14 surprising morning routines of entrepreneurs and creatives

Many renowned creatives, artists, and entrepreneurs have adopted morning routines. You can find countless examples of familiar historical figures and their odd morning rituals. But why did they do it? A morning routine can help prepare your mind each day for your creative work. It takes little decisions out of your morning that can drain your willpower and energy. It builds healthy habits into your morning and gets you in the mood to do your best work.

14 unique morning routines entrepreneurs and creatives use to kick start their day. – (CLICK TO TWEET)

Morning routines are very personal. It takes time, experimentation, and diligence to find what works for you. You need to have a routine that fits your environment. Some people like to start their day cleaning out their inbox, others avoid it like the plague.

I asked entrepreneurs 3 questions to find out a little more about their day:

  • Would you briefly describe your morning routine? Highlight the most unique aspects of it.
  • How does your routine impact your day?
  • What’s 1 thing you would recommend someone do every morning?

Related: The best of WP Curve – productivity

Rand Fishkin: Founder Moz

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I wake up late, because I stay up late. When I can, I like to sleep in until 9:30am or later. When I do get up, I do some exercises first thing specifically to help with degenerative disc disease, an unfortunate problem I have with my back. In between sets, I’m answering email and catching up on social channels (Twitter and Google+ are my 2 primaries). I almost always walk to work and start my morning meetings between 10:30-11am. The half hour walk to work is both good exercise and a nice way to clear my head.

I’m not much of a morning person, so being alone and able to concentrate on myself – exercise, introversion, and cleaning up my digital life – make a big difference. I’m extremely frustrated when I don’t get that chance.

I wouldn’t dream of making a universal recommendation for a routine. Find your happiness and what works for you in the morning – don’t listen to what anyone else tells you is the “right way” or “only way” to do it.

Alex Turnbull: Founder – GrooveHQ

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Groove is a fully distributed team, and I work from my home office, which means that my commute is about 20 feet long.

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Most days, things are simple: wake up, shower, have a bowl of cereal, make a cup of coffee, and head over to my desk. There’s nothing particularly unique about my morning routine, but I do find that consistency is super important: when things get disrupted (for example, my phone rings and I wake up to an issue that needs me at the computer right away), it sets the tone for the whole day. My productivity and my mood both get worse.

So to that end, my biggest piece of advice is: regardless of what you do, commit to doing it every single day. Starting my day with a sense of control over my life makes it a lot easier to stay calm and feel like I’m in control when things don’t go as planned later on.

Roy Krebs: Co-founder – Natural Stacks

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Every morning I wake up naturally, without an alarm clock. I take my morning supplement stack (Himalayan salt, CILTEP, & Vitamin D3) and then let my dogs outside to run around for a bit in the backyard. Even if it’s freezing out, I don’t put on a jacket. The cold air invigorates me.

When I go back inside, I do some basic movement and stretching before hanging upside down on an inversion table for 5-10 minutes. This increases blood flow to the brain and opens up the joints. Hanging upside down significantly boosts my mental performance and physical well being. I miss it if I’m out of town and can’t do it for a few days.

With this morning routine, I can remain focused and productive for hours. I often don’t take a break until 2 or 3 pm.

Don’t start the day by immediately checking emails or voicemails. Even if you only have 5 minutes to spare, find a routine that fills you with vitality before you attack the day.

Renee Warren: Co-founder – Onboardly

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Wake up at 5:30am. I have little human alarm clocks, called toddlers, so I need to get in my alone time before they wake. Almost every morning (other than Sunday’s), I take about an hour to get ready. No, I am not caking on the makeup or lavishly doing my hair. I am slowly bringing myself to wake. I throw on a podcast (right now I am listening to the Good Life Project with Jonathan Fields), open up my notebook, and begin my morning ritual of listening and taking notes. Between makeup, hair, and dressing, I can get in about one episode and a few pages of notes. Then I wrangle the kids, drop them off at daycare, head to the office, and begin the work day.

I am an introvert, so I need scheduled alone time. I like my own company almost more than others so a few moments alone is like 10 breaths of fresh air. How I start my day is often a reflection of how the entire day will go, so I keep it simple, quiet, and productive.

