A while back I was listening to an interview when I heard an interesting question. After hearing the question and thinking about how I would answer it, I decided to start asking others just to see their responses. What I have learned has really helped me when it comes to improving my leadership.

The question is fairly simple yet provides much insight into the successfulness of the person being interviewed. “On an average day, what do the first eighty minutes of your morning look like?”

I have read that the first 90 minutes of your day are normally the most productive of your entire day. What they are trying to say is that most of us can check off the morning tasks so we can get to the more important stuff of the day. This allows us to, fix breakfast, get dressed, exercise, get kids off to school, etc… If we were to list each of these beside a check box, each would have to be done each morning before our “day could start.” In reality, our day has already started, and we are motivated to accomplish these tasks before we move on to others.

With these accomplishments in mind, I have set out to see if there might be a set of habits that successful leaders might have in common. Looking back over the results they seem obvious, and they are very telling.

Even though this is not a scientific study, I have asked this question to enough leaders from different backgrounds, and from different settings that I can determine if they are successful just by the answer of this one question.

I thought that it would good for me to share just a few of the most common habits of those successful leaders. It might be a good idea for you to add one or two into your morning routine if they are not already there.

1. Wake up early. I have found that those who wake up and jump right into the action of the day such as go to work or head out to school, are rarely meeting the goals that they set for themselves. They admit that they need to work on “time management.” In a 2008 Texas University study, college students who identified themselves as “morning people” earned a full point higher on their GPAs than those who were “night owls.” Or how about this? “Harvard biologist Christoph Randler discovered in 2008 that early risers are more proactive. They were more likely to agree with statements like “I spend time identifying long-range goals for myself” and “I feel in charge of making things happen.”

2. Another area is spending some quiet time reading or praying. There are many studies that show how mental health is just as important as our physical fitness. Even though we are aware of this, many of us fail to focus on that part of our body. Larry Brilliant, CEO of the Skoll Global Threats Fund and former director of, once spoke at a commencement ceremony at Harvard School of Public Health, where he emphasized the importance of a state of mental calm and composure.

3. Exercise. Many of those I have spoken with have a daily routine of getting the blood flowing early. From a brisk walk or a full blown gym workout, keeping the physical body healthy allows for greater stamina and focus later in the day.

4. The last tidbit of information that I will provide is an observation that most helps me understand the person I am speaking with. The answers are always different however they reveal the same thing. The morning habits reveal what is most important in that person’s life. From answers like spending time with the kids, having coffee with my wife, time in prayer, reading or exercising. You get to know about the person and what they find important by finding out what they put first in their day.

Today’s experiment is to examine the first 80 minutes of your day. What are some of your habits and what, if anything, do you need to add or change? If would like to help with my research, share them with me. I will keep them confidential. Let me know what you are planning on adding.