How To Create a Bulletproof Morning Routine

La Jolla | California

Other Articles In This Series:
Mid-day Reset
Finishing Well
Evening Routines

How much of our lives run on auto pilot?

Probably a lot more than we would like to admit.

Our subconscious minds and habits run the vast majority of our waking lives.  It’s a fact, get your head around that and let’s talk about ways to optimize it.

So, if your life is run by your habits and your subconscious, we need to start being deliberate about two things:

  1. What we feed our subconscious
  2. What habits run our lives

Today we are going to talk about the latter in regards to living deliberately and designing the ultimate morning routine for your life.

The past few years for me have been been pretty hectic trying to manage & grow several businesses, (not recommend) so by the time noon rolled around, my brain would feel pretty fried (more on that later).

I started doing some digging to figure out ways to structure my days for more productivity and more peace. A lot of things break daily in my world and people look to me to remain calm and make the right decision.

Running out the door already unfocused and frantic was not a good way to start my day.  I needed a plan and what I came up with is detailed below.

It has helped me not only make my mornings more productive work wise, but also from a physical and mental level as well.  If you apply it, I know it will help you too. Now there are several good reasons to have a set morning routine, let’s examine the benefits…

(NOTE: Are you looking for ways to reduce stress and manage your business and life?  Download our free PDF guide titled “The 7 Zen Tools to Manage Your Business & Life” to get started today. Click Here To Download

Benefits of a Morning Routine-

Now there are several good reasons to have a set morning routine, let’s examine some benefits, methodology and thought process before we talk about how to start optimizing your routine.

 

Benefit 1-  The most obvious benefit of a morning routine is you get to customize, design, and hand select a set of habits that set you on the path to your ideal life. You will most likely incorporate all the major elements of physical and mental health, spirituality, creativity, success and even happiness.

There are proven habits that relate to each one of these areas that we can pull from to use in your morning routine to then over time create the habit in your life.  These habits in themselves can, of course, lead to all kinds of benefits that would be too vast to list here.

 

Benefit 2-  Another benefit right away is stress relief.  This comes from a few different areas.

The first is simply from knowing that you will get everything done in time. By planning out your routine beforehand, you know that everything is going to get done, and you will be setup for a productive and hopefully less stressful day.

When you are ready to take things a step further, having a mid-day reset and an evening routine will really take things to the next level ensuring that your habits, mindset, day and ultimately life are headed in the direction you intend, but first steps first, let’s nail the morning.

 

Benefit 3-  Another compelling reason to have your morning routine planned and set before you ever open your eyes in the morning is due to the concept of decision fatigue.

If your whole life feels like a whirlwind, you’re always on the treadmill and you feel like you never get anything done, then odds are you’re making too many decisions on any given day.

I wrote an in-depth post about it here, but the general concept is this: Your ability to make good decisions in any given period of time following a rest period is limited.

Think of it like an energy or life indicator bar in a video game.  When you wake up in the morning, that bar is full and with each decision you make your bar goes down until it is ultimately depleted and you start making bad choices (or default to your habits, but more on that in the longer decision fatigue post).

What a morning routine does for you is eliminate all of the unnecessary choices you normally make during a morning so you save your decision processing power for things that actually matter.

A Tale of Two Mornings-

Now that we have the indicator bar concept down, let’s look at a typical day. You wake up and start making decisions.

Typical Morning-

Let’s enter your mind on a typical morning upon waking…

“Should I shower first or go downstairs? Should I eat breakfast today or just coffee? Ok breakfast, now what should I eat for breakfast? Ok breakfast is done, now do I do some work or reading? Man, I would really like to meditate this morning but not sure I have the time, I got up a little bit late. I feel sluggish, I think some exercise would be good for me, but again a bit late and I need to do some work. I guess I’ll just check my email and grab some coffee on the way out the door to go sit in traffic….” and so on and so on.

Look at all of those decision and many others that you had to make before you even left your house in the morning.  It’s no wonder you don’t make good decisions after 9:00 am, you’re exhausted and your energy bar is already shot. Does that sound like a stress-free or productive morning?

How can you really expect to have your mind recover from a depleting morning like that and get back on track? You are setting yourself up for failure and it’s the modus operandi that 99.9% of the world runs on. You are about to enter the .01%

Dialed in Morning Routine-

Let’s take a look at a morning from someone who has a dialed in morning routine.

6:00 – Wake Up & Shower
6:10 – Meditate
6:30 – Journal
6:35 – Cook & Eat breakfast consisting of a 2 Egg Omelet with Ham & Coffee
7:00 – Creativity Time (writing…etc.)
7:30 – Stretch & Warm Up Body
7:45 – Review Goals
8:00 – Out the door to work
8:05 – Listen To Audiobook

What do you think? Some nice habits in there huh? Good food both mentally, physically and spiritually to start the day, not to mention we already got a jump start on that problem that we have been trying to solve for work during our creative time.

