Get Up and Succeed! 12 Influential Folks Share A.M. Rituals

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By Jacqui Kenyon

Whether you're up-and-at-'em when day breaks or stumbling out of bed, the way you spend the morning sets the tone for the rest of the day. That's why many leaders have crafted morning rituals that maximize their energy, productivity, and creativity all day long. We asked a mix of high-profile CEOs, authors, investors, and entrepreneurs: What is your morning routine?

1. Email Begins the Day

Kara Goldin, CEO of Hint Water, wakes up at 5:30 on the dot every morning and heads directly to her inbox, which gives her a clear understanding of what the rest of the day will be like. After that, she embarks on a hike with her husband and dogs through the Marin hillside of California. "Without my hike, I feel unbalanced," she says. "I need this time to clear my head, connect with what I love, and center myself so that I can handle any challenge that might come up in the day ahead."

2. Three-Hour Commitment

Gary Vaynerchuk,
cofounder and CEO of VaynerMedia, starts by catching up on the news: ESPN, Business Insider and a news aggregator called Nuzzel. Next, he communicates with his massive Twitter following: "I search my handle and try to find anything I might have missed from the night before, or even that morning, considering my European and Asian bases. I respond to as many people as possible." The most unusual aspect of his morning routine occurs in the car on the way to the office: He calls his mother, father or sister, depending on who he spoke with last. "I catch up with them. Talk to them. Just learn what they're up to. I really value those small moments."

3. Maximizing Creativity

Scott Adams,
the creator of "Dilbert," says the first 20 minutes of his day are exactly the same, every day. Putting his physical body on autopilot "frees his brain for creativity." "My value is based on my best ideas in any given day, not the number of hours I work," he says. In his home office, he enjoys a delicious combo of protein bar and coffee. "I give myself this 'treat' knowing I can be trained like any other animal," he says. "And I want to train myself to enjoy waking up and being productive. (It totally works.)"

4. At First, Reflect

Billionaire John Paul DeJoria, the cofounder of Patrón tequila and Paul Mitchell hair products, starts every morning with five minutes of quiet reflection. "Doesn't matter where I'm at, which home I'm in, or what hotel room I'm visiting, the very second I wake up, I stay in bed for about five minutes and just be." During those five minutes, he tries to be truly "present" and is grateful for what he has. After that, the day begins: He examines his calendar for the day, checks in with his assistants and makes any pressing phone calls. One thing he doesn't do: Email. "I know, I've been told I'm a bit old school, but it all gets done just the way I need it to. It allows me to focus on the most important things that need my attention."

5. Five Habits

Brad Lande, head of Birchbox Man, wasn't born a morning person. After a series of life changes -- starting and selling a business, getting engaged, going on a meditation retreat, buying a home -- Lande realized that the little things, like your morning routine, can have an effect on your health and well-being. Now his morning routine has five key elements: hot water with lemon, meditation, yoga, face oil and a breakfast smoothie. "I did not arrive at them overnight," he says. "I discovered them along the way, and they have shifted my mornings from a sleepy blur to a clear awakening."

6. The Markets First

Kevin O'Leary, a "Shark Tank" investor and chairman of O'Leary Financial, wakes up at 5:45 a.m. to check the Asian and European bond markets. "Good investors don't stay in bed in North America with strings untied overseas, because if something happens in London or Tokyo while they're sleeping, everything could change," he says. After that, he works out for 45 minutes while catching up on some business TV: "Your health is one investment that is guaranteed to pay dividends." Then he's off to the office by the time the markets open at 9:30 a.m.

7. Simplicity Is Paramount

Andrew Yang,
CEO of Venture for America, starts his day by pushing the dog off him. Next he'll check on his wife and son. If his son is awake, he'll spend time with him before heading to the office. If not, he hits the gym. If he needs an a.m. pick-me-up, he'll open a memo file on his phone and record three things he is thankful for. "The things I've typed on other days are still there. It's a long list. Always helps."

8. Water, Water, Water

Executive Kat Cole drinks 24 ounces of water every morning when she wakes up. Cole -- group president of Focus Brands, which includes Auntie Ann's, Carvel and Cinnabon -- picked up the habit when she was traveling in eastern Africa doing humanitarian work. "We are so lucky to have access to clean drinking water, and I think about how grateful I am for that almost every day," Cole says. Her routine also includes exercise, and often a breakfast or coffee meeting as well. "Talking, learning, and thinking with other humans creates a purposeful start to any day."

9. Consistency is a Virtue

NFL Hall-of-Famer Fran Tarkenton, founder of and Tarkenton Companies, says "sticking to a routine has always brought me clarity of thought, a positive mindset, and most of all, successful results for the rest of the day." Every morning he consumes a wide variety of newspapers: "I'll read every part - domestic, foreign, business, sports, even the parts that might bore me a little -- because feeding my brain is an absolutely essential part of my day," he says. "And by reading a diverse selection of papers, I get different viewpoints and different perspectives on all the things that affect me, my life, and my business." He also takes cares of his dogs, exercises a bit and eats a healthy breakfast. Each aspect of his routine makes him "more productive so that, in turn, I can do more for anyone I come in contact with throughout the day."

10. Out and Alone With the World

Cal Newport, author of "So Good They Can't Ignore You," stops only for a glass of water before heading outside with his dog. During their walk, he'll listen to audiobooks and do pull-ups at a local playground. "For me, interesting thoughts have a tendency to emerge when the rest of the world is quiet." When he arrives home, he employs a hack that allows him to stay on top of non-work productivity: He'll dedicate 20-30 minutes to household tasks, like paying bills or researching a contractor for a project. "This simple morning habit allows me to stay (reasonably) on top of these obligations while expending a minimum of energy in making decisions about what to work on and when."

11. In the Right Frame of Mind

Cheryl Bachelder,
CEO of Popeyes, is a self-professed night owl, so she has a designed a morning routine that gets her "in the right frame of mind for the day." She starts her day with music, a tradition she has continued from childhood, which gives her purpose and reminds her of her family.
Bachelder also reads and writs on her blog. "To have the energy to lead, we need to be restored and prepared before we get to the workplace," she says. "When I honor these routines, it makes a big difference in the day."

12. The Routine Starts the Night Before

Nir Eyal, author of "Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products," says "sticking to a morning routine improves the work I do and the life I live." And it starts the previous night: A timer shuts off his Internet connection at 10 p.m., and he charges his phone outside of his bedroom. This gives him more time to spend with his wife, and ensures that he gets to bed at a reasonable hour.

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