Ever since I started working remotely a few years ago, I’ve been testing and tweaking various morning routines. Having a routine is a clever way to make sure you always attend to your top priorities without having to think too much about it. It takes away the effort of making decisions, because you follow the same plan every day.
As president, Barack Obama famously wore a suit every day in either gray or blue, so he didn’t use up mental energy deciding what to wear. A morning routine works the same way: Rather than thinking about when to have breakfast, or how to fit exercise into your day, following a routine ensures you’ll find time for your priorities every morning.
While I’m still figuring out what kind of morning routine suits me best, I went looking for examples of other founders who’ve shared their own routines. I reached out to several people whose work I admire and asked them what their morning routines are, and came across a few great examples on other blogs as well.
As a result, I found that everyone has different circumstances and priorities, and routines can vary quite a lot. But hearing about how other entrepreneurs set up their mornings was inspiring, and makes me excited about finding a routine that works for me. I hope you have the same experience.
One quick note here: don’t try to copy someone else’s morning routine. The key here is not to do what they do, but to rather learn how they think. In this video below, Ari Meisel, creator of the Less Doing, More Living system and the instructor of our Productivity Machine course, teaches how to come up with a unique morning routine that sets you up for success.
These are 15 of the most interesting morning routines I came across.
Morning routines of successful entrepreneurs
Nathan Kontny, CEO of Highrise
Breakfast with my wife and 2-year-old daughter. This is the most important thing to start my day. We split up the Wall Street Journal and read it together. I even bought my daughter a few shares of her own stock so we check the stock price each day. Something I used to do with my dad growing up.
Sarah Moran, CEO of Girl Geek Academy
I wake up after 7.5-8 hours of sleep (if I get any less I usually need a 20-minute nap in the afternoon). I grab my phone and internet for 45 minutes to an hour. I wish I didn’t do this but it’s when I “check” everything (Twitter, Insta, email) and pretend I’m alive to the world. If I tweet at 7 a.m. people can think I’m up early when I’m still in bed!
Then I get a panic rush of guilt (an hour on the internet every day in the morning being unproductive? Guilt central) and run to the shower.
I wash my hair every day and try to dry it so my hairdresser sister doesn’t kill me (she wishes I washed it once a week, a shower wakes me up so that’s never gonna happen).
I then try to eat one egg on not-white-bread toast, with tomato sauce and black tea (Dilmah!). I usually watch something on YouTube/iView/Netflix that goes for between 10 minutes and half an hour while I eat. It’s usually something to wake up my creativity in the morning.
Then I debate putting makeup on for way too long. I hate makeup. I think the fact I have to spend time putting it on is stupid and fake, and remembering to take it off properly at the end of the day doesn’t happen often enough. If I think the people I’m meeting that day don’t need me wearing makeup, I skip it, but lug my makeup bag around all day “just in case.” If I have to wear it I put it on in the bathroom or in the Uber—thank God for mirrors and traffic lights.
Chris Guillebeau, founder of The Art of Non-Conformity
As told to My Morning Routine:
I’m on the go to at least 20 countries each year, in addition to traveling more than 100,000 miles domestically. At the moment, I’m kicking off a 30-city book tour that has me waking up in a different place nearly every day for five weeks. Therefore, sometimes there’s not a routine, or at least the routine varies greatly by time zone.
However, let’s talk about the normal routine when I’m home in Portland, Oregon, or at least on the road in the United States or Canada. I try to wake up early, usually around 5:30 or 6:00 a.m. I drink two glasses of water right away. I make my first cup of coffee and spend 20 minutes catching up on the news and seeing if anything urgent came into my inbox or social feeds during the night. Then I make a shift—I shower, head to my office by Uber or Lyft while picking up breakfast along the way, and get down to more “real work.”
When I’m writing a book, I try to spend at least two hours every morning working on it. I often have interviews or calls, usually at least 1–2 a day and sometimes more, and typically 1–2 meetings as well. But, as much as possible, I try to reserve 8–11 a.m. for my own independent work. I drink sparkling water and listen to ambient music while I plow through my list of tasks and projects.
