Author and speaker Todd Henry starts his mornings by studying and writing. For an hour he reads a book, pen in hand, and jots down notes and observations to review later. Then he spends 15 to 20 minutes meditating or considering how his reading material applies to his life and work. He’s done this for 14 years.
Twitter co-founder Biz Stone starts his mornings by playing with his 5-year-old son for an hour. When he doesn’t get in playtime, he feels like he “missed something that I’ll never get back. It’s such a joy to wake up and be in the mindset of a 5-year-old before transitioning into the role of ‘executive.'”
Food52 CEO and cookbook author Amanda Hesser reads the news on her phone in bed and drinks a large glass of water. Next she makes her 10-year-old twins’ lunches and listens as her husband reads to them. Afterward, she practices yoga for 5 or 10 minutes and takes a hot shower. “The last 15 minutes of getting ready usually involve me running late and scrambling out the door with kids in tow and bags and sunglasses not quite on.”
StyleSeat CEO Melody McCloskey wakes up at 5:45 a.m. and spends an hour cleaning, organizing or dealing with anything personal that requires her attention. “This sounds frivolous, but it’s the time I use to process big things, both personal and work related, while doing mundane tasks.” Next she works out with her trainer or takes an exercise class.
Author Maria Konnikova makes tea and does a yoga salutation practice. Next she eats breakfast, showers and checks email before starting to write. After that, there’s very little structure: “My brain is not an organized place, and the rest of my day is not at all organized either…” She embraces a flexible mindset: “…I don’t punish myself if, for instance, I wanted to get this done, but instead I got that done, because I realize you can’t really predict how your mind is going to work on any given day, and you have to kind of embrace that.”
These examples come from My Morning Routine: How Successful People Start Every Day Inspired, an excellent new book written by Benjamin Spall and Michael Xander that features the routines of 64 successful individuals, along with insights into creating an inspiring routine. Spall and Xander are founders of the website My Morning Routine, which includes 283 interviews that fall into such categories as “entrepreneurs,” “writers,” “full-time jobs,” “parents,” “frequent travelers” and “late risers.” (Browsing the site is addicting. You’ve been warned.)
I love learning how other people structure their days because it illustrates all the different ways we can care for ourselves and find satisfaction and nourishment. Some people exercise. Some people meditate. Some play with their kids. Some drink coffee. Some hate caffeine. Some wake up before sunrise. Some consider 8 a.m. to be early. Some plan out their days the night before, including their outfits. Some wear the same kinds of clothes or have a capsule wardrobe to curb decision fatigue.
In other words, the secret to creating an inspiring morning routine is that there is no secret. I know this makes my title misleading. But it’s true: Different things work for different people. Of course, we can pick up great pointers from learning about others’ routines, and we can experiment with all sorts of activities and practices. Which keeps life fun and fascinating, and can help us find what works for us.
Ultimately, we must honor our personal needs, preferences and tendencies—instead of chasing the one, should-do tip or the best, most successful routine.
As Konnikova says in My Morning Routine, “I don’t think there’s one perfect routine that’s right for everyone. I think that everybody should find out what works for them. I hate when people write lists, like ‘These are the habits of creative people, and if you follow them you’re going to be creative.’ It’s interesting to know what other people do, but ultimately it’s not a one-size-fits-all thing.”