I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few years trying to distil the best morning rituals and routines for a productive day.
I’m a big believer that good days don’t just happen; they’re engineered.
I understand there’s no one size fits all. I have friends who, despite my most ardent attempts, insist they do their best work late at night.
I’m an early riser.
The most important thing in finding an awesome morning routine to have a productive day is experimenting with what works for you.
Here’s my ‘go-to’ checklist. The more of these I accomplish, the better my day is.
Of course, I’m human. It’s rare I get all these done, but at least I have something to strive for. Don’t beat yourself up if you miss your morning meditation.Just keep going.
My 10 Morning Rituals and Routines for a Productive Day
- Plan Ahead:
A good day starts the night before. Each night before I go to bed I take 5 minutes (literally, no more) to plan out my day.
I do this by roughly sketching out everything I have to do and want to do the following day.
I also find that writing down literally everything I have to do and want to do during the day helps me get all my thoughts out. From there I can circle the few things that matter.
I then organize them (see point number 5 below).
Not only have I noticed that having everything down on paper helps me to be more relaxed and sleep better, but I’m much more likely to spend my time doing what matters the following day.
I’ll leave ‘sleep hacking’ for a separate post, but I use Magnesium Calm (for relaxation and improving bowel function), Liquid Melatonin (especially useful to overcome jetlag), and the app Sleep Cycle to help me get a better nights rest.
I particularly like Sleep Cycle because it allows you to use a 30-minute variable alarm which only wakes you during your lightest phase of sleep.
- Set an Alarm:
Personally, there’s a huge correlation between the time I get up and how productive I am. Without exception the earlier I rise, the more I get done and the better I feel throughout the day.
Here’s my philosophy summarized in 3 Snaps
I respect that different people feel their most creative at different times of the day, so I’m not an absolute stickler on waking up early.
I do believe however that setting an alarm is key to making the most of your day. Starting the day off in a lackadaisical state is less than ideal, regardless of when you get up.
Of course, there are plenty of days that I sleep as long as possible, but when I’m on the grind, having accountability is key.
Set the alarm and stretch yourself. Aim for one hour earlier than you want to get up, and see how you feel.
The morning only sucks for the first 10 minutes.
- Make Your Bed
I can’t take credit for this genius idea. This talk by Navy Seal Admiral William McRaven at the University of Austin inspired me to make this habit part of my morning routine.I highly recommend watching the entire talk, but you can watch the 2 min segment on making your bed here).To summarize, he learned during his time in Seal training that the act of making his bed to perfection allowed him to start the day with a little accomplishment which gave him momentum for the bigger challenges that lie ahead.
Being meticulous also taught him the importance of attention to detail. As he so brilliantly states, ‘if you can’t do the little things right, how are you going to do the big things right?’
Immediately after my bed is made (far from perfection by the way), I have some hot water, ½ lemon, and 3-4 dashes of turmeric for alkalinity, and to help digestion.
I follow it up with at least 8-12 oz of room temperature water.
I find that waiting another 45 minutes before eating pretty much guarantees proper bowel functionality.
Drink more water. Wait longer.
In a rush?
Try having green tea with lemon on an empty stomach. Just be sure to let the tea brew before adding the lemon, so it doesn’t affect the steeping process.
I know what you’re thinking, ‘I’m not a Buddhist monk.’
Here’s the good news: you don’t have to be.
I felt the same way as you, but after enough people told me ‘just try it,’ I finally caved in.
I started with a 10-day commitment of 10 minutes per day, and the results were incredible. I honestly wouldn’t want all poker players meditating daily because they’d be much less prone to tilt and poor play.
Not only did I notice stronger mental control while at the poker table, but also I became more present during the day, less stressed and felt more positive overall.
I use the app Headspace, but I’ve heard Calm works well too.
After the 10-day free trial, you’ll invest the most trivial $12.99 of your life, and then thank me tenfold.
I have no affiliation or incentive, by the way, I just truly love the process.
Don’t worry if your mind wanders the first few days. Stick with it for ten days in a row and see if it’s for you.
- Create Your To Do List
Here’s where the core of your day happens. Many people have opinions on how to create the best possible ‘To-Do’ List.
I’ve personally noticed that there really isn’t anything special about mine, other than it exists in physical form.
The process of writing it down and organizing it correctly is responsible for 95% of its effectiveness.
In experimenting with ‘To-Do’ lists over the years, I’ve noticed that this is the most effective way of organizing mine.
- Do the easiest/shortest task first. Physically cross it off afterward. This builds momentum, immediately releases dopamine and gives you the confidence to tackle the rest.
I’ll often write down things which I know I’m going to do simply to get the ball rolling, such as ‘make my water with lemon.’
- Schedule the most important task second.
