25 Morning Routine Ideas For a Productive Start To Your Day

25 Morning Routine Ideas For a Productive Start To Your Day

Let me paint you a picture.

It’s 7.51am, you know that’s the time as you’re checking your watch every 30 seconds or so as you’ve only got 9 more minutes to make it before you’re late to work. You curse yourself again for hitting the snooze button the 4th and 5th time… Idiot!

Your belly is rumbling, no time for food this morning. You couldn’t make coffee either, that’s another $10 for a drink and sandwich at the overpriced shop next to your workplace.

As you walk through the office doors (at 8.04am, and you’re sure your boss noticed) you get a comment about your shirt, the collar is wonky – you didn’t even get a chance to look at yourself in the mirror before leaving today.

Get the idea?

Your morning sets the tone for the rest of your day. Get up on time and make yourself breakfast and coffee over a chat with your wife/husband or listening quitely to the news prepares you mentally for a more effective and happier 24 hours.

Here is my large collection of tips for morning routines, ranked roughly in order from most important to least important. Just in my opinion, of course. Some are tips on how to feel generally better in the morning, some are productive habits that compound over the long term into meaningful additions to your life. Think of as a buffet, take what you need and disregard what you don’t.

Contents

1. Get rid of the snooze button
2. Wake up at the same time every day
3. Have a small but energy filled breakfast
4. Get some caffeine in you
5. Splash water on your face
6. Plan your day
7. Weigh yourself
8. Make your bed
9. Do ironing
10. Listen to podcasts
11. Don’t check your notifications/fb/whatever
12. Clean up
13. Make lunch for work
14. Express gratitude
15. Give yourself more time than you need
16. Meditate
17. Exercise
18. Work on your side hustle
19. Read
20. Hydrate
21. Morning pages
22. Negative visualisation
23. Review your goals
24. Open the curtains
25. Take a cold shower

Putting it all together
My routine


1. Get rid of the snooze button

This one comes first because it’s the most important. You are literally killing your chances of enjoying your morning by using the snooze button.

I know of no-one who in any way enjoys their mornings by spending it waking up then going back to sleep, then waking up and going back to sleep, repeat ad nauseum.

The snooze button trains your brain to associate the act of waking up with instantly going back to sleep. On top of that, those 9 minutes have NEVER made anyone feel much better, who wakes up after hitting snooze thinking, “Right I feel brilliant now time to attack the day!”

Set a time and then stick to it. You can turn the snooze function off on many alarms and smartphones which is a good first step, if you still have problems (I know morning you is hardly the most logical) then check out this article on always getting out of bed in the morning.

It’s basically a report on the findings of my 10+ year personal project on learning how to get out of bed every time and feel pretty decent while doing it.

2. Wake up at the same time every day

Leading on nicely from the first entry on this list, the second thing you must be doing is to wake up at the same time every day. If you’re getting up at different hours then you’ve not got a morning routine, you’ve got a mess of a lifestyle.

The most productive mornings involve a set amount of time with a strict routine that gets you ready for the day. What you include in there is up to you but messing around with it each day defeats the whole purpose.

Now I some people work shifts and can’t reliably set their alarm for the same time each day. In this case, the answer is to give yourself the same amount of time each day before having to leave the house, this means you can still follow your morning routine to the letter.

One more thing, waking up reliably is something a lot of people deal with. I know this because I spent 10 painful years trying to figure it out. If you didn’t already click on this link in #1 then I’m giving it to you again here, here’s what I’ve learned in this article here on how to always wake up in the morning so check it out!

3. Have a small but energy filled breakfast

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

We’ve all heard this famous quote, right? What many of us don’t know is that these words were the product of careful lobbying and publicization in the early 20th century, one of the foremost proponents being Dr. John Harvey Kellogg (yes, from the Kellogg’s).

And in fact, studies have shown that skipping breakfast does not lead to weight gain, health issues or underperformance.

That said, food provides sustenance and energy so if you’re looking to have an active morning then eating a small and healthy breakfast can really jumpstart you. Take care not to eat too much lest you become bloated and sluggish, and aim to eat healthy by including lots of fruit and vegetables.

Breakfast can be another area where you start the day off well and it sets the tone for the rest of your eating, no-one wants to ruin their diet with a Burger King when they ate fruit and salad that morning!

