Do you need to be a billionaire or entrepreneurial genius to see success every day that just gets better and better over time?
No, of course not.
It might not hurt…but I’m going to play the odds here and assume I’m talking to a fellow non-billionaire or genius.
It’s nice to meet you – we already have something in common!
Having a solid routine in the morning has set me up for success in many areas of my life and smoothed out the bumpier bits by letting me still get important tasks done even when I’m in a slump or having a bad day.
It’s the foundation that in one year saved me 115+ hours. Dividing 115 by 8 hours shows that in that one year I saved nearly 3 weeks of working days!
Other successful people use these same techniques to lower stress, allow themselves to work fewer hours, connect more with family and friends, and so much more.
I’ve learned from those that have gone before me and added my own twists where needed – and that’s what I want to help you do starting today: create your own personalized morning routine that boosts your productivity and lets you achieve your goals.
I want to share a quick look into my life before diving into this topic.
I don’t want to be productive just to “be productive”.
I’d rather be reading a book or planning a trip than doing some mundane task that counts towards “productive time”.
The reason behind improving my productivity was to increase my efficiency and make sure that I get the essential items done for the day and increase my wellbeing – I like taking an afternoon or two off every week and running on the trails in the hills or mountains.
I urge you to do the same – what do you want? Why do you want to be more productive? Make a smart choice and write it down to remind you why you’re investing time and energy into productive work.
Table of Contents
- How To Start A Morning Routine
- What You Need In A Morning Routine
- How To Stick To Your Morning Routine Consistently
- Ways To Expand Your Routine For Even Better Results
- Daily Routine Template
- Daily Routine Examples
The Good Stuff Up Front, Or “Benefits Of Having A Daily Morning Routine”
Before you get into the details, I want to address something that has probably been on your mind either right now or sometime in the past.
Why follow a daily routine?
Wouldn’t it be MORE effort to think about and set up a good morning routine and then optimize it, instead of just plowing ahead and dealing with the “little” issues here and there?
Having no routine is MORE work, by far, than spending the time to set up a daily morning routine that keeps giving you results day in and day out.
If you’re a bit like me and enjoy saving time and getting benefits while you’re not even working (like setting up automations using tools like Zapier, IFTTT, or Integromat, then this should definitely appeal to you.
It does require you to be proactive and actually set up some small routines, which will improve your state of mind, leave you with a clear head, and make you more dependable.
Now, how about reduced anxiety and stress?
You know, when you look at your phone first thing in the morning (don’t worry, this WON’T be part of your morning routine before long) and see that email from a client or your boss…and then your mind is off to the races, thinking of all the bad things that could be in that email, right?
Having a plan in place with a simple but effective process can not only lower your anxiety and stress, but it has the added effect of making you a more dependable person with better time management skills.
Knowing what you need to get done and how your going to do it will also result in increased motivation as you won’t be struggling to figure out what the next step is or what you should be working on in the first place.
If this sounds good to you and you want to put in place the best morning routine, or simply take yours up a notch, keep reading.
For those of you getting started, I’ve even included a cheat sheet that you can download right here.
How To Start A Morning Routine?
Multiple interviews and reviews of high performing people have shown that a morning routine needs to be personalized but that there are commonalities that pop up in nearly every case.
When we put it all together we’re going to add in the more “administrative” side of things like checking your calendar and going through your “to do list”.
But first, let’s take a closer look at some big common areas and see how they apply to you and your morning routine.
I’m going to talk about sleep here briefly – although it applies to the body as well.
There is no single “best time” wake up time for you, I don’t care if you’re an early riser or night owl…whatever works best for you is what works best for you. Finding out when you are at your peak efficiency and feeling motivated is the important part.
What I can say is that time and again, high performers have noted that they tend to rise earlier than others and use that time to focus on themselves before turning their attention outwards to the days tasks.
The important note here is that what you do immediately following waking up is vastly more important than when you wake up when designing efficient routines with an eye towards maximum productivity.
