Morning Routines for Success: Study Successful People

Meet Gregory, a writer and the brains behind Face Dragons. He's the go-to guy for getting things done.

Gregory's been living the digital nomad life in Asia for as long as anyone can remember, helping clients smash their goals. He writes on topics like software, personal knowledge management (PKM), and personal development. When he's not writing, you'll catch him at the local MMA gym, nose buried in a book, or just chilling with the family.

“I need Coffee.”

It was always the first thing in my head after waking.

But faced with another relentless day as a nobody, I needed more than coffee. I needed change. I needed a morning routine for success.

I started thinking about my morning routine after reading Laura Vanderkam’s “What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast.”

I had moved to a shoebox apartment in the center of Beijing and was searching for inspiration to make my existence there more meaningful. Riding the subway shoulder to shoulder with 20 million people every day, I felt the ant mentality. It creeps on you fast.

Vanderkam and a few others gave me a path away from the hive toward a life I wanted. She challenged me to envision my ideal morning. I woke up earlier and began walking to work, never taking the subway again.

That was just the start. I wanted to know what else I could do each morning to set me up for success.

Three Morning Routines for Success

Before creating a morning routine, you should study highly successful people and see if there is any part of their morning routine you could make your own. Here I take a look at three of the most successful people in their fields.

Bruce Lee

A world-class martial artist, actor, and thought-provoking writer, Bruce Lee, the first Asian lead in an American movie, defines success. You’ve likely seen photos of him sitting in the splits while pumping a dumbbell and reading a book simultaneously.

His morning routine was simple, consistent, and concentrated on what was important to him: training and family.

Bruce Lee’s Morning Routine, according to

  • Stretch
  • Jog
  • Family breakfast
  • Play with kids

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Dominating in three different careers, the man who once held the title of highest paid actor of all time is the epitome of success. But, once again, we can see what Arnold values in his morning routine-politics and fitness.

  • Coffee
  • Read the newspaper
  • Cycle to the gym
  • Workout
  • Cycle home
  • Breakfast

“At that point, my mind is clear, the hard part is over, and I can focus on work for the rest of the day.”

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Grant Cardone

Love or hate him; there’s no denying that Grant Cardone has had success that most of us can’t even dream about. Cardone says that this morning routine has significantly impacted his success.

  • Wake up early
  • Write down your goals
  • Read
  • Study
  • Exercise
  • Listen to personal development
  • Connect on social media
  • Positive sales meeting
  • Role play selling

Ideas for Successful Morning Routines

The more you look at the morning routines of successful people, the more you’ll start to see the same few morning rituals pop up. Here are nine ideas I’ve seen repeatedly. If you still want more ideas, check out my massive list of Morning Routine Ideas.

1. Wake up Early

Waking up early every morning is where success starts.

Those of us who struggle to wake up early without feeling tired skip over this habit for success wherever we see it. “It doesn’t apply to us, right?” Instead, we get defensive about our late mornings, saying, “I’m just not a morning person,” or, “I’m a night owl.” But the science isn’t entirely clear if that’s true.

What is true, however, is that successful people can force themselves to do things they don’t want to do. Early risers go to bed earlier, are less groggy, and get more done in the morning. How successful do you think you can be if you can’t force yourself to wake up early?

Show your body clock who’s boss!

2. Spend Time with Family in the Morning Hours

Keep in mind who you’re doing it all for. We spend hours working away from the people we love and often do it for them.

Those children won’t be children long. So make time in the morning for your family, even if it means losing a client or a sale. They care about you more than about what you can buy them. And you’ll be happier too.

Even Elon Musk, a man renowned for working 100-hour weeks, still makes the time to take his kids to school.

3. Build Your Finances Early

You need to focus on your finances if you want them to grow. If you don’t know where your money is or what it’s doing, make it part of your morning routine to focus on your finances.

  • Look at new investment opportunities.
  • How are your current investments
  • How close are you to your financial goals?
  • Reaffirm your financial goals

4. Network Every Single Day

Networking is one of those buzzwords you hear but never really do much about. But, whether you have your own business or a job, networking with people inside and outside your industry will open opportunities.

  • New clients
  • New Customers
  • New Jobs
  • New Partnerships

I wrote about the best way to network in the morning in another post: Morning Routines for Men.

5. Early Morning Exercise

Almost every successful person, from Bill Gates to Richard Branson, spends time working out in the morning; why? Studies have shown that working out in the morning leads to more focus and better decision-making. It is metabolically the best time to work out for fat loss.

So no excuses!

6. Read Something After You Wake Up

Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, and Oprah, what do they all have in common? They read.

If the richest, most successful, and busiest people on the planet are taking hours out of their days to read, do you need another reason to start building a reading habit?

7. Plan the Day-Ahead

“Plan your work, and work your plan”

Napolean Hill

Making decisions is easy when you are fresh and don’t have the day’s stress on your shoulders. Planning your day in the morning is one of the best ways to ensure you have a successful and productive day. It only takes a few minutes of time management or making a to do list, but it makes a huge difference.

We make better decisions more effortlessly in the early morning. In Willpower: Rediscovering Our Greatest Strength, Baumeister says this is because our willpower, decision-making, and mental focus all share a single energy source. Unfortunately, after a whole day of exerting our will, deciding things, and doing mentally challenging tasks, we don’t have the resources to make decisions, especially not good ones. This lack of willpower is why people are more likely to gamble, abuse alcohol and drugs, or do other things they know they shouldn’t do in the evening than in the morning.

8. Do Your MIT (Most Important Task)

Your MIT is your most important task. People have known for centuries that early morning is the best time for productive work. Marcus Aurelius said, “Concentrate on what’s in front of you like a Roman, do it like it’s the last and most important thing in your life.”

There are huge benefits to doing your most important task first. If the rest of your day falls apart, at least you know that the most important thing got done.

Brian Tracy called it “eat the frog,” By doing the most challenging thing first, the rest of the day would seem more manageable.

You can see from the morning routines above that successful people put the things most important to them first. Whether it is family, working out, or sales. Work out your MIT and do it first thing.

9. Ask This Question

Steve Jobs started his day asking himself this question:

“If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today? If the answer is no for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

There are many different affirmations you can use first thing in the morning, this question get’s straight to the point though.

How different would our lives be if we consistently used this question as a litmus test to create change?

Did I find the life I wanted?

Not long after quitting the subway, I also quit my job. I took my family from the city center to a village with mountain views and a lake minutes from the front door and found a work-from-home position.

I still wake up wanting coffee, though.

Check out the New York Times and Wall St. Journal featured author Vanderkam’s book, which helped me get on the path I was supposed to be on