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I Tried the Morning Routines of 7 Highly Successful People: Here’s What Happened

I have my morning routine nailed down. If you’re interested I talk about it here.

Monday to Friday the steps that I take before I hit the laptop, help prime me for a day of knuckle-down productivity.

However, I came about this routine naturally. And this got me thinking.

What would happen if I researched and followed the morning routine of some highly successful people?

These guys know what they are doing? If I followed them, would some of that success rub off on me?

It was a concept worth pursuing.

Finding the necessary details took no time at all. There’s blog posts all over the net discussing what rich, famous and nauseatingly highly driven individuals do after jumping out of bed.

But as we will see, finding out what they did may have been easy, replicating those routines was a different story.

The methodology

Put it this way, I’m no shoe-in for the Nobel prize in physiology this year.

The methodology was pretty basic.

I selected 7 highly successful people I could find with the most diverse range of morning routines.

And then copied each one.

To make the comparison as close as possible, I warned my wife that I was going to be AWOL for the next 7 mornings; many of the routines would make it impossible for me to take the eldest to nursery.

Furthermore, I made it clear that during the experiment it would be best if I slept in the spare room – the alarm call for several routines was pre 5am.

Ouch.

But enough prep-talk. Let’s dive in and see what actually happened.

Day 1: Oprah Winfrey (Producer & talk show host)

Image Credit: Oprah.com

Oprah Winfrey needs no introduction. With her vast empire of media interests and now a potential foray into politics, it is clear this woman knows how to get things done.

Great.

Could part of the secret to her success be due to her morning routine?

More importantly, could it work for me too?

On day 1, I aimed to find out.

Oprah Winfrey’s morning routine
  • 6:02am – Wake up without an alarm. Spares a grateful thought for being alive. Cleans her teeth and takes her dog’s outside for their morning business.
  • 6:45am – Drinks a chai tea or skim cappuccino
  • 7:05am – Heads to her own personal gym time and watches CBS This Morning while spending 20 minutes on an Octane elliptical machine, and 30 mins on the treadmill. Finishes off with an undisclosed amount of sit-ups.
  • 8:00am –20 minutes of walking or sitting meditation.
  • 8:30am – Breakfast consists of medium-boiled eggs and a piece of multigrain toast, (she looks at her schedule while eating)
  • 9:00am – Starts her working day.
Source

How it went for me

The 6.02 wake up call

That 6.02 non-alarm call was always going to suck.

Not because it was particularly early – I have two young children, I’m often up much earlier – but because I had to time it without an alarm.

This meant that even though I had the luxury of sleeping in the spare room, (away from our disruptive, I refuse to sleep in anything more than 2 hour stints, 8-month old baby boy) I was still waking up throughout the night to check the time on my phone.

Not a good start.

When 6.02 came around I was far from rested.

The morning thought was not, ‘oh I’m so happy to be alive’, but damn, I don’t even have a snooze button I can press.

After brushing my teeth and in lieu of the fact I don’t have any dogs to take outside for a poo, I change the nappy of my boy (Robin) who is now of course awake.

Ahead of Oprah’s schedule I fill the time by feeding Robin his breakfast and making coffee for my wife.

At 6.45 I get back on track and opt for a chai tea. This is far from enjoyable because I can still taste the toothpaste.

So far, not so good miss Winfrey, (and I haven’t even started the work out yet).

Time for the exercises

That’s not me by the way.

At 7.05am I head onto the terrace where my wife’s dusty treadmill is kept.

A search for an extension cord later, I am jogging away while watching YouTube clips of CBS This Morning on my phone.

In line with the routine I do this for 30 minutes.

I don’t happen to own a $4,599 Octane elliptical machine, so I pull out one of my daughter’s hula-hoops instead.

There begins one of the most exhausting and frustrating 20 minutes I have had in recent years. (I lack all the necessary coordination to hula).

My hips do feel worked however, so I guess that’s a good thing.

In all the excitement I forget about the sit-ups.

20 minutes of Meditation

At 8am I retire to my office to begin the 20-minute meditation.

