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THE INC. LIFE

How Arianna Huffington, Ryan Holiday, Marie Kondo, and Successful Leaders Start Their Days

Meet Benjamin Spall, co-author of My Morning Routine: How Successful People Start Every Day Inspired

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BY Joshua Spodek - 12 Jun 2018

How Arianna Huffington, Ryan Holiday, Marie Kondo, and Successful Leaders Start Their Days

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Successful people start their mornings with routines. Routines make difficult habits doable. You don't have yours? Time to start.

Need help? I loved finding MyMorningRoutine.com, which posts a new successful person's morning routine each week, including mine. You can also find Arianna's and Ryan's (though mine is best. . . for me, that is. It's surprising how each routine fits each person).

You see into their intimate lives. You can mix and match what works for you.

When the creators--Benjamin Spall and Michael Xander's--book, My Morning Routine: How Successful People Start Every Day Inspired--came out, I contacted them to learn more about the book, the movement they're leading, how to make people feel comfortable sharing intimate vulnerabilities, what they learned, and what the book has beyond the site.

Here are 7 questions with co-author Benjamin Spall.

Q: How many readers do you have and what's your search rank?

Benjamin Spall: We have approximately 12,000 newsletter subscribers, and a few more thousand through various feeds.

We've had the number one search rank for "morning routine" and "morning routines" since about six months after we launched the website.

Q: Sounds like you tapped into latent demand. When and how did you start the project?

Ben: We started the site in late 2012, then the book was accepted in early 2017 and worked on for the next year or so before it was released in May of this year.

As some background to the website, my co-founder (and now co-author) Michael Xander came to me in late 2012 with the idea of creating an interview series in which we ask people to describe, and elaborate on, their morning routines.

I had just read a book called The Power of Habit by New York Times journalist Charles Duhigg, so I was all-in on the idea. It then took us about three weeks to turn the idea into something tangible. Michael designed and coded the site. I interviewed a couple of friends to be our first two weeks of interviews, and we were off.

Q: Did you expect it to grow? Your ranking suggests your page played a role in the growing attention of morning routines. Do you think it did?

Ben: We didn't not expect it to grow, but we certainly didn't think it would become as big as it did.

Funny as it may sound nowadays, given what a popular topic morning routines have since become, back in 2012 and 2013 the idea of optimizing your morning routine wasn't talked about nearly as much as now. I can't say for sure that we played a role in the attention that morning routines are now getting, but I'd like to think our site, and now the book, helps show people that that there's not one right way to start your day.

Interviewing people about their mornings for so long has shown us that it's possible to have a regular morning routine without being rigid and regimented about it. We feel that this is something that most books and articles telling you how to "hack" your morning routine miss.

Q: On the personal side, what's the balance between working on the project and your other work? Is it a distraction, inspiration, or something else?

Ben: This has changed over time. When we first started the site, and for around the next two years after that, the site was a side project that Michael and I both spent probably 3-4 hours a week on, aside from big launches, such as design overhauls. In our third year we got serious about reaching out to bigger names to interview, so this took up more time, and then when Portfolio/Penguin contacted us to write the book this again brought the whole project more into the forefront of our lives.

All this said, at every point over the last five and a half years, working on this project has been a huge inspiration for our work. It's been challenging at times (as anyone who has worked on something for this long will attest), but we wouldn't have it any other way.

Q: What motivates you on the project--are you an entrepreneur, are you having fun, are you driving personal growth, or something else?

Ben: I can't speak for Michael, but for me the main motivator is all the connections I've made as a result of working on the site, and now the book, as well as knowing that what we're doing makes a real, if small, difference in people's lives.

Q: People's mornings can be intimate and vulnerable to share. How do you lead people to open up? Do you get feedback from readers?

Ben: This is exactly right. In the acknowledgements section of our book we thank everyone we've ever interviewed for their "willingness to share details of this most intimate time of day with us."

I think that's part of it. Not everyone we've ever contacted about being interviewed about their morning routine has agreed--not even close. While some people have told us that they feel like they don't have much of a routine, and then go on to share in amazing detail their very impressive routine all the same, whenever someone told us that they would rather not share, we've never pushed them.

Q: Did compiling all the routines for the book and seeing them together reveal patterns or what works beyond what the site does?

Ben: Absolutely!

The book gives you a peek into the lives of busy, successful people, and makes it simple to replicate what they do. A potential failure of our marketing for the book is that we interviewed a bunch of people exclusively for the book--over half of the 64 interviews are brand new and will never be published on the website--but we didn't do a great job of getting this across.

To your main point, at the end of each chapter (the interviews are dispersed between chapters focusing on different parts of your morning routine; from morning workouts, to morning meditation, to how to keep up your routine when traveling) we have an Over to You section.

These sections, which are also exclusive to the book, break down the most common patterns and advice on that chapter's subject, and make it easy to start implementing something new into your morning routine right away.

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