Never check email in the morning! Work on your 1 thing every morning first (What’s the ONE Thing I could do, such that by doing it everything else would be easier or unnecessary? – Gary Keller). I always set up my mornings the night before. After dinner and when the kids are in bed, I’ll open up my calendar to review the next day’s events, then I plan my morning accordingly. Always front load your week and workdays with the most mentally exhausting tasks first (like writing blog posts, reviewing strategies, etc). Meetings and nice-to-have’s should be taken at the end of the day and week. Come Friday, you’ll be more relaxed and willing to take the weekend (I am writing this interview on a Sunday afternoon over a nice cup of coffee. It’s a great little exercise to get me ramped up for Monday).

Chris Kilbourn: Director of Marketing – Eleventh Avenue

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I use the sleep app Sleep Cycle to wake up at the right time to avoid feeling groggy. Then, I turn up my music loud, get ready, eat a protein shake (typically while sitting on my patio), and leave for work.

My routine is extremely important. If I miss one of the previously mentioned items, it throws me off until the afternoon.

It’s important to wake up at the right time. It’s easier to wake up if you time your sleep right. I frequently test something new with my sleeping habits to figure out how to optimize my mental performance and finding out what works for me has been amazing.

John Lee Dumas: Founder – Entrepreneur on Fire

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I refer to my morning routine as ‘First 80’. My first 80 minutes are VERY regimented. Sleep Cycle wakes me up between 5:10 – 5:40 am, according to my sleep cycle. Then I take an ‘inner bath’ of 18 ounces of water with lemon, himalayan salt, and trace minerals. Snaggin’ my iPod and hitting a 35 minute power walk around the bay is my next move, making sure to take DEEP breaths during the walk to really oxygenate my blood. Upon return, I make a killer green smoothie with 14 ingredients (mostly veggies) as well as a green matcha tea mixed with Ghee. I then do 5 minutes of stretching and a set of decline pushups. Journaling and meditation take up the rest of the 80 minutes, and help me get prepped for the next 10 hours of EntrepreneurOnFire!

My routine sets me up for success because it prioritizes my agenda, which is rest, hydration, fitness, nutrition, and quiet time. After these blocks are checked, I am ready to take on other people’s agendas.

The best way to start your morning is to take time for yourself and journal.

Josh Pigford: Founder – Baremetrics

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I wake up around 5am, get dressed, make coffee, and head up to my home office. I usually work until about 7am when the rest of my family wakes up. Then I make breakfast for everyone and I’m back in my office around 8am.

For me, that “5-7am” time is crucial. I’m an early-riser, but I’m not particularly chatty, so I need that time period to gather my thoughts and fully wake up. It’s quiet, nobody else on my team is online yet, so I can do a lot of focused “get prepared for the day” kind of stuff.

I highly recommend getting an early start to the day. It took a few months to really get in that routine and for my sleep cycle to adjust, but now I look forward to that part of the day most.

Georgiana Laudi: ‎Director of Marketing – Unbounce

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I send emails in my sleep. This might be a bit of a cheat, but my day’s prep starts the night before. I always make sure my inbox is in a manageable state before going to bed and sometimes if an email comes in late, I’ll read it and reply while my thoughts on it are fresh. But the trick is: I won’t send it right then and there, I’ll schedule it to be sent the next morning. This does 3 things:

  1. Gets it out of my head and off my of plate immediately.
  2. Scheduling it to send during business hours helps reinforce boundaries (so that it’s not assumed I will always reply no matter what hour of day).
  3. Others think I’ve started my day far earlier than I actually have. Bonus! So, my morning routine often consists of me sending emails before I wake up!

Dealing with email during off hours isn’t ideal for everyone but it does help me to focus my day on my team and be available for collaborative projects. Of course I still deal with email during business hours too, but it’s often during the quiet hours of the night that I’ll have the headspace and concentration to give important ones my fullest attention.
Since email is such a time suck for most of us (all of us?!), I definitely think there’s huge value in getting a handle on it early in your day, before heading into the office. Leaving unimportant emails lingering and taking up headspace won’t help you focus your day on what matters. Clear out whatever you can as soon as you can. Once you’ve done that, spend a bit of time reading a few recommended articles and keeping up with the latest in your industry before heading in or on your commute. You’ll feel ready and more importantly *present* when you get to the office.

