Success and stress don’t need to go hand in hand, as proven by Sundar Pichai’s calm, simple morning routine.
Google’s chief executive oversees more than 85,000 employees across five continents, all while juggling company demands and creating long-term strategies for business growth. Though many top execs wake before dawn to tackle workouts and a flurry of emails, Pichai prefers a low-key start.
It’s a habit worth making: studies find that people who start their mornings in a calm mood usually stay that way throughout the day, according to a Wharton Business School study.
A relaxing morning might be especially important for millennials. People in this group feel the most stress of any generation and are the most likely to see themselves as “work martyrs.”
Intense pressure to succeed can make every part of the day more challenging. According to a Family Work Institute study, overworked people are more likely to make mistakes on the job or feel anger and resentment toward their colleagues. They’re also less likely to be able to cope with everyday life events. A pressure to succeed in all aspects of life might even make home more stressful than the office.
Wake up early — but not too early
While some business leaders like Kevin O’Leary and Tim Cook wake at 4:30 a.m. or earlier, Pichai has a different take. “I’m not a morning person,” Pichai admits in an interview with Recode. This Google exec still gets a jump on the day, waking around 6:30 to 7 a.m every morning.
If you’re not yet in the habit of waking early, some research might change your mind. In one study, a biologist found that early risers are better positioned for business success because they are more proactive and their routines sync with common corporate schedules. In another study, scientists found that people who get out of bed by 7 a.m., on average, do better in the workplace and have a lower chance of being depressed, stressed and overweight.
Read a book or newspaper
Reading does for the brain what exercise does for the body — it makes you stronger. So if your modus operandi is to scroll through social media upon waking, try swapping that out for a book or newspaper.
Research indicates that the act of reading can heighten overall brain function, enhance memory and improve mental flexibility. Reading can also reduce stress levels.
As for Pichai, he says that he reads a “physical paper every single morning.”
Eat a nourishing breakfast
“I’m vegetarian so I need to get my protein,” says Pichai. “I always have an omelet in the morning with toast.”
As the first meal of the day, a high-quality breakfast plays a key role in supplying energy and nutrients that are critical for workday productivity. On the other hand, eating a poor breakfast or skipping it altogether can lead to a decline in attention, memory and overall cognitive function and work performance.
Tapping his Indian roots, Pichai reveals that he enjoys a steaming mug of tea with his breakfast. While he doesn’t specify the type, tea is purported to have a number of health benefits and can be a great alternative for coffee-drinkers.
According to MayoClinic, black tea has a fraction of the caffeine found in coffee, meaning you can still get the boost in mental clarity with fewer stress-inducing jitters.
Think about the big picture
Pichai says he doesn’t consider the work Google does as a “zero-sum game” and thinks for the longer term. Focusing on the big picture can help all workers gain perspective, improving how they prioritize and how they react throughout the day.