If you’re looking for a one-size-fits-all approach to your morning routine, stop right there. There isn’t one. The perfect formula does not exist. The morning routines of successful entrepreneurs vary wildly because successful entrepreneurs operate differently.
The one thing that these morning routines have in common is that they are routines. The focus is on consistency; on deciding what you will do each and every time you wake up. The consistency itself becomes the practice. The day is intentionally set up and the magic happens from there.
The morning is a glorious time and not to be wasted. From interviewing over one hundred entrepreneurs and business leaders, here’s what I learned about their morning routines and priorities, and the four broad categories in which they fit.
There’s an argument for doing your most important work first, and many entrepreneurs swear by this practice. Before the sun has risen, before the kids have woken up and before anyone has tried to call; just you and your deep, focused, most important work.
Dr. Ivan Zakharenkov, whose company works to transform the business processes of veterinarian professionals, knows that, “the first 90-180 minutes of the day is when the brain is most productive in combining the information deposited in the long-term memory during sleep.” He doesn’t waste this precious time. “I drop into doing the most important work that I lined up the night before with all distractions turned off.” Business coach Melitta Campbell also plans her day the night before, “so I wake up with intention. Before getting out of bed I remind myself of that day’s goal and my first steps towards this. It prevents me from being distracted by social media or email, i.e. other people’s priorities!”
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Natasha Glover, founder of ecommerce store Brown Skin Dark Lips, has a novel way of getting things done. “Every day I log into Zoom at 5:30am to join a power hour with fellow entrepreneurs. We sit in silence with our cameras on and I focus on tasks which need uninterrupted quiet time and concentration before the children wake up.” For Glover, this is about companionship whilst she’s building her business. “Entrepreneurship is a lonely journey, something only fellow entrepreneurs can empathise with. If I can physically see that I’m not really alone, it’s encouraging and motivating on the difficult days.”
Many entrepreneurs I heard from use the morning to create an optimal headspace and get in the right frame of mind, sometimes in novel ways. “I have Alexa wake me up with a ‘Hello gorgeous’ message and a positive saying every morning, which puts a smile on my face”, said Shilpa Panchmatia, business coach to entrepreneurs. “I then hit the yoga mat for a Zoom class, after which I feel more energised and positive, especially when the days are freezing cold and dark.
Yoga was a common response from the entrepreneurs I quizzed, but Panchmatia uses her yoga class to set her intention for the day, explaining that, “It means I feel more aligned to my purpose in life and then I work with that intention in my thoughts during the day. Today my intention was flow.”
Entrepreneur and angel investor Henry Joseph-Grant also works on his mindset first thing. “I spend a few minutes looking in the mirror to be thankful and remind myself I’m blessed. I listen to positive music whilst in the shower and I eat a healthy, nutritious breakfast. A grateful, positive mind plus an energised body equals being ready for a kick ass day ahead!” Joseph-Grant says running his mornings like this means that his mindset is super positive all day. “I’m enjoying my work. I’m laser focussed and I get my tasks done. I don’t find myself indulging on the negative things, or doom & gloom news.”
People first, profits second. Many entrepreneurs interviewed spent the morning improving their relationships. Whether that was with those with whom they lived or further afield, their first few waking hours were spent sharing experiences or reaching out.
Hannah Cox, who helps businesses become B-Corp certified, reaches out as part of her morning routine. “While I make my morning brew, I always text a different friend or family member to wish them a good day and ask them what they’ve got planned. It’s a daily reminder that my business isn’t everything, my relationships are important and an easy way to show I care.”
Emma from Bee Money Savvy is similar, “I start every day by checking in on family. They are my motivation for getting out of bed and building a better life and it’s great to catch up on their work projects and careers.”
Sanjay Aggarwal, founder of Spice Kitchen, chooses the difficult conversations first. “We have a team meeting where we discuss the hard stuff; what went well and what needs improving.” He says it creates a culture of “continuous business improvement and less about blame.” The team meeting is positive in its approach, “We don’t get bogged down with mistakes, just re-training or adding a process to try to make it possible. It’s really important to how we run our factory.”
Those who don’t make time for their wellness will one day be forced to make time for their sickness. Entrepreneurs who wake up and work out see benefits in all areas of their life. Whether it’s hitting the roads for a run, a round of stretching before sitting down or making only nutritious food for breakfast, a healthy body equals a healthy mind, and a healthy business is sure to follow.
Charlie Day of the Entrepreneurs Growth Club is an early riser who has her routine set in stone. “I am up at 5am every morning and I have a fixed morning routine. Meditate, gratitude journal, running, writing. It sets me up for the day and brings massive benefits. I am more productive; I have more energy and above anything I feel like my happiness levels are through the roof.” Peter Rabey, CEO of the X4 Group also chooses exercise early doors, with a side of thinking. His morning is spent “clearing my head on my bike to allow me to think about what I’d really like today to be about” and Paul Harrison of The Travel Franchise plays golf at 6am every day during summer. “It’s a bit of me time, I walk 12,000 steps, so it gets me feeling energised and fit. I then start work at 9am and I feel refreshed and revitalised.”
Eco entrepreneur Russ Avery, whose focus is sustainability marketing, swears by a hit of H2O. “I drink half a litre of water as soon as I wake up, which has been an absolute game changer. While I’m drinking it, or straight after, I have 5-10 minutes of mindfulness and practice deep breathing before I think about the day ahead.” For Avery, the benefits have been noticeable throughout the day. “It makes me feel way less sluggish, has improved my digestion, completely got rid of the mid-afternoon slump. I can’t believe I didn’t know about it before. Everyone should try drinking loads of water as soon as they wake up!”
It matters not what your routine contains, it matters that you have a routine. Creating and executing intentional morning practices that set up your day for success and work for your unique situation is far more important than copying what someone else does. Choose one or a combination of mindful moments, creating connections, healthy habits or focused work. Find your perfect practice and stick to it daily.