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How to start the day right: Morning routines from this year’s 40 Under 40

September 13, 2021, 2:15 PM UTC

This year’s Fortune 40 Under 40 class has its share of night owls. Some morning routines include multiple cups of coffee, or brushing teeth in the shower to save a few minutes—though some honorees say they relish a few quiet moments for breakfast, a hike, or getting a head start on the workday.

Here’s how this year’s class start out their day:

Walking it off

Nature has proved to be a respite for Kate Brandt, chief sustainability officer of Google, who says she hikes in the Redwood Forest near her home on Mount Tamalpais every morning she can. “Being in the trees and hearing the streams and birdsong, even just 20 or 30 minutes, keeps me grounded in my purpose and clears my mind for the day,” Brandt says.

Cody Hounanian, director of the Student Debt Crisis Center, likes to start his day off with activities that will help him feel grounded. That usually includes taking the puppy on a walk around the neighborhood, reading the news from his balcony, or listening to the birds. “It is important to start the day stress-free, clearheaded, and mentally prepared to take on the day’s challenges,” he says. 

Staying caffeinated 

Jessica Raasch, senior store design manager at Target, loves mornings, even if they can sometimes be a bit chaotic. “With two young children and a puppy, even the best-laid plans result in mornings that resemble the scene from Home Alone when everyone has overslept and is running late,” she says. Even so, she’s managed to find a common thread: brewing coffee in the kitchen, dog underfoot, making her kids’ lunches, and checking the Minnesota weather. 

Three children make for a doable alarm clock, according to Karin Fronczke, global head of private equity at Fidelity Investments. “Usually the kids come running up to my room at sunrise and I let them watch morning cartoons while I check my emails and schedule for the day from my phone,” she says. Later on: a family breakfast and a large pot of coffee to start off the day. 

Steak (and eggs?)

Heather Hasson, the cofounder and co-CEO of FIGS, says she starts off the day cooking steak for her dog, Roger, before hopping on the Peloton and reading the news. She listens to a new genre of music each week.

Chris Bell, founder and CEO of Perch, goes to the gym each morning, then starts cooking breakfast at 6:30 a.m. so he has time to eat with his daughters. He tries to leave the first two hours of his workday meeting-free, so that he can focus on getting work done or thinking strategically about the business.

Getting through it

Benji Backer, president and founder of the American Conservation Coalition, says he isn’t much of a morning person and has “tried countless morning routines over the years.” Of late, he has been making unsweetened iced tea and breakfast, reading sports news, or staring out at the Olympic mountains from his apartment. 

“I do all of the things you’re ‘not supposed to do,’” says Megan Quinn, chief operating officer of Niantic, who says she typically wakes up before it’s light outside and immediately reads email, Slack, and Twitter from bed, followed by “more than a couple cups of coffee.” Later you will find her feeding, clothing, and playing with her 2-year-old before heading out for a three- to five-mile run. “It’s a cliché, but it’s truly the only time I’m alone, and it gives me an opportunity to think through the strategy for different projects, challenges, and the day ahead,” she says.

Keller Rinaudo, CEO of Zipline, says he wakes up about five minutes before heading out the door. Brushing his teeth in the shower and grabbing a quick protein shake can save time. Fidji Simo, CEO of Instacart, says she wakes up at the last possible minute each day, cuddles with her daughter, then reads emails in bed (“I know I’m not supposed to do that,” she says), and eats Nutella toast (“I’m not supposed to do that either”).

While Hamilton Bennett, senior director of vaccine access and partnerships at Moderna, says she has had stints with various morning routines, including a “brief relationship” with daily meditation, she acknowledges that she often reverts to old habits. More often than not, her routine is “waking up 20 [minutes] before the first call of the day and playing a game of ‘how much coffee is too much coffee before 7 a.m.’ There are no winners in this game,” she says.

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Fortune‘s 2021 40 Under 40 list highlights the rising entrepreneurs, influencers, creators, and executives that have shaped the global pandemic experience—and are paving the way for what comes next.