Successful people are fascinating. They are only humans, like the rest of us, however, they manage to do extraordinary things that seem unattainable to the majority of people.
And while success means different things for each of us, the road to any success is paved by routines and everyday activities.
With this article, we will dissect the process of planning the day that successful people follow, and with that, we will be able to understand it, adapt it to our own lives, and, hopefully, become more successful too.
Whether we like it or not, the start of our day often mirrors how the rest of that day will be spent. It means that if we make an effort to commit to a morning routine, our lives can be improved significantly.
Almost every interview or article we find about successful people and their days mentions starting with the morning routine. And if you think that having a morning routine is unrealistic in your busy schedule, then we are here to assure you it’s not!
By now, you’ve probably seen thousands of motivational videos on TikTok and Instagram where good-looking people share their 15-step 4-hour morning routines, where they practice gratitude and write morning pages to keep themselves “grounded” and “set the right mood for the day”. Trust us, they frustrate us as much they frustrate you!
But it’s important to understand that a morning routine does not have to be elaborate and take up half of your day.
You can just as well make it 15-30-45 minutes to accommodate your busy lifestyle. The key here is to build a realistic routine and commit to it. Think of waking up, doing a 10-minute stretch, washing your face, having breakfast while listening to an audiobook, and then heading out for work. That’s a perfectly fine morning routine that you can do without waking up at sunrise for 1,5 hours of yoga class.
Routines are powerful because they get us in a state of flow where we don’t have to spend extra time and energy thinking about what to do next. With them, we have an algorithm of actions that we simply follow.
And if your morning routine is healthy and supports your goals – then you’re already halfway to success.
By the way, many highly successful people say that a part of their morning routine is to check their to-dos for the day and get in the right, productive mood. Use Bordio to review your to-do lists and waiting lists for tasks that are not yet scheduled.
Making a to-do list
If you are not creating to-dos, we recommend you start now. To-do lists allow you to have a single place for all your tasks, releasing your brain from having to remember all 147 things you need to do.
Some people create and update their to-dos every day, some plan their week ahead. Play with different formats and see what makes more sense for you.
A to-do list helps you prepare for the day. It is also great for prioritizing tasks because once you have them in front of you, you can spot the top priority ones easier.
As you engage with your to-dos, train yourself to identify tasks that you can delegate. You don’t need to be Steve Jobs or Chief People Officer to start delegating. It is helpful at any point in life and career. A successful person understands that their time is the most valuable asset, and they don’t waste it on non-urgent, low-priority tasks.
Tip 1: Learning to prioritize tasks can improve your life significantly. You’ll have more time for important stuff, and you will be able to achieve your main goals. Read our Task Prioritization guide for more advice.
Tip 2: Successful people write down new tasks and ideas during the day as they come up. If you try to hold many things in your mind, you will inevitably forget something. At the same time, you will unconsciously experience stress trying to remember all the important stuff. Have a system, where you can easily access and add a new to-do. Bordio is a perfect fit for that. Here you can add a new task or event literally in 2 clicks and access them both on your desktop and mobile phone.
Planning the day in advance
In life, we can’t plan for everything and circumstances change all the time.
Still, we can make the most of what’s under our control, and one of the ways of achieving that is by planning the upcoming day in advance.
Planning in advance allows us to:
- Be more productive as we don’t waste time thinking about what we need to do today.
- Allocate time for important things, for example with time blocks that you can create in Bordio when assigning tasks.
- Reduce decision fatigue.
- Feel less stressed because you’ve got it under control.
- Focus on important things, and not just the urgent ones.
- Find time for personal development.
- Accomplish long-term goals that require regular action.
As Brian Tracy says, – every minute of planning saves 10 minutes in execution.
Starting the day with focused work
We’ve all been there – we start our working day by browsing through emails that suck the life out of us, or we jump on a series of calls, and before we know it – it’s already midday and we’ve done virtually nothing.
One of the habits that many successful people share is taking the first few precious hours in the day to work on important, complex goals that require complete immersion in the process that is unattainable when you’re constantly being pulled in different directions.
Naturally, you can’t always decline early meetings and calls, or you risk missing out and even losing a job. You can try and have at least one day a week when you are not to be disturbed for the first couple of hours. Just make sure your colleagues and management are on board with that.
Tip: Schedule all meetings for the afternoon, so that you can have the morning for important tasks.
Eating the frog
Brian Tracy created and popularized the “eat the frog” term in his best-selling book. The term means getting rid of the most annoying/bothering task first thing in the morning so that you can have the weight lifted off your shoulders, get a feeling of accomplishment early on and let it motivate you through the day.
By the way, we talk about Tracy’s and other productivity books in our Best Productivity Books blog post, make sure you check it out and pick one of the copies to get inspired and productive.
Try eating the frog a few times and see how it works for you. While it is a great methodology, it doesn’t suit everyone.
Some benefit from spending morning hours on the most difficult job, while others will feel overwhelmed by many little tasks on their to-do list, so much that they wouldn’t be able to focus. For them, it’s better to start the day by completing many small tasks, so that after lunch they can fully focus on the big strategic jobs knowing that they’ve already completed all the little ones.
Having themed days or task batching
Different tasks require different energy. Take making sales calls and preparing a presentation as an example. If you go about your day switching between very different tasks, you will be wasting energy on re-grouping and adjusting to the new job.
Successful people understand that and schedule themed days or practice task batching to maximize productivity.
