How to Build a Morning Routine to Become More Productive

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Morning routine helps you start your day in a way that builds momentum.

I will show you how to create a morning routine that doesn’t break every time something unexpected happens.

What is a routine?

A sequence of actions you follow regularly.

The key word here is regularly.

Where do you get 2 to 3 hours every morning, regularly?

morning routine

For most people who are older than young, the problem with mornings is other people.

Most people have kids.

Most people have to go to work.

If you want your routine to work and get results, then you must integrate your morning routine with those responsibilities.

One of the best ways to achieve it is to wake up early. If you get up two hours before everybody else in your household then you have some time to dedicate to your morning routine.

Tony Robbins: Ultimate Edge Your guide to getting the most out of life regardless of the circumstances that confront you and achieving the results you want. Be it your finances, relationships, body, emotions, time—everything that matters to you most. Take a look at the tools necessary to make your life extraordinary

The importance of sleep

You just can’t sleep faster like Arnold Schwarzenegger suggests. Most people need 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night.

The time has to come from somewhere. To wake earlier, go to bed earlier. Earlier sleeping time may come at the expense of your family. Read more about the dark side of waking early.

But let’s say, you carved out some time for your morning routine.

How should you fill it?

How much time should the morning routine take?

Your morning routine should be as long as possible. If you don’t have to take kids to the school and commute to work, then you can build a morning routine that lasts until lunch.

But even if you are usually free from any distractions, plan your morning in chunks that you can shuffle and sometimes skip.

Waking up

When you wake up, get up!

When the alarm goes off, get up!

No snoozing!

When you snooze, you steal perfectly good sleeping time from yourself. Your sleep quality before and after the alarm is radically different. Use all the sleeping time you have before the alarm.

Studies show that getting fully awake will take 1 to 4 hours. Hopefully, you are not in the 4-hour category.

However, if you need a lot of time to get going in the morning, then you can build your routine around non-mental activities. Exercise is the first that comes to mind. Exercise helps you get through the morning sleepiness without the need to be fully alert.

Meditate in the morning

When I started to meditate, I had a hard time finding a time-slot for it in my day.

When I get going, I’m fully on. Winding down to meditation calmness is hard. I understand that meditation might be especially useful in these situations, but I’m not at that level yet.

So, I meditate first thing after I wake up.

If there’s nobody around, I set a timer for 20 minutes.

When I don’t want to wake others, I just check the time on my watch on the nightstand and then meditate 20 minutes. I’m starting to get surprisingly good at estimating a time range between 18 to 22 minutes.

Most people don’t meditate. You can start with washing up. Later, add more exercise in place of meditation.

morning routine quotes lewis

Meditate five minutes each morning and see it wake up your entire life. ~ Waylon H. Lewis

Washing up and dress

From bed, go directly to the bathroom.

The goal is to spend the time you are half asleep on the activities that require little attention. Bathroom should take about 10 to 20 minutes. Shaving and shower take the most time for men.

Men who have beards or don’t shave regularly can have a 5 to 10-minute advantage every morning.

I almost always shave. I use it as a willpower exercise.

For some people, washing up and dressing may take a lot more. This is OK! You are still waking up. Do it as fast as you can but take all the time you need.

Make the bed if you can

US Navy Admiral William H. McRaven has speech that starts with the idea that you should make your bed every morning. This is your first win of the day. When I first heard the speech, then I immediately started using it in my morning routing. Sheets, pillows, blanket, duvet, all together on a king-size bed take about 1 or 2 minutes.

It’s a great willpower exercise and the first win of the day.

Of course, if you wake up at 5 am and your spouse at 7. Then they may object to you making the bed with them in it.

Read next:  Take a Day Off to Enjoy Your Life [Regularly]

Exercise as part of the morning routine

I don’t exercise in the morning.

I usually run every day. After the run, my productivity drops to the level that is not useful for demanding work.

Two physical activities everyone can do in the morning are walking and calisthenics (bodyweight exercises). I do a set of pullups. One set, all out, until failure. Pullups get my heart pounding and blood racing in my veins. This helps to get rid of the last remnants of sleep.

After pullups I walk briskly for 20 minutes. Walking as part of the morning routine is something I recommend for everybody. Walking is a great way to trick your brain into high gear. It thinks you are hunting and gathering and needs to be alert.

Many people can get 20 minutes of walking by strategically adjusting their way to work. Park farther, walk around the block. Walking is really important.

If you put in a more strenuous exercise, then you might want to do it before the shower.

Eating breakfast

I rarely eat breakfast.

The reason for me is intermittent fasting.

I have progressed from eating eggs and bacon breakfast to none at all.

As a first step, I moved from full breakfast to bulletproof coffee.

The bulletproof coffee recipe includes butter or ghee, and MCT oil. You can find the original idea here. I experimented with the MCT and didn’t see any benefit. Also, I didn’t find any significant results in peer-reviewed science publications. So, I ditched it.

After I moved to intermittent fasting, it’s just black coffee in the morning.

The first time I eat during the day is usually 14 to 16 hours after my last meal in the previous day. I understand, it’s not for everyone. Adjust your morning routine to match your dietary habits.

Occasionally, when I eat breakfast, then it’s invariably bacon and eggs. With that, I drink my black coffee with nothing.

morning routine quotes hubbard

Be pleasant until 10 o’clock in the morning and the rest of the day will take care of itself. ~ Elbert Hubbard

Summing up the maintenance tasks

  • Waking up,
  • bathroom,
  • bed,
    clothes, exercise (pullups and walking in my case),
  • eating or drinking

should take about 20 to 25 minutes. Plus, the 20 minutes for meditation just after I wake up.

