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Morning Streets

We’ve been studying the morning routines of successful people. As we scoured the web and books as part of our research, it was apparent that a lot of these people share three common activities that are part of their morning routine. Do you want to know what they are?

1. Wake Up Early

They wake up early. Very early. We’re talking about 4am type of early. According to this Business Insider post and this Guardian article, most of the top executives wake up somewhere between 4 and 6am.

Does that mean waking up early makes you more successful? No. Correlation does not imply causation. Just because you will wake up early doesn’t translate that you’ll be successful. It is just a common activity among successful people.

2. Exercise

Another common ritual is that they all regularly exercise. More than 70% of the top executives do their exercises in the morning. As we’ve written before, regular exercise is good for your productivity. You can think better, you’re less fatigue, need less sleep and your overall cognitive function goes up when you exercise frequently.

3. Eat That Frog

Successful people understand that not every hour is created equally. The mornings have fewer distractions and that’s also when we have the most willpower available to us (assuming you had a good night’s rest) which are the perfect conditions to work on your most important tasks – or as we call it “eating your frog”.

Laura Vanderkam explains this perfectly in her book What Successful People Do Before Breakfast:

”Seizing your mornings is the equivalent of that sound financial advice to pay yourself before you pay your bills. If you wait until the end of the month to save what you have left, there will be nothing left over. Likewise, if you wait until the end of the day to do meaningful but not urgent things like exercise, pray, read, ponder how to advance your career or grow your organization, or truly give your family your best, it probably won’t happen.”

That’s why we advice you to eat your frogs in the morning.

Making Your Own Morning Routine

Those are the “big three” morning rituals that all successful people share. Wake up early, exercise and eat your frogs.

There is a lot of room to play around with your morning routine. There are so many other things you could do but you will have to experiment yourself to find out what works and what doesn’t work for you.

What might work for me, might not work for you. However, incorporating the big three is your best bet to set up a successful morning routine.

If you need some ideas for other activities, here are some suggestions:

  • Meditate for 10 minutes
  • Do visualization exercises
  • Eat a simple but healthy breakfast
  • Write in your journal
  • Review your goals
  • Review your to-do list

To add to that, here are some suggestions for activities not to do in the morning:

  • Sex
  • Checking email
  • Eating a big breakfast
  • Watching the news
  • Waiting for the right conditions to make things happen

Again, experiment to see what works for you. Everyone will have their own optimal morning routine. If you want to create your own morning routine, we have a post about how to do that here.

Let us know in the comments below what your morning routine is!

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Thanh Pham

Founder of Asian Efficiency where we help people become more productive at work and in life. I've been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, and The Globe & Mail as a productivity thought leader. At AE I'm responsible for leading teams and executing our vision to assist people all over the world live their best life possible.

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  1. Thanks for a great article again. I have been doing the Miracle Routine for 2 years now and it works like magic. Since then I experimented with reading before going out of the bed, but from the productivity point of view, if I wake up, exercise, do the affirmations and meditate – it works the best.

  2. Great list, Thanh!
    What I’ve discovered really works for me is to set aside a small task in the morning, something that I know for sure I can get done. It’s gets me excited about my productivity and, as I cross it off my list, I can start focusing on my frog.

  3. This is great! I get up at 4am on work days and 5 am on the off days (a mere 2 months ago I was waking up around noon). I try to make my morning routine as quick as possible so to be out the door fast. I literally get up, feed the dog and get my postworkout shake ready and leave for the gym. My night ritual leaves me with everything ready to go in the morning so this is easy for me. I didn’t used to be a morning person but habits form and you get used to it.

    The biggest advice I can give to “not morning people” is to wake up within an hour every day (like my schedule above). This way you can’t take advantage of your tendency to wake up late and see what it feels like. You get used to the way you feel when it’s the ONLY way you feel. It really helps to have a consistent work schedule. Working in the restaurant industry is hard because you have a varied schedule. When I was working for my previous company my schedule was all over the place, made it really difficult and that is understandable. Where I work now is the same schedule every day and I’m so thankful to have it!

    The most important thing I can recommend is to get right out of bed when your alarm goes off. Don’t think about anything, just get out of bed and jump around or do something physical. Treat your bed like a mugger and get the hell away from it. If you live with a roommate this works better, put a loud alarm as close as you can to your roommates room. It’s a game, don’t wake them! From there make your morning routine as quick as possible so you are out of the house a.s.a.p (in essence make your night routine as thorough as possible so you won’t have to do anything but eat in the morning). Hopefully all this helps anyone who reads it.

  4. great article which focuses on the essentials. when you think about it, these habits are the natural outcome of a productive professional.

    now i know where i want to go, but need to figure out how. maybe i find more about that in other articles here.

