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Morning routines are consistently cited by some of the world’s most successful people—elite entrepreneurs, Navy SEALs, Olympic athletes, bestselling authors, and US presidents—as an essential ingredient in their achievements.

When I finally made this a habit, I began to see why.

I now start most days with my journal, my Bible, lots of water, a healthy breakfast, identifying my 2 top objectives for the day, and exercise.

Doing this daily helps me live more intentionally, improves my health, cultivates gratitude, and keeps me focused on my purpose. I am more likely to achieve my goals, take notice of important life lessons, and be a better husband and father.

The Big Idea: If you really want to cultivate strong personal leadership and supercharge your productivity, you cannot overlook the importance of morning routines.

Pronounced dead

If you haven’t heard the personal story of Hal Elrod, author of The Miracle Morning, it’s deeply inspiring. His life has been filled with high highs and tragic lows. When he was just 8 years old, his younger sister suddenly died in the middle of the night, sending a shock wave of pain through his family.

At age 20, he became wildly successful by breaking huge sales records at Cutco knives. But not long after, he was hit head-on by a drunk driver and was pronounced dead for 6 minutes.

Being pronounced dead is not something many living people can claim!

Miraculously, Elrod lived through the accident only to be told he might never walk again. Yet he went on to run a 52-mile ultra-marathon! Shortly after getting married, he started his dream business as a success coach, only to lose his home and end up deeply in debt after the economic crash. During this difficult season, he admits he contemplated suicide.

He went on to recover his business and author The Miracle Morning—which right now has more than 3,300 great reviews on Amazon.

But the story doesn’t end there—fate dealt him another huge blow. Incredibly, in October 2016 he was diagnosed with lymphoblastic leukemia, a cancer with a survival rate of about 30%. He now writes and speaks about beating cancer.

How did he overcome multiple major tragedies?

Along with many other successful people, Hal points to morning routines as transforming his life.

Others like Bruce Lee, Richard Branson, and Barack Obama all said that morning routines were vital to their success.

How might your days turn out if you started every day with healthy food, exercise, inspirational or spiritual reading, meditation or prayer, and identifying your highest priorities for the day?

If you did this consistently, how might your week, your year, or your life turn out differently?

Practicing consistent morning routines will have a great snowball effect in your life. They compound over time. Healthy morning routines can help you live longer, nourish your spirit, and keep you focused on your most important life goals.

After reading dozens of books and articles on this topic, I’d like to provide you a menu of options, from which you can begin to experiment with building your own morning routine.

Use a combination of the following options to stack the odds of success in your favor. Don’t overwhelm or over complicate things by picking too many. Keep it simple and use what works for you.

Turn information into action

  1. Get up 30-60 minutes earlier—Early mornings are usually best. Why? Because most people aren’t typically having meetings, sending emails, or making phone calls yet.
  2. Hydrate—Most experts recommend you hydrate first thing in the morning, and then drink half your weight in ounces. (Example—If you weigh 150 lbs, drink 75 ounces of water a day)
  3. Inspirational or spiritual reading—I recommend you never start your day with news, which is often filled with horror, tragedy, or crisis. I would also avoid social media and even the internet, which might distract you. Many great thinkers like Stephen Covey or John Maxwell recommend you read some form of ancient literature which can help transcend the thinking of the modern culture and instead reflect on centuries or even millennia of wisdom and insights.  Choose to start your day with hope and encouragement.
  4. Meditation or prayer—Often, reading something inspirational can serve as something to meditate or pray about. Meditation apps like Headspace can be very helpful at about $13 bucks a month (I have no affiliation). My wife and I like to pray together every morning to connect and focus on what’s most important, and some studies have shown that daily couples prayer even reduces divorce rates (see link at bottom).
  5. Plan your day in advance—Don’t rush into your day with no plan! That’s for amateurs. Look at what you want to accomplish, review your appointments, and set your intentions. Otherwise, you run a huge risk that the urgent will interrupt the important things. I love to look at my Life Plan weekly which gives me the opportunity to regularly reflect on my life dreams and annual goals so that I can stay on track and monitor my progress.
  6. Consume proper fuel—Food is one of the most basic things to impact your energy throughout the day. Don’t roll up to the starting line of your day on an empty gas tank or low octane fuel.
  7. Do your 2 most important tasks before noon—I can’t emphasize this one enough. I recommend you identify the most important tasks for every day, the ones that take you closer to your life dreams and business objectives. Generally speaking, the later in the day you wait to complete your most important tasks, the greater the likelihood they won’t be completed. Plus, I love the feeling of accomplishment I get when I have finished my most important task of the day by mid-morning! Also, most successful people recommend you pick no more than 2-3 really important things to do each day. Otherwise, you run the risk of losing sight of what is most important, and you don’t gain the psychological momentum of feeling like you accomplished something when you endlessly add to your list.
  8. Exercise—Light exercise can help get your blood flowing and wake up your brain, increasing levels of optimal alertness and concentration. And for most people, the later you wait in the day the harder it is to exercise.
  9. Avoid screens for the first hour—Most elite entrepreneurs recommend you never start your day with email because it hijacks your brain and sends you chasing other people’s priorities for your time. Wait at least an hour. Ideally, avoid the internet or screens of any kind first thing in the morning.
  10. Keep a journal—Journals are great to record and reflect on your goals, what you are learning in life, and important memories. I started keeping one about 4 years ago and have found it extremely helpful. Plus, it’s a great habit to review them at the end of the year.
  11. Connect with your family: After Hal Elrod got cancer, he said he now plays with his son and his action figures for 30 minutes every morning—I love that. Don’t miss those moments. If you can’t do 30 minutes, just do 5 and see what happens.

Whatever you do—do something. Start with 3 minutes if that’s all you can do in this season of life. Tiny habits help you begin or preserve important rituals in your day.

When my second child was only 2 weeks old, my wife decided to read a short spiritual devotional to her in the morning. It helped my wife keep a spiritual rhythm and it aids infant brain development.

Stop making excuses and get creative.

Have a great weekend!


Suggested Resources

  1. The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod
  2. Psychology Today Article on Couples Who Pray Together




Dr. Parker Houston

Parker Houston

Dr. Parker Houston is a licensed clinical psychologist and board-certified in organizational psychology. He is also certified in personal and executive coaching. Parker's personal mission is to share science-based principles of psychology and timeless spiritual practices, to help people improve the way they lead themselves, their families, and their organizations. *Opinions expressed are the author's own.
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