Originally published on Inc.com.

Successful people do things differently. They aren’t slaves to “have to’s”–especially during their morning routine.

Your first waking minutes will set the tone for the day. Do you wake up with lots of thoughts in your head about the future of the day? What will today bring? What do I have to do? What meetings do I have to attend? Details that have to get done?

That’s a guaranteed formula for failure. Instead, turn those few minutes into a powerful, mindful morning routine will set the tone for peace, power and productivity.

Here’s what successful people do in the morning before they turn on the news, read email or anything else to amplify productivity:

1. Take ten deep breaths in two minutes.

Inhale …2…3…4…5.




Do that ten times. Focus on your breathing. Notice your lungs filling with air, that little bit of anticipation you get before you exhale, and what it feels like to fully empty your lungs.

Slow down. Take your time. Each full cycle breath takes only about 10-15 seconds. Two minutes to a clear mind.

This also works before a presentation, meeting or anytime you want to be calm and clear-headed.

2. Stretch slowly for three minutes.

You can do this sitting up or laying down. Start with your neck. Lower your chin toward your chest. Now, with your head lowered, move slowly from side to side. Lift your head.

Take your left elbow with your right hand and stretch your left arm across your body. Slowly. Now do the same with the right arm.

Take your left arm and hold it up in the air. Bend it over your head. Now lean to the right. Feel the stretch in your left side? Repeat on the right.

Stretch your hips. Take your left knee in your left hand and bring it to your chest. Rotate it gently to the right over your body. Breathe. Then do the same with the right knee.

Last but not least, stretch your ankles. Yep, your ankles. Those feet have to carry you all day long, so a little love goes a long way. Bend your toes up and hold for five seconds. Then down, and hold. Circle your ankles.

Remember to keep breathing. It’s normal, especially when stretching, to hold your breath. If you feel any discomfort, a few breaths may release it during this part of the morning routine.

3. Use the ‘ole 3×5 card trick.

A simple 3×5 card (in a powerful color, of course) in this wild world of technology can do wonders for creating a focused and productive “Must Dos” list for each day.

It’s simple. Put your top three Must Do items on your card. These are the promises you’re making to yourself. They’re not the only things you’ll get done today–only the most important.

For example, you might have:

  1. Prepare the budget.
  2. Attend a staff meeting.
  3. Close the Jones deal.

Another day, you might have:

  1. Buy a birthday gift for my spouse. (You did remember that, right?)
  2. Go to my daughter’s soccer game.
  3. Make reservations at that new Thai restaurant.

These aren’t necessarily tied to money. They’re tied to the things that you value most on that given day. Make sure they’re easily completable, so you can keep your promise to yourself.

Once you’ve written them down, determine your theme for the day. Your theme can be how you want to approach the day, such as “Powerful”, “Productive” or “Focused.” It can be how you want to act, like “Truthful”, “Peaceful” or “Thoughtful.”

Having a theme will help with both your personal and professional development. It’ll make you a better, more productive and more loved leader because you will be more focused, mindful and consistent in your actions.

But what if it’s not morning? The great thing about this morning routine is it’s like bacon and eggs–you can have it for breakfast, lunch, dinner or a snack.

Go ahead and start. Right now. You have ten minutes.

I know you do.

Show others.

And let me know how it’s going.