Morning routines and successful people go hand-in-hand. Think of people like Benjamin Franklin, who had a staunch daily schedule that comprised waking up at 5am to have breakfast and taking stock of his day before it began, or Steve Jobs, who greeted every morning by looking into a mirror and asking himself if he felt his plans for the day were worth it if it were his last hours on earth. These revolutionary figures all saw value in adhering to rituals after waking up and believed that these routines set the pace for the day to come.

It is more than just coincidence — science backs it too. In a study by biologist Christoph Randler, 367 individuals were studied, and it was found that those who had morning routines were far more proactive and primed for occupational success.  So if you’ve always been a night owl, it might be time to readjust.

jacqui lim havas media
Jacqui Lim.

To further persuade you, look at Jacqui Lim, the Group CEO of the Havas Group Singapore, and the Head of Business Development for the company’s Asia Pacific arm, overseeing both the media and creative services for the group. Lim never foresaw herself running a company, or even being in a media agency. Growing up, the classical and pop-trained pianist saw herself potentially pursuing a career in music, which still remains one of her greatest loves. But her attraction for industries that allows for creative exploration and analytical thought led her to media agencies, and she never looked back.

Lim has been in the media industry for 12 years, climbing her way from the bottom of the ladder to the very top at one of the world’s most prolific media agencies. Her motivation to begin her weekdays at 5.30am is a reflection of the drive she invests in her job. Under her tutelage, the Havas Group in Singapore has won legacy clients like LG Electronics, 20th Century Fox and more. Her guidance in this arena also invigorated Havas Singapore to win Agency of the Year multiple times.

We sat down with Lim over the phone to delve into the idiosyncratic way she runs her morning before stepping into the office, and how it helps her bolster the day to come.

What time do you wake up every morning?

5.30am. The latest I get up is probably 6am, because I try my best to send my children to school with my husband before work.

So, run us through what you do.

I wash up with very, very cold water because that wakes me up fast and freshens me up, then, because I love things that smell great, I apply a nice hand cream and take some deep breaths.

It’s not a good habit, but I usually start off by checking the emails I got the night before, just to make sure nothing urgent requires my attention, or that nothing happened while I was asleep. It’s important to be on top of everything. My first morning exchange will be with my personal assistant, just to iron out the day ahead.

The most important thing I do after is to pick something out that motivates me, and this is usually an accessory, something I’d be happy to look at for the rest of the day. Then, I get myself a flat white and I’m ready to go.

How do accessories keep you motivated?

I love handcrafted jewellery and have quite a collection. Supporting small artisans that put effort into handmaking such pieces is something I truly enjoy. Some of these have sentimental value or are just pleasing to look at, and I wear this throughout the day because it brings me a small measure of joy.

Also, white shoes are a must. I love white shoes, my whole wardrobe is full of them.

jacqui lim
Lim being awarded the Mumbrella Award for Agency Leader of the Year in 2017. (Photo: Mumbrella Asia)
Would you say you're a morning person?

Yes, I am. I need to start the day early when my mind is rested. I believe that you’re most productive during the daytime. This only pertains to the weekdays though, on the weekends or when I’m not in the office, it’s a different story!

You're a Group CEO to one of the Asia's fastest-growing media agencies, and you are a mother as well. Work-life balance must be something you struggled with?

I would never dare say I am someone that is balanced across the board. It is quite impossible because there will not be a time where everything in your life takes equal importance.

It’s not smart to have a hard-and-fast rule either, where you say, “oh, I’ll spend 70 percent of the day in the office, and 30 percent of the day with my family”. It never pans out that way. Be realistic, know your routine well, and have a relatively flexible schedule where possible.

There are two ways I’ve learned to achieve a semblance of balance. One would be blocking out hours in a day or week that I call “sacred time”, and this I reserve for my family or myself. A support system is also very important and learning to believe that people can offer you the help you need is essential. I wouldn’t have been able to build my career without the support of my parents and my husband.

Beatrice Bowers
Features Editor
Beatrice Bowers writes about beauty, drinks, and other nice things. When not bound to her keyboard, she moonlights as a Niffler for novels and can be found en route to bankruptcy at your nearest bookstore. Don't tell her boss.