    “I’m not sure how sex wouldn’t qualify as an eating your frog activity?! And excercise” haha, if it is the “eat your frog” activity then you should eliminate, delegate or automate it.

  5. My most productive days are when I wake up at 4AM. But that only happens if I go to bed early, and thus the dilemma. My girlfriend is not a morning person at all and so we are on completely different energy cadences and levels when we see each other in the evenings. As my body is getting ready to naturally go to sleep, she is in her ‘post-work second wind’ so to speak. I like to wake up early because I want to go to the gym, prepare my day and mentally visualize how I want my day, week and month to be. When I see her at night (8PM onwards), these things go out the window and my morning routine is ruined as I rush to work and get in at 8AM instead of my preferred 7AM.

    She is not happy when she sees me because I am basically a corpse. I don’t know what to say to her about this issue and I like seeing her during the week as just seeing her on the weekends is not “enough” to me. Due to the occasional derailing my diet, gym, and work are all effected by my meetings in the evening.

    1. I feel you mate – I have exactly the same issue. Through experimentation I’ve found my optimal sleep hours are about 10pm-6am. My girlfriend prefers more 1am/2am-8am. So far the best I’ve been able to do is compromise – guess that’s just what it takes to make relationships work.

  6. I have to disagree with the suggestion to not have a big breakfast. It depends on what you eat. And if you are eating the right foods, having a large breakfast can be a excellent thing for productivity.

    1. I stopped eating breakfast earlier this year and it has done wonders for my morning productivity. Wake up, freshen up a bit and then right into the most important thing(s) for the day within 20-30 minutes.

      1. I don’t disagree with the idea of waiting to eat breakfast until after being productive on some important things first. That’s still different than not eating a large breakfast. Not only that but as I’m sure you know, without health one cannot be optimally productive over the course of an entire lifetime. So although something such as skipping breakfast may add productivity in the short term, does it benefit health long term? In some cases it might (eating less food overall is said to increase longevity) and for you, a health focused person it might especially be true. But back to my original statement, the suggestion to not eat a large breakfast can be greatly mistaken and mis applied to the detriment of productivity both short term and long term without proper context.

        1. Ah ok I see what you mean now. What I do is increase my meal sizes for “lunch” and “dinner” so to speak. I’m still eating the same amount, just spread over 2 meals instead of the usual 3.

          As to whether reducing or increasing the number of meals effects long-term health – guess you can look at it either way. Common advice nowadays it seems is to eat multiple smaller meals throughout the day, but you get studies both supporting and refuting that. On the other hand, monks here in Asia traditionally eat 1 meal a day and are fairly long-lived.

          1. I do agree with what you are saying. I think that a lot of productive people unfortunately fall into skipping breakfast without a plan for lunch or dinner which results in stronger cravings and bingeing on less healthy options later in the day. Thats why for most people (as with most things you write about) your morning and in this example breakfast, set the tone for how you will behave the rest of the day, ie. healthy breakfast = healthy meals the rest of the day. Thats why I think skipping breakfast can lead to long term health consequences, but if done as you do, increasing the size of healthy meals the rest of the day, the additional fasting can definitely be beneficial both for health and mental clarity that can be used to achieve more productivity.

          2. From a health point of view, that is terrible advise. Healthy nutritionists always advise having about 5-6 meals a day and eating small portions rather than 3 large meals, or in your case, 2 meals…

            In terms of getting up early, I was not a morning persion either, but you get into the routine and you will find you can get a lot more done and you have a lot more time at the end of the day to spend time with family.

          3. @Srini: as I mentioned – “Common advice nowadays it seems is to eat multiple smaller meals throughout the day, but you get studies both supporting and refuting that.”

  7. The people that live the longest go to bed at 7pm and get up @ 3am
    I read a research paper years ago that said that every minute of sleep before midnight counts to the body like 3 minutes of sleep after midnight.
    Just my 2 cents on the getting up early discussion

  8. I agree with homemakersdaily. I am not a morning person either. The earlier I wake up, the foggier I am, and the less I get done all day. Mornings are about surviving and having a coffee. Exercise can only be done with caution as I have learned from experience that I am clumsy in the morning and at risk of hurting myself or getting hit by a car! Eating frogs early though, definitely a great suggestion. Some of us are just not early risers :)

  9. I accidentally got up early yesterday – woke up at 6:30 and got up at 7:15. I normally get up between 8 and 8:30. I was so exhausted all day I got nothing done. I suppose I could get used to it, but I don’t want to. I’ll just go with the exercise and eat the frog part and skip the getting up early. Or maybe I’ll get up at 8:00 instead of 8:15. I think that’s the best I can do.

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