When we get into the details of piecing together or adding to your morning routine you’ll have several things to choose from, just remember to consider all three areas – Mind, Body, and Spirit. And don’t worry, I’m not going to go all “woo woo” on you and insist on having seance with spirits and incense…unless that’s what works for you!
Other areas that may fall under “Mind”:
- Writing down what you’re grateful for (helps start your day – and mind – on a positive note)
- Starting your day without social media or emails
- Scheduling time to work on “your” projects first thing
- Spending time with your family
- Spending time with your pet(s)
- Reading a chapter or two on your Kindle or current book
- Having some time to just “think”
When we’re active, life just feels better, doesn’t it?
Whether that means not sitting all day, going for a brisk walk or two, or running a marathon – when our body is engaged and active, we feel better overall with improved energy levels.
Something I noticed a long time ago, that really blew me away was noticing that food literally tasted better and was more appetizing if I had exercised that day!
There’s tons of additional benefits beyond my enjoyment of food though…
Numerous studies have shown increases in productivity of 20% or more just from including exercise – and what better place to put it than your morning routine so that you can ensure that it happens consistently?
I might not have included this section 5 or 10 years ago but I realize that there is sometimes more to life than just my mind and body – I can’t fully define it but I sometimes I need something “else”.
This may just be a way of completing some loops in my brain and making me feel more complete or content, but whatever it is, it works.
For myself, it’s walking – which sounds like a more “body” type of activity, but actually makes me feel better in many ways, gives me time to think, and has led to some great ideas as well as feeling content and happy.
Another is occasionally meditating.
Now this is the classic “spirit” stuff and if you’re not interested, that’s OK.
I have tried meditation off and on and will continue to dabble – I’m fine with not doing it all the time, and so long as I feel that I’m getting a benefit from doing it occasionally then it’s good enough for me.
The important part of any of these types of activities is to do something that leaves you feeling better than you were before.
That’s a highly personal thing to try and put a “score” on, so it’s up to you to try several things that you think might work, and decide what to keep and what to drop.
Take the best, leave the rest.
What You Need In Your Morning Routine – Putting It All Together
We’ve quickly covered the 3 main areas you should have in your morning routine:
Let’s put it together now in a more structured format so that you have an easy path forward to creating your own daily rituals that will improve not only your productivity but also your overall health.
Here’s what I recommend you do to lay out for yourself what morning routine will give you the best results and be one that you can stick with.
First things first.
You need time to do this!
Check your calendar and see what you can realistically commit to each day. At a minimum I recommend 15 minutes and 30 minutes is more realistic.
Whatever you choose for time, be honest with yourself and know that you can always add more time on – it’s better to build the habit with 30 minutes than to shoot for 1 hour and crash and burn after a few weeks.
Consistency is key.
Now, choose 1 activity from each area (mind, body, spirit) that you can do each day.
Some of these may overlap – so don’t make it too difficult. Here’s a short list to get you started.
- Read 1 chapter of a book
- Read for 10 minutes
- Read 1 non-news article
- Crossword puzzle
- 10 minute walk
- Go for a run
- Bike ride
- Play with your kids
- Play with your animals
- HIIT workout
- Aerobic exercise workouts
- Drinking a water bottle while walking
- Taking a multivitamin
- Sit on your porch or entryway and enjoy a cup of coffee
- Walking (works for me!)
- Playing with your kids or animals
- Conversation with family or friend
Take a look through those or come up with your own – and choose 1 for each.
Remember that some of these can do “double duty”. For example, my current routine is to get up, go for a walk for about 15 minutes, come in, make coffee, read one section of The Daily Stoic while having coffee on the porch.
Ok, now that you’ve got your activities selected, let’s cover the more traditional areas.
I’ve found that whether you follow Getting Things Done or any other great organization system, you need to consider the following:
- Reviewing your calendar for the day
- Bring together all notes and todos
- Prioritize and Batch
There’s so many great ways to do this that there are entire schools of thought around this process!
I’m going to cut this down to what you can implement right now and keep this moving.
