Hacking the Morning Routines of Benjamin Franklin, Tim Ferriss, and 23 Others

Note: This post is written by Garik Himebaugh

Why do so many entrepreneurs have morning routines? From Bill Gates to Tim Ferriss, the presence of morning rituals amongst the ultra-successful, and the apparent lack of them amongst us mortals, probably has you wondering why they do such a crazy thing every day, and if you should follow suit (reluctantly of course).

Before exploring the incredible value of this small change, hacking the routines of 25 heavy hitters, and then learning how to craft your own morning ritual, let me be the first to tell you that this has been written about before, in fact many times before.

So while you’d probably enjoy if I crawled into a cave and died, rather than polluting the Internet with one more article about morning rituals, let me tell you why this will be worth it for you.

You will dissect not just 1, 2, or 10, but 25 morning routines from entrepreneurs, authors, and The President. Then you’ll get tips on how to craft your own morning ritual and massively boost your productivity.

Let’s condense, consolidate, and tease out the most important things to know about morning rituals, the highlights of 25 super successful people that have one, and how this will change your life.

Why Does This Matter?

Morning rituals are important because:

  • Mornings are the most productive time for many people, when our brains are recharged and often the most creative.
  • Morning rituals prepare us to tackle the day with clarity and energy.
  • You should take care of yourself before going out to take care of the world.
  • It prepares you for a high output, successful day.
  • How you begin the day is often a direct reflection of the day ahead.

It’s easy to dismiss new ideas as something that will work for THEM but will never work for YOU. However, if you want to be successful, the best place to learn is from other successful people. In addition to the 25 examples below, there’s tons of other examples and research on this topic.

For example, Kevin Kruse, in his NYT bestselling book, 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management , reached out to 239 entrepreneurs asking them how they manage to be so productive.  While it was completely unsolicited from the respondents, they mentioned importance of a morning ritual again and again in their responses.

Combine this research with the countless examples circulating the Internet and you’ve got a positive habit that’s too valuable to be ignored.

Morning Rituals from 25 Ultra-Successful People

Before designing your own morning ritual, here are highlights of the morning routines of 25 entrepreneurs, authors, and otherwise super-productive people.

  1. Arnold Schwarzenegger (actor, businessman, former Gubernator)
  • Rises at 5am
  • Reads newspapers
  • Checks email on iPad
  • 45 minute workout
  • Eats breakfast
  • Showers
  • Off to work
  1. Tony Robbins (author, motivational speaker)
  • Gets up early
  • Does breathing exercises
  • 10 minutes of visualizing what he’s grateful for and what he wants in life
  • 15-30 minutes of exercise
  1. Richard Branson (Virgin Airlines, Virgin Mobile)
  • Rises at 5:45am
  • Swims, kite surfs, or plays tennis
  • Eats a healthy breakfast
  1. Bill Gates (Microsoft)
  • Gets up early
  • Spends an hour on the treadmill while simultaneously watching videos from the Teaching Company, effectively exercising body and mind
  1. Steve Jobs (the late)
  • Rose at about 6am
  • Would go to the mirror every morning and ask “If today was the last day of my life, would I be happy with what I’m about to do today?”
  • Would work before kids got up
  • Breakfast with family
  • A little more work at home
  • In to the office by 8 or 9
  1. President Obama
  • Gets up at 6:45am
  • Works out: cardio and weights
  • Eats a healthy breakfast with family
  • Off to run America
  1. Ben Franklin
  • Rose at 5am
  • Would wash up and have breakfast
  • Decided on what good to accomplish for the day
  • Started working at 7am
  1. Tim Ferriss (author, entrepreneur, Human Guinea Pig)
  • Wakes up at 7:30am
  • Starts off with 10-20 minutes of meditation
  • Makes email wait
  • Eats a healthy breakfast, high fat diet
  • Recommends planning an after-work activity, which provides motivation for the day and allows you to stop working timely
  1. Ramit Sethi (author, entrepreneur)
  • Gets 7 to 8 hours of sleep
  • Rolls over and checks Instagram/emails/Twitter
  • Reads Hacker News
  • Makes breakfast and coffee
  • Takes about 1.5 hours to get into gear
  • Writes (usually)
  • Then does most cognitively-taxing work early (mornings are the most productive time)
  1. Noah Kagan (AppSumo)
  • Has a four-part morning routine that you can replicate, called GEBY:
    • Gratitude. Takes 10 minutes to write down things he’s grateful for.
    • Exercise. Whether it’s a 5 minute walk, workout, 20 pushups, sit ups, jumping jacks, or squats.
    • Breakfast. Eats a healthy breakfast he’s excited about.
    • You. Does something for himself every day. This could be going to a movie, chatting with a friend, or eating at a favorite restaurant. He plans this in the morning.
  1. Luis Von Anh (cofounder of Duolingo, CMU professor)
  • Wakes up
  • Checks email and Duolingo metrics
  • Runs at maximum speed for 16 minutes
  • Eats a yogurt
  • Showers
  • Goes to office
  1. Howard Schultz (Starbucks)
  • Rises at 4:30am
  • Walks 3 dogs
  • Makes coffee for himself and his wife by 5:45am
  • Heads off to work
  1. Jeff Bezos (Amazon founder)
  • Ensures he sleeps eight hours
  • Not a morning person
  • Eats a healthy breakfast with his family every morning
  1. Jack Dorsey (cofounder of Twitter and Square)
  • Gets up at 5:30am
  • Meditates
  • Jogs 6 miles
  1. Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook)
  • Rises at 8am
  • Wears the same shirt every day to avoid wasting time deciding what to wear
  1. Shawn Stevenson (nutritionist, author)
  • Rises early
  • Drinks 30 oz. of water
  • Exercises for 20 minutes
  • Eats a healthy breakfast
  1. Kevin O’Leary (Shark Tank)
  • Gets up at 5:45am
  • Does 45 minutes of spin while also watching the news
  1. Cal Newport (entrepreneur, author)
  • Rises at 6am
  • Drinks a glass of water
  • Walks his dog
  • Does 25 pull-ups in the park
  1. Derek Sivers (founder of CD Baby, author, blogger)
  • Has no orthodox morning routine
  • Gets up early and works fervently on one thing
  • Has been known to work on one thing at a time, often for up to 5 months, and occasionally from 5am to midnight
  1. Haruki Murakami (author)
  • Writes from 4am to 10am
  1. Ryan Holiday (author)
  • Gets up at 7:30-8:00
  • Writes for the first 1-2 hours
  1. Gary Vaynerchuk (CEO, Vayner-Media)
  • Rises at 6am
  • Does a news and social media scan
  • Works out with personal trainer for 45 minutes
  • Calls family members on his drive to work
  1. Kat Cole (President, FOCUS Brands)
  • Gets up at 5am
  • Drinks 24 ounces of water
  • Checks social media for 20 minutes
  • Does 20 minutes of exercise
  • Enjoys a high protein snack for breakfast
  1. Hal Elrod (speaker, coach, author)
  • Developed a system for mornings called “SAVERS”
    • Silence (meditation, prayer, quiet time, or gratitude)
    • Affirmations (spend a little time on goals, ironing out priorities, and reflecting on purpose)
    • Visualization (imagining accomplishing goals and achieving ideal lifestyle)
    • Exercise (you know this one)
    • Reading
    • Scribing (journaling)
  • He even wrote a book about mornings: The Miracle Morning!
  1. John Lee Dumas (founder of EntrepreneurOnFire)
  • Rises early
  • Has a 35 minute power walk outside
  • Clears mind and resets focus