I usually eat within an hour, and I try to have a good breakfast every day. At home I pick up a breakfast sandwich from Lovejoy Bakers, a local place I visit almost every day. On the road I’m in hotels, so it’s eggs and coffee. Further afield it might be an Indian or Lebanese breakfast (think labneh, hummus, fava beans, etc.), which is also great.
Oh, I’m also a big believer in coffee. I’ll usually have at least one americano or macchiato, and more often two.
Thomas Carney, Growth Hacker at Planio
I’m up at around 5:30 in the morning.
First, I have an inverted Aeropress coffee brew, followed by two eggs and two slices of bacon. Then I leave the house by 6:45 to go to a 7 a.m. CrossFit class.
After that, I’m in the office by 8:45 am. I try to do two focused “pomodoros,” first on deep work, which I consider anything that requires a certain amount of creative energy—writing blog articles, copywriting, or working on guest post pitches.
Twice a week I don’t go to the gym, so I sleep in to 7:00 a.m.
Lisy Kane, Co-Founder of Girl Geek Academy and Producer at League of Geeks
I feel like my morning routine is incredibly sad haha.
My best intentions are to get into work at 9 a.m., but honestly, I’m often there just shy of 10 a.m. This is something I’m trying to change this year. The production crew at our work try and get in before the rest of the team to make sure the day is ready for the team.
I have personal training sessions twice a week (to counteract the life of a game developer), so let’s just say I’m not going to the gym in the morning!
Alarm goes off 7:30 a.m., snooze will happen at least five times. During this time, I check Twitter and Facebook to see what’s going on in the world and to see if I’ve missed any good memes. If I’m feeling particularly lazy I’ll play a mobile game in bed while snoozing.
Then I realize that 9 a.m. is not achievable and I run to the shower. I have a Bluetooth speaker to play some tunes to get ready for my day. I have the same makeup routine for my “daily” makeup which I can nail in under 10 minutes usually. Makeup for me is simple, with as few products as possible.
Then I tram or walk into work (once again, depending on how late I’ve left) and grab a coffee and croissant from our local coffee shop. This counts as breakfast right?
Matthew Guay, Content Marketer at Zapier
I’m a creature of habit: My days feel the best when I have my normal morning routine.
I wake up at 7 a.m., typically without an alarm, and get ready for the day. Then, I put water on to boil and hand-grind coffee. The water gets done right when I’m done grinding, so both go in the French press.
I’ll then grab an unsweetened yogurt, add some fruit and granola, and read over The Economist Espresso, my tech RSS feeds, and my inbox during breakfast. I triage email and Slack on mobile, quickly deleting unimportant emails and starring messages that need responses. Then I’m ready to jump right into what’s important when I start work.
Tammy Butow, Co-Founder of Girl Geek Academy and Site Reliability Engineering Manager at Dropbox
I wake up at 6:30 each morning and it takes me an hour to get ready. I hop out of bed onto a real nice cozy rug I have and then head to the shower.
A few years ago, I decided to wear a shower hat and only wash my hair once a week on the weekend, which saves me time.
I have a shower and then do a daily skincare routine, which I’ve been doing since I was 13. I use cleanser, moisturizer and BB. I brush my hair and teeth and get dressed. I usually iron a fresh shirt each morning. I like a warm and toasty shirt to start the day!
I grab my bag and laptop, kiss and hug my partner goodbye and tell him I love him while he’s sleeping. Then I head out the door.
I walk to my office each morning. It’s a nice 30-minute walk and I love listening to metal or punk music. I often say hello to folks I see on my walk, like the local security guards near my apartment and the hotel concierge that I pass. I live in the city and it’s always super busy outside.
When I get to work I head to our Tuck Shop and eat breakfast for 30 minutes. Sometimes by myself or with my lead. They serve free breakfast each morning for employees and it’s delicious. I eat eggs and fruit and drink juice then coffee. I also read the news, I subscribe to the New York Times and have the app.