It is at this point that I realize that Oprah doesn’t mention anywhere in the interview when in her morning routine she takes a shower.

I stink and my attempts to meditate (I have practiced Transcendental Meditation (TM) in the past so opted for that) were marred by my dribbling pits.

Now I am in no way implying Oprah has dubious personal hygiene – so you can put away the pitch-forks – it was obviously overlooked in the discussion.

However, this did mean that after the meditation I ate into my allocated breakfast time by washing and getting dressed for work.

Breakfast

Breakfast was great and very much in line with what I have anyway: 2 boiled eggs on toast. However, it was rushed in order to get to my desk for 9am.

Which I did, and started my working day.

Day 1: The results

Hmmm. I am writing this at the end of day one and I can say that Oprah’s routine didn’t really set me up for a firing start.

Maybe I need a bit of practice to fine tune it to my circumstances. It is already becoming clear that one day devoted to each routine isn’t enough.

The non-alarm situation didn’t work from me. Nor did the tea with toothpaste. I can see the use in getting the blood pumping with some exercises, but maybe of a different kind.

I’m interested in starting meditation again, so that’s a positive outcome at least.

Day 2: Sir Winston Churchill (British statesman, army officer and writer)

Image Credit: Associated Press

After conducting my research Churchill’s morning routine was one I couldn’t wait to follow.

In hindsight I maybe should have organized to do it later than day 2, it is the most laid back of all my subject’s routines by far.

Was it just a sign of the times? Even in the midst of a World War, the British Prime Minister could afford to spend the morning in bed.

Let’s take a closer look.

Sir Winston Churchill’s morning routine
  • 7:30am – He woke up and remained in bed for a substantial breakfast.
  • 8:00am – After breakfast he would rest in bed to read the mail and all the national papers.
  • 9:00am – Began work while still laying in bed. Dictated notes and writings to his secretaries.
  • 11:00am – The great man finally got out of bed. Bathed, dressed and perhaps took a walk around the garden. Poured himself a weak whisky and soda and retired to his study.
Source

How it went for me

How could this go wrong?

I’m British, this most British of all Prime Minister’s was a true champion. His morning routine was right up my street.

7.30 wake up call

This was a decent lay in for me. The alarm went off and I got a full 8.5 hours of uninterrupted sleep in the spare room.

Bliss.

In reluctant support of my ‘experiment’ my wife made a flushed appearance at 7.35am with a wonderful full English breakfast (complete with black pudding), and a cup of warm, milky tea.

The true taste of home.

(Believe me, there is a long list of shit I have to do after the week is up to repay her for this treatment).

With the sound of my long-suffering partner battling away with shoes, coats and the kids downstairs, I tuck into my breakfast.

8.am – Morning mails and papers

Because I haven’t received any mail for over 8 years that wasn’t junk or a bill, I naturally swapped Churchill’s post for a gander at my inbox.

After 20 minutes firing off a few emails, I then turn to my phone to read a selection of articles from the national press.

All while lying in bed.

Winston, I love you.

9am – start work

I wasn’t going to inconvenience my wife further by having her sit at the edge of the bed while I dictate to her, (the result of asking may have ended up with a slap in the face), so instead I fire up the laptop and for 2 hours get to work researching content and sending off assignments to my small team of writers and virtual assistant.

Despite the fact I am laying in bed, the work is happening with speed and relative ease.

I’m hitting what you can call the productivity zone and it feels great.

11am – Time to finally rise

Churchill would often take a walk around the grounds after getting out of bed at 11am

The time flies by and 11am appears out of no where.

It is actually a relief to finally get out of bed and shower and dress however.

Part of me, despite all the work couldn’t help feel quite guilty due to the sheer self-indulgence of it all.

The part that lives in the 21st century and not a drop of blue blood basically.

After showering and getting dressed, I did pop out into the yard. But only to put the bins out rather than a reflective walk with a cigar.

I wasn’t going to shirk on the whisky however.

What a genius.

The slight tingle I had from the alcohol as I sat at my desk meant that for the first half hour only trivial work was undertaken.

And before long it was time for lunch.