4. Get some caffeine in you

If you’re a coffee drinker or get your morning caffeine pick-me-up in another way, adding it into your morning is a nice little idea. Most regular drinkers will say that having a coffee is the highlight of their day, so associating it with waking up by drinking pretty soon after wake up means your body will have a nice little treat in the morning to look forward to.

Moreover, the act of making a drink like coffee or even something more obscure like yerba mate (look it up!), can be a zen-like process which imbues you with a meditative aura that stays with you while you crush the rest of your morning and day.

5. Splash water on your face

Ever heard of the Mammalian Diving Reflex? This is a physiological response that all mammals have stored in their biology, and therefore humans too of course, which prepares us to dive under water.

It is activated by our face being cooled, such as what happens when we are under water during a dive, or when we hold our breath. This causes your heart rate to slow and a few other things.

While a quick splash on your face upon wakeup is unlikely to spark you into jumping headfirst into the nearest body of water, it is, in my experience at least, an effective way of bringing you out of that early morning ‘sleep inertia’. I recommend doing it as quickly after wake-up as possible, for the best effects.

6. Plan your day

Those early hours are the perfect time to sit down with your goals and your to-do lists and surgically plan out what you are going to execute that day, as opposed to haphazardly getting things done that you remember to do and forgetting or postponing other things.

When considering what to do in your day, select some tasks as priorities and make sure they get done. Usually, the longest or most unpleasant activities are the most important ones, and they are definitely the easiest to put off, day after day.

As Brian Tracy says in his book “Eat The Frog”,
 if you’re going to have to do something unpleasant like eating a frog then you should do it immediately. You have to do it at some point and doing it straight away eliminates the worry and dread from doing such a disagreeable task.

7. Weigh yourself

Did you know that your body weight can fluctuate by up to 6 lbs on a day-to-day basis even when you are the same basic mass? Your “water weight”, fecal matter, liquids and foods consumed can all make a big difference and give you a frustrating moment when you diet fastidiously for a month and find you weigh the same as before!

Well, let me fill you in on a little trick. You can download apps that work out whether you are a losing or gaining weight by weighing yourself each day. The app will work out the trend line and tell you how fast you are putting on or taking off the pounds, so you can adjust on the fly. Take a look at the photo below and you can see how much I’m losing.

If I have a few days where I’m losing too quickly? I eat a little more. If my weight is stable, then I eat a little less.

This even is effective whether you are losing weight, gaining weight, or just trying to stay the same. The information it gives you helps you whatever way!

8. Make your bed

If there’s one thing on this list that people are bound to ignore it’s this one, making your bed. Whether it’s your mom shouting at you, or Jordan Peterson in his lectures, no doubt you’ve heard this one a million times by now and equally you’ve disregarded it that many times too. Nevertheless, I’m going to take a stab at convincing you.

Perhaps you’ve picked up one of the central themes to the items in this list by now, which is to perform small actions that make your world a little better.

Making your bed a few times isn’t going to revolutionize your life and bring you all your hopes and dreams, neither is eating breakfast or cleaning your kitchen. But these small actions, compounded over time, lead to habits which leads to discipline which leads to building the kind of character that can achieve things you never thought possible.

To back this up, here’s a great video that went viral a few years ago by a US Admiral titled, “If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.”

9. Do ironing

Ironing, considered by many as the most onerous of chores, is a fantastic way to show the world you mean business. What do I mean by that? Well, ironing is a finicky process that most people rush to get a job done that ‘good enough’ so they don’t look like complete slobs with creases all over their shirts/dresses (some don’t even do that!)

So spending some extra time in the morning and learning how to iron well will put you on another level to all the other corner-cutters at work. And people do notice this stuff.

There are loads of videos out there on how to improve your ironing game, the best tip I ever received was to use a little cornstarch and water to give that starchy, flat effect.

Oh and one last thing: I remember hearing about ironing: an ironing board is a just a surfboard that grew up and got a real job!

10. Listen to podcasts

At this point in the list, I estimate about 50% of you will be thinking… ironing? making the bed? These mornings sound boring as hell! Well, this is where I introduce you to the magical world of podcasts.

Get into a few of these and you will find yourself looking forward to these boring tasks because you get to listen to them!

