Five morning habits of highly successful people

Article3 mins18 September 2019By Amy Cooper

They say the early bird catches the worm, and that’s certainly the case for some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs. Now you can power up your mornings using their top five strategies… 

Mornings are a major power source for high achievers. While researching her book What the Most Successful People do Before Breakfast, US time management expert Laura Vanderkam found that 90% of executives she interviewed woke before 6am and followed a specific morning ritual.

Meanwhile, devotees of Hal Elrod’s bestselling The Miracle Morning, claim its six-step, pre-8am regime has transformed their lives. 

Tim Duggan, co-founder of digital media giant Junkee Media, has drawn on Elrod’s approach to maximise his mornings, and rises at 4.30am. 

“A morning ritual needs to be whatever works for you,” he says. “But claiming your morning as an active time to use for your benefit - that works for everyone.”


A morning ritual needs to be whatever works for you. But claiming your morning as an active time to use for your benefit - that works for everyone.

Tim Duggan Co-founder of Junkee Media
1. Early riser

Every day, around the world, business leaders are up before sunrise, stealing a march on the day.

“I have a rigorous morning routine and I’m a very early riser. I wake up at 5.30am,” says Naomi Simson, founder of the Big Red Group.

Simson’s lark habit is shared by Apple CEO Tim Cook (a 4am riser), LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner (5.30am) and Richard Branson (5am), who has said: “If I rise early, I can achieve so much more in a day, and therefore in life.”

Tim Duggan became a morning person by shifting his wake-up time (and preceding bedtime) earlier each day.

“I slowly moved it forward by 15 to 30 minutes daily over around 10 days. Before I knew it, I was waking at 4.30am - and enjoying it,” he says.

Psychologist Patrea O’Donoghue recommends setting up your early starts the night before to de-stress the process.

“You need to be able to just get up and do it. Put your gym gear out at bedtime and prepare breakfast so you can just grab it.”

2. Move

“At about 6am, I go for a walk with my dog and then I’ll return home to do some yoga,” says Naomi Simson.

From Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, who starts the day on his treadmill, to Mark Zuckerberg, who likes a morning run, movers and shakers say they perform better if they get active early.

Science backs them up; a 2012 US study from Brigham Young University showed that morning exercisers are more active throughout the day.

“If you find it difficult, start small and work your way up. Just getting out of bed and into your workout clothes might be the first step. Add in the easiest form of movement for you - turn music on and dance, practice the plank position for one minute, or walk the dog around the block,” says psychologist, Jo Mitchell.

“The idea is to break the inertia of sleep and start doing something.”

3. Feed your mind

Morning meditation is a favoured strategy for high achievers including Twitter founder Jack Dorsey.

Tim Duggan from Junkee Media begins each day with a 20-minute meditation using the Headspace app.

“This is the only time when your brain isn’t going a thousand miles an hour. It slows your breathing, your mind and allows you to deal with stress and mental health issues,” he says.

Even a little is beneficial, adds Patrea O’Donoghue. “Just 30 seconds allows us to have moments of inspiration; coming from within rather than outside.”

4. Plan

“My number one practice is to plan the day ahead. It's easy to split straight into reactive mode, checking email or reading news, but I find it important to take the first opportunity to consider my priorities for the day, week and quarter,” says Tom Dawkins, Founder of crowdfunding platform StartSomeGood.

He adds: “I ask myself: if I only get three things done today, what are the most important?”

Visualising can be a powerful tool, says success coach Muffy Churches, and can begin before you’re even out of bed.

“Start directing the movie of your day,” she says.

“Where will you be, what will you do, who will you engage with? Plan the ideal outcomes of these, and how you’d like to feel.”

5. Create

The 40 Hour Workweek author Tim Ferriss is among high achievers who practice morning journaling. He’s said that five minutes of writing his thoughts “allows me to not only get more done during the day but to also feel better throughout the entire day.”

“I journal every morning for 10-20 minutes, about work, family, relationships, things I’m grateful for.”

“It’s remarkably freeing and I’ve had some really interesting mental breakthroughs,” he says.

Ferriss’ journaling habit helped him write his first book in daily morning sessions.

Tom Dawkins also finds mornings inspiring.

“You're fresh, hopefully fired up, and ready to make a difference - the perfect energy for pitching and storytelling, and for creating audio or visual content.”

So, whether you’re an early riser or not, the jury is in: the key to success is mastering your mornings.

Read on for more insights

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