successful People
  8. The Ladders: 5 things successful people do each morning
  9. Yahoo! Finance: 10 morning habits successful people swear by
  10. Quora: What are some examples of the morning routines and habits of successful people?

No.7 was originally a link to a book on Amazon, with no immediate tips, so I disqualified it. No.9 is a copy of the Forbes article, so it should really be disqualified as well, but there wasn't much in the way of results below the articles I listed here. All the same, I only counted the Forbes tips once.