Rob Walling: Founder – Software by Rob

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With a cup of coffee in hand, I go through email and try to get to inbox zero. I delete most emails, reply or act on anything that I can handle in 4 minutes or less, and place everything else (within reason) into Trello for prioritization.

On a good day, this process takes 20 minutes. On a bad, day 2 hours.

I hired someone this week to handle the above triage for me. I don’t know yet if it’s going to work, but I’m hopeful.

I know the common wisdom is to not check email first thing in the morning, but much of my job is about handling email. These aren’t emails from random people asking for random things, these are customers needing answers or my team needing a roadblock removed. These typically take higher priority than the tasks I have in my to-do list.

My routine sets the stage. Once complete, I move into Trello and can knock out task after task without wondering what I should be doing next, because it’s all laid out for me. I don’t check email again until after lunch, giving me a nice chunk of the morning to make progress.

Find a routine that works for you and repeat it. A predictable morning is key to getting yourself into the zone.

James Schramko: Founder – SuperFast Business

8 – 8:50: Drink water, make espresso coffee, healthy breakfast. Check surf conditions.

8:50 – 9: Scan of Email and Slack for high priorities.

The most important aspects of starting the day right for me are:

  • Water and breakfast
  • Surfing
  • 1 focused block of high impact productivity

Breakfast gives me energy and a surf/work block gets me healthy and productive.

Pursue a passion to the extent that you are so excited when you go to sleep that you look forward to waking up the next day. Dream about it all night.

Jason Cohen: Founder – WP Engine

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Because I have a 5 year old who I take to school every morning, the timing of my mornings rarely changes.

I think everyone has time to something that takes 5 minutes or less, every morning. You could insert anything that you know you should do but “never have time for.” Then you’ve done that for the day, which also puts you in a good mood. A good example would be meditation. 5 minutes really does make a difference. (There’s even data for that!)
In my case, I do an extremely simple set of exercises — pushups to failures, curls to failures, abs to failure. Just a single set each! This is not a “workout,” this is just getting the blood moving.

Alison Groves: Community manager – Zapier

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My morning routine is fairly strict, although if I’m on the west coast, I do let it slide just a bit. I wake up at 5:30, get a 90 minute work cycle in, then run for a few miles, and have breakfast before getting back to the rest of my day. People think I’m crazy, but there’s something extremely peaceful about having that bit in the morning before distractions start rolling in to write, answer email, etc.

The most unique aspect? My desk faces east, so I watch the sunrise every morning. No matter what’s going on, or what my day looks like, that 10 or so minutes when the sky changes puts me at ease.

To me, my morning routine is everything. If it gets thrown off in any way, I feel like I’m playing catch up for the rest of the day, which is a bad state of mind to be in. Working for a bit then going for a run allows me to really think through my day and what I need to accomplish.

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I would recommend that everyone do some form of exercise in the morning. I prefer running, but do whatever makes you happy. It allows you to take that bit of time that’s only for you before the rest of your day pulls you in a thousand different directions, and leaves you zero excuse to not exercise as the day goes on. “I’m too tired” or “I just don’t have time” gets thrown out the window.

Taylor Pearson: Founder – TaylorPearson.me

As it stands right now:

Wake Up – (Around 5:30am) – I don’t set an alarm, but I’ve learned that my natural sleep schedule is about 9:30pm to 5:30am, so I shut down work by 9pm and get in bed by 9:30pm and read fiction on my Kindle until I fall asleep. So I control the schedule with my bedtime and not my wake up time. I use the Motion 24/7 app to track my time in bed and sleep quality and usually sleep around 7 and a half hours per night. I’ve never done anything with the data, but I do believe anything measured improves so measuring how much I sleep tends to make sure I sleep enough.

