How to emulate the morning routines of the great and the good.

15 November 2017

Datch Datchens

Datch Datchens

Whether you’re an early riser who likes to catch the proverbial worm or a night owl who gets by on a few hours of shut-eye, the way you spend your morning can determine how your day pans out.

That explains why so many leaders, entrepreneurs, CEOs and politicians have created morning routines that give them the edge in their respective fields.

Of course, everyone is different yet it seems the common factor determining a successful morning routine is sleep. However, anecdotal evidence suggests it’s more a case of quality over quantity. Take former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher – the Iron Lady famously got by on a mere three hours of shut-eye a night, while TV talk show host Ellen DeGeneres says she needs to clock in eight hours to function properly.  A big difference indeed.

Lisa Artis, a spokesperson at The Sleep Council, thinks a good morning routine is down to perfecting a schedule that is right for you: “Getting a good night’s sleep is not only good for your health and well-being, but it helps you wake up in the morning. Practice good ‘sleep hygiene’, including keeping regular hours and make sure you’re sleeping on a comfortable, supportive bed.”

So, if it isn’t a case of how long one sleeps, what exactly are the bedtime and morning secrets of these movers and shakers? And how can studying these habits help the average person acclimatise to the darker mornings, now the clocks have gone back?

It appears that high achievers do all share one thing in common: they all seem to be early risers. Take Tesla and SpaceX CEO, Elon Musk.  After getting a mere six hours of sleep, the first thing the billionaire tech vendor does after rising at 07.00 is to go through his 'critical emails’ while drinking coffee. He then sends his children to school, before driving to work. With having to lead a multitude of frontier-pushing companies, it’s no surprise that the visionary has finetuned his morning routine to match his fiercely personal style.

CEO of Apple Tim Cook famously rises and shines at 04.30 to check his emails before religiously heading to the gym at 05.00 every morning. It seems the early start energises and enables his style of leadership, which includes marathon meetings and emailing employees around the clock. For her part, Anne Wintour, Editor-in-Chief of American Vogue, rises at 05.00 each morning, without fail. She heads straight to the tennis court before starting her working day at the One Trade Centre.

Sleeping conditions also play a crucial role in ensuring our high fliers are kept in tip-top shape. Factors such as room temperature, noise levels and light penetration can make a decisive difference in not just maintaining a soothing sleeping environment, but also waking the body the next day. Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington insists on a pre-bed “sacrosanct ritual”, which consists of leaving electronic devices in a separate room, a hot bath, camomile tea and changing into sleep-friendly clothes. The sleep evangelist doesn’t use an alarm but wakes naturally, before embarking on 30 minutes of morning meditation or yoga.

Most highly successful people also manage to get at least six hours, as demonstrated by Virgin Group Founder Richard Branson who only sleeps for six hours so he can exercise and spend time with the family, which puts him in a good frame of mind before business. Former U.S. President Barack Obama also gets by on six hours, so he can fit in a morning workout, alternating between strength and cardio training. Lisa Artis agrees that a minimum number of hours is important – something that, on paper, is easier to achieve in the winter months: “When the clocks change, we have months of darker evenings and mornings to look forward to – and people naturally want to spend more time in their beds.”

However, she warns that “waking up is hard to do – especially when it’s still dark and cold outside.” On this note, no matter what routine you have, what can you learn from the experts, in order to make the most of your own morning routine? Here are a few tips for jumpstart your schedule and in the process maximise your energy and productivity the next day.

  • 1. Buy a sunshine alarm clock, according to the Sleep Council. It should brighten gradually to simulate daylight and influence your own body clock

  • 2. Consider installing shutters for your home – they’re ideal for blocking out light, noise and other disturbances that can affect a good night’s sleep. In the process, you can create a tranquil environment to sleep and feel refreshed in the morning

  • 3. Set heating to come on at a certain time in the early morning, so it’s warm when you get out of bed

  • 4. Perfect a sleep routine that works for you, but try and keep to the same time for nodding up, turn off your phone 30 minutes before you go to bed, and keep your room dark, quiet and cool

  • 5. Take a morning shower – it’s the perfect antidote to awakening the body and mind
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