Some of my favorites include Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History, the Joe Rogan Experience and whole lot of different sports podcasts. Switch one of these on and follow along as you get your chores completed and ready for the day.

11. Don’t check your notifications/fb/whatever

I remember when I started a new job in a new country around about 5 years ago, and I was super keen to impress. I had the idea that I would wake up at 6am rather than at the usual time of 6.30am to give myself an extra jump on the day.

What actually happened was I found the task of waking up so difficult that I’d ‘reward’ myself by checking my phone, looking at the notifications, Facebook, Insta, sports news while still laying in the pleasant warmth of my bed. Thirty minutes later, I’d realize I needed to get up and then I’d have exactly the same amount of time as I would anyway.

Hopefully, this illustrates the danger of your phone and how it can ruin any well-meaning attempt at a productive morning. What I do now is turn my phone on Airplane Mode as I go to sleep and don’t turn it back on until I set off for work.

All those messages and news I will still check, but during some downtime I have or perhaps in the evening when I want to relax a little. Again, as I’ve said loads and loads, it’s all about starting off your day in the right way and setting a tone for the next 16-18 hours.

12. Clean up

I used to be absolutely terrible for cleaning my apartment. I would spend hours and hours one day making sure that everything was tidied away, all clothes were washed and ironed, the kitchen was clean, all that good stuff. Then this arduous process would put me off from doing any more cleaning for about 2 weeks, upon which I’d realize that my apartment looked like the scene of an earthquake or something.

What I do now, and is so much more effective, is to do small amounts of cleaning regularly. While I cook, I will make sure that cutlery or plates are getting washed, while I walk around, I will pick up any spare bits of rubbish.

Doing small amounts on a regular basis can be incorporated into a morning routine, where just 5-10 minutes of sprucing up can keep things tidier than you would think!

13. Make lunch for work

Have you ever heard of the Latte Factor? This phenomenon is described by folks in the personal finance sector where small purchases when compounded over large periods of time end up costing obscene amounts of money.

For example, a $5 latte bought 3 times per week over ten years can add up to over $15,000 (including investment potential). Now multiply that across everything you buy and you can see how those seemingly tiny purchases make a big difference to your bottom line.

So spending a little time in the morning making a couple of sandwiches might save you $10 each day you do it, and a whole lot in the long run. In addition, you’ll be eating healthier than if you ate out every day and can get some time perfecting your culinary skills. (Everyone loves someone who can make a damn good sandwich!)

14. Express gratitude

In 1999 the movie Fight Club was released and was a worldwide success. One of its most iconic speeches that resonated with millions was Tyler Durden’s denouncement of the modern lifestyle.

Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need.

It’s 2018 as of writing and we’re all getting a little wiser to what is also known as the ‘hedonic treadmill’. More so than ever before, people are starting to realize that happiness does not come from that new gadget or getting that raise but from inner peace, meaningful work, and connections with other people.

One other tributary on the great river of happiness is gratitude, expressing gratefulness for the things we already have. Research has shown that people who spend time thinking about things they are thankful they have are happier and healthier.

I’ll leave it to the experts to tell you the best ways to practice gratefulness – a gratitude journal is often recommended – so here’s an article on some of the best ways to do that.

15. Give yourself more time than you need

Why is everyone always late? I know this sounds hyperbolic but it really amazes me how regularly people can miss the time they were supposed to meet someone or be somewhere, and this is even more pronounced in this era of smartphones and hyper-connectivity where you can reschedule the time you are going to arrive after your date is already there!

I heard a great reason for why this is: people plan for the amount of time it takes to do things or get somewhere, but they don’t plan for unexpected delays.

The problem is that there are always unexpected delays! Each morning there is a pretty high chance that you might have to look for your keys for 5 minutes or drop some milk on the floor and have to clean it up.

The easy solution? Give yourself 15-25 minutes more than you need for a greater sense of peace and to never worry about being late again.

16. Meditate

When I was studying in Oxford I couldn’t make sense of my life at all. A good friend said, “Why not try Vipassana meditation?” It’s about letting go of all the different fantasies that fill up our minds. It transformed my life.

That quote is from one of my favorite authors, Yuval Noah Harari, who wrote Sapiens and Homo Deus. The act of emptying one’s mind is associated with numerous health benefits including reducing stress and controlling anxiety.

