I might take some flak for saying this, but morning routines are a dime a dozen. That's not to say they don't work. Many a blog and news outlet has covered the early morning productivity rituals of Oprah, Mark Cuban, Steve Jobs, and so on. But the key to morning routine success isn't mirroring what spotlight-grabbing celebs do.

Take Google CEO Sundar Pichai. His routine is, well, what most of might consider a pretty standard Saturday morning: wake up at a decent time, read the paper, drink some tea, think about the big picture.

Sound uninspiring? It's anything but. In fact, his AM ritual reveals 3 key things about the morning routine craze we often forget:

1. Morning routines are not "one size fits all."

Yes, Oprah may meditate and light candles for clarity and calm, and Mark Cuban may drill through to inbox zero before 7am. That doesn't mean the same tactics will work for you. We all have different proclivities, interests, personalities, and skills. That, naturally, lands at a conclusion of variation: Successful morning routines come in every shape and size. Heck, Pichai himself countered the "get up early and get crackin'" norm of morning routines: "I'm not a morning person," he said. So why get up at the crack of dawn?

2. Morning routines don't have to be about productivity.

We love to toss out the names of business mavens when we look for morning routine inspiration. And, in most of their cases, morning routines are about getting more done -- or finding more focus/calm to be able to get more done. But a morning routine can be just as much about shoring up one's mental health with 30 minutes of yoga or meditation, journal writing, or, like Pichai, reading the paper. The point is not that you're more productive; the point is that you have a point in mind. Do you want to be calmer? Make more time for yourself? Work on physical fitness? Find one single goal and make that the aim of your morning routine.

3. Consistency is queen.

While this is logical, it falls under the radar. More often than not, I've seen gung-ho morning routiners adopt AM activities that they very quickly forget about in a week or two. Or, worse yet, they keep cycling through different morning routines because they don't see results in a couple of days. In my experience, you don't really begin to see real progress toward your goal until a month hits -- sometimes longer. And that won't ever happen if you're inconsistent. Pick one routine that fits you and your goal, and stick with it. Pichai, for instance, has been a devotee of his low-key morning starts for years.

Sad to say, I don't have the perfect morning routine formula to share with you. I've tried creating my own -- it's still a work in progress. But the whole point is that it should be yours. So, reverse engineer the best activities, starting with your goal:

  • What is the 1 big (but achievable) goal you want to accomplish with your morning routine?
  • Track your current morning routine for several weeks without making any changes. What habits/activities do you engage in that move you closer to or further from your goal?
  • What circumstances currently keep you from the goal that you can change? Which circumstances can you not change (and should ignore)?
  • What activities have you not yet done that would move you closer to your goal?
  • What measures of success will you put in place to gauge progress?

Last bit of advice (that I imagine Pichai would echo): Don't get discouraged. You can tweak and change your routine over time to find something that works better -- or establish new goals that require a new routine altogether. Just be sure you give each one time to do its magic before hopping to the next one.