Just about everyone from your mother to top CEOs to my fellow Inc.com columnists agrees -- mornings are vitally important for productivity. Get yourself in the correct frame of mind in the early hours and you can affect your mood and output for the whole day.

Where opinions differ is on what exactly constitutes the perfect morning routine. Some suggest journaling, others stress eating and drinking the right things, while yet others recommend meditation or exercise. But if you want a routine that is road tested by one of the most dynamic and successful entrepreneurs around, you can do no better than follow in the footsteps of Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson.

He's made billions (and looks like he's having a blast doing it) and in a recent blog post on Virgin.com he ascribes at least part of this success to his commitment to getting up early. For the past 50 years he's made a point of maintaining the same morning routine.

"No matter where I am in the world, I try to routinely wake up at around 5 a.m. By rising early, I'm able to do some exercise and spend time with my family, which puts me in a great mind frame before getting down to business," he explains. How exactly does this firm commitment to early rising, physical activity, and family time help him achieve his goals? He offers three main reasons.

1. Quiet reflection and organization.

We all get more meaningful work done if we have the time to reflect on our priorities and make a plan. Branson is no different and he uses the quiet morning hours to accomplish this. "Getting up and at it early gives me time to get on top of things, and chart my day effectively," he writes, adding that "I find the period of quiet, before most of the world logs on, to be great time to catch up on news and reply to emails. These early hours give me the opportunity to start each day with a fresh and organised slate."

2. Nurturing your passions.

Passion drives productivity, but what drives passion? Whatever your personal answer, Branson believes you'll have more time to engage in whatever activities light you up if you set that alarm clock nice and early. "Exercise, reading, conversation, and a positive outlook also keep the mind active and alert. Passion is another huge factor in keeping focused. Passion breeds energy, and is essential to running a business that involves long hours and hard decisions," he claims.

3. Making the most of your time.

Finally, Sir Richard stresses that our time on earth is short. Why not use as much of it as productively and pleasantly as possible? Sleep is no one's idea of seizing the day. "Life is not a dress rehearsal, so we should live each day to its full capacity. I think it goes without saying that the days that we stretched out are more memorable than those when we got a good night's sleep," he insists. (Though, be warned, that sleep scientists everywhere groan to read this.)

Do you follow Branson's example and get up super early?