In this example you leave the house calm with a state of mind that you chose to cultivate for that day, rather than just waking up and seeing what happens.

Which of these two people would you place your money on having a good day? Which one do you think is more successful? Happy? Present with their friends, family and co-workers? Exactly.

Morning Routine

Morning Routine

Build Your Morning Routine-

So how do you build your own ultimate morning routine?  Well, the great part about having a morning routine is that for the vast majority of us, we actually have time.

No one is going to schedule a spontaneous meeting during your morning coffee most days and you will have that time in the morning to complete your routine.

Now, disclaimer, you may very well find out that you do NOT have enough time to complete all the tasks you want to in the morning before heading into your day.  We can talk about ways to find more time in the mornings, later, but first,  two quick rules to start:

Rule #1- Start Small

Rule #2- See Rule #1

Yea, it’s that important. The goal of this process is not to add MORE to your life, at least not in the beginning, but rather refine what you are doing with your limited time. Over time you can potentially add more habits to your routine that you want to cultivate, but let’s start small, by really dialing in the main tasks you are already doing every day and add in a few foundational pieces as well.

Start with waking up-

Ideally we would like to train ourselves to be able to wake up and start our days with passion. Maybe you are one of those people already who just jumps out of bed and starts making things happen.

I am not one of those people. I need to wake up, so if you are anything like me, I would recommend either:

A. Going straight into the shower from bed (Hint: Use temperature to wake you up, more on that in my routine below)
B. Stepping right into your shoes and going for a walk.

Going to the shower first will kickstart your senses and then stepping back into the cooler air will start waking you up naturally as well.

Going for a walk is pretty basic but it’s a great way warm up the body and mind. If you have a dog, great, two birds with one stone. Take it a step further and put some headphones on and listen to something motivational or meditational to start getting your mind right for the day.

This is not only a good use of time, but your mind is also more receptive to new ideas early in the morning and also during peak states such as exercise.

So for this example, let’s say you are not an “instant waker” so you opt for the morning walk.

7:00- Wake Up, dress and go for a walk to the park and back w/ dog.

Meditation-

You are going to hear this from me a lot, I mean the site starts with Zen for crying out loud.

Now would be a great time to meditate. You are awake, you have not eaten and you have not had a great deal of external inputs in your day yet. I am not going to talk about all the benefits of meditation here as that might take awhile, so if you do not meditate, start.

Here is a simple meditation post to get you started if you do not yet have a practice.    If you do have a practice already, Insert 5-20 minutes here.

7:00- Wake Up, dress and go for walk to park and back w/ dog
7:15- Meditation

Be Creative-

DISCLAIMER- Some might say that the best time in your day to be creative is before you have any external input into your brain like an email, or tv or radio or even listening to music on your walk. I do not disagree with that to be honest, but you also need to make your morning flow so find what works best for you on this one.

Creative time is a time for you do be just that, be creative. Write, plan, make goals, brainstorm on an issue or project that has been on your plate, design your next business, product or marketing plan, but use this time to pull ideas out of your head.  It’s up to you in what capacity.

The reason this particular time of day is so powerful, is because your conscious mind is quiet and your subconscious mind a bit more accessible due to the states you have come from (sleep & meditation).  Combined, these are optimal for creativity and ideas.

As the day progresses, your conscious mind will take over a lot of your thinking, and your mind will often become cluttered and scattered with the events and thoughts from the day.  Now is a great time to pull ideas from “the ether”.

Do you keep a journal? This would be a great time for that as well. Like to review your goals every morning? Great, slot that in as well.

7:00- Wake Up, dress and go for walk to park and back w/ dog.
7:15- Meditation
7:30- Journaling & Goal Review

(NOTE: Are you an Entrepreneur?  We can help. Download our free PDF guide titled “The 7 Zen Tools to Manage Your Business & Life” to get started today.   Click Here To Download

Nail Breakfast-

The goal for breakfast is something quick and easy to prepare, that is also healthy, tastes good and provides the right kind of fuel for your upcoming day.

Now, I have my own thoughts on what a human should be eating and I talk about it a fair amount. I firmly believe that the right foods produce better fuel and overtime that will produce a better mental and physical state throughout the day.

My general rule of thumb for breakfast, is a good amount of protein, some greens and a small amount of complex carbs.  If you are an athlete we may need to move things around a bit, but for most this will do well. I try to stay away from fruits, anything sweet, most dairy and of course breads as that will all just slow you down for many reasons to vast to list here.

