Healthy Living

Experts Claim the 90/90/1 Morning Routine Is the Key to You Achieving Your Biggest Goals

Graphics by: Caitlin Schneider
Graphics by: Caitlin Schneider

New Year’s resolutions can feel like nothing but a never-ending to-do list: eat more protein, cut back on alcohol, get more steps in, get a promotion, learn how to be more confident, and become your best self. Maybe you’re the type of person who checks off the most dreaded task first or the one who puts it on the perpetual back burner (same). However you go about tackling your goals, throw in the distractions that find their way to you—GRWMs, the pile of laundry that somehow grew higher since you last left it, your co-worker giving you the lowdown on her Hinge date—and you’re left wondering where the day went and how you can once and for all enter your “most efficient self” era to fulfill your intentions. But rather than creating a long, daunting list of what you want to accomplish in 2024, why not focus on one single goal at a time?

Enter: The 90/90/1 rule, which people are claiming is the secret to achieving any major goal. Ahead, the 411 on the 90-90-1 rule, including how it works and how to start implementing it now to crush your goals in 2024.

What is the 90/90/1 rule, and how does it work?

Created by Robin Sharma, best known as the author of bestsellers such as The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari and The 5AM Club, the 90/90/1 method is one of his 10 core rituals of legendary performers. Turns out it could also be the secret to achieving any resolution or goal you want to achieve this year. In this method, you take one big goal—whether it’s launching a business or running a marathon—and spend your first 90 minutes of every day for 90 days working toward this goal.

Why is 90 the magic number? 90 minutes is said to be the limit for focusing intensely on any given task before we lose steam. Known as the ultradian rhythm, a cycle that’s present in both our sleeping and waking lives, we alternate between periods of high-frequency brain activity (about 90 minutes) followed by lower-frequency brain activity (about 20 minutes). As far as the 90-day sweet spot goes, it’s not too long or too short. Resolutions made on January 1 may not be relevant come next December or even July, for that matter. And December 31 feels so far away that you can easily fall into the “I’ll start tomorrow” trap. 90 days is far enough in the future to give yourself time to realistically attain your one objective, and it’s long enough to build up a habit. For example, if your goal is to read more and you’re reading every morning, by the time 90 days is up, you won’t have to make it a goal to read—it will be a part of your routine. Plus, breaking up the year into 90-day increments means you can realistically go all in, one goal at a time.

An important key to the success of the 90/90/1 method is making it the first 90 minutes of your day (Sharma refers to 5 a.m.-9 a.m. as your “highest value hours”). Studies back this up: Researchers at the University of Nottingham and the National Institute of Education in Singapore reviewed 83 different studies on self-control and discovered that shortly after waking up, self-control (meaning the ability to avoid distractions and actually accomplish tasks) is at its peak, and then slowly depletes during the day. While it’s tempting to sleep in until the last second possible and rush into starting work, Sharma calls the first few hours in the morning “platinum hours” for a reason: If it’s the most effective time in your day, it only makes sense to dedicate them to your greatest goals or highest purpose. Sharma attests that using the 90/90/1 method will “create exponential productivity,” giving you a huge competitive advantage to accomplish any goal.

How to try it for yourself

Set aside time in your calendar and prepare

The first order of business is to block off time in your calendar and set a timer for 90 minutes for the next 90 days (or take any approach that works for you to hold yourself accountable), and treat it like any work meeting, doctor’s appointment, or Pilates class: Prepare in advance and actually show up. Eliminate everything that can prevent you from making those first few hours of the day count. Turn off your phone, change your Slack status to “Need to Focus,” put on noise-canceling headphones, set an intention, take a few deep breaths—anything you need to do to get in a distraction-free mode. Finally, track your progress by using a journal or app or assigning a reward to mark each milestone (the small wins deserve celebration too!).

Plan how you’ll spend the 90 minutes

Exactly how you spend those 90 minutes is up to you. Some goals may be obvious, for example, if your goal is to read more and you want to get through five books in 90 days, you will wake up a little earlier than usual to read before you have to get ready for work. However, you don’t always have to spend 90 minutes doing the same thing; the goal is to spend it working toward your goal, whatever that looks like. If you want to start your own business, some days may be doing administrative work while other days may be brainstorming. If you want to run a marathon, some days will be spent running and doing the physical training, but other days will be spent setting you up for success in other ways, such as stretching or icing muscles, making hype playlists for the week, meal prepping food to fuel you, etc.

Consider working toward an intention rather than a goal

If no concrete goals come to mind for you this year, or you’re ditching traditional resolutions, consider applying the 90/90/1 method to intentions or emotions rather than goals. For example, a worthwhile goal for anyone (any time of year) is to boost happiness. Spend 90 days prioritizing happiness for the first 90 minutes of your day: wake up early to fit in your favorite hobby, listen to a happiness meditation instead of scrolling through your phone, or call your best friend who makes you laugh before diving into emails. Looking to manifest your best self this year? Spend 90 minutes a day journaling different aspects of what that looks like—what your best friend is doing, where she’s living, how she spends her time. Then spend the rest of the 90 days taking some of the actionable steps you outlined in your journaling that will propel you to become your best self, whether that’s a certain morning routine, setting healthy boundaries, or surrounding yourself with people who bring out the best in you.

Be flexible about what feels best for you

If the number 90 sounds too intimidating, start with 15-15-1 and build your way up to 30-30-1, then 45-45-1, until you reach 90-90-1. You could even do five minutes every day for a week. If you’re not a morning person or your schedule doesn’t allow you to dedicate an uninterrupted 90 minutes in the A.M., choose a different time of day that works for you. Bottom line: Don’t get fixated on the numbers or the logistics. Instead, just get started on that goal or side hustle you’ve been daydreaming about by chipping away at it first thing and keeping at it.