- Schedule tasks in diminishing importance from there.
- I always leave a section at the bottom called ‘If Time,’ in case I have extra time during the day.
- Perhaps the most effective hack I’ve learned is to schedule phone calls during while driving so they don’t take away from my day.
- Block out time for something awesome every day. This is arguably the most important. Looking down at a boring ‘To-Do’ list is extremely uninspiring, but knowing that I have a 2-hour mid day hike schedule as a reward for working hard all morning makes me want to get up and grind.
Note: I physically cross my ‘To-Do’ list items off, but I used check marks today so you could see it more clearly.
Struggling on how to structure your list?
Ask yourself, ‘if I could only do ONE thing tomorrow, what would it be?’
On most days I like to ease through my ‘To-Do’ list and not put pressure on myself to accomplish too much in a given day.
However there are days where I simply have a lot to do and not a lot of time.
On those days I’ll specify an allotted time for each task. My rules for doing this are twofold: expect any activity to take twice as long as I estimate, and plan for interruptions.
This practice virtually guarantees that I’ll feel proud of what I finished that day and leave me done ahead of schedule instead of feeling run down and frustrated that I didn’t get everything done.
If all your tasks still don’t fit on your ‘To-Do’ list, chances are you aren’t prioritizing well enough.
Simplifying is the best way to do more.
- Be Hungry
We all know eating healthy is important for fueling your body and mind.
There are many diets out there, but my hard-fast and simple rules are two-fold:
1. No sugar;
2. Whole foods only
If you really want to know all my eating habits and hacks, leave me a comment and perhaps I’ll dedicate a future post to it.
One thing I’ve found extremely effective for cognitive function is always to be a little bit hungry.
When the body is working to digest food, it creates lethargy. Do you ever notice that you need caffeine after lunch? That’s because you’re eating too much or the wrong foods.
Being slightly hungry (say 20%) throughout the day gives me more energy and constant focus.
Working out is truly the core of my life. It gives me energy, reduces stress and challenges me on a daily basis to become tougher and push through it.
I use exercise as a type of meditation. If there’s something I’m struggling with in life or business, knowing that I can push myself through an extreme workout gives me confidence that I can tackle any hurdle.
It sounds cliché, but feeling like a champion after a workout is one of the best feelings in the world.
And it’s free.
If you’re not exercising, you’re missing out on one of life’s greatest pleasures. It takes two weeks for your body to adjust, but then you’re smooth sailing.
It’s one of the few addictions in life that helps you, so you might as well make it a habit.
Looking for a place to start?
Interval training has been proven one of the best ways to burn fat and increase stamina. I believe it’s partially responsible for my resilience in playing 24-hour poker sessions.
While I mix up my workouts between high-intensity weight training, various forms of cardio and yoga, here’s my favorite short go-to workout.
- Duration: 20 minutes (could be extended by increasing the number of intervals)
- Warm Up: 3 minutes. Start walking at 3.0 and slowly increase the incline to 10.0
- Interval 1: Walk at 4.0 speed at ten incline for 1 minute.
- Rest 1: Recover at 3.0 speed at ten incline for 1 minute.
- Repeat 5-10 times.
- Cool Down: 3 minutes
For a more advanced workout, you can increase the interval time to 90 seconds and decrease the rest time to 30 seconds. You want your resting heart rate to drop significantly during the rest (you can monitor your HR easily while on the treadmill by holding the handles, by using a HR monitor).
You can also do this workout on a bike, elliptical or simply by alternating between sprinting/walking. It doesn’t need to be scientific or rocket science. You know you’re doing it right if you’re physically sweating at the 10-minute mark.
If not, work harder.
For extra fat burning, do this workout first thing in the morning on an empty stomach.
I generally do a quick run between mediating and breakfast and often do a more strenuous workout right before lunch.
- Take Cold Showers: After your workout take a freezing cold shower. As cold as you can get it.
30-60 seconds is enough to stimulate weight loss, an increase in alertness and reduce muscle fatigue. Of all the pain I pain I put myself through, it’s during those 60 seconds that you find out who you truly are.
Ease into it by starting off with a hot shower first. When you can no longer handle the heat, throw the nozzle all the way to cold. Ironically the shock effect makes it easier to tolerate the cold.
Stay as long as you can. I literally jump, do squats and flex to get myself through it. Whatever it takes. You’ll feel amazing afterward.
These are my 10 morning routines and rituals for a productive day.
Which one is your favorite? Do you have morning routines that work well for you? I’m always looking for new hacks, and I know the community will appreciate your insight.
Leave your thoughts in a comment below.
P.S. If you have any questions or things you’d like me to clarify, feel free to reach out. I’m looking to post more practical content like this going forward so I would greatly appreciate your feedback.