Day 2: The Results

There’s no denying I enjoyed Winston Churchill’s morning routine. Who wouldn’t?

Breakfast in your pajamas and then an hour with the morning papers before you start work. From the comfort of your bed!

It’s no wonder he remained in office until the ripe old age of 80.

And the relaxing routine did prime me for some good solid productivity between 9 and 11am.

However, in the real world it just wouldn’t be possible.

The general duties involved with being a husband and father get in the way of the luxury of laying in bed until 11am, no matter how much work you can argue gets done.

Shame though, because it was wonderful.

Day: 3 Jack Dorsey (Co-founder and CEO Twitter)

Image Credit: Flickr/User: jdlasica

Jack Dorsey’s routine couldn’t be further than that of Sir Winston’s.

He sets his alarm for 5.30am for a start. That’s soon followed by a 6-mile jog.

Yeah, I wasn’t looking forward to this one.

Jack Dorsey’s Morning Routine
  • 5:30am – Morning alarm. Gets up and meditates for 20 minutes.
  • 6:00am – Heads outside for his 6-mile jog.
  • 7:00am – Breakfast of 2 boiled eggs and soy sauce.
  • 7:30am – Takes the bus to work so that he can observe how people are using their phones, (in some interviews he states he walks to work).
  • 8:00am – Starts work, he picks a specific area of work to focus on each day.
Source

How it went for me

The 5.30am alarm & Meditation

The alarm didn’t present a problem. Sleeping in the spare room meant I was getting a solid 4hrs sleep without interruption for the first time since my son was born.

The meditation worked really well too.

After the alarm I sat on the edge of the bed still in a somewhat dreamy state and focused on 20 minutes of TM in near darkness.

The rest of the house was asleep and I enjoyed it a lot.

The 6-mile jog

I’ll be honest. I was dreading this.

But again, it wasn’t bad at all. My fitness levels are surprisingly good.

It was a shame it was dark throughout most of the run, however seeing the pale light begin to glow on the horizon towards the end of the jog really did lift my spirits.

I guess all early morning joggers get this (I wouldn’t know because I have never really done it), but it certainly gives you a good feeling to achieve something positive before the sun has even fully come up.

I even began to think a shorter morning jog may have a place in my normal routine.

Breakfast

Nothing too exciting to report here.

I admit that I did cheat and replaced the soy sauce with ketchup.

Let’s just hope that it wasn’t the secret sauce to his high-success. (Boom. Sorry, bad dad joke).

The morning commute

My office is actually a few meters from my bedroom. A wonderful terrace with views of the sea.

However, I was keen to replicate Jack’s interest in his potential users. For him it was observing commuters using their phones on the bus.

For me, I could take my daughter to nursery while paying close attention to the people driving their morning commute.

Were they happy?

Or did they look like people that would rather hack their own arms off with rusty bread knives than roll into work that morning?

Could these be people that would jump at the chance to work from home?

I know it was a stretch, and again would not win any awards for scientific vigor.

However, it was a good way of helping my wife out, while attempting to pay close attention to the lives of my potential readers.

I’ll leave you to guess how many of the drivers I passed that looked as if they would rather be doing anything else other than heading to work.

8:00am – begin the working day

I was actually 15 minutes behind Jack by the time I sat at my desk.

However, I did follow his method of tackling one aspect of my job for the day, which worked really well.

I got a bucket load done and felt good because of the early jog.

Day 3: The Results

Jack’s routine worked surprisingly well for me.

There are three main points I could take away from the experience.

  1. I should really get back into meditation again. The excuse of lack of time is just that, an excuse.
  2. Getting up and out of the house before sunrise made me feel good, (whether i’ll take up jogging or not is a different matter).
  3. My job lends itself to tackling one aspect each day – it is something I need to explore further.

On the downside I do feel absolutely shattered by 8.30am and am ready for bed as soon as the kids are asleep.

A Quick Break

15 Things Highly Successful People Do Before Breakfast

During my research for this article I looked into many morning routines. Throughout all of them I discovered 15 common things that the top 1% do before breakfast... 

