I Tried the Morning Routines of 4 Ultra-Successful Women. Here's the One That Made Me Happiest.

My morning routine is as follows: I wake up around 8 a.m., alternately chug water and coffee while I make scrambled eggs or oatmeal, then get dressed and ready for work. It’s pretty basic. But that doesn't mean it's perfect, which is why I decided to test out the routines of some seriously successful women. Read on for my experience with each, including the shocking realization that Oprah’s routine isn’t just for billionaires.

4 Baby Steps That Will Completely Transform Your Morning Routine

arianna huffington
Brian Ach/Stringer/getty images

Arianna Huffington

The Gist: According to an interview with My Morning Routine, Huffington’s morning routine actually starts at night. Prior to falling asleep, Huffington removes all electronic devices from her room, takes a bath, drinks lavender or chamomile tea and reads (a book, not an e-reader). She typically sleeps for eight hours and doesn’t use an alarm. In the morning she meditates for 20 to 30 minutes before working out—when she’s home, 30 minutes on a stationary bike followed by five to ten minutes of yoga stretches. She’s not a breakfast person, but she does drink Bulletproof Coffee.

How It Went: Going into this, I didn't know all that much about Arianna Huffington, except that she started a really massive website and she's very fixated on sleep. So it wasn't shocking to learn that her nighttime and morning routines put a lot of emphasis on rest and relaxation. Starting the night before, I stowed my phone and computer in my bedside table drawer (after setting an alarm, you know I can't live without it). I hate baths, so I took a long, hot shower instead and it was just lovely. I then snuggled up in bed with a cup of chamomile tea and the book I was reading at the time (The Revisioners—it was great). It was a little more involved than my normal nighttime routine, but it was very zen nonetheless. The next morning, I meditated for 20 minutes (I've found that 20 is kind of my limit—I start to get antsy after longer than that). I made a cup of Bulletproof Coffee and headed to the gym to bike and do some stretches. I don't know if you've ever had Bulletproof Coffee, but it's...very weird. I know some people love it, but as someone who only drinks coffee black, it's way too heavy for my liking. Not eating breakfast was also a huge downside for me. I don't usually eat lunch, but without a morning meal, I was ravenous by 1 p.m. My takeaways from Huffington's routine are this: The nighttime portion was calming and inspired me to use my phone and computer way less pre-bed, but the morning—aside from the meditation—wasn't really for me. 

Best For: Technology addicts, who can benefit from Huffington’s emphasis on unplugging and de-stressing.

shonda rhimes
Rodin Eckenroth/Stringer/getty images

Shonda Rhimes

The Gist: The TV powerhouse told InStyle that unless she’s totally exhausted, she wakes up around 5:30 a.m., so she can have an hour and a half before her kids get up. She told the mag, “It’s important to have a little time to just exist before anyone else is awake. Sometimes I use this time to write in my journal, but sometimes I just sit and stare out the window.” After getting her kids ready for school, she drinks a cappuccino, eats breakfast and figures out what to wear for the day. While getting ready, she listens to NPR’s Morning Edition, reads theSkimm and scrolls through Twitter for fashion and decor content, which she says she uses for show ideas.

How It Went: Early wakeup time aside, Rhimes’s morning routine was pretty lovely. I don’t have kids, so for the hour and a half between waking up and actually starting my day, I tried to journal, practice a little mindfulness and, yes, stare out the window. I don’t normally listen to any kind of news (or anything, for that matter) while I’m getting ready, but it was nice to hear a quick rundown of things happening in the world in between sips of cappuccino and bites of avocado toast. (Rhimes didn’t specify what she eats for breakfast, but who doesn’t love a good avo toast?) I was much more tired than usual by that night, but if I could shift my bedtime up an hour or two, I can totally see adopting this routine as my own.

Best For: People who want to ease into their day, rather than sleeping an extra hour or so and rushing out the door.