Time spent approximately 60 to 80 minutes.

Experiment with what works for you and adjust the routine accordingly.

Now I’m ready to work.

Deep work sessions

You should do your most important thing as the first thing in the morning.

Important note to night owls and people who take hours to fully wake up. Do your deep work session as the first thing when you are fully up. Do not do your most important work while you are not at your full capacity.

You should set aside at least 90 minutes of uninterrupted time to do meaningful deep work.

My deep work sessions are usually longer than 90 minutes. The average time is probably around 2 hours.

Sometimes, if I have appointments coming up, I set an alarm for 90 minutes.

And sometimes I run out of work before 90 minutes. This is rare, as it only happens when I reach the end of a project.

In my experience, the 90-minute deep work session is by far the most important productivity tool I have found. Even if you do only that then you can accomplish whatever you set your sights on.

If you can do more than one 90-minute session on one project every day, you will become unstoppable.

deep work book

If you want to learn more about deep work, then you can read the book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport.

Deep work happens when you focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. A skill that lets you to master complicated information and create better results in less time.

Deep work will make you better at what you do and provide a sense of true fulfillment that comes from craftsmanship.

morning routine quotes blake

Think in the morning. Act in the noon. Eat in the evening. Sleep in the night. ~ William Blake

Building your morning routine step by step

When you build your routine, start with one thing. You wake up and do you X. Maybe it’s meditation, writing, exercise, or something else you want in your life.

Do that for at least 30 days and then add another item in your morning routine. Another 30 days to make it stick.

Continue until you have integrated everything you want into your morning routine and then keep going without breaking the chain.

And even when you start with the first item in your routine, don’t go all out. Not one hour of exercise every morning, 10 pushups are enough in the beginning. Then 11 and the 12. Baby steps, all the way.

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Your morning routine is the most important element of becoming more productive.

Put it all in your calendar!

When you add together the wake-up part and the deep work, then the time you have to block is approximately 3 and.

You can break it into two parts. The wake-up routine and deep work with the commute or family activities in between.

Next, let’s figure out how to make the routing flexible. There are emergencies in the morning that can derail your routine.

Build in a buffer that absorbs the time you may lose in the traffic or when your kids don’t feel like getting dressed. The best buffer is 50% of perfect. Add up every step of your morning as it would be in a perfect world. Add 50% at the end.

Set it in stone.

Step by step.

morning routine quotes aurelius

In the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love. ~ Marcus Aurelius

Planning the rest of the day

The rest of the day starts after my deep work session.

I plan my day into sessions.

If I don’t have any meetings at a certain time, then I may add another deep work session.

Then I take a small break and start to work on the less important stuff of the day. I just look at my daily tasks and figure out what are the next important activities.

I return to my schedule once more after I complete my daily tasks. As the last task in the evening, I’ll take 10 to 20 minutes for planning the events for the following day.

Looking at what you have accomplished is an excellent way to finish your day and get motivation.

This concludes my day.

Sometimes I have a nasty habit of using planning as a distraction from more important tasks. I catch myself from wasting time fiddling with the to-do list when I don’t feel like doing anything else. Try to catch yourself when you are doing busywork instead of real work.

When the morning routine breaks down

Whenever possible I try to go through the routine step by step. There are two situations that break my morning routine.

The first obstacle I have are early meetings. When meetings leave little time for all the steps of my morning routine, then I feel my day is less productive. I try to avoid early meetings as much as possible and schedule most of my meetings for afternoons starting 1 pm.

The second issue that breaks my morning routine is my sleeping habits. I am a night owl and I have no problem staying up until 2 am or even later. But I still need at least 6 to 8 hours of sleep. I wake up at 8 or 9 am and the morning routine just isn’t working as effectively for me when I start later.

It’s a mindset thing. I have as much time as when I wake up earlier, I just don’t feel as productive. The solution is obvious, get to bed earlier. But sometimes it’s just doesn’t occur to me.

And then there are times when something unexpected happens. You just do as much of your morning routine as you can and don’t worry about it. If the distracting events become regular, remake your routine around them.

morning routine quotes whately

Lose an hour in the morning, and you will spend all day looking for it. ~ Richard Whately

Create your own morning routine

Routines are great productivity tools.

  • Morning,
  • evening,
  • dieting,
  • exercise,
  • learning a new skill,

whatever you do, if you do it routinely then you will get results. Routine forms a habit and habits are the tools that let you go on an autopilot.

It’s almost impossible to not break your routine at some point. But there are two tools that help you be consistent, even if you sometimes break your habit.

Never skip two days in a row. When you didn’t do it today, you must do it tomorrow. No excuses.

Your routine is a must. You will do it no matter what. You may cut it shorter or eliminate some parts, but you will do it.

In the end you will be more productive and happier.

Tony Robbins: Ultimate Edge Your guide to getting the most out of life regardless of the circumstances that confront you and achieving the results you want. Be it your finances, relationships, body, emotions, time—everything that matters to you most. Take a look at the tools necessary to make your life extraordinary

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Priit Kallas

Founder of I created FixWillpower to help you reach your goals. I have struggled my entire life to be consistent and avoid procrastination. The goal is to have a good life, do the things you love and get your results with minimum effort. FixWillpower website is about how I create motivation and productivity in my life. I write about the tools and techniques, best books, scientific research, and everything else that helps you move faster and stay on track. Minimum effort doesn’t mean slacking off. Minimum effort is about effectiveness and productivity. If there is a way to reach a goal in a shorter time or with less exertion, then you should use that. I will help you be smarter and reach goals faster. About FixWillpower