Highlights and Key Takeaways

If anything is clear from examining the morning rituals of the above 25 people, it’s that they are far from the same.

The perfect example of a discrepancy is the topic of email and social media. While some cited it as part of their morning ritual, others diligently avoided it to eliminate the distraction.

Despite the variations, there are some key ingredients that appeared again and again which are worth your consideration:

  • Waking up early (most did, and it gives you a head start on the day)
  • An hour or more (carve out an hour or more for your morning routine)
  • Drink water (most did, and it’s a great idea because you’re naturally dehydrated when you wake up)
  • Exercise (exercise helps, whether it’s a 5 minute walk, 25 pull ups, 10 minutes of cardio, or a full morning workout)
  • Eat a healthy breakfast (this is important for health and starting the day fueled with energy)
  • Meditate, read, write, listen to audio books or podcasts (good for your mind)
  • Coffee, tea, etc. (for caffeine and to get going)

These key factors are a great place to begin when designing your own morning ritual. Analyze yourself to determine which habits work best for you and which will not.

*If it’s time you’re worried about, check out this awesome 24 minute morning routine.

The Benefit to You

Whether you’re a freelancer or an entrepreneur (or just want to be more successful), these are some ways that a morning ritual can benefit you:

  • Starting your day in reactive mode will keep you reacting all day, thus robbing you of the chance to be proactive and do more than simply responding to everyone else’s needs.
  • Morning Routines are empowering.
  • They encourage creativity.
  • They refresh you and get you ready to tackle anything that comes about during the day.
  • Many entrepreneurs and freelancers report having some of their most creative and focused moments during, or immediately following their morning rituals.
  • Most report it improving their happiness and mood for the day.
  • Entrepreneurs report feeling grounded to face whatever comes that day.
  • Freelancers are energized and can improve their hourly productivity rate.

Craft Your Own Morning Ritual

Now it’s time to craft your own morning ritual. Here’s what I want you to do.

  1. Take a blank piece of paper and write out the plan for your morning routine. Start with the key ingredients mentioned above, picking and customizing to create your own personal routine. Plan for your routine to be about an hour, and include exact times and specific activities in your plan.
  2. If you’re feeling extra bold, share your newly crafted morning routine in the comments. This will give others ideas for crafting their routine and fuel the discussion around best practices.

###Garik Himebaugh coaches freelancers and entrepreneurs on productivity and getting 10x results at Turbo Results. You can contact him there or on Google+.


  1. Love Noah Kagan’s GEBY. Sounds cool.

    Personally, I’ve been doing Hal Elrod’s Life SAVERS. I usually leave out affirmations and visualization.

  2. This is such a great article, I woke up today, ate breakfast, and then wrote for a bit, before checking my email and reading this awesome article, thanks!! Will try to try this lol

  3. I guess Kat Cole is the only woman with a morning routine.

    • Great point, if you know some good morning routines from women entrepreneurs please share them here.

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