Jean Chatzky

The Gist: Financial expert Jean Chatzky’s routine depends on whether she’s working on television or has a deadline (she’s written 11 books, no big deal). She told My Morning Routine that she gets up between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m., adding that she likes to get as much work done as possible before anyone else in her house wakes up. That means letting her dog out, making coffee, feeding the dog and getting to work on her computer. “After two hours, I try to exercise, which usually means heading out for a run or hopping on my Peloton,” she explained. After exercising, she makes breakfast (at the time, her go-to was some high-fiber crackers with peanut butter and jam).

How It Went: I had to make a few tweaks to this routine, mainly because I don’t have a dog and I’m not responsible for anyone else in my apartment. Still, Chatzky’s routine was wonderful. I woke up at 6 a.m., made my coffee and hopped onto my computer to do some writing. I find that I write best early in the morning or late at night, so this setup was ideal for me. I don’t have my own Peloton bike, but after about an hour and a half of work, I headed to a class at the Peloton studio in NYC. After getting home, I made my version of Chatzky’s breakfast (peanut butter and jam on sourdough toast) before getting on with the rest of my day. I felt so productive this day, and while I don’t think I’ll be getting straight to emails after waking up every day, it did feel good to get a jump-start on work before I normally would’ve even been awake.

Best For: Early birds who feel most creative as the sun is rising.

Rachel Luna/Stringer/getty images

Oprah Winfrey

The Gist: Winfrey told The Hollywood Reporter that while she doesn’t use an alarm to wake up, she normally rises between 6:02 (?) and 6:20 a.m., when her dogs want to go outside. After brushing her teeth and letting the dogs out, she makes either a chai or skim cappuccino, followed by a trip to her home gym. There, she’ll do 20 minutes on the elliptical, 30 minutes of walking on the treadmill and sit-ups. Then, she meditates for ten to 20 minutes, depending on how much time she has. Breakfast is medium-boiled eggs with multigrain toast, eaten around 8:30 a.m. while she goes through her schedule for the day.

How It Went: Oprah is one of the wealthiest, most famous people on the planet. I was assuming, then, that her morning routine would be chock-full of unrealistic, unattainable habits that I could never recreate. I was wrong; this ended up being one of the most straightforward routines to copy. I did have to make a few slight tweaks: First, I have to use an alarm, lest I sleep the entire morning away (it's something I'd like to work on—maybe in 2020). I don't have dogs, so when I woke up I brushed my teeth and went straight to the cappuccino step, which, as a self-professed caffeine addict, was wonderful. Sadly I don't have a home gym either, so I went to my plebeian chain gym, where I did 50 minutes of cardio followed by some ab work. I'm not normally one to work out in the morning, but Oprah's routine was basic enough that it wasn't too big of an adjustment. I've dabbled in meditation (like the waking up sans alarm thing, it's an ongoing project), so I was glad to be forced to do it. I was reminded that it really is a great way to start the day, it's just taking me a little while to commit to a daily practice. From there, breakfast was a total breeze, as I usually have some variation of eggs and toast every other day. Overall, I felt really great after mimicking Oprah's mornings. She squeezes a lot into a pretty small window, but it doesn’t feel stressful or rushed. 

Best For: Pretty much anyone; Oprah’s routine is really well-rounded and actually pretty simple.

waking up

Final Thoughts

All in all, it seems like meditation—or just general mindfulness—is a big part of the morning routines of these accomplished ladies. (And something I'll continue to work at.) While I'm not sure I'll stray from my evening workout routine, I have been trying to wake up a little earlier—if only to start my day on a calm, not-rushed note. Plus, I feel closer to Oprah—whose routine 100 percent made me happiest—than ever, which is a major win in my book. 

sarah stiefvater

Wellness Director

Sarah Stiefvater is PureWow's Wellness Director. She's been at PureWow for ten years, and in that time has written and edited stories across all categories, but currently focuses...