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Day 4: Kat Cole (Group president of FOCUS Brands)

Kate Cole, group president of FOCUS Brands, (which includes Auntie Ann’s, Carvel, and Cinnabon), is as busy as you would expect any company president to be.

Her morning routine was another one that involved getting up early.

This time with a more manageable jog of 30 minutes rather than 6 miles. I was keen to check it out.

Kat Cole’s Morning Routine
  • 5:00am – Wakes and drinks 24 ounces of water. Walks around room checking up on emails, reports, news, share prices and favorite blogs.
  • 6:00am – Heads out for a 30 minute jog while listening to EDM music. Finishes with 10 mins of lunges, planks etc. (In bad weather she does yoga instead).
  • 6:45am – Organizes to meet a friend, business associate etc for coffee.
  • 7:30am – Arrives home, get’s showered & dressed. Grabs a healthy snack and heads off to work by 8.15am.
Source

How it went for me

Too much data 1st thing did not work for me

Early morning data

The 5am wake up was fine (I had turned in by 9.30pm the night before after Dorsey’s 5.30am start).

Drinking 24 ounces of water first thing was a bit of an effort, as was being alert enough to tackle emails and swat up on my financials.

The light from my tablet seemed harsh.

I couldn’t absorb much information and it didn’t feel wise to answer any emails in that state.

The 6am jog

A 30 minute jog didn’t phase me.

The state of my bladder did though. I stop for a pee break twice on the run, but thankfully it’s still dark and no one else is around.

I’m not quite sure of the logistics of this for Cole as she’s running through Central Park.

She obviously has a bigger bladder than me or doesn’t mind the occasional squat.

I stick to her routine with some EDM. Not my normal early morning music choice but it speeds up my jog pace so I’m not complaining.

6.45 coffee break with friend

FINALLLY – A highly-successful person that actually drinks coffee in the morning. Bloody freaks.

Amazingly I manage to get hold of someone to meet for a drink at this ungodly hour; a friend of mine that owns a Super Yacht Brokerage and is currently training for a half IronMan, (I realize after typing that, that he basically qualifies for a successful person too).

Organized the night before, we agree to meet at 6.45am after his daily morning workout.

And Cole is right. She states that: “talking, learning, and thinking with other humans creates a purposeful start to any day.

It was great to catch up with my friend.

I’m home just in time to help out with the home life again and grab a snack before taking my daughter to nursery.

Day 4: The Results

I really dug Kat Cole’s morning routine.

I wasn’t much of a fan of the all the online stimuli first thing, however the 30-minute jog was simple enough and there’s obviously benefits to drinking all that water.

Meeting up for early coffee with a friend was great. We discussed business and travel and it definitely put me in a good mental state for work.

I also had time to be with my daughter.

At 8.30am I hit the desk and am buzzing to get started.

This could have been the most balanced and enjoyable morning routine experience yet.

Day 5: Barack Obama (Former U.S President)

As leader of the free world for 8 years, we can comfortably label Obama as a highly successful person.

Ipso-facto his morning routine during his time in office was of interest to me.

On Day 5 of the experiment it was time to give it a go.

Barack Obama’s morning routine
  • Starts his day 2 hours before his first appointment.
  • Jogs, works out in the gym or shoots some hoops.
  • Breakfast with the family; eggs, wheat toast and, (until his doctor gave him a cholesterol warning) bacon. No coffee, just green tea or orange juice.
  • Reads the real paper, no digital editions.
  • Started running the United States.
Source

How it went for me

Obama just oozed cool every time he stepped up to the podium.

Compare that to the UK where we have gone from the floppy posh-boy David Cameron to grade school teacher Theresa May, and you’ll further understand what I mean, (I will not comment about the current U.S president).

The alarm call

It is no surprise that possibly the most laid back man in modern politics would freestyle his morning alarm in line with his first meeting of the day.

Nor that he might pop out onto the grounds of the Whitehouse to shoot some hoops before breakfast.

To replicate Obama’s routine I set my alarm for 6am – two hours before my daughter needed to be at nursery.