I suggest writing down what you’re going to do each day on paper and in a calendar event so that you have a process you can follow. This is especially helpful on days when you’re feeling “off”, tired, un-motivated, whatever.
Just having it written down with a reminder is going to turn you from having big ups and downs to evening out those lows and letting you still have your big ups.
What do you need to write down at this point?
Check The Calendar
Where to review your calendar (desktop? mobile? do you have a personal and work calendar?)
This one important thing is most often bypassed by people that feel they are too busy…coincidence?
Collect Notes & Todos
Where should you look for your notes and todos? Do you have them in multiple areas like sticky notes on the fridge, Todoist app, and Slack messages? Don’t worry about cleaning it up, just make writing it down a simple rule you have so you know where to look every day.
Now that you’ve checked out your calendar and have collected all of your notes and todos, take a look through them. What’s on your plate today? What’s important versus something that can be delegated (or…gasp…deleted!)?
Prioritize and Batch
After a quick review you’re now in a position to prioritize what remains and batch together like tasks.
What does that mean?
For example, let’s say you need to respond to 3 different emails. To keep you from going down a rabbit hole of emails (been there…check out SaneBox if you want to get your email organized efficiently) you could knock out those 3 emails together while you’re in the mindset of writing emails.
Batching tasks can also help you avoid the mental overhead that comes from switching contexts all the time.
This just means that when we switch from task to task it takes some time to reorient ourselves and constantly switching back and forth can slow us down – that’s one reason batching can be helpful.
If you’re just getting started, it might be helpful and save you time if you have a guide or cheat sheet to walk you through putting together your morning routine.
How To Stick To Your Morning Routine Consistently
What’s the use of a morning routine that doesn’t get done?
Yup, there’s really no use if you’re not doing it.
Just as important as having a morning routine is being able to do it consistently.
We’ve already talked about a few ways to help yourself out:
Start with an amount of time you can easily commit to daily
Put details of what you’re going to do in your review in your calendar event and written down (you can also get the morning routine guide here).
Another great way to help yourself is to use the technology you have at your fingertips.
Here’s a few that you can use:
Your phone can be a distraction but let it help you – set an alarm reminder for the time you want to start your morning routine.
Add a recurring reminder to any task app that you use. I used Todoist for a long time and set a daily reminder with a link to my morning routine process. Even after having done it for years it would help me on those days where I was dragging my feet or just out of it.
Do you have somewhere that you normally are when you want to be doing your new routine?
Maybe in the kitchen? Set a sticky note on the microwave!
On the couch? Put a note on the coffee table!
One quick note about the opposite of what we’ve been doing. That is, what are things that you shouldn’t do?
I’ve found this to be important as well and slowly worked in ways to stop doing things that I found distracting in the morning.
My list includes:
- Checking email
- Too much screen time
- Large portion sizes at breakfast
- Checking Slack first thing
- Too much caffeine intake
The point is to identify which things might distract you and keep you from focused work on what you want to be doing.
For example, if you find yourself checking email while still in bed, which keeps you occupied for 15 minutes and makes you late so you sometimes skip the morning workout…
Maybe it’s time to consider putting your phone in another room at night or using an app blocking app (the irony is not lost on me…) to keep yourself out of your email for the first hour of the day.
It may sound silly – but here’s the secret…it works. By setting the environment around you for success you’re helping future you make things happen.
Ways To Expand Your Routine For Even Better Results
With a morning routine in place to help you start the day feeling great and on top of everything, is there more that you can do?
That said, don’t worry about this until you feel comfortable with your routine and are getting it done more than 80% of the time. It’s better to be consistent with a smaller routine than to start with too much and end up dropping it all.
If you’re ready to add some more benefits to your routine, here’s some great starting points:
Schedule “you time” first.
Put a block of time of at least 60 minutes into your day where you spend time on YOUR projects first. This works whether you’re a business owner, an employee, or stay at home parent. Those goals and personal projects are important – so make sure they get the best of your time and don’t get forgotten.
