This 7-Step Morning Routine Helped Me Build a Billion-Dollar Brand

UPDATED: March 14, 2023
PUBLISHED: February 25, 2023
man meditating, which is part of one man's billionaire morning routine

Left to my own devices, I’m lazy as hell.

During one period of my life, I would stay in bed for hours in the morning because I was too cold and lazy to get up and put a sweatshirt on.

As a child, I showed no early signs of promise whatsoever. My own mother, who was always my biggest champion, just quietly assumed I was going to fail in life.

And yet today, I’m a successful entrepreneur who co-founded the company Quest Nutrition, which was valued at over $1 billion dollars. I have since gone on to co-found Impact Theory.

So how did a lazy kid who showed no early promise defy the odds and go on to be successful?

The first step was rebuilding my identity by moving from a fixed to a growth mindset. Once I stopped caring about being right and started caring about finding the correct answer faster than anyone else, I was able to build a foundation for unlimited growth. With that foundation, another key component to my success became how I used my time, particularly the morning hours—which lead to my billionaire morning routine.

The billionaire morning routine

Here are the daily habits I practiced then—and still practice today—to get into the right mindset for the full-contact sport of entrepreneurship:

1. Get quality sleep.

My billionaire morning routine actually starts the evening before.

I haven’t used an alarm to wake up (with the occasional exception) in more than a decade. You need a certain amount of sleep, and if you don’t get it, your performance and well-being begin to decline.

So, step No. 1 is to treat sleep as one of the most important things you’re going to do all day. If you need to go to bed at 8 p.m. to get all the sleep you need, then go to bed at 8 p.m. I get up naturally anywhere from 3 a.m. to 4 a.m., so getting to bed early is absolutely imperative.

2. Work out the body.

Once I wake up, I use that very act as the trigger that reminds me to work out. 

I work out five days a week, but I’m not one of those guys who loves going to the gym. Still, I get up, roll out of bed and go straight to the gym anyway. I’m fortunate to have a gym in my house, so the time from wake-up to workout is about 10 minutes.

Developing discipline is one of the most crucial things you need to be successful. Being successful comes with a litany of things that you’re not going to want to do, but you’re going to have to do them anyway.

You’re going to have to push yourself, even when every fiber of your being is telling you to quit. You have to get out of bed when you’d rather just lie there. You’re going to have to work on that Saturday when your friends are out partying. You have to grind when you’d rather be playing video games or watching Netflix.

Discipline is going to be the thing that allows you to do that, but you need a space that allows you to train that discipline. For me, that’s the gym, which is a big part of the reason why I work out—to strengthen my discipline and gain credibility with myself by showing up and putting in the work on something that offers me no intrinsic pleasure.

3. Meditating is part of my billionaire morning routine.

It’s not enough to exercise the body, you also have to exercise the mind.

In fact, to me, the body is but a reflection of the mind. Right after I finish working out, I meditate. The reason I meditate is to strengthen my ability to focus and to learn how to rapidly calm my mind.

We live in a fast-paced world with tons of anxiety and distractions. We celebrate the ability to speed up our minds and our lives, but it is absolutely essential to learn to consciously slow them down as well. Make sure to take the time to cultivate the ability to calm yourself. 

How long I meditate depends on how stressed or anxious I am, but it’s usually about 20 or 30 minutes. I use a “just breathe” technique, where I try to quiet my mind and simply breathe.

When I first started meditating, I had to coax myself into doing five or 10 minutes. Now I love the feeling so much I usually go until my legs start to fall asleep from sitting cross-legged.

4. Think through issues after meditating, aka Thinkitate.

One of the most beautiful things about meditating is that it increases alpha brain wave activity. This is considered a relaxing brain state, and that’s certainly how it feels for me.

So, once I’ve finished meditating, before the alpha wave state wears off and I return to normal life, I stop trying to quiet my mind and instead set it to dealing with my most challenging problems.

I call this process “thinkitating.” I find this to be a powerful strategy because when I’m in this state of mind, I notice I make more unique and novel connections, allowing me to identify some pretty creative solutions to problems that otherwise seemed intractable.

5. My billionaire morning routine includes reading.

I try to read every day. I believe the most important math equation is II = IO (Ideas In = Ideas Out). But because pretty much all of my time is accounted for every day, I’ve had to find ways to ensure that I get time to read.

One of those ways is to read in what I call the “transitional moments”—brushing my teeth, getting dressed, cooking food, etc. One of the most opportune moments for me is when I walk my dogs. It’s a solid 30 minutes of time that I usually follow up with my first meal of the day, giving me a good 45 to 60 minutes of uninterrupted daily reading time.

That’s in addition to all of the sneaky little moments that I catch whenever possible. When I get the chance, I like to set aside time to really sink in and read, too.

6. Create a ‘most important things’ list.

I keep a list of the most important things that my business needs to thrive. Once I sit down to work, the first thing I do is go through that list. I take immediate action on anything and everything on that list that I can. If I skip something three days in a row, I delete it from the list as my actions indicate that it’s not truly important.

As a rule, I keep the highest-impact stuff at the top of the page. That way, I don’t fall into the trap of addressing something lower in priority just because it’s higher on the list.

7. Ignoring email is part of my billionaire morning routine.

Checking your email is a critical mismanagement of time. It is, in my opinion, a dereliction of your duties as an entrepreneur.

If you check your email before addressing the most pressing needs of your company, you’re admitting that other people know better about what you should be doing than you do.

I’ve trained myself to ignore my email until everything else that needs to be done is done. I’ve usually put in between 5 and 7 hours of work before I check my email for the first time, and I try to spend less than an hour on emails per day.

I have found the habits embedded in my morning routine to be instrumental in getting things done and keeping myself on track. Habits in general are, in my opinion, the very foundation of success.

I highly recommend that everyone adopt a morning routine that addresses both mental and physical well-being, while ensuring that you’re taking the necessary steps to be successful in whatever it is that you’re doing. May your morning routine serve you as well as mine has served me.

This article was published in March 2017 and has been updated. Photo by Ground Picture/Shutterstock

Tom Bilyeu is the co-founder of 2014 Inc. 500 company Quest Nutrition—a unicorn startup valued at over $1 billion—and the co-founder and host of Impact Theory. Tom’s mission is the creation of empowering media-based IP and the acceleration of mission-based businesses. Personally driven to help people develop the skills they will need to improve themselves and the world, Tom is intent to use commerce to address the dual pandemics of physical and mental malnourishment.

Tom regularly inspires audiences of entrepreneurs, change makers and thought leaders at some of the most prestigious conferences and seminars around the world, including Abundance 360, A-fest and Freedom Fast Lane. Tom has also been a guest on The Tony Robbins podcast and The School of Greatness podcast and has been featured in Forbes, Inc., SUCCESS and The Huffington Post. Tom is currently on the Innovation Board of the XPRIZE Foundation.