Brew Coffee and Take Supplements (5:35am) – After I use the restroom, I’ll start a pot of coffee and take my supplements for the day:

Tidy Up Room – I used to not make my bed or worry about keeping the details of my living and work space clean, but reading Washington: A Life (George Washington made his bed every day of his life) and The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing both inspired me to start attending to the details of how my living and work space are organized. I’ve noticed a tremendous difference in how the space feels and how creative it lets me be.

Read (5:45am-6:45am) – One of my hard life rules is that I read for an hour everyday. I agree with Charlie Jones that, “You will be the same person in 5 years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read” so I schedule relationships and reading first then organize the rest of my life around them. When I used to live in Asia, it was easy to do this in the afternoon when the U.S. was sleeping, but being based in the U.S., I’ve found that early in the morning when it’s calm is the best time and gets my brain into gear for the day.

Exercise (6:45-6:55am) – After I finish reading, I use an app called 30/30 which has the rest of my morning routine loaded into it with a timer set for each activity to keep me on track and moving along. The first thing is exercise so I’ll do 5 pullups, 25 pushups and 3 sun salutations to get my blood flowing and loosen up for the day.

Meditate (6:55am-7:20am) – After I exercise, I have a fleece blanket I’ll sit down on and use the Headspace app for guided meditation. I was an on and off meditator (despite seeing profound benefits when I do it consistently) until a year ago when I found Headspace. It was much more difficult for me to meditate until I started doing gamified, guided meditation.

Visualize Desired Outcomes (7:20-7:30am) – I keep a note in my Evernote shortcuts where I’ve explicitly written out the most important goals I have in my life and business. I read it each morning before I do my planning for the day to force myself to ensure my priorities for the day line up with long term priorities. I also find this motivating as when you see what the work you are doing today leads into, it gets you a lot more excited to do it.

5 Minute Journal (7:30-7:35am) – I journal for 5 minutes on the following:

  • 3 things which I am grateful for right now
  • Maximum of 3 Top Priorities from the day that line up with long term goals
  • Personal affirmations

You can buy a journal specifically for this, but I just do it in a moleskin notebook.

Getting an extra hour of work done each day won’t dramatically increase the impact I have, but coming from a place of confidence and equanimity and executing on the most important, highest leverage tasks will. That’s what I get from my ritual.

Above all I recommend meditation. One of the novel challenges faced by our generation is that we have too many options. Entrepreneurs are beset by shiny object syndrome, chasing project after project. Meditation is a practice with thousands of years of history to train the mind to quiet and focus on whatever it is that is truly important to you.

I wrote an article about my daily ritual, including my morning routine, about 6 months ago, but it’s something I’m always tweaking and playing with.

My morning routine

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My routine involves waking up at 6 AM and drinking about a liter of water. Then I do 30 minutes of meditation. After that, I brew tea and take some time to write in my journal. I just dump whatever is on my mind. It helps clear my head. I’ve also picked up a technique that Alex McClafferty suggested to me: I write down a few things I am grateful for every morning. Finally, I write down 1 critical item that needs to get done today. If I can get that done, then the day was a success. I do little bit of yoga and bodyweight exercises to get the blood pumping, then start the day.

This routine helps me get a head start on the day and take time for myself before the demands of work and life set in. Starting the morning with gratitude helps put you in the right mindset to create, achieve, and be generous for the rest of the day.

In a job where there’s always more to do, it can be difficult to turn off. Having that 1 task to get done helps keep me focused on what’s important and relax after work.

I recommend avoiding technology first thing in the morning. I have my alarm on my phone and it is always a bit of a battle stopping the alarm and not going right to social media or email. It just fills your mind with distractions and infects the time you should be taking for yourself.

Conclusion

As you can see from these entrepreneurs, you can make your routine fit your personality and lifestyle, and it is worthwhile to have one. The most common things people focus on in their routines are exercise, nutrition, hydration, and some mental stimulation. There’s no wrong way to do a morning routine, as long as it puts you in a good mood. Take some of the ideas in this post and experiment with your own.

For further reading, Taylor recommended Mason Currey’s book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work that catalogs the daily rituals of some of the most prolific creators in the past 500 years.

What’s your morning routine like? Let us know in the comments.

