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Habits That Shape Our Daily Life

Updated August 20, 2019

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Tim Cook rises at 3:45 a.m. Oprah Winfrey begins her day with Sufi teachings and meditation. By 5:30 a.m., Mark Wahlberg has already prayed, worked out, and eaten breakfast.

For many of us mere mortals, celebrity morning routines are endlessly compelling: Can we enjoy some measure of their success by replicating their habits? While experts suggest morning rituals can fuel accomplishment, there’s no single optimal routine for all individuals. Consistency is essential, but helpful morning habits can vary enormously according to one’s preferences and needs. Which morning routines are the most common among average Americans, and how do these habits affect their personal and professional life?

We surveyed over 1,000 people to find out, comparing those with established morning habits to those who approached mornings more casually. Which practices correlate with increased earnings? Do people with desirable professional traits typically adhere to strict rituals? To understand the real impact of morning routines, keep reading.

Morning Habits and Making Money

In financial terms, the case for morning routines seems clear: On average, respondents with a consistent set of morning habits earned roughly $12,500 more per year than those without them.

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Our findings support other recent research indicating that wealthy individuals tend to be early risers – and to use their morning hours for productive purposes. It’s worth noting that high incomes may actually enable these routines. When you’re working multiple jobs on an inconsistent schedule just to support a family, establishing a regimen can be especially challenging. Moreover, only some routines were actually associated with higher incomes; for many other habits, the opposite was true.

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Those who regularly worked out in the morning had the highest incomes on average, although merely a quarter of respondents did so. This result resonates with other statistical connections between income and exercise: Residents of America’s wealthiest states are more physically active, for instance. Those who practiced emotional self-care also tended to have higher salaries as well. Individuals who took time to meditate or journal each morning earned over $50,000 a year on average. Indeed, mindfulness has many strong proponents in business. Executives such as Ray Dalio and Marc Benioff claim meditation helped them amass their fortunes.

Some habits did not correspond to higher incomes, however: While the majority of individuals checked their email and social media each morning, these routines were associated with below-average incomes. In fact, many productivity experts advise against jumping right into these digital platforms, lest they distract from your priorities. Interestingly, making the bed was also correlated with relatively low incomes, despite the habit’s many staunch advocates. The same was true of eating breakfast. It may be the most important meal of the day, but it doesn’t seem to translate to extra income.

Activities in the Morning vs. Personality Attributes

Of course, higher incomes may reflect the cultivation of certain characteristics – the sort of professional traits that morning routines might be intended to create. Our data indicate that individuals who considered themselves productive earned over $13,000 a year more than those who did not. While opinions differ as to whether pay raises actually increase productivity, it stands to reason that efficient employees are more likely to get promoted and benefit from accompanying salary bumps. Similarly, respondents who regarded themselves as organized earned significantly more on average. Our culture’s emphasis on organization explains the proliferation of digital tools to track our time and tasks.

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If certain self-reported traits correspond to higher earnings, which morning routines could strengthen these characteristics? Exercise was one recurring theme: Among individuals who worked out in the morning, 91 percent said they were creative, 85 percent regarded themselves as punctual, and 88 percent identified as organized.

At least 4 in 5 morning readers identified with each of these traits as well. You may want to stick to fiction, however. Although luminaries like Bill Gates swear by reading multiple newspapers each morning, individuals who read the news were slightly less likely to see themselves as organized.

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Self-identified creative types are particularly drawn to journaling and writing down intentions in the morning. Indeed, “morning pages” are quite popular among current and aspiring artists, although advocates say they can benefit others as well. Respondents who viewed themselves as creative were also drawn to mindful practices, such as meditation and yoga. Moreover, they were particularly likely to drink tea each morning – and multiple scientific studies indicate that a cup or two may actually stimulate the creative juices.

Routines’ Romantic Benefits

If certain morning routines correlate with desirable traits in the professional realm, might these habits affect our respondents’ romantic life as well? For those who kept a journal, the results were certainly encouraging: Over three-quarters of this cohort said they had a good sex life. Two-thirds of morning exercisers said the same, a finding supported by research into the relationship between working out and getting intimate. While exercise can make the physical requirements of sex more comfortable, experts say it can also lift one’s libido by releasing endorphins. Similarly, yoga may improve sex by reducing cortisol levels associated with stress, and 63 percent of morning yogis found their sex life fulfilling.

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Some less vigorous forms of self-care also corresponded to positive sex lives in most cases: 66 percent of morning meditators said their sex life was good. In fact, medical researchers say meditation often resolves sexual difficulties, perhaps as an indirect effect of alleviating negative emotions. Unfortunately, people who checked their social media or email in the morning were at the bottom end of the scale in terms of sexual satisfaction. This finding resonates with the sense that our devices often detract from intimacy with our partners. If you’re checking your phone first thing in the morning, there’s a fair chance you’re glued to it in bed as well – and ignoring the human beside you.

Good Mornings Begin With Great Sleep

Our findings seem to affirm the value of morning routines, especially with regard to rituals of self-care, such as exercise and meditation. Yet, repetition alone is not advantageous: Certain habits, such as immediately checking your email or social media upon waking, could prove counterproductive. Beyond the benefits of any single habit, however, positive morning routines reflect traits that empower success in all walks of life. Whatever your ambitions, self-discipline, energy, and emphasis on improvement are likely to serve you well.

Of course, a vigorous and passionate life depends on truly restorative rest. If the quality of your sleep is undermining your success, a meaningful morning routine will probably only do so much to help.

Methodology

We collected responses from 1,063 American survey respondents. Of those surveyed, 573 were female, and 486 were male. The average age of those respondents was 37 years with a standard deviation of 11. When comparing the annual incomes related to different morning habits, we set a minimum threshold of $5,000 and a maximum of $150,000. Participants rated their creativity, productivity, organization, and timeliness on a 7-point scale that was grouped based on the level of each.

Fair Use Statement

Want to share this content on your own website or social media? You’re welcome to do so, but we do have two requests. First, please only use our images and information for noncommercial purposes. Second, please link back to this page wherever you share our project. Doing so allows other to see this content in its entirety – and possibly discover a new morning routine in the process.