Morning exercises

I liked the idea of getting out of the house early as this had worked well on previous routines.

Using a basketball I had borrowed from a friend in preparation for a ‘morning with Obama’, I took a walk along the water to a local park with courts, (I live in Croatia where the average male is about 6” 2” – these guys love the sport).

Nervous that others might already be there practicing, (I measure in at 5’ 8” and am shit at the sport) I was somewhat relieved to find an empty basket I could fumble around.

It was fun however, and again being outside on a fresh January morning as the sun was coming up really made me feel good.

I headed back around 7am taking a route past a kiosk to buy a morning paper, (out of holiday season my choice of English language print was limited; a 3-day old copy of the Daily Mirror).

Breakfast with the family

Barack Obama reportedly ate a breakfast of eggs, wheat toast and and bacon. That was until his doctor stepped in and gave him a warning about his cholesterol.

I’ve never had such a warning so extra slices for me please.

This was nice. Thanks Obama.

It was the first time all week, (it was now Friday) that I had managed to follow a routine AND have breakfast with my family.

I wasn’t a fan of only orange juice, but then as I have already stated, the majority of these highly-successful people seem to have an abnormal distaste for caffeine.

By 7.30am I realized I better have a gander at the paper for 15 minutes (Brooklyn Beckham has started ‘rocking guyliner’ if you’re interested), before it was time to hop in the car to nursery with my daughter.

Day 5: The Results

Obama’s routine was another that I could definitely get used to.

A reasonable wake up time, with a little exercise and a filling breakfast with the family.

It felt relaxed – just like the man himself I guess; and very much in line with way I like to start the day anyway.

Productivity once I hit the desk was good too. Even without the coffee.

Day 6: Deborah Meaden (Entrepreneur & Angel Investor)

It was time to follow a routine that didn’t have me up before dawn.

So far every single one of these highly successful people liked to catch the worm.

For my experiment to mean something I needed a late start.

And while my American readers may not have heard of Deborah Meaden, the dour-faced British Born Angel Investor is more than deserving of this list.

She runs a multi-million-pound business empire, makes regular appearances on Dragon’ Den (the UK version of Shark Tank) and has a number of honorary degrees to her name.

She also likes to lay in bed until 8.30am.

Sweet.

Deborah Meaden’s morning routine:
  • 8:30am – wakes up and has a cup of tea.
  • 9:30am – Walks around the grounds – she lives on a farm in Somerset – and says hello to the animals.
  • 10:30am – showers and gets dressed (all those eggs and she doesn’t do breakfast).
  • 11:00am – Starts work going through the day’s agenda with her P.A.
  • Finishes work around 8pm.
Source

How it went for me

Look at the finish time! 8pm. Now there’s the trade off for the late start.

Just the thought of it makes me cringe.

But let’s start at the beginning…

The 8.30am alarm call

This would’ve been great if it wasn’t for the fact that my household is so damn loud in the morning.

I purposefully timed this routine for a Saturday so that my wife wouldn’t have to juggle nursery and looking after Robin, and in the completely unrealistic hope that everyone might actually sleep in too.

No such luck.

The kids are awake and screaming just after 7am.

I try to lay in bed but end up having to help out anyway. Which is completely fair.

But then Deborah Meaden is 58 and has never had children. An 8.30am wake up call works fine in her world.

In keeping with the routine I squeeze in a cup of tea.

A walk around the grounds

Believe it or not I am not the Lord of my very own manor.

However, in the absence of grounds to walk around I do live spitting distance from the Adriatic sea, so I spend an hour of Meaden’s routine walking by the water with my family.

Despite the fact this is something I couldn’t do on a true work day, it is very pleasurable indeed.

However, the fact she doesn’t have breakfast in the morning is alien to me.

Without food down the trap soon after rising, I am a grouchy piece of shit within a couple of hours.

I just can’t function without that sustenance.

So I cheat.

My son is too much of a handful to deal with on an empty stomach.

The four of us finish our walk and head to a local café for breakfast.

10:30am – Shower, dressed and at work by 11

We are all home in time for me to be at my desk for 11am. This is something I rarely do on a weekend.