A few examples that are easy and fulfill these requirements…

– 3 Egg Omelet w/ Peppers and a side of sweet potatoes or beans/lentils

-Bacon, Eggs w/ spinach & sautéed sweet potato (can cook ahead of time in a large batch)

-Protein Shake w/ spirulina, Steel Cut Oats (preferably soaked)

-Ham, Avocado and sweet potato

– Salad with avocado

Coffee is a toss up, I am not going to tell you to stop drinking it, I drink it sometimes; everything in moderation. If you can’t drink less than your normal daily amount without crashing, then odds are

A. You probably drink too much coffee and…
B. You are probably eating the wrong foods for fuel.

Ok so we now have four steps in our plan…

7:00- Wake Up, dress and go for walk to park and back w/ dog.
7:15- Meditation
7:30- Journaling & Goal Review
7:50- Cook & Eat Breakfast of – 3 Egg Omelet w/ spinach & tarragon + side of lentils and a large glass of water

Add In The Basics-

7:00- Wake Up, dress and go for walk to park and back w/ dog.
7:15- Meditation
7:30- Journaling & Goal Review
7:50- Cook & Eat Breakfast of – 3 Egg Omelet w/ spinach & tarragon + side of lentils and a large glass of Water
8:15- Shower & Dress
8:30- Drive to Office listening to mindset focused audio book
9:00- Arrive at work

And there you have it, 2 hours, 6 steps and 1 complete morning.

You jump-started your metabolism by going for a walk before eating, you meditated to calm your mind and put yourself in a good mental state. You worked on a problem in your journaling session and reviewed your goals for the month.

You ate a solid breakfast to give your body clean energy for the day, and after listening to a positive audiobook for 30 minutes you arrive at the office happy, fed, full of energy and having not made a single real decision before getting there.  You are ready to tackle your day.

Notice here we kept it really simple and you could even make this more simple if you wanted to, really pairing it down to the essentials. To reiterate rule #1, keep it simple so you will actually do it to start.

A good habit done every day is worth way more than a great habit done 3 times a month. Once you have built the basic habits, then you can go back and make them more complex once you have the basics down.

If you still have troubles, try to just change 1 thing at a time. First, meditate everyday. When you have that dialed in, then get breakfast right. Then add in a walk. Then journaling.

Even if you just add one habit every 90 days, it’s fine.

So what if it takes you a year?  This routine can be with you, helping you and guiding you for the rest of your life!  A year, in all reality, is a fairly small snapshot of time to learn & develop a skill this powerful.

Limit Your Inputs-

One other note here that I consider to be very important is to be very conscious of, and limit, the number of  inputs you experience in the morning (or all day for that matter).  An input would be anything that enters your world; radio, television, news, email, social media, text messages, phones calls…etc.

Whatever you feed your mind at the beginning of the day will be there all day, so be conscious of what goes in.

I would not recommend any TV or Radio in the mornings as most of it is mindless and unimportant.

Better to feed your mind exactly what you want in the am and let it absorb and marinate all day.

Things such as review of your habits, positive audio or positive/motivational videos, incantations if you have or use them, things of this nature. Quality in, quality out. Keep your mornings simplistic and full of quality.

NOTE: When I say positive I don’t mean just positive thinking and positive psychology books.  I mean anything actually positive such as learning a new skill, listening to an audiobook on a topic you are interested in or a podcast about nutrition.  Its a general statement to include things that provide any positive, forward thrust.

That’s really it, now go make your plan.

Grab a pen or open a note pad, and before you get up, write out a basic outline of your morning routine.  It does not have to be perfect, we are looking for progress right now, just get something down on paper.

Keep it super simple to start, plan it, review it with the notes above and implement it…tomorrow.

Tweak and refine over the first few days.  If it is hard in the first 90 days or so, I get that, you are probably doing something new and maybe forgoing your old morning CNN habit for something more productive or beneficial.

If it’s painful or out of your comfort zone, you are probably doing it right, ha.

This routine, for many people, will be equal parts breaking old habits and making new ones, so stay at it, you are on the right track.

Some say it takes 18-28 days to make a habit, but I find that highly unlikely for most things use 90 days as a good rule of thumb. That is why I only try to change 1-2 major habits a quarter. Shoot for that, if your routine is simple enough, you should be able to implement it no problem.

“Those who know and do not do, still do not know”
-zen proverb

Some final thoughts:  Once you have mastered the morning routine, it may be time to start adding in an Evening Routine and a Mid-Day Reset as well to fully cover you throughout the day. When you are ready, check those links out and most importantly start to implement.

My Personal Morning Routine-

A few people have asked for it, so here it is (and much like yours will be, it’s a work in progress)…

6:00 Get Up & Shower (go hot <—> cold 3x to finish)
6:10 Consume supplements w/ lemon water
6:15 Meditate
6:35 Write & Journal
7:00 Movement (joint mobility, jump-rope, body weight drills)
7:15 Breakfast
7:45 Goal Review
8:00 Head to office or coffee shop to work
8:30 Focus on my most important task for first two hours of work.

Hope that helps get your mornings dialed in.

Post your routines and experiences in the comments below so everyone else can learn and benefit.

Talk soon,

Mat

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Comments

  1. Ellie says

    Love this. It’s something I’ve been working on lately. I know if I start my morning off well I am not only more productive but have a better headspace.

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