The predawn period is a perfect time to practice meditation as there are few distractions and, like many things on this list, will give you an excellent direction to take with you throughout the day.

While this section is not nearly long enough to go into a ‘how to’ on meditation, I find it has helped me learn to slow down my thoughts which is particularly useful in the evening when I want to clear my brain and fall asleep. I’d recommend Sam Harris’s book Waking Up as an excellent introduction to the topic.

17. Exercise

You know in the schools in China, each morning they get all the students to line up and they perform light movements or exercise for about 15 minutes. I know this because at one of the schools I went to, long ago, we had a couple of teachers who were doing an ‘exchange’ from China.

The reason for this exercise was that getting the heart rate going and the muscles in action had benefits for cognition and learning throughout the day. These are also the reasons why practically every timetable for kids has some kind of gym class or sports exercise on it.

So how to incorporate that into your morning routine?

Well, if you’re already a running enthusiast or gym rat then you can use this extra time to do your thing. The morning is a great time to exercise, the roads are clear and the gyms are empty. Failing that, a more time efficient way to get started in the morning is to do exercises in your own house with just bodyweight.

Chin ups, push ups, sit ups, burpees, jumping jacks, anything that gets the heart rate moving will give you positive benefits for the rest of the morning and day. Extra points if you make yourself do this as soon as you wake-up.

18. Work on your side hustle

It probably hasn’t escaped you that I write for and own a website (this one…) I began working on this as a way to have a passive online income that would give all the benefits like location independence, freedom from the 9-5, that kind of thing. While I’m not there yet, I’m still putting in the hours on a regular basis to make it happen.

What I have noticed is that working on a side hustle after doing a full stint at a normal job is difficult bordering on impossible. I once heard someone say:

Work steals the best hours of your day.

After waking up, you get around 8 hours of alertness until the afternoon slump that many experience. That’s all natural, it’s due to cortisol levels or some such, the point being that you give your best working hours to work. This is fine if you’re in a career that you enjoy and challenges you and you’re aiming for the top.

It is not fine if you’re looking to sidestep to another job or career or looking to make some money from home. Coming home in the evening after a tough day of meetings or busywork or whatever you do and it’s so much harder to get decent work done.

Your best and most productive hours come early on, so if you spend all that time dealing with meetings and bosses and whatever else you have to deal with in your day job, it’s going to sap all the energy out of you to ge stuff done in the evenings.

Some of the best times I’ve had have been getting up early and saving that first hour or two for my own projects because that’s what’s really important to me.

19. Read

Otto Von Bismarck, the great German ruler, said something to the effect of:

Only a fool learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.

Within the tomes of literature are contained the knowledge of many of the greatest men and women to walk the earth, with all they experienced and learned. If you take a cue from Otto, you can learn by doing and failing, or you can learn by reading the experiences of those who have gone before you.

And that’s not to mention the breadth of stories that are contained within the pages of a book. How many times do you hear someone say that the film wasn’t as good as the book? You can get started by reading such classics as Lord of the Rings or Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (= Blade Runner)

Reading is another one of those things that seems so difficult after a long day at work. Try to spend 20-30 minutes reading in the morning flips the whole thing around, you have more energy and are more ready to read and learn from all the words the human race has to offer.

20 Hydrate

Did you know that 7% of Americans do not drink any water at all? As in, they get all their hydration from either drinks that are filled with sugar, colorings, caffeine, and artificial sweeteners or from food. It’s also been speculated that 75% of us do not drink enough water full stop.

Break the cycle of poor hydration by fitting in a glass of pure water in your morning. It will feel healthy to drink it, will get you more used to the taste of it compared to all the other crap you could be drinking and will give your body some much-needed hydration.

21. Write Morning Pages

Here’s an idea taken from a book called ‘The Artist’s Way’ by Julia Cameron that is proving a hit with motivated internet guys and gals. The process involves taking a notebook or some paper and a pen, then writing out words on 3 pages each morning.

What do you write? Anything that comes to mind. Your fears, thoughts, dreams, reflections, literally whatever is passing through your brain at that moment. It’s like a stream-of-consicousness journal.

