The most successful authors, artists, entrepreneurs, politicians, geniuses, influencers, and business leaders took individual paths to achieve greatness, but they all have something in common. While everyone defines “success” differently, the highest achievers throughout history have (or had) a dedicated daily routine.
Barack Obama? Yes. Nora Ephron? Yep. Steve Jobs? You bet. Anna Wintour? Most definitely. Ruth Bader Ginsburg? Her too.
If you want to thrive in life, you might consider implementing a daily routine of your own. Think about it: Success requires discipline—as well as the right opportunities, privilege, and maybe a bit of luck if we’re being honest—and a big piece of reaching your highest potential is doing practical, productive things over and over again. Yes, even when you’re tired, even when you’re burnt out, and even when it’s boring.
Control the First & Last Parts of Your Day
If you’re like a lot of people, the bulk of your day might be somewhat hectic. Interacting and collaborating with others can make things unpredictable, to say the least. That said, when you control the first and last parts of your day, you might find comfort in the predictability.
I probably don’t need to tell you that a stressful morning can throw you off for hours. When you control the first part of your day with a positive routine, you’ll be better positioned for a successful day. Additionally, making consistent healthy choices can benefit your mind and body. As Gretchen Rubin wrote, “What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.”
A morning routine might involve exercising, meditating, journaling, doing your makeup, stretching, listening to a podcast, or even watching the news. At night, your ritual could include writing a to-do list for the next day, reading, talking a walk, enjoying a piece of your favorite chocolate, doing a crossword puzzle, or spending a few minutes tidying up your home.
With the predictability of daily habits, you can free up your mind for other things. Look at it this way: When you do the same things every day—like brushing your teeth, washing your face, or making coffee—you become so used to doing them that you hardly have to think about it. As a result, your brain is free to explore other ideas. This might be why some people do their best thinking in the shower.
Willpower Is a Muscle
In the world of psychology, willpower is often described as a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it can get. To some, this means delaying gratification and resisting temptations that may get in the way of your long-term goals. To others, it’s about holding back from impulsive behaviors.
This isn’t to suggest that spontaneity will hinder your success. In fact, letting loose once in a while is arguably essential for your overall well-being. But when you use your willpower to implement good daily habits, it can make you feel more capable and empower you to achieve excellence in all facets of your life.
A Good Night’s Sleep Is Underrated
To me, the cornerstone of an effective routine is getting up and going to sleep at the same time every day. While you might think bedtimes are for kids, a sleep schedule helps regulate your circadian rhythm, which can have a positive effect on your hormones, appetite, energy levels, and digestion.
Plus, a sleep routine helps ensure you get enough sleep. On average, most people need between seven to nine hours of shut-eye a night, but as you probably know, many get much less. Lack of sleep can be even more indicative of a crappy day than a stressful morning. When you’re rested, you’ll be able to stick to your daily rituals and be more equipped to tackle whatever else life throws at you.
Make It Your OwnTo be sure, your ideal daily routine probably looks a lot different than the next person’s. Additionally, you might only have a few minutes to dedicate to some healthy rituals, and that’s OK too. Whether your routine involves drinking a cup of coffee while reading the news, cooking a hearty breakfast and actually sitting down to eat it, meditating for a half-hour, streaming a 60-minute workout class, going for a walk, whipping up a smoothie to drink on the go, stretching for five minutes, or reading a few chapters of a romance novel, make it your own.
Theresa Holland is a freelance writer and lifestyle blogger specializing in wellness, beauty, relationships, and personal finance. Her work has appeared on Verywell Health, The Spruce, TripSavvy, Elite Daily, Thought Catalog, and The Financial Diet. Theresa lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and son.