Author who studies millionaires: How to use your morning routine to get ahead

Tom Corley, Contributor
Build more wealth in 2018 by breaking these bad money habits

What sharpens your ax?

It's an important question because it gets to the core of what is required in order to become rich and successful.

I have spent over a decade studying self-made millionaires. The one common denominator they all seemed to have were daily habits or routines, often starting first thing in the morning, that enable them to sharpen their ax by consistent daily self-improvement.

Most of that improvement was related to their business, careers or vocation. But many of those self-improvement habits also included keeping fit and healthy and little secrets they deployed to build relationships with other rich, successful people.

I learned that those who were constantly sharpening their ax happened to also be the richest and most successful individuals. So, in an effort to become rich, I took a page out of the book of these self-made millionaires and decided to create my own whetstone to sharpen my own ax.

For me, my whetstone is a proven process that has become my morning routine, or set of habits:

  • I wake at 5 a.m. each day. A quarter of the time I wake up at 4 a.m., and a quarter of the time I wake up at 5:30 a.m.
  • I get my coffee and go down to my "hole" (basement office).
  • I review my Word List for 15 minutes, the list of words I am committing to memory.
  • I review my Facts Summary or Study Summary for 15 minutes. My Facts Summary is a list of important facts I feel it is important to know. My Study Summary is a summary of the thousands of studies I've poured through over the years that make their way into media articles and my books.
  • I read for 45 minutes. Reading material = studies, specifically selected articles, latest non-fiction book, etc.
  • I write for 45 minutes.
  • I spend about 30 minutes reviewing my work: articles, TV interviews, Internet media interviews, speaking engagements, radio interviews, podcast interviews, etc.
  • I exercise between 30 minutes to 60 minutes every day: half an hour if it is a run only day, and an hour if it is a run and lift weights day.
Give up these 7 toxic habits to be successful in business

I began this routine back in 2007, after completing most of my Rich Habits Study and after I had just begun writing my bestselling book "Rich Habits."

I discovered in that study that 55 percent of self-made millionaires woke up three or more hours before actually beginning their formal work day. During that three hours is when they attacked their goals, exercised, read, pursued success, etc. It took me six months for that three hours to become what is now my lifelong morning routine.

Thanks to my whetstone, over the past 11 years I have:

  • Expanded my vocabulary by a factor of ten. There are very few words I do not know the meaning of. This has dramatically improved my communication skills, writing skills, speaking skills and media interview skills.
  • Committed important facts to long-term memory, facts that now take up an entire large-sized binder. I can now talk on just about any subject. I am my own version of Thomas Jefferson.
  • Increased my know-how dramatically. I no longer consider myself stupid or intellectually inferior thanks to the knowledge I've acquired. My self-confidence is very high and continues to increase. Family and friends have taken notice and so too have clients. People like to do business with confident people.
  • Improved my writing skills. All three of my books have become national and international best sellers. My blog has grown from zero to over 10,000 daily subscribers. Some of my media articles have had more than 10 million hits.
  • Lost 37 pounds. When I began my morning routine in July 2007, I weighed 222 pounds. I have weighed between 174 pounds (February 2008) — that's 188 lbs over the past ten years. My most recent weight was 186 pounds. My goal is always the same: 180 pounds.
  • Written over 2,000 articles, about 10 percent of which have been published by the media.
  • Written five books plus two manuscripts I have not yet published.
  • Improved my media interviewing skills.
  • Improved my speaking skills. This has led to more paid speaking engagements, which has become another new revenue stream for me.
  • Created three additional streams of income. I now have four revenue streams: CPA Business, Book Royalties from four books, Financial Planning and Paid Speaking Engagements.

My morning routine is my whetstone, the thing I do to sharpen my ax. It hasn't elevated me to the $3.2 million status of the self-made millionaires in my study yet, but it has made me a millionaire and doubled my income.

Before my morning routine I had one revenue stream, I was heavily in debt ($1.2 million in business debt), I had no money to put my three kids through college and I felt stuck. Now I have four revenue streams, paid for my kids to attend college (with very little student loan debt – about $46,000 in total), and my business debt has dropped to just over $300,000 and will continue to decline every year.

Without my morning routine, my whetstone, my future would be very grim indeed. I owe all the good in my life to my Rich Habits and in particular, to those Rich Habits that have become my whetstone.

What's your whetstone?

Tom Corley is an accountant, financial planner and author of "Rich Kids: How to Raise Our Children to Be Happy and Successful in Life."

Like this story? Like CNBC Make It on Facebook!

Don't miss: 9 extravagant habits to break if you want to save big

A version of this article was previously published on Rich Habits.

Productivity tips from the world's best athletes and coaches