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About

Kyle is the founder of Conversion Cake . He is the author of "The College Entrepreneur" A book for students who want to break into entrepreneurship. Follow him @kylethegray

27 responses to “14 surprising morning routines of entrepreneurs and creatives”

  1. Such an awesome article, Kyle! I couldn’t agree more with Rand’s recommendation- “Find your happiness and what works for you in the morning – don’t listen to what anyone else tells you is the “right way” or “only way” to do it.”

  2. Kyle Gray says:

    I agree! Especially considering how different the routines are for each person on this post.

  3. Wow, what a great article! Thanks for the mention I am honored 🙂

  4. Kyle Gray says:

    Thanks for sharing your routine John!

  5. Marion Bouquet says:

    Great article Kyle!

  6. Hey! I thought I recognized him in that last photo. Never placed the name here before 😀

  7. Kyle Gray says:

    Thanks Marion! This was a very fun post to create. Let me know if you add anything to your routine from this post!

  8. Kyle Gray says:

    haha, yeah that’s me! My morning routine has been something I have been putting a lot of thought into lately, so I wanted to share mine as well.

  9. Love this article Kyle, well done mate.

  10. Kyle Gray says:

    Thanks for helping me make my routine better Alex!

  11. Claire Oldfield says:

    Great post with a lot of inspiration in there to keep working on trying to be a morning person!

  12. There should be a rule in life: “Do what Taylor does”.
    Do that and everything will end up ok.

  13. Kyle Gray says:

    I think “Do what Taylor does” is the title of his new book.

    “Do that and everything will end up ok.” is the subtitle.

  14. Kyle Gray says:

    Hey Claire! Thanks for reading! You don’t necessarily have to be a morning person to have a morning routine. Rand Fishkin is a late riser, but still makes time for a routine.

    But getting up early makes a big difference for me.

  15. James Rose says:

    That was wicked. Some great advice in there 🙂

  16. Kyle Gray says:

    Thanks James! Let me know if you change up your morning routine after reading this post.

  17. Ruben Aguirre says:

    What a great post! There’s so much inspiration in here for those of us who becoming morning people. I also like what Michael Hyatt had to say about this (can’t remember if it was a blog post or podcast). The gist of it is “If you can’t get up or do a full morning routine, remember that you’re just learning and tomorrow is another chance to do it all over again.” Thanks for the post Kyle.

  18. Kyle Gray says:

    Thanks for sharing that quote Ruben! it’s very true. A routine is not something that you can really just decide to do and have it go perfectly from the first day. It’s a muscle you need to exercise.

  19. Reelika says:

    I walk to work as well for the same reason – I can clear my head and “think quietly.” Awesome round-up, thanks a lot for sharing it 🙂

  20. Kyle Gray says:

    I agree Reelika! I used to ride my bike or walk to work as well. It was good to get some fresh air at the beginning of that day.

  21. Nadia Bracken says:

    I love this article. I aspire to be a morning person and there is a lot of motivation here. Thank you!

  22. Kyle Gray says:

    I’m glad you enjoyed it Nadia! I did not start out as a morning person either. I just built on good habits a little at a time.

    Are you going to try to add something from this article to your morning routine?

  23. Nadia Bracken says:

    I’m starting with drinking a glass of water right when I get up. Also, I make sure I pet my 2 yorkies before I reach for my iPhone. Feels like a healthy habit.

  24. Kyle Gray says:

    Nice touch on the yorkies before the phone! I think that’s a really creative and healthy idea. I would do the same if I had a dog.

  25. AndrewNewman00 says:

    I’m the worst morning person but I’m going to change that! Very inspirational post.

  26. Jonathan Nabais says:

    It’s an interesting post. I am the king of entrepreneurs that needs to clean his mail just in the morning and check it sometimes in the day but no too much in order to decrease my productivity.
    Since days, I am trying to wake up at 6 a.m. For the moment, I am around 7 a.m and to be honest I really see a difference when I succeed to wake up at 6.
    Wish you success to everyone.

  27. In the mornings, I sweep the house, have a yoga practice, meditate, and water the garden. However, none of these things have been a direct investment in my blog or business.

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