Every individual has different ways to set their day up for success. Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour starts her day off with a round of tennis while Apple CEO Tim Cook wakes at the early hour of 4:30 to send emails. Although there isn’t one formula for a successful morning routine, there are some common threads that guide these high-achievers to greatness.
Benjamin Spall of The New York Times has interviewed over 300 successful people. Here’s what he says are the most common morning routines he’s learned from successful people:
1. Experiment with your wake-up time
Spall reported that the average wake-up time among the people he’s interviewed is 6:27 am. However, he notes that while most of us try to wake up as late as possible and still make it to work, successful people experiment with their wake-up time to determine the ideal time that allows them to be rested and still enjoy the morning.
2. Make time for things that energize you
Energizing can look different for different people. It could mean working out, mediating, reading, or spending time with family. In fact, it could be as simple as opening the window to let in fresh air (a la Marie Kondo). Whatever form energizing takes for you, dedicate a part of your morning routine to making it happen.
3. Adapt your routine in different situations
Many high-achievers travel a lot, meaning their morning routine can be easily disrupted. That’s why Spall emphasizes the need to be flexible while still maintaining a morning routine. For example, if you’re at hotel that doesn’t provide your usual breakfast, try heading to a grocery store to pick up what you need.
4. Don’t beat yourself up
Spall said, “Nearly everyone I’ve talked to said they don’t consider one, two or even three missed days of their routine a failure, so long as they can get back to it as soon as they can.” So messing up isn’t the end of the world — just try again the next morning.
Need more inspiration? Check out this list of the morning routines of 10 successful people:
Elon Musk – Founder of Tesla and Neuralink
After six hours of sleep, Elon Musk wakes up at 7 am to respond to “critical emails.” Although he’s usually too busy for breakfast, Elon drinks coffee as he sends his five boys off to school. Then he showers and heads to work.
Mark Zuckerberg – Facebook founder
After waking at 8:00 am, Mark Zuckerberg does what any founder of a multi-billion dollar social media site would do: Check Facebook. After that, he works out, eats breakfast, and dons his signature uniform of a shirt, jeans, and hoodie. Why the same clothes? In 2014, Mark told an audience: “I really want to clear my life to make it so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve this community.”
Jeff Bezos – Amazon founder
Jeff Bezos says he likes to “putter in the morning.” So after getting eight hours of sleep and waking up naturally without an alarm clock, he reads the newspaper while drinking coffee. When his kids get up, he’ll eat breakfast with them before they go to school and he heads to the office. He doesn’t like meetings too early, however, he likes to set any “mentally challenging” meetings in the morning.
Oprah Winfrey – Media executive
Believe it or not, Oprah also wakes up each morning without an alarm clock. She said, “I don’t believe in them, they are alarming!” Instead, the night before, she visualizes the hour she wants to wake up. In the morning, she brushes her teeth and lets her dogs out. As she brews her espresso, Oprah reads inspirational quotes. After that, meditates for half and hour before doing low-impact strength training and going on a run on her 65-acre property.
Barack Obama – Former U.S. president
The former U.S. president doesn’t have a strict waking time. Instead he gets up two hours before his first event, works out, and eats his favorite breakfast: eggs, wheat toast, and bacon.
Donald Trump – U.S. president
First of all, the billionaire and U.S. president only gets about four hours of sleep per night. In his book, “Think Like a Billionaire,” he said, “Don’t sleep more than you have to.” When he wakes, he spends his morning watching the news, reading the paper, and tweeting. Usually he gets to the office for a morning meeting at 11 am.
Tim Cook – Apple CEO
This exec wakes at 4:30 and starts his day sending emails. He then works out and heads to the office. In general, he’s the first in and the last out of the office every day.
Steve Jobs – Apple founder
The late Steve Jobs woke every morning at 6 to get some work done before enjoying breakfast with the family. After that, he’d help his kids finish their homework and get them off to school. Then he was back to work, getting in a couple hours of things done before heading to the office at 8 or 9.
Arianna Huffington – Huffington Post founder
When she wakes up, Arianna Huffington doesn’t reach for her smartphone. Instead, she takes time to breathe deeply, be grateful, and set her intention for the day. Then she does some yoga. She says this morning routine helps her be successful throughout her day: “A conscious focus on breathing helps me introduce pauses into my daily life, brings me back into the moment, and helps me transcend upsets and setbacks.”
David Karp – Tumblr founder
Unlike many successful people, David Karp chooses not to check email at home. He said, “Reading emails at home never feels good or productive.” Instead, when he gets to the office at about 9:30 or 10, he’ll go through his gated inbox and make a list of what he needs to do that day.