They say ‘you snooze, you lose’ – and they might just be right. It turns out successful business people are often early risers who have an organised and productive morning routine.
That’s what we found when we asked four of them to share their morning habits with us, from breakfast to bathroom and beyond. We then asked business coach Ruth Kudzi to analyse the results so we could understand how this inclination for organisation resulted in business and life wins.
So, whether you want to own the next big start-up or simply conquer everything on your to-do list, explore these expert tips on how to start your day in a way that guarantees success.
‘Bath then bootcamp’
Luke Henderson – International celebrity make-up artist
As a sought-after celebrity make-up artist, a good morning routine is a must for Luke Henderson. His busy schedule frequently sees him jetting between London and New York, where he often needs to be on-set at the crack of dawn to work his magic on stars from TV and film. For him, it’s all about bootcamp, a bath, and even some household chores.
“My morning routine is crucial because it helps avoid mental fatigue later in the day. I start by doing all the household chores, such as making the bed and loading the dishwasher and tumble dryer.
“Next, I have a long soak in the bath as it wakes up my muscles. I swear this is the reason I’ve never had any workout injuries so far. That’s why I’ll only stay in a hotel if my room has a bath.
“Then I head to Barry’s Bootcamp for a workout, which I can attend both in London and New York. I am trapped for one hour in a room with no phone, no talking, and enjoy a great workout that feels like meditation every day for me. Finally, I moisturise, do my hair, and get ready to take on the day.
“I put my success down to the fact that I make the most of every opportunity that comes my way. Average people ignore things that need improvement, whereas successful people seek to improve those things and take ownership. I find that separating my goals into both the short and the long term helps me to achieve them, which in turn enables me to accomplish larger, long-term goals.”
Why this works
Business coach Ruth Kudzi says: “It’s brilliant that Luke schedules exercise every morning, and I am not surprised that keeps him focused for the rest of the day. He sounds like he has a relaxing start to the morning, as well as ensuring his home is in order before he leaves for work.
“I like the fact he doesn't check his emails or electronic devices, and instead focuses on himself. It’s obvious that Luke has taken time to perfect his routine and work out what is best for him.”
‘Thinking slows me down’
Gina Clarke – Freelance journalist, PR, and busy mum
Launching a business after being made redundant in 2016 was scary for now-entrepreneur Gina Clarke. But a strict morning routine that revolves around the school run has been crucial in her success. She has found that meticulous planning the night before and making lists help her to achieve her goals.
“I always say you should plan ahead and put yourself last. I shower on an evening when the kids are in bed so I can get going in a morning. Clothes and bags must be ready the night before. I’m also obsessive about lists and won’t go to bed without knowing what I need to prioritise in the morning. At times, this can make for some rather strange work-related dreams!
“I also think that by waking up and just jumping out of bed as soon as the alarm goes off, there is no chance for my brain to start thinking; it can slow me down. Everything happens on autopilot because it’s the same routine we’ve been doing for a year now.
“By the time I sit down at my desk all the ‘jobs’ are done, and I can concentrate on the day ahead. It helps that I work from home, but equally, I have to cram a nine-hour day into seven hours, so there’s no lunch breaks or chats over the printer.
“In terms of mindset, I have to walk past dirty dishes and just leave them – work is more important. Once the kids are picked up again at 3pm, that’s when mentally I can become ‘mum’ and it usually involves stacking the dishwasher or putting a wash on.
“It’s pretty full-on, and I find it hard to do anything else once the kids are in bed apart from veg out and let my brain recover. I have always been more productive in a morning and, so far, it’s working!”
Why this works
Business coach Ruth Kudzi says: “As a mum of two, Gina has perfected her routine to include her kids and doesn’t start her working day until she has them firmly at nursery/school, and then she focuses on her priority which is work. It’s clear she’s thought about her routine a lot and has some clever hacks – like showering the night before – to make sure the morning runs as smoothly as possible.”
‘Start the day how you wish it to go on’
Emily Cohen – Yoga teacher, PT, and health consultant
Fitness guru Emily Cohen’s entire day revolves around training and delivering classes, and so ensuring she’s kept hydrated and topped up with protein is vital. Her healthy lifestyle means that she always wakes up raring to go, but she does treat herself to an espresso and the occasional bit of bacon to balance things out.
“I do what I love for a living. I am seriously passionate about creating an all-around healthy lifestyle. One that makes you happy and, most importantly, suits you and can be seamlessly introduced into a busy schedule.