I usually start having morning meetings at 8 or 8:30 most days, because half my team are located in Europe and that works best with timezones.
I save my mornings for breakfast and spending time with my team and use my evenings for family, friends and working out.
Wade Foster, Co-Founder and CEO of Zapier
As told to My Morning Routine:
My morning routine starts with my evening routine. I try and settle into bed at around 10:30 p.m. so I’m asleep by 11. This makes it easy to wake up around 7:00 a.m. fresh.
I usually pull my phone off my nightstand and start triaging emails from the night before so that when I actually go to work I can jump right in.
After getting out of bed, I’ll grab a bite to eat and then shower and settle into the day’s activities. I usually have 2–3 things I definitely want to get done that day so I try and start with those.
Renee Fishman, Founder of My Meadow Report
I have a practice I call Fitness First – this is a key part of my routine. It means that I take care of my body first, through some form of physical exercise. I do not check email or social media, I do not touch my computer or read a book. So from the moment I get out of bed, I am focused on getting out the door.
I drink a little bit of Suja Fuel juice and grab my water bottle and my bag for the gym and get out the door.
Fitness First (non-negotiable)
As much as possible, I get outside, even if it’s just to get to the gym. But if I’m staying somewhere, like a hotel, I may use the hotel gym. I’ve worked out in an airport lounge and in small hotel rooms. But I like to get outside, even in the cold, just because it helps me wake up.
My workout can be 15 minutes (if I’m super rushed) to 3+ hours (on a day off or weekend). Typically it’s about 60–90 minutes, though sometimes longer if I go to yoga after the gym (I’m currently working on compressing that down further).
I just passed a 150-day streak for meditation, which felt good. A key part of that for me was tying it to my fitness routine, rather than waiting until I got home.
This is usually back in my apartment, except for swim days, when I shower at the pool. Other days I come back to my apartment to shower, get dressed, put on makeup, and fix my hair.
Depending on the day, it can take me 45–90 minutes, and I have no idea why sometimes it takes longer than others. Today took 30 minutes. Some days are just slow, I guess.
During this time, I usually have all music/audio/video off and allow myself to contemplate the day ahead or think through challenges I’ve been wrestling with, or new ideas.
I often don’t have much of an appetite in the morning, but I eat breakfast daily, even if it’s just a protein bar and some more juice.
During breakfast I try to read something stimulating, not on an electronic device. Typically I will read a chapter in a book or a publication.
Then I do Morning Pages. I started this in August, and have maintained it pretty well. The ideal is to write it in a notebook—I use a Moleskine dedicated to this purpose and write two pages (one front and one back). This takes about 15 minutes.
Creative Time Block
Typically from 10–12, after the other stuff is done. I might use this time to write for my blog (like I did today), write a description for a new property I’m listing, or do other creative work.
I try not to touch email or social before noon, but depending on what’s going on, sometimes I will open my iPhone to skim email quickly before I eat breakfast.
Amir Salihefendic, Founder and CEO of Doist, the Makers of Todoist
I like to wake up around 8 a.m. and then do 7 minutes of exercise, meditation for 10 minutes and I finish this off with a shower and breakfast. While eating my breakfast, I usually listen to a podcast or a TED Talk (something that can inspire me). After this, I try to do some creative work (e.g. not checking emails).
Yana Vlatchkova, COO and Co-Founder of Swipes
I wake up at 7:15 a.m., put a smile on my face, and think that it is going to be a good day. I am a slow starter so I need this extra energy and motivation to get started.
Then I spend 5 minutes scanning through my calendar, tasks, emails, work, and personal messages. I don’t respond to anything, just get in my mind what the commitments for later are.
Afterward, I make the bed to achieve the first thing for the day and I choose my outfit. This really gets me going. By 7:25, I am in the shower, thinking of how to prioritize my goals or coming up with responses to the different messages. I type all the ideas down right after getting out of the shower so I don’t forget them or let them fill in my mind.
By 7:50 a.m., I’m putting on makeup and pouring a cup of coffee. At 8 a.m. I have a meeting with my team to discuss the daily plan.
