My Morning Routine

How we get our mornings started sets the tone for the rest of the day. There has always been a lot of interest in the benefits of establishing a morning routine by highly successful people.

Successful leaders that I know share some common traits. Most insist on getting enough sleep, waking up early, and blocking distractions out, while also getting some exercise before switching to full-speed. Clearly, everybody has to do what’s best for them and shouldn’t let their routine revolve around some activity that doesn’t suit them. At the end of the day, that would make you less productive.

My routine is almost always the same. I previously wrote about it in my 5 AM club post. Here is a little more detail.

I always wake up between 4:30 AM and 5 AM, a habit I’ve kept up for the last 35 years. As I’ve gotten a little older, I try hard not to see a four in front of my A.M. Honestly though, my brain starts rotating and thinking of the next few days’ activities, even in my dreams.

When I first started Clayco in the mid-80s, it was very common for me to wake up, immediately get in the shower, get dressed, and drive to the office. I could usually be there in 25 minutes from the time I woke up. If I wanted to be extra clean, I would add 10 minutes.

That routine changed when I hired a young executive that liked to meet me at the office early to chat before I was fully awake. After about eight months of that, I started staying at home for the rest of my routine.

Since the mid-90s, my morning routine hasn’t changed much. It takes between 45 minutes to an hour before I fully wake up and start thinking at my full potential. The morning always must start with some freshly-brewed coffee, which automatically begins before I get out of bed. The aroma usually hits me as I wake.

I try not to look at my phone or my emails and go to great trouble to avoid them. I skim first some of the left and right headlines because I like to know what the political parties are saying. Then I quickly scan local papers where my children live or where we generally spend our time, like the Chicago Tribune, the St. Louis Post Dispatch, and the Aspen Times.

After that, I do a deeper read of the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and the New York Times. I like to read the same stories in separate leaning papers, so I can determine what actually happened. I then jump to Business Insider and a couple of industry publications and particularly like to scroll through my feed on LinkedIn.

I pepper my management team and family with articles I find interesting and forward my recruitment team any interesting candidates I see who could join the Clayco family.

After the news, my high-priority emails and my daily schedule get a brief run-through and I take a quick look at my priority list to get focused for the day ahead.

Wherever I am, I usually get geared up when the sun comes up for exercise and/or a hike anywhere that I can actually get outside and be on the side of a mountain. For example, when I’m in Colorado, I’m about eight minutes away from a 1500-foot incline that I try to do five days a week. I have phone service there, so I can listen in on or sometimes even take a call. Otherwise, no meetings are scheduled until after that is finished.

View during a morning hike, spotting bighorn sheep in the Santa Rosa Mountains, California, 2021

Usually by 8:30 AM and no later than 9 AM in whatever time zone I’m in, I’m fully ready for the workday ahead.

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