Everyone's definition of "success" is different — and that's not just a good, but a great thing. And that's also why A Plus asked a whole slew of successful people, from a wide range of industries and walks of life, about the one thing they do in the morning that helps them become their best selves all day long. Perhaps unsurprisingly, their answers are as diverse as they are.
From small business owners to doctors to artists, these seven successful people shared the positive and productive actions that keep them on top of their game, from dawn till dusk. Make their tried and true techniques a part of your own morning routine for an even more vibrant, productive life:
1. Wake up early. - Lisa Greenwald, Founder of Chewbeads
Courtesy of Lisa Greenwald
Small business owner and mom Lisa Greenwald makes the most of her day by starting off early. By waking up before the kids, she gives herself time to not only go to the gym, but to also enjoy a cappuccino while catching up on latest world news from CBS. "It gives me so much energy and makes me feel like I can do anything else after I get that out of the way," Greenwald told A Plus via email.
That's something she certainly needs to balance her family and her family-focused business, Chewbeads, a teething-friendly jewelry line. After a quick shower and wardrobe change, there's no time to waste for Greenwald. "Then [we're] off to school drop off and work!"
2. Tackle your most important tasks first. - Benjamin Siegel, Assistant Professor of History at Boston University
A typical day for Benjamin Siegel begins with early morning efficiency. "All my good writing and thinking gets done early in the morning, and the minute I give into distraction, any hope I have of finishing that great article is shot," he told A Plus via email. After making a pot of coffee, he begins writing on his computer — with the internet turned off. By ridding himself of this temptation, Siegel is better able to focus on hitting "that magic word count."
Once he does, he's already achieved a huge accomplishment, and the day's only just begun. "I've still got time for breakfast, a run around the Charles River, and the teaching and meetings that make up my day as a professor," he explained.
3. Prioritize proper nutrition. - Gina Fay, DanceFIT Studio Owner and Teacher
Courtesy of Gina Fay
As a dance studio owner, ballet teacher, and mom of three young children, Gina Fay hardly stops moving from one task to the next. To keep her going all day (and night) long, she knows being the best version of herself starts with her body. "While my coffee brews, I drink 20 ounces of water. Hydration is key with the amount I dance and teach," she told A Plus via email. "For breakfast, I usually have 2 eggs with avocado and arugula and a half of grapefruit."
After making breakfast for herself and the kids, she takes them to school. "Once they are out the door, the laptop opens and work begins," she explained. And it doesn't end any time soon. After that, Fay said, "The real work day begins ... the ballet tights and leotard goes on, hair gets pinned in a bun, and I head off to the studio."
4. Make a to-do list the night before, so you can check off your tasks in the morning. - Dr. Charles Modlin, Kidney Transplant Surgeon
Courtesy of Charles Modlin
As a kidney transplant surgeon at Cleveland Clinic, not to mention the founder and director of the clinic's Minority Men's Health Center, Dr. Charles Modlin needs to be ready to tackle a thousand different professional and personal duties. From taking care of patients, to giving advice to his four children, Modlin's plate is always full. That's why he needs an organized and efficient way to get through it all.
As a surgical intern at New York University, Modlin learned his signature strategy from a more senior resident, Dr. Eric Winter. "The advice that Eric gave me was to think about, and write down, the evening before a list of what I needed to accomplish for the patients for the next day," Modlin told A Plus via email. Learning this tip early in his career taught Modlin how to prioritize and focus on short-term projects, which has since helped him accomplish several long-term goals.
"I don't just prepare one day ahead, I prepare and anticipate for several days and even weeks ahead," he added. "I routinely and continuously replay in my mind where I need to be later in the day, and tomorrow, and in the coming days and weeks for my patients, as well as for my kids." By going through these to-do lists in the morning, Modlin begins every day with a plan that ensures his future success.
5. Get up and get moving. - Kayla Kleinman, Health and Wellness Blogger
Courtesy of Kayla Kleinman
It should come as no surprise that Kayla Kleinman, creator of the popular fitness blog Kayla In The City, can't begin her best day without a morning workout. "If I don't work out in the morning, I know it's not going to happen later in the day," she explained to A Plus. "At night, there's a million and one excuses why I don't feel like working out. I'm tired; I'm hungry; I have too much work to do."
While Kleinman admitted she might feel tired on some mornings too, she's nonetheless motivated to push through that and always comes out the other side feeling better than ever. "Without fail, I always feel more energized and ready to conquer the day after exercising right after I wake up," she said.
6. Check in with yourself. - Michael Chu, Professor at Harvard Business School
Courtesy of Michael Chu
Like Kleinman, Michael Chu, a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School, begins his day with an energizing workout. But for him, it's less about getting the exercise done and more about getting in touch with himself, not just in the morning, but in life. Between 5 and 6 a.m., he wakes up and exercises in his home gym, which, he told A Plus via email, "gives me the illusion I¹m young and trim."
Once he finishes his workout, Chu can begin his day with not just improved physical health, but some important insights into his mental health. "I weigh myself on my Fitbit scale and take my blood pressure, which brings me back to reality — a very good place from where to contemplate the world for the rest of the day," he said. By starting the day with a mind-body connection, Chu is better able to take stock of himself and his abilities, allowing him to make the most of both all day long. You can take his routine a step further by meditating for a few minutes to recenter yourself and enter the right state of mind to tackle that to-do list.
7. Do whatever makes you feel inspired. - Danielle Guenther, Photographer
Courtesy of Danielle Guenther
For photographer Danielle Guenther to be her best self, she begins each day marching to the beat of her own drum literally. "Success, to me, is measured by how often you're inspired because inspiration is the magic to the soul," she told A Plus via email. "So every day, I choose inspiration first thing."
Music inspires her more than anything else so she wakes up to it and keeps it on all morning. "No matter what, music always calms my mind and allows my creativity to start flowing," she added. "Mornings are all about finding peace for me ... You have all day to be rushing around, but if you start your day in peace, it's the flow that gets everything else moving."