‘Eat a live frog first thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day,’ said Mark Twain. Ofcourse, he wasn’t being literal. But the business world has derived a fitting meaning from his words – do what is most significant and meaningful for you, first thing in the morning. In other words, create a morning ritual that sets you up for success for the rest of the day.
The caveat: there is no one size fits all formula to do this. But the recommendation from psychologists and researchers – start strong, because our will power or self-control is strongest during mornings, and gets depleted with use, as the day progresses. So, this may not be the time to respond to emails.
How to make the most of your mornings then? Let’s look at some common practices from the morning routines of influential leaders of our time:
- Wake up early. It not only gives you more quiet time by yourself, but also makes you a more proactive, accountable person. According to Harvard biologist Christoph Randler, early risers are more likely to take charge of situations, remain optimistic through challenges, and anticipate problems in advance.
How early to wake up? The average leader rolls out of bed at 6.15 AM. Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, wakes up at 4.30 AM and walks his dogs. Barrack Obama is known to wake up by 5.30 AM, to spend time with his daughters. Anna Wintour, Chief Editor for Vogue, starts her day at 5.45 AM!
- Exercise daily. Over 90% of CEOs of Fortune 500 companies report doing some form of exercise or the other. Be it for 5 mins or 45 mins. The reason – it helps them be more productive, focus better, and take control of their thoughts and emotions. And given our sedentary lives, this is crucial for us – the average office worker spends 9 hours sitting.
Bill Gates spends an hour on the treadmill, before getting to his emails. Former National Geographic CEO John Fahey, regularly invited his employees to join him on a daily afternoon bike ride. If scheduled workout is challenging, Steve Scott, productivity expert, recommends taking a 5 min walk, for every 30 mins of work.
- Eat your breakfast. Though traditionally known to be the most important meal of the day, over 30 million Americans skip breakfast daily. Especially those in the age group of 18-35. But over 70% of Fortune 500 CEOs consider it a non-negotiable. It improves short term memory, maintains blood sugar levels, and helps the body/ mind recover better from workouts.
Winston Churchill used to be up at 7.00 AM, and stay in bed till 10.00 AM, reading newspapers and eating an elaborate breakfast of fruits, proteins, and fiber. Seth Epstein, co-owner of Los York, eats three hard boiled eggs daily! Don’t have time? Whip up a smoothie with fruits, nuts, milk, and greens.
The idea is to create rituals that help you live a balanced work-life. You can meditate, have conversations with your family, do some gardening, or read fiction. Just remember, the morning shows the day!