If there’s one part of your day that’s worthy of an overhaul, it’s the morning. Think of those first few hours as preparation before a big match, a time when you can calm your mind, strategize, and get your head in the game.
We know that Arianna Huffington starts her day with meditation and Gwyneth Paltrow rises to a glass of warm water with lemon, but when it comes to truly hone a successful routine, we thought it time to look at the flip side: What should you avoid doing in the morning to start your day in the best possible way?
To find out, we called on 13 women we admire—leaders ranging from CEOs and co-founders to actresses and Broadway producers. They run multimillion-dollar businesses, oversee international teams, have built brands from scratch, and won Tony awards. In other words, if there’s anyone worthy of dishing advice, it’s them.
Here, they reveal the number one thing they never do in the morning, and how to use the first hours of sunlight to give your day the best chance of success. Set your alarm: Your a.m. routine is about to get a game-changing overhaul.
If there’s a single piece of advice we learned from these 13 inspiring women, it’s this: Never check your phone first thing. “[I never] open any in-depth emails or attachments that require a deeper solve—park it for a quiet moment when you can take it on!” says Taryn Jones Laeben, Casper’s chief experience officer and president of global retail and business development.
Erika Serow, president and U.S. CEO of Sweaty Betty, agrees, noting that she won’t address emails until she’s done a workout. “With half of our team based in the UK, I’m guaranteed to wake up to a full inbox every morning, and, of course, it’s pathetically easy to get sucked in,” she tells MyDomaine. “If I don’t get out the door for my morning workout before I check my email, I’m toast!”
Not ready to kick your cell phone addiction? A study of nearly 2000 workers found that those who checked their email frequently throughout the day reported higher stress levels, while people who disabled notifications and responded to messages just three times per day experienced a surge in positivity.
Michelle Weaver, chief financial officer at Stitch Fix, says avoiding work-related messages in the morning has also transformed her well-being. “Step back and determine the big things,” she says. “Ask yourself, What and how I can deliver value today?” It’s ultimately far more powerful than sending an email.
When you have a demanding schedule, the thought of grasping a few extra minutes of shut-eye can be tempting, but successful women agree that it’s one of the worst ways to start the day. Katherine Power, co-founder, and CEO of Clique Brands, MyDomaine’s parent company, says she avoids it at all costs.
“Don’t hit the snooze button. I read on Byrdie.com that this was a big no-no and can make you drowsier throughout the day,” she says. She’s right; National Geographic’s Sleep in America study found that delaying your day—even by a mere 15 minutes—changes your sleeping pattern, thereby throwing off your body’s natural circadian rhythm. Translation: You snooze, you lose.
To avoid temptation, schedule a gym session and enlist a friend or trainer to hold you accountable. “[Sleeping in] makes me groggy and leaves me feeling guilty, [so] I schedule my morning workout with my trainer so I have to get out of bed,” says Mona Bijoor, founder and CEO of fashion wholesale marketplace Joor.
Eva Longoria shares a similar morning routine. “The minute the alarm goes off I throw on my tennis shoes and I go [to SoulCycle],” she tells MyDomaine. “I just can’t lollygag. I’ve got to get up and go; otherwise, I won’t do it.” The star then uses her post-workout stretching time to meditate before meetings start at 10 a.m.
Toiling over menial choices in the morning can be a serious time zap, says Hillary Kerr, co-founder, and chief ideation officer at Clique Brands. “I avoid making decisions first thing in the morning, especially outfit decisions. I try to prep as much as possible the night before—planning tomorrow’s outfit, packing my gym bag, making lunch—so that I have less to do when I wake up. The more streamlined my morning process is and the fewer decisions I have to make, the better!”
April Uchitel, CEO of April Grey and part of the founding team of Spring, says planning her outfit in advance means she can maximize those first vital hours. “I check the next day’s weather and my calendar to see who I have external meetings with. I then try on and steam my outfit the night before. This way I can pull everything on quickly and not get stuck staring indecisively into depths of the closet—or worse—ripping through potential options only to make a choice that then needs steaming, mending, etc.,” she says.
For Joyce Azria—founder of Avec Les Filles and daughter of Max Azria—mornings are a time to reconnect with family before the chaos of the day begins. “Life is all about connections,” says Azria. “I give myself the gift of not checking my cell phone when I wake up for about 30 minutes, to be with myself, with my family, and start my day connecting to what is really important first.”
Actress Judy Greer’s a.m. routine is also centered on relationships. “My husband makes coffee the night before—I love him so much for this! So I wake up to the smell of coffee being brewed and pour myself a cup with Lactaid. I try not to touch my phone and meditate first thing (I do TM), and then I take my dog, Mary Richards, outside.”
It might sound simple, but a study in The Journal of Positive Psychology found that spending quality time with your S.O. is linked to greater life satisfaction. In other words, taking a few minutes in the morning to have coffee together could be the perfect way to preface a particularly challenging day.
You’ve barely got enough time to get through your to-do list, let alone whip up a nutritious breakfast in the morning—trust us, we get it. But reaching for a high-GI snack that will cause a spike in your blood sugar levels is a big mistake, says Carly Rosenberg, president of Bluefly. “Avoid morning bagels at all costs! They’re a total energy zapper,” she says. “I try to have protein for breakfast. Some of my favorites are hard-boiled eggs, yogurt with Kashi, or avocado toast.” Research suggests eating the right food in the morning can also offer a mental advantage and has been linked with improved memory, creativity, and learning.
“I’ve learned that the tone of your day starts from the moment you wake up,” says Beatrice Fischel-Bock, founder and CEO of Homee, a new home design app backed by Tinder CEO Sean Rad. “I now make it a priority to give myself time in the morning to make a cup of coffee, read the news, and get a start on email. By the time I get to work, I feel productive and ready for the day,” she says.
For Bonnie Comley, co-founder of BroadwayHD and three-time Tony-winning Broadway producer, stress is an inevitable part of the day, so taking time out in the morning to be grateful is vital. “My parents taught me to always start the day with a reflection on my blessings. As vice president of a large media company and a mother, my day will fill up with tasks and problems fast, so I need to put my head in a positive place early!”
After a moment of mindfulness, Comley sets a to-do list that focuses only on the realistic tasks within her reach. “Make a list and solve the things you can today, be prepared to solve more problems tomorrow and count your blessings,” she adds.