Liv McConnell
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Pie > cake.

Ask a CEO if they’re a morning person and the answer is likely to be yes.

Not only are most CEOs morning people, but they pay a near-obsessive amount of attention to keeping their morning routines optimized. After all, starting your day out on the most energized note possible has a trickle-down effect on everything that follows, and most CEOs can’t afford to sleep — literally or metaphorically — on productivity. 

Far from being static, routines are living structures that, ideally, change as our lives and goals do. And given the amount of change most of us have experienced in 2020, it goes without saying that our routines have experienced their share of change, too. That’s certainly true for the CEOs we heard from.

Below, CEOs told us about the different forms their morning routines are now taking, and the 9 bad habits they’ve learned to drop from their pre-9 a.m. lineups.

1. Turning on the news first thing.

“One thing I stopped doing in the morning is turning on my TV,” Chans Weber, Founder of Leap Clixx, said. “During the pandemic all eyes have been on the media; what's happening, what are the latest guidelines? This needed to change. After a few days, I stopped turning on my TV for the whole working day and I would catch up on the news in the evening. This helped me to focus on tasks at hand and shut off the outside world.”

2. Allowing space for catastrophic thinking. 

“Here is my input on one thing that I have removed from my morning routine to help me with having a productive day: Pessimism,” Equalla Foster, the founder of two businesses, Equalla Foster Beauty and Inspire to Hope, said. “I refuse to start my day with a lack of hope or confidence. Instead, I choose to be thankful and optimistic. I pray. I read or listen to encouraging messages. Exercise. Then, prioritize my to-do list for the day and go for it.” 

3. Checking social media.  

“The big thing I've removed from my morning routine is social media check-ins,” Rex Freiberger, CEO of Gadget Review, said. “I used to scroll social media each morning, probably spending up to an hour on the different apps — specifically Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to a lesser extent. It's easy to get caught up and just scroll endlessly, and it almost always puts me in a worse mood than when I started. It wasn't conducive to the mindset I wanted for the day and I usually had to add some extra meditation time on there to get my head right.” 

4. Using screens, period.

“Sometimes I’d start texting friends and our conversations would take a while, which cost me precious time,” Malte Scholz, CEO and Co-Founder of Airfocus, said. “Eventually I decided to stop and start my morning without any technology. I would wake up, make some breakfast and go for a quick jog outside. Not looking at a screen for the first few hours really helped me relax and prepare myself for a busy day at work.”

5. Jumping headfirst into analytics for work. 

“One of the first things I used to do in the morning — right alongside my morning cup of coffee — was to look at the analytics for my business... I took a couple of hours to do this each and every morning, trying to manually track and predict trends,” Ravi Parikh, CEO of RoverPass, said. “First of all, I think doing this daily is a big waste of time. Daily fluctuations are rarely an indication of anything significant, so you're just poring over the data for no reason. Doing it so early in the morning colored my experience for the day, too. If the numbers were bad, my mood started out low and usually continued to plummet throughout the day. If they were good, I was working extra hard to make sure they stayed that way. Dropping that from my routine and just looking at the data once a week in the afternoon has really helped even things out for me.”

6. Journaling. 

“One habit I removed from my morning routine was journaling. It's a habit a lot of people say you ‘should’ do, but I just found it got me too caught up in my emotions too early in the morning and distracted me from my peak productivity hours,” Chelsea Baldwin, Founder & CEO of Business Bitch, said. “I still do self-care things like journaling to take care of my emotions but during different times of the day, like in the afternoon or evening.”

This has similarly worked for Robert Stam, CEO and Online Marketing Expert at SEO Mandarin.

“By removing journaling from my morning routine and instead doing it before bed, I've noticed several benefits,” Stam said. “The first benefit is that my mornings have more free time to immediately get to work. Secondly, by outlining what I need to do the next day before I sleep, I can visualize the tasks as I go to sleep, which streamlines the process of doing them the next day.”

7. Skipping out on exercise.

“I used to skip my daily exercise a year ago. I just thought that I was wasting my time doing it. So, first thing in the morning, I would directly check my emails to see some business updates and so on,” Allan Borch, growth hacker and founder of DotcomDollar, said. “However, I noticed that I easily got weary and sleepy every time noon hit. I thought it was just normal until I came back to my routine of doing morning exercises in the morning. When I started doing it again regularly, I started to feel more energetic and more productive every day. It also helps me now to be more focused on each task.”

8. Scheduling early client meetings. 

“My pre-pandemic go-to was to begin my workday by 9 a.m., often jumping right in with a client,” Randi Levin, a CEO and Transitional Life Strategist, said. “As a more productive gift to myself, I now ease into my day, beginning instead with a slower, more personalized morning that includes exercise and time to reflect and connect with myself. I find that scheduling clients and meetings for 10 or 11 a.m. onwards allows me to build my day from the inside out, from the personal to the professional, rather than the other way around. While I cannot do this everyday, I make sure to choose a later start as appropriate, because it makes the rest of my day so much more energized and productive.” 

9. Hitting the snooze button.

“I don’t hit snooze. This is an oldie but a goodie,” Jonathan Newar, CEO of Captain Experiences, said. “Why this is important is because you want to attack the day, not start with it beating you. The whole tone is thrown off if you do this. A good exercise to do is the ‘count down from 10’ method. You imagine a rocket blasting off into space, count down, and when you get to one, you blast off. It is as easy as that, and also a fun way to start the day.”