James Clear, founder of JamesClear.com
As told to My Morning Routine:
I wake up, take a shower, get dressed, drink a glass of water, write down three things I’m grateful for, read 20 pages of a book, then get into whatever my work is for the day.
I think a morning routine should be simple and repeatable (at some point, if you add too many pieces to the mix, you’re not really doing a morning routine anymore, but simply a daily routine).
I don’t typically eat breakfast.
I love breakfast foods and I eat a lot of food (I’m an athlete and train pretty heavy in the gym, so I need a lot to recover), but I follow an intermittent fasting routine where I eat most of my food between 12:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. each day. I do it mostly because it makes my life simpler and I get to spend the morning (when my creative energy is highest) focusing on important work rather than cooking/eating/cleaning.
I’ve been following this pattern for over two years. Intermittent fasting is getting popular in certain niches now (bodybuilding, paleo, etc.), but I’m still skeptical of the actual health benefits many people cite. That said, I don’t believe it’s detrimental to your health either. It doesn’t make much difference if you eat 2,000 calories in a 12-hour window like most people (7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.) or in an eight-hour window (12:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.). Your body can handle both with relative ease, assuming you’re eating well.
Kieran Snyder, CEO and Co-Founder of Textio
I typically get up around 5:30 and work for an hour in the morning. Then I go running for 45 minutes or so and come back, get ready for the day, and help kids get off to school around 9 a.m. From there I take the train into the office to get there around 9:30 most mornings.
I’m a morning person, and I don’t need a lot of sleep, so this works pretty well for me during the week. I’m usually pretty tired by Friday night though!
Gary Vaynerchuk, Co-Founder and CEO of VaynerMedia
As told to Business Insider: I wake up at 6 a.m. Literally. Every day.
For me, every minute counts, so my schedule is planned down to the second.
And I’m not kidding: I’ve had, and continue to have, three- and four-minute meetings.
The first thing I do when I wake up is grab my cellphone and take it to the bathroom with me, where I start my day by consuming quite a lot of information.
I go to TechMeme and check out the headlines. I read Jason Hirschhorn’s email newsletter, MediaREDEF.
Then I hit the news outlets, primarily Business Insider and ESPN. But the main site that I focus on during this time is Nuzzel, an aggregator of headlines and links that my circle is sharing. It’s a tremendous tool, and I recommend everyone look into it if they feel they don’t have time to properly focus on every website individually.
After those sites, I head to Twitter, my No. 1 outlet for communication with the public.
Lastly for my phone, I open Instagram and look at photos from my friends. It’s a nice way to start the morning—seeing all the cool stuff your friends are up to.
After all this comes my workout with my trainer Muscle Mike. I usually work out for 45 minutes to an hour. The specific workout routine varies depending on the day of the week, what I ate, how much I’ve been traveling … There is no one big secret GaryVee workout.
After the workout, I head back home to say bye to my kids before they go to school. I hug them for five minutes, give them a kiss and they’re off. After getting myself ready, I’m off to my first meeting of the day, which is often before 9 a.m.
This is where, I think, one of the more original aspects of my morning routine happens. In the car to the meeting, I call my mom, dad, or sister, depending on who I called last.
By the time I step into that first meeting, so much is going through my head already. The day started the minute I opened my eyes.
Leo Babauta, Founder of Zen Habits
From the Zen Habits blog: I have a glass of water, start the coffee, then meditate. Then I enjoy the coffee, a good book, and the quiet before the dust and din and steam of the day begins. Then I write.
This is my Lovely Morning, and I get an inordinate amount of pleasure from it.
I love hearing from other founders about their routines. If nothing else, it’s a reminder that we all have different approaches to life and work. Whether you’re an up-with-sun type or you snooze half a dozen times, our routines are as unique as we are. Our priorities also change over time, and it’s inspiring to see how other entrepreneurs find ways to look after themselves mentally and physically every day.
Your turn: What’s your morning routine? Tell us how you spend your mornings in the comments below.