I’ve long been fascinated by the morning routines of successful entrepreneurs, but I never imagined having one myself.
I’m what you’d call a ‘fly by the seat of my pants’ sort of girl - I relish in the unpredictable and the unexpected - so the thought of having a ‘routine’ that I followed every single morning sounded like sheer and utter torture.
But the more I read and studied about the link between morning routines and success - and especially their effect on creativity and productivity - I slowly started to soften my stance.
Sorry I'm late. I didn't want to come.
Not being a ‘morning person’ by nature I never considered that a morning routine would benefit me in any way.
Besides, weren’t creatives and entrepreneurs the quintessential ‘night owls?’ Did it really matter what our mornings looked like?
The answer, of course, is yes.
Why? Because the way you spend your morning sets the tone for your entire day.
Help me coffee, you're my only hope.
My own morning routine is still evolving as I test out new things to see how they affect my productivity, energy, mood, and creativity.
I put together a list of ideas to pull from as I constantly evaluate my routine and optimize my day.
Some of these have worked great! Others have made me want to slide down a razor blade into a pool of acid.
And while it’s still a work in progress, here’s a glimpse at what my morning routine looks like right now:
My goal is to be up by 6 or 6:30 in the mornings, but I’m taking baby steps to get there so for now my alarm goes off at 7am.
On a perfect morning I turn it off and I’m up within 3-5 minutes. Other mornings I turn it off and fall back asleep, which means I have to rely on my backup alarm titled ‘GET THE FUCK OUT OF BED!’ that goes off at 7:30.
The moment my feet hit the floor I make the bed. This is the one thing I have never compromised on - in fact when I was in high school I used to sleep on top of the covers with a blanket so that my bed was already made when I woke up. A messy bed is a depression trigger for me.
Peace the Puppy is usually sitting on the end of the bed crossing his legs at this point so I let him outside and get his Prozac and burger treat chaser ready to pop in his mouth the second he runs inside. Then he get pre-breakfast b-a-c-o-n (which we have to spell out or he starts whining and shaking violently with anticipation), breakfast, and post-breakfast b-a-c-o-n followed by his morning chewie. Don’t ask. This is a therapy session in and of itself.
Next I make bulletproof coffee. I do intermittent fasting so I don’t eat until sometime between 12 and 2 each day (depending on when I stopped eating the day before), so this is critical for the start of my day. Seriously, it’s life changing.
After that I spend at least 15 minutes stretching or doing yoga, followed by 10-15 minutes of meditation (I love Headspace).
On mornings where I have meetings or need to be somewhere before mid-day I shower and get ready after I’m finished meditating.
On mornings where I’m doing focus work or writing I immediately head to my office, pop on my noise-canceling headphones, and start working on the most important things I need to get done that day. My energy is highest in the mornings now so I use that to my advantage. I’ll then stop for a quick break late morning to shower and get ready - this also lets my mind rest and gets me recharged for the afternoon.
Do I hit everything on my list every morning? Nope. But I usually hit at least 60-70% of it, and I will take a break to stretch and meditate later in the afternoon if I missed that part.
Since I started this process I’ve noticed a profound change in my energy, my mood, and my productivity. Creativity is tough to evaluate for me, but I suspect it’s also reaping some of the benefits as well.
Would you care to elaborate?
A morning routine doesn’t have to be rigid, and you don’t have to wake up early (or even at the same time) every morning.
The point is simply to create a series of steps you follow that help you remove decisions and avoid mental fatigue.
It’s also meant to help you wake up and get your mind working so that you are primed for optimum focus, creativity, productivity, and fulfillment.
Sounds good, right? So which routine should you follow?
The best morning routine to follow is the custom one that works best for you.
So where does that leave things?
Whether you currently have the perfect routine or you’re just thinking about creating one, here is a list of ideas you can reference to shake things up, tweak your routine, or simply get started.
Try one, try five, try them all if you like… then keep what works, and ignore the rest. None of these are right for everyone, and you have to experiment to see what’s right for you.
1. Make your bed.
It sounds small but making your bed first thing in the morning allows you to accomplish your first task of the day, which makes it easier to accomplish another, and another, and another… control what you can control.
You don’t have to be a hippie or live in an ashram to experience the benefits of meditation. Just a few minutes a day spent clearing your mind and training it to be present will help you set your intentions and stay focused.
3. Move it.
Run, walk, lift weights, do yoga, stretch, lift your coffee cup every 30 seconds… it doesn’t matter what you do so long as you get your body moving and your blood flowing. The point is to wake yourself up and put your body in a prime state for productivity.
There are a wide range of options when it comes to journaling, so choose something that you can stick with - there is no right or wrong way to do it. You can even use daily prompts or track habits in a bullet journal if you like.
