An inside look at the morning routines of highly successful tech leaders

September 28, 2017

The first few hours of the day are arguably the most important, setting the tone for the rest of your day. Whether you wake up and head straight to the gym or straight to the coffee pot, the way you spend that time can have far-reaching effects on your productivity, mindset and mood.

We caught up with three local tech leaders to see how they start their days to set themselves up for success.

 

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Katie Smith serves as EVP and chief compliance officer for Denver-based compliance management company Convercent. Smith has stuck to a simple yet intentional morning routine for the last five years in order to maintain a clear head throughout the work day.

Describe your typical morning routine.

A recovering snooze-button pusher, it’s taken time for me to figure out how to find balance between life as an executive and the rest of me that matters: wife, mom, friend, self. Barring a few exceptions when these worlds collide rather than intersect (which is my primary daily goal), I do the following five things daily:

1. Walk the dog and experience life — unplugged. No music, no phone, just aware of the sounds of the world as it wakes. It’s incredibly grounding. And it’s in those pockets of quiet where I solve problems and come up with brilliant ideas.

2. Have a gratitude mindset. Sometimes I capture it in a journal, other times on social media, and even sometimes in the comfort of my bed before my feet hit the ground. But after almost 25 years in corporate America, I’ve learned that being grateful for what you have, where you are in your journey (both personal and professional) and the blessings in your life give you a sense of humility, appreciation and the ability to see the big picture.

3. Take my son to school. I made a commitment that regardless of professional achievement, my son would always know what mattered most to me. He and I have a routine that I cherish: I take him to school (be it Vespa, car, walk or scooter) and we chat about what we’re excited about that day. Sometimes we’re problem-solving, sometimes we’re cramming on a spelling list, and sometimes we’re singing at the top of our lungs to a tune on Hits 1.

4. Eat breakfast. I’ve learned to never skip breakfast. My protein shake wakes up the mind and body, fuels me for a marathon of meetings, and sets the right nutritional groundwork for the day.

5. Read every morning. Be a sponge with knowledge and be interesting—both will take you far. In my line of work, the headlines are crucial, so I spend time each morning reading the WSJ, several news blogs, media outlets and sites pertinent to my field. The best leaders read voraciously, so figure out a way to stay current on current events and find genres of books that pique your interest. Being interesting makes you a stronger employee, better spouse, better parent, and sets you up for success in your career.

How do you think your morning routine impacts the rest of your day?

It dramatically impacts the rest of my day. I approach problems differently, my head is clearer, I know what matters, and it gives me the fortitude to handle those stressful meetings and phrenetic days with multiple deadlines. Then I bookend the day with a workout. It’s a way to clear my head, relieve stress, and calm my mind so that I’m not up at 2 a.m. sorting through a work dilemma.

What's the number one thing you would recommend people do in the morning before they start the workday?

Make your bed. The first few actions and decisions you make set the tone for the rest of your day. Making your bed sets the tone that you will have an organized, thoughtful and productive day. And let’s face it, it’s way more appealing to come home to that night!

 

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Lawrence Hester founded FareHarbor with his brother in 2013, working tirelessly to build an activity and tour booking platform from the ground up. It was only recently, when he started training for a 100-kilometer race, that he realized the need for a morning routine that didn’t involve coffee and work at the beginning of the day.

Describe your typical morning routine.

When we started FareHarbor, I let exercise fall by the wayside. It wasn't until signing up for an ultramarathon that I understood how much energy I get from running. So now, I start almost every morning with a 5:30 a.m. run. I also find that getting up and going helps with jetlag when I fly east. (I'm on the road about two weeks a month.)

A recent addition to my routine is that I won’t open my email or Slack until I'm done running. I found that jumping into work was an excuse I used for not exercising. More importantly, it hampered one of my favorite things about running — uninterrupted time to think. When I'm done running, I have a list of things I want to focus on and accomplish for the day. It truly is my jump start.

How do you think your morning routine impacts the rest of your day?

My morning routine sets me up for success for the rest of the day. It allows me to set goals and get outside. There is a huge difference in my productivity when I don’t follow my normal plan.

What’s the number one thing you would recommend people do in the morning before they start the workday, and why?

Prepare for your morning routine the night before. If you don’t know what your plan is going to be when you wake up, you’re already behind. It’s easier to make excuses or get off track if you’re still deciding what to do first thing in the morning.

And make sure to get some sleep. I used to be a three- or four-hour sleeper and power through days with a dozen cups a coffee. The lack of sleep clouded my judgment. So, if you went to bed late, start your day a little later. It will pay off tenfold.

 

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Chief of staff Sarah Innocenzi spends her days ensuring the Sovrn team has the people, resources and culture to do their best work. She found her go-to morning routine about a year ago, and says it’s critical to staying grounded during even the busiest days.

Describe your typical morning routine.

Supposedly making your bed in the morning makes you more productive throughout the day, so I always start there. Then I like to dedicate time toward my mental and physical health before starting work. We live on a country road, so I enjoy taking my dog for a quiet walk when it's just the two of us out. It's the perfect time to watch the sunrise and prepare myself for the day. I head to the gym before I get to work so that I can start my day feeling accomplished before my work day even starts.  

How do you think your morning routine impacts the rest of your day?

The mental reflection and physical exercise help me stay centered and manage my stress throughout the day.

What's the number one thing you would recommend people do in the morning before they start the workday?

Find some time to reflect and/or meditate. I usually meditate at night because I am on more of a time crunch in the morning, but finding that time to clear your mind is so important.


 

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