I’ve not actually tried doing this yet as I only heard about it recently although I’m certainly intrigued. Benefits are supposed to include a greater sense of mental clarity, a way for you to reflect on your life with no judgement and in the long-term an increased output of prodcutive work – the book was initially designed to help artists produce more good content.

Oh yea, and you have to write it out with a pen! Doing it electronically is cheating!

22. Negative visualisation

Famous internet entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuck once said that he begins every morning by imagining that his entire family had died. Yea… And that by spending a few moments doing that it gave him a great appreciation for the life he had and he felt unphased by any obstacles that life could throw at him as he had already pictured the worst happening.

This technique, called negative visualisation, is derived from the Stoic school of Ancient Greece and is touted as an excellent way to experience gratitude for the things you already have.

The process simply requires you to imagine not having something that you already have that brings you joy. It could be your family, your limbs, your eyesight or even something as simple as having a warm shower or food in the fridge.

A few minutes imagining yourself taking a cold shower can be extremely effective in making you appreciate the warm shower you are about to spend a few minutes in!

23. Review your goals

A great quote from soccer wonderkid Lionel Messi:

It took me 17 years and 114 days to become an overnight success.

The wisdom buried in there is that achievement does not come quickly or easily. It takes decades of grafting every single day to really hit the heights.

People who write down their goals vividly are between 1.2 to 1.4 times more likely to achieve them.

So it pays to firstly have a concrete idea of what you want to achieve and have that written down somewhere, and what better time to keep your mind focused by spending a few minutes each morning reminding yourself of what is so important to you.

And I assume that for most, one of the attractive parts of having a morning routine is that it gives you more time to work on improving yourself and hitting those goals.

Some people like to use positive visualization for this where you imagine yourself in the position you want to be in as a tool to motivate you to get what needs to be done right now. Either way, a constant reminder of why you are getting up early can be a useful addition.

24. Open the curtains

Our human bodies are nocturnal which means that we sleep at night and rise with the sun. We also get most of our Vitamin D from sunlight and depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder have been linked with a lack of sun. So… fling those curtains open in the morning and bathe in the radiance!

If you get up before sunrise then that’s even better as you can watch the sun’s rays slowly encroach into the world, which personally I find very relaxing.

Our modern lifestyles our not conducive to getting as much sun as we need. Doctors recommend between 10-30 minutes of midday sun for 3 times a week as being enough for us to replenish our Vitamin D levels – certainly not everyone is getting that, so give yourself a boost and get the sun in in the morning!

25. Take a cold shower

The luxury of heated water is such a mainstay in modern homes that it seems ridiculous that we ever lived without it, but for most of human history we never had the luxury of warm water while we bathed, we simple had to deal with the cold.

Cold showers are never something I have personally been able to work in, I do not enjoy them and find them aa major obstacle to geting things done in the morning.

But I have heard and read about numerous health benefits from doing this, with those who enjoy it primarily saying that doing such a tough task hardens the mind and will, making everything else seem easy. I guess I can see what they mean, maybe I’ll give it another try one day.


Putting it all together

Ok so you’ve picked a few things you like and are ready to pounce like a tiger the next time you wake up, good job. Please bear in mind that this is a morning routine, not a morning do-some-stuff-you-read-about, in that it’s not a routine if you don’t have a set order that you aim to complete the tasks in.

So what you should do is think about the amount of time you need, give yourself that much time in the morning and set a schedule for which things you want to do and when.

It will help to write it down, the first few days will be a bit all over the place, but as you practice and consistently do the same things you will begin to find it easier and you’ll probably wake up much easier and get through your tasks much easier, and you’ll feel pretty incredible for the rest of your day.

My routine

Here’s a routine I followed for a couple of months (my life is a bit up-in-the-air at the moment so can’t really use that!) where I felt at my most productive.

It looks simple when written down, but each morning after I’d been awake for less than 3 hours I’d completed enough tasks that even if I accomplished nothing else that day, I’d still be feeling pretty good about myself.

4.30am – Wake up, splash water on my face, weigh myself, do ten push ups or chin ups, pour a glass of water (to drink!)
4.40am – One hour working on my website.
5.40am – 45 minute gym session.
6.40am – Shower, ironing, breakfast, while listening to podcasts.
7.10am – Leave for work.

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