“I teach people how to how to move well, eat well, and breathe well so that they can make sense of the maze of information available online and in the press, to create the best life they can have and achieve all their goals, while remaining healthy and happy.
“The key is to start the day how you wish it to go on. If you start the day feeling great then you will want to continue like this and be more likely to tick off all those to-dos on your list. If you eat healthily and stay active, you’ll wake up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, feeling energised, with a clear, calm mind.
“I usually start my day by doing some stretches – sometimes in the shower if time is short – drink a glass of water, and then cycle to my first client, where I have an espresso, or a protein shake if I have two clients back to back.
“After the class, I cycle home and have scrambled eggs and rocket on toast for breakfast. Sometimes I add bacon too! I then head out to my next clients for another two hours of training, before allowing an hour to myself to either practice yoga or go to the park with my boyfriend.
“Staying active is important, so whether you get off the tube one or two stops earlier and walk or use the stairs instead of the lift or escalator, it all helps.”
Why this works
Business coach Ruth Kudzi says: “Starting the day with water is the best way, as Emily is able to rehydrate. The fact that she exercises first thing is great for her physical and mental wellbeing and she plans breakfast that works well for her and keeps her functioning at her optimum levels. Emily’s business is based on fitness and wellbeing, so I am not surprised her routine reflects this.”
‘If you finish work excited you’ll wake up excited’
Dr. James Gupta – Founder and CEO of Synap
Self-confessed night owl James Gupta would prefer to work late at night than at the crack of dawn. But running his educational online quiz app means he must be awake for working hours, and so he’s found a compromise that works for him.
“I started two companies during my time at medical school. One was a taxi booking and sharing app called JumpIn, which was later acquired by Addison-Lee, and the second is Synap, an innovative study tool my colleague Omair and I developed to help with our own exams.
“Over time, Synap became more and more popular, to the point where we had thousands of users around the world and were able to secure a partnership with Oxford University Press. Since graduating last year, we’ve moved into the business full time and were recently named one of the North of England’s most exciting tech companies.
“By nature, I’m really not a morning person and never have been. I concentrate better at night and would go to sleep at 3am every night if I had the choice. So, in terms of morning routine, I don’t do anything too crazy. I know some people wake up at 5am to go to the gym, meditate, or read, and I’m in awe of that, but it just doesn’t work for me. Instead I try to manage my night-time routine to set me up for a good morning.
“I’ll compromise with myself and try to be in bed by 1am to wake up at 8am. That means I still get some time when everyone’s asleep to zone in and do some work without being interrupted, but I also have enough sleep to wake up in time for work.
“I try to ‘shut down’ around 12am and read a book or do something that doesn’t require electronics so that I can sleep easier. I find that if I’m working just before I go to sleep then my brain is still active, and I’ll basically lie awake for hours.
“One other thing that’s been really useful is, if I finish working at an interesting point, rather than a dull one, it gives an extra incentive to shoot out of bed in the morning. If you finish work because you’re stuck or bored of it, then the first thought you have waking up is that you have to go back to doing it. But if you finish work at a point you’re really excited about, then you wake up excited to get going instead.”
Why this works
Business coach Ruth Kudzi says: “It’s great that James turns off his electronics before bed and has worked out a routine that is good for him.
“As most people need seven to eight hours’ sleep, I would suggest a slightly earlier bedtime, but if it’s working for him at the moment, he is young so can get away with it!
“If James can forgo the emails first thing, he will be more productive, and could spend the time planning his day and looking at his priorities, rather than be distracted by emails.”
How to improve your morning routine
Business coach Ruth Kudzi says: “The great thing about these routines is that they are all different, and it is obvious that everyone has refined what they do so they get the most out of their mornings and start the day on a positive note. It is not surprising they are all successful as they are consistent in their routines.
“A lot of the literature about morning routines (including the bestselling book, The Miracle Morning) proposes that you do some meditation and journaling first thing, but we have four case studies of people who are very successful who don’t. I would love to know how they would feel about trying this, and if they have ever had it as part of their routines.”
Top-five morning tips
Ruth’s top-five tips to help you make the most of your mornings:
1.Drink a glass of water first thing in the morning to rehydrate
2.Refrain from checking electronic devices or emails until you are fully awake
3.Get into the habit of planning out your day or try reading a book, even for a short while
4.Focus on the most important tasks first so you get these done
5.Exercising early in the day is great for you both mentally and physically
Ruth specialises in helping aspiring entrepreneurs to build service-based
businesses, by helping her clients develop an effective mindset
and strategy through coaching and mentoring.
Discover more over at Ruth Kudzi Coaching.