Greatness doesn't happen by accident. Industry leaders don't just roll out of bed, fix whatever they find in the cupboards for breakfast, and then head to the office to tackle whatever pops up in their inboxes.
They plan. They prepare. And they execute.
Psychologist Roy F. Baumeister, in his book Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, suggests that our willpower is greatest in the morning. There's also the morning cortisol awakening response that sends a surge of this stress hormone throughout our bodies roughly 20-30 minutes after getting up, giving us the energy needed to tackle important tasks first thing.
But you didn't come here for the science. You already know that your morning routine needs work. If you're ready to optimize this critical daily period, take a lesson from these 12 morning routines of leading entrepreneurs:
"I meditate every morning, whether through doing yoga, reading chakra affirmations, or listening to Tibetan singing bowls. Meditation helps to keep my mind clear so that I can focus." -- Nichole Elizabeth DeMer, community growth at Inbound.org
2. Focus in on your priorities.
"Every morning, before doing anything, I open the Notes app on my phone, where I've written down the mission for my business and life. I read it aloud to myself. I then take a few minutes to quietly think about why this matters to me, the progress I've made and the things I'm grateful for. I then move on to reviewing the top one to three things I aim to accomplish that day." -- Danny Halarewich, founder and CEO at LemonStand
3. Set goals for your day and week.
"I set my goals for the week on Monday morning and set the two-to-three major to-dos everyday at 7 a.m. When my day gets hectic (as it always does), I can always circle back to my two-to-three to-dos and refocus." -- Dan Murphy, VP business development at Import.io
4. Plan your day in the shower.
"While I'm showering, I mentally plan out everything I need to get done for the day, and then I do the same for everything I want to get done. I try hard to keep the rest of my day plan-free, and just take each day as it comes."-- Colin Mathews, co-founder at Content Marketer
5. Make time to brainstorm.
"The first thing I do every morning is drink a cup of Yerba Mate, which is immediately followed-up with a 10-minute undisturbed, creative brainstorming session. The goal is to come up with an original idea, related to my job or not. I want something to get me thinking, keep me inspired and motivated before I get bogged down responding to team emails. If you can keep those thoughts going while you're preparing breakfast or commuting to work, you've accomplished something." -- Paul Shapiro, director of search at Catalyst/GroupM
6. Make a perfect cup of coffee.
"I'd like to say I meditate each morning, but I don't. Instead, my morning meditation is making a perfect cup of pour-over coffee. Not only does the coffee wake my body up, but the process of getting the grind right, heating the water to exactly 204 degrees, and brewing by hand wakes up the creative side of my brain. It's nice to "make" something from scratch to start your day." -- Chuck Longanecker, founder at Digital Telepathy
7. Take time to be grateful.
"I write my five-item gratitude list in my journal, which helps to set me up with a positive, healthy mindset for the day. I find it's an opportunity to check in with my thoughts and bring focus to the things that are most important in my life at that time." -- Becky Wright, personal trainer and nutritional therapist
8. Be habitual and consistent.
"Workout, green juice, meditate. That's the first hour of my day no matter what. It helps me realign my body and mind and get the nutrients I need to perform at my highest capacity." -- Dan Martell, entrepreneur
9. Visualize future achievements.
"I close my eyes and spend 10 minutes visualizing myself achieving my goals, in vivid detail. I picture that feeling of success to a level where my mind fully experiences it as real. In this state, there is no sense of worry, need, or lack. I am limitless." -- AJ Kumar, founder at Limitless Publishing
10. Eat a healthy breakfast.
"For the longest time, my first instinct every morning was to roll over, reach for my iPhone, and check to see what may have made it's way into my inbox or social streams overnight. I realized that that practice immediately propelled me into work mode, and it wasn't conducive to starting the day off right. Today, I take the time to make a healthy breakfast each morning -- usually consisting of vegetables and protein (eggs, salmon, or chicken) along with a green juice and coffee. That killer combo sets my mindset of healthy eating throughout the day -- and if lunch can't happen until later in the afternoon, I can count on the vegetables to keep me fuller, longer." -- Heather Anne Carson, president and co-founder at Onboardly
11. Avoid checking email right away.
"I try to avoid reading email until I've been awake for at least one hour. I do this because it helps me prioritize my thoughts for the day based on what's actually important, not what my inbox makes me think is important." -- Chad Halvorson, founder and CEO at When I Work
12. Clear your mind and prepare for the day.
"Mornings, for me, are all about clearing my head so that I can crush my day's challenges. I start with some exercise, a light healthy breakfast and some coffee to kick things into gear. I find that the combo has me energized and ready to face the day." -- Brad Crisp, CEO at Maptive
These entrepreneurs have carefully constructed their mornings around the healthy habits they know make them the most successful. But if your mornings still feel out of control, how can you transition to this optimized state?
The easiest way to get started is to try. Pick the one morning routine from the list above that resonates best with you and give it a try for a week. Take notes as you notice whether your new habits are working or not. If they are, try to make even further improvements the next week. And if they aren't, simply pick a new habit next week and start again.
There's no magical formula that'll tell you how you should build your morning routine or what specific habits you should adopt. Through the process of trial and error, though, you'll hit on a winning combination that gives you the same sturdy foundation these successful entrepreneurs enjoy.
What's your morning routine like? I love hearing about the different habits people have cultivated, so do me a favor and leave me a comment below with your experiences.