For example, Mondays can be for calls with clients, Tuesdays are dedicated for team meetings, and so on. If you manage multiple projects, you can have project-themed days. For example, Wednesdays are for project A and Thursdays are for project B.
Having themed days help us focus more because we stick to specific tasks and are not distracted by constant switching among priorities, so we stay productive and end up getting more work done.
Not only work: planning for personal life
When there’s not much except work going on, it’s easy to procrastinate and get burned out. Nothing is waiting for us after we log off, so we might as well watch this TV show now and work later, or drag the report for more hours than it really takes to complete.
As opposed to it, knowing that you have dinner with friends or another activity scheduled for the evening will keep you motivated to finish work earlier. Successful people usually have many things going on in their lives, both at work and at leisure.
Successful people like Bill Gates get the work done, even if it’s not the most enjoyable one. But they also try to spend some time every day doing something they love. And that, more often than not, revolves around their personal lives.
Tip: Don’t forget about simple things. Get fresh air, eat dinner that’s made out of real food, listen to calming music to decompress, and get quality sleep. Whatever self-care looks like for you, make sure it’s a part of your daily routine.
When we are able to focus, amazing things happen. And multitasking is the opposite of focusing. In fact, it is nothing else but rapid switching between the tasks. Multitasking confuses our brain and causes us to work on each task longer and make mistakes along the way.
Time management has falsely praised multitasking for a while but it has been debunked, so if you want to reduce stress and actually work on your most important goals productively, then learn to focus on one thing at a time.
Planning the day around their energy and productivity levels
An average working day is seven to nine hours, but we are most certainly not equally efficient for the entire time.
Successful people know when they’re most and least productive, and they plan their days with this knowledge in mind. Not everyone has the luxury of full control of their schedule but ultimately everyone can try and adjust their day, even if it’s for the little things only.
For example, many people feel sluggish around lunchtime. So, instead of pushing through work during those hours, you can start your day earlier and then take a break at 1 pm to go to the gym or take a nap.
Leaving white spaces in the calendar
Successful people know that our plans are constantly being disrupted by unexpected tasks and urgencies. And they consciously leave white spaces in the calendar to make sure those new tasks and jobs don’t mess up their entire plan for the day.
Another take on white spaces is leaving some days emptier than others. Tim Ferriss, the bestselling author of the “4-hour workweek”, shared that he doesn’t plan much on Mondays and Fridays. That way, he is able to fit in anything that comes up without compromising his well-being and a good night’s sleep.
Healthy habits for a successful day
Daily habits shape our lives. It means that the little things we do regularly have a huge impact on our successes. Here are some of the good habits for daily life that will bring you one step closer to your desired goals.
#1 Rise earlier
We don’t ask you to wake up at 3:45 like Apple CEO Tim Cook but try waking up 30 minutes to 1 hour earlier than you’re used to. Many successful people claim that they are much more productive if they wake up early. Try and see for yourself – it might not be an easy adjustment at first, but after the first few days, it will be much easier to open your eyes and start your day.
Tip: As you transform into an early riser, don’t forget to adjust the time you go to bed. Most people need 7-9 hours of sleep to stay healthy and keep mental clarity. Make sure you get enough rest and always follow your own path, meaning that if you can’t adjust to early mornings, then perhaps don’t do it. But before you give up, read our article on Forming Habits, it should help you on this journey.
Exercising every morning can be tricky, especially if you are already waking up early and, for example, have minors to look after. Yet anyone can fit a 5-10 minute warm-up in their day. Exercising boosts serotonin and puts you in a better mood. If you doubt that it will help you become more successful, think that Barack Obama, Anna Wintour, and Kim Kardashian all swear by their morning exercises. That’s a successful bunch that we wouldn’t mind associating with!
#3 Read a book
Reading is calming and it helps us learn something new.
Lots of people like to read in the evening to put their minds at rest and prepare for sleeping, but you can also try reading in the morning or in the middle of the day. And if you think you don’t have time for this – consider how often you reach for your phone to scroll on Instagram or other social networks. This time easily adds up to more than one hour. Just think how many books you could have read instead!
Tip: Pick up one of the Time Management or Project Management books we’ve listed. Each of them provides great insight into personal development and career growth, and they are all written by successful people that have made a name for themselves.
#4 Bring a bottle of water anywhere you go
The most trivial recommendations are the ones that we tend to ignore most often. Water is essential for our bodies – it gives us energy, helps us feel good throughout the day and supports all bodily functions. Carry a bottle of water with you or keep a big glass at your desk and make sure you keep on drinking it during the day.
#5 Eat real food
No matter what we think and say and make others believe – we need real food to support us and to help us stay energized to achieve all our goals. And no, drinking yet another cup of coffee does not count as a meal!
#6 Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness is not just sitting cross-legged and making deep breaths in silence. It’s more about being mindful of smaller things, such as stopping yourself as you reach for another candy and going out to have lunch or putting your phone down as you notice that you’re already browsing social media for 20 minutes straight. Mindfulness helps us get rid of bad habits and stay an ally to ourselves.
A lot of the success comes down to creating a routine and sticking to it, even when you are really tired and would rather procrastinate.
Our lives are ultimately defined by what we do on a daily basis. You won’t be fit if you only run once or twice a month. Luckily for us, if we slip and make bad decisions once or twice, they would also not define us.
If you struggle with motivation as you wake up, think about the end of the day – what would make you feel like you’ve accomplished something? What would make you proud? Work on the first thing that comes to mind, repeat this every day, and you will make so much progress you will be shocked.