Morning Habits of Highly Successful People

Eat the frog first?! That’s what Fast Company Magazine recommends in Kevin Purdy’s article What Successful People Do With the First Hour of Their Day. I am not one to eat the frog first, for sure. My day usually starts about an hour before others show up at the office. This allows me some time to get my list of things to do together, catch up on email and voicemail, and sart checking a few things off my list. I typically accompany this start up time with a cup of “fancy coffee” and some breakfast (usually greek yogurt).

I save my frog eating for mid-day. I wondered if this was “normal” – so I reached out to a few HOKers that I consider to be successful. Here’s what they had to say:

Renae Bradshaw, Director of Interiors, Chicago

In order to be able to manage my time best, it helps when I’m assured that the home front is running on all cylinders. One way I keep perspective, is that whenever possible, my family sits down for a full breakfast before we all hustle out the door to work and school. It fosters a sense of family and togetherness and helps to keep us grounded. It allows us to iron out our schedules, plan for events and contingencies, and keep in touch with our children. I personally have a more focused work day when family issues are well-tended. As for work, I approach it the same way, big picture, thoughtful organization that all bases are covered before diving into each task-driven issue. That’s how I capture that first hour each day.

Whitney Loke, Senior Interiors Designer, Washington, DC

I’m sorry to report that I feel like I don’t do anything that is all that interesting. I don’t run a marathon before I head into the office, or meditate for 30 minutes about the meaning of life, nor do I drink some type of power juice concoction made from rare, exotic plants that provides me with all the energy I need to take on a busy day.

Ok, so what do I do? To start, I fix myself a cup of Earl Grey tea and pour myself a glass of water and eat a bit of breakfast so that I’m set for the morning. On the days that I know it will be hectic, I try to get in to the office a little earlier than the rest of my colleagues so I can take care of things without interruption. This is the best feeling – to create my “to do” list and march through it one by one without any phone calls, emails, or knocks on my desk. The quietness of the early morning office allows me to concentrate, get creative, solve problems, or just organize my mind and my day, while harnessing my self-diagnosed ADD (aided by interruptions) that seems to increase in intensity as the day goes on. Having critical things taken care of first thing in the morning allows me to be able to focus with a clear head on other items as they come up during the day. See, I told you, its not really that interesting, but it works for me!

Steve Ma, Marketing and Business Development, Hong Kong

Okay, well, I guess I should be upfront, I’m not a morning person and never have been. As a designer, it certainly helps to be able to stay up to all hours and find it in you to remain lucid and productive (late nights in studio… the good old days). In a sense, either after hours or at the start of the day, it’s this interstitial (sometimes ethereal) time when the world is not bearing down on me that I’m best able to have moments to myself to “eat the frog,” or at least consider the intricate machinations involved in avoiding doing so.

For example, at the end of the day, I have a chance to catch up on all the messages in longer email threads, read them comprehensively and have the time to thoughtfully respond to them, hopefully all at once. The worst email threads occur when people are firing off responses to parts of the issue at hand throughout the day, talking over each other or not responding to the latest message, creating an unnecessary glut of piecemeal thoughts that clog up your in box. We now know that emails can be your enemy, but a well-thought out, well-timed email can succinctly cover all the issues and resolve them efficiently. (Also, I get to have the last word, at least til morning).

On the days that I do have to imitate being a morning person, the usual suspects to get you on track also work for me: a cup of coffee, a run, watching or listening to the news. I do like to check emails before I get to work. I like to hit the ground running. But having that time to myself at the end of the day allows me that too – as well as peace of mind when I do eventually put head to pillow.

Pam Light, Director of Project Delivery, Los Angeles

Ah yes, the first hour of a work-day: easy entry into the world – a few stretches while I wait for my Keurig to warm up so that I can have my ½ cup of café coffee (not too much caffeine immediately – just enough for a jump start). Then a quick shower and hair drying. Then I look at the list I made the night before of the ‘must get done tomorrow’ items! I only put the ‘must get done’ – so it stays between 2-5 items. Then I open email. I delete the ads and hellos from vendors to clear out the list (as I receive between 200 and 300 emails a day – that ritual is really important, otherwise I feel overwhelmed). I look for anything urgent that came in from clients and if I can’t immediately answer it, I at least send them an email back confirming that I have the email. I try to copy someone else that works with me to start the wheel rolling on the answer while I’m tying up other issues. I devote 20-30 minutes to this. Then I move on to the urgent items – sending emails, making calls, reviewing documents to allow anyone else working with me time to integrate what I may need back into their own day. Then, finally, I head out to the office. As I live in LA, this can be a 40-60 minute trip – but I know as I swing by Starbucks and then head south, my clients know that I’ve already started working on their responses, and I’ve already started my own urgent items. So when I walk into the office, I’m calm for the start of the day!

So … we all have very different habits but a few key themes emerged: food, coffee and email. Here’s hoping your day is off to a successful start!

One Comment
  1. February 3rd, 2014 - 7:19 am
    Steffen said:

    i think there are two kinds of tasks that a lot of successful people do (in the morning). first there are the important things that really get the world moving. and second there are the bad habits. the important thing about these bad habits is that they are not in the way of their goals. of course they could get rid of them, but they rather put their energy into important tasks. i consider coffee and email in the morning as a bad habit (as long as email is not an essential part of your work, e.g. if you have to answer customer emails).

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