I have no intention of working until 8pm, but I am interested to see how productive I feel starting so late.

Day 6: The Results

This was probably the most slack I had been on any of the routines.

Maybe it was because it was the weekend.

Maybe it was the forced late start.

I enjoyed the morning with my family of course, but I felt less than productive when I finally sat to work.

Just looking at the clock and seeing it was almost midday and I had only really tackled a couple of emails didn’t feel good.

I downed tools for lunch and didn’t pick them up again until Monday.

Day 7: Arnold Schwarzenegger (Bodybuilder, Businessman & Former Governor of California)

I decided to finish my 7-day experiment by following the big man.

Arnold is a living legend of course, and in later life his morning routine is possible to follow. It doesn’t involve 3 hours of crippling gym work for a start.

It was another early one however.

Let’s take a look.

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Morning Routine:
  • 5:00am – wake up and reads the news checks email.
  • 6:00am – Uses his home gym for an hour.
  • 7:00am – Breakfast; oatmeal, bananas, strawberries, blueberries. Drinks Coffee.
  • 7:30am – Showers and dressers.
  • 8:00am – Starts work.
Source

How it went for me

Mr Schwarzenegger’s morning routine was relatively simple.

A good way to end my experiment.

5:00am Start

The 5am start would be difficult everyday, but didn’t feel too bad after my relaxing weekend.

As with Kat Cole’s routine, I did find the early emails and news consumption to be a little painful.

My brain seems incapable of processing information that soon after waking.

And my eyes hardly work.

It’s not an aspect I will be adding to my own routine anytime soon.

Hitting the Gym

I don’t have a gym membership and I wasn’t planning on starting one just so I could follow Schwarzenegger’s routine for a morning.

However, I was happy to do an hour of exercises so followed a 60 minute Youtube video called: ‘50 NEW Total Body HIIT Exercises Workout (Without Weights) for People Who Get Bored Easily

That last part of the title appealing to me greatly. I am certainly easily bored by exercises.

Man, did this kill me.

It was a severe morning workout that my body just wasn’t used to.

At nearly 40 years of age I should know better.

Healthy fruit breakfast

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s breakfast is a lot tamer than you would expect.

I’d be interested to see what he used to eat earlier in his career. I have a mental image of half a cow and 3 dozen eggs on the breakfast table.

Thankfully for me his fruit concoction is extremely palatable (that’s after my post workout heart rate has gone back to normal, and I no longer have the urge to puke).

He drinks coffee too which of course I appreciate.

Shower, dressed and at the desk by 8:00am

An 8am start at my desk is actually over an hour earlier than my normal time.

If I could, I think I would do this more often.

I tackled ‘my frog’ (see more on that here) for the first few hours of the morning and as a result completed the hardest job of the day by 11am.

That felt really good.

Day 7: The Results

Overall Arnold Schwarzenegger’s morning routine is simple yet effective.

It has a lot of the vital ingredients you see elsewhere with highly-successful people; an early start, regimented workout and a healthy breakfast.

I know I need to find a way of adding more exercise into my day.

I’m just not sure if I am cut out for something so intense however. My summer bike rides and swim are good enough for me, I just need to find a winter substitute.

The fruit breakfast was great too.

As was the early start.

Once the kids can make their own way to school in the morning, I think I will hit the desk earlier.

Squeezing more work time time into the morning definitely helped my productivity.

To Conclude…

So what did I learn from my little experiment?

Well quite a lot actually.

It is clear that successful people like to hit the ground running where it comes to their morning routines.

Whether that be by catching up with the world outside via news portals or emails, or in a more literal sense by doing some exercise; these people do not like to hang about doing nothing.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t time for reflection however.

A number of the routines I followed saw the importance of meditation and in the case of Obama, a little family time too.

A good healthy breakfast and plenty of hydration was another common theme.

Going forward these are all ingredients I would like to inject into my own routine.

And how about you? Do you have a morning routine? Does it look anything like the ones I’ve followed over the last week?

If you have any comments, questions or just want to drop in to say hi, I’d love to hear from you…

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