5. Take a cold shower.
The scientific benefits of taking a cold shower are numerous; it can improve immunity, increase your circulation, lower stress, relieve depression, stimulate weight loss, and increase your alertness. It can also bring flashbacks from 5th grade summer camp when your bunkmate used up all the hot water every morning.
6. Intermittent fast.
Intermittent fasting is the practice of not eating for a certain number of hours during the day. Most people fast for 14-18 hours and then eat all of their meals in a 6-10 hour window. This can help prevent heart disease, increase fat loss, and slow (or reverse) aging among other benefits. Give it a google and see if it’s right for you.
7. Have a cup of tea or coffee.
One of the biggest commonalities among morning routines involves having a cup of tea or coffee in the morning. Want to take it up a notch? Try making Bulletproof coffee - it won’t kick you out of intermittent fasting and is a great way to supercharge your brain and your energy for the day.
8. Eat the same thing for breakfast each day.
If you aren’t interested in intermittent fasting, then try starting your day with the same healthy breakfast each morning. Experiment with different things to see what has the most positive effect on your energy, your mood, and your focus.
One of the biggest reasons people cite for not reading more is lack of time, so eliminate that excuse by incorporating this habit into your morning routine. It doesn’t matter what you read - fiction, non-fiction, personal growth, etc. - so long as you commit to a certain number of pages or a set amount of time each day to move yourself forward.
10. Text a friend or family member.
A great way to put yourself (and those important to you) in a positive frame of mind is to send a loving or encouraging text to family or friends first thing in the morning. It doesn’t have to be long, but it’s a great way to strengthen your relationships and set the tone for the day.
11. Plan your day.
Having a schedule for your day keeps you on track and helps you stay productive. Many people prefer to ‘pre-game’ this the night before (or at the beginning of the week), but either way it’s a good practice to start your day with to ensure you’re prepared.
Bonus: You can download the Unconventional Daily Planner to get started.
12. Spend time on a hobby.
Mornings are a great time to do something just for you, so try scheduling time first thing doing something you love or learning about something new you’ve always wanted to try.
13. Pet therapy.
If you have a pet set aside some quality time each morning to spend with them. Take them on a walk or curl up with them on the couch… either way it helps reduce stress and put you in a good mood to start your day.
14. Have coffee or breakfast with your partner.
Our lives are busy enough already, so try making it a habit to have coffee or breakfast each morning with your partner (or a friend or other family member). Make sure you put down your phones and focusing on being present.
15. Listen to a podcast.
Mornings are a great time to listen to podcasts. Just pop in your headphones and cue up one from your list while going for a walk or having coffee.
16. Be grateful.
Try starting each day by listing 3 things you are grateful for. But don’t just list the obvious same things day after day (i.e. your health, your relationships, your friends, etc.) - instead be specific about things you are grateful for from the previous day.
For example, “I’m grateful for the opportunity to have lunch with a friend I haven’t seen in months.” Or “I’m grateful that I didn’t sell my kids to the circus after they spent the entire day fighting.” Just kidding. Sort of.
17. Learn one new word or fact.
Starting the day by learning something new - no matter how small - can put you in a ‘win’ frame of mind.
18. Drink a full glass of water.
This is supposedly one of the healthiest things to do first thing in the morning, so if you like water then give it a shot (I can’t stand water - it triggers my gag reflex and gives me heartburn). Feel like upping the benefits? Toss in some fresh squeezed lemon juice (don’t forget the peel!). Want to take it one step further? Add some cayenne and maple syrup to kick start your metabolism.
19. Prep your lunch.
Planning and prepping your lunch helps you remove one more decision from your day and gives you more time to relax and reset yourself at lunchtime.
20. Work on a crossword puzzle.
Challenging your mind each day helps to exercise your brain, so try spending time on a crossword puzzle (or some sort of ‘mind game’) each morning to keep yourself sharp.
21. Avoid technology.
Many of the most successful tech CEOs and entrepreneurs stay unplugged each day until they are finished with their morning routines. That says it all.
22. Check your email.
On the flip side, set a specific amount of time to spend checking and replying to emails first thing in the morning. Then when that time is up don’t check it again until after your work is done for the day. This helps you to prioritize and control your time.
23. Watch the sunrise.
If you’re naturally a morning person (or working to become one), set your alarm and watch the sun come up each day. It can have a tremendous effect on your mood that can be both calming and energizing at the same time.
24. Eat a frog.
Not literally (unless that’s your thing - you do you). This is a technique that helps you stay focused and disciplined - by completing the most unwanted, uncomfortable, or difficult task first thing in the morning (i.e. ‘the frog’) you feel accomplished and are motivated to complete the rest of your work for the day.
25. Have sex.
Morning sex isn’t just a great way to start the day, it has numerous health benefits as well. For example, it can strengthen your immune system, increase your energy, relieve stress, and boost your brain power by releasing a mix of neurotransmitters and hormones (such as dopamine and oxytocin). Score. (Literally).