Schedule a weekly review. Now that you’ve got this great morning routine and review going, take it up a notch with a short weekly review. Take a look at your week, what’s working well, what’s not, and any ways you can improve whats working and get rid of what’s not working. I highly suggest getting outside of your normal working area for this and putting it into your calendar so that outside events don’t take over. For myself, I go get coffee, and answer those questions by writing them down and setting action items. This practice alone cleared out 115 hours for me in 2018…no joke.
Try using a journal for your daily planning. I’ve used several and even tried making my own. So far, the one I’ve liked the best is the Best Self Journal and know many other people that use it regularly and have told me about how much it’s helped them with a consistent and well rounded daily review. Also a great help if you’re into, or want to try, journaling and combining that with your daily planning.
If you like the results that you’re getting, you may want to consider putting a late afternoon routine in place for the end of your day.
This was something that I came across years ago from the author of Deep Work (great book), Cal Newport, on his blog – you can read the article here. Cal calls it a shut down ritual and has some very practical advice that will lower stress and help you be more present when working hours are over.
Daily Routine Template & Guide
Now, I enjoy a good article that helps me improve myself and I hope you feel the same (otherwise it would be kind of weird that you made it this far down!) – but I also like having a quick guide or cheat sheet to speed up my implementation or as a quick reference if I need it.
I’ve got you covered; you can get the Daily Routine Guide right here.
This guide can help you save hundreds of hours per week, help make you more consistent, productive, and relieve stress.
Daily Routine Examples
Ray Dalio, Founder of Edgewater Associates, billionaire investor
Besides being a “rock star” in the investing world, Ray Dalio has laid down some impressive processes in his book “Principles“. However, one thing that he has incorporated into his morning routine that he credits with a lot of power is a “spirit” aspect – he meditates twice per day for 20 minutes and has said that it helped him maintain balance and overcome the big ups and downs of investing.
Bill Gates, Founder of Microsoft
Bill Gates starts his day off with the following routine which looks like a solid winner to me and shows how effective the simple activities we’ve gone through in this article can be:
- Exercise (up to an hour running or walking on a treadmill)
- Schedules his day meticulously (he can buy what he wants…except more time!)
- Schedules in an hour of “learning time”
- Spends some time on regular chores (mental break and mindfulness)
- Gets at least 7 hours of sleep
Mike Vardy, Creator of The Productivityist
The interesting part with Mike Vardy is that he is not an early morning person. Just as we went through at the beginning of the article, it’s not that you get up early, it’s that you have a consistent routine and know what will get you results. Mike starts with some cold water on his face, gets some clothes on, and gets the coffee going while making a breakfast smoothie. Food and caffiene ready, he heads to his designated “reading chair” and goes through his morning reading flow. With his reading time done, he reviews his calendar and then looks at the “3 Absolutes” – the 3 things he wrote down the day before that he will get done today. What’s next? He does them!
Tim Ferriss, Investor & Founder
As Tim has said, “If you win the morning, you win the day” – and I agree. Tim uses a five step routine that includes the following:
- Makes his bed
- Short workout
- Tea & Breakfast
- Journals for 5 to 10 minutes
A note on Tim’s method – he considers it a win if he does more than half; so if hits at least 3 he’s doing OK. I really like this type of attitude as it keeps us from beating ourselves up and considering ourselves as “failing” when in reality we might be doing a great job by continuing to build the habit.
What does it take to become more productive, consistent, and lower your stress?
About 15-30 minutes per day.
If you can make that commitment there’s nothing standing in your way towards massive improvements that keep adding up over time.
Whether you’re looking to be more dependable or just get those things done that you keep telling yourself you’ll do – the consistent daily routine is the first step.
Take the best, leave the rest.
Start small and create a simple routine that you can easily do and look forward to doing each day. This shouldn’t be a massive task and you can put together and start yours tomorrow.
Then add to it over time, or take away what isn’t working.
Last but not least, grab the Daily Routine Guide for a quick reference and a way to quickly implement your own daily routine.