The Complete Guide To Morning Routines

image of clock saying "LATE"

Today I want to discuss one of the things I’ve found incredibly helpful in my life for making me both happier and more productive.

Out of any type of routine I can suggest, I believe this one has by far the highest return on investment in establishing it. I am, of course, talking about having an effective morning routine.

We will define the morning as a period of some moderate length of time (say, no more than 3 hours) immediately after waking up. This period has some advantages that make it an awesome time to establish a routine:

  1. A routine executed in the morning will be the first thing done during the day.
  2. Motivation levels are highest earlier in the day, so it is easier to stick to any routines you might create.
  3. Doing productive things right after waking up sets a positive tone for the rest of the day.
  4. We can pick a time to wake up such that we have as much time as we need to complete our routine. Most people have some type of commitment, such as work or school, to attend to during the day.
  5. If for some reason you fail to do it on a particular morning, you have the rest of the day to find time to do it anyways.


Types of Rituals/Routines We Can Use

There are a lot of different things you can do in the morning that can be useful to you.

Every person has different priorities and interests, so this section can hardly be extensive. The main point I want to get across here is that for any goal you may have, there is a way to help yourself reach it through a morning routine.

Physical Activity

One of the most common things people will do in the morning is some type of physical activity.

I have personally found exercising within an hour of waking up is the best way to remain consistent with a workout plan. In fact, last year I had a six week period where I did some form of exercise (4x per week lifting weights, 3x per week a rotator cuff physical therapy routine) literally every single day without missing a single workout.

I’ve never even come close to that kind of consistency before.


Another great possibility is doing some type of meditation in the morning.

This can mean many different things.

For some, it might mean laying in bed for an extra ten minutes doing some traditional breathing meditation. For others, it might involve doing yoga while watching the sunrise.

Of course, these are just two possible types of meditation you can do. There are an infinite number of possibilities here, and each person will have some type of meditation that would resonate most strongly for them.


I think most of you would agree that you have a huge backlog of books or articles that you want to get to someday.

It seems the list always gets longer.

I almost wish they would just ban the writing of new books for the next ten years or so. Maybe then I’ll be able to catch up a little bit.

Just kidding, that would suck.

Your Most Important Work Of The Day

As you’ve probably grown to expect by now, there are many variants on this.

Here is one idea: every night, write down the three most important tasks you need to accomplish the next day. When you wake up, don’t do anything else until those things are accomplished.

Eat A Healthy Breakfast

Something that a lot of people neglect is to eat a healthy breakfast during the morning.

I’ve found that most people either don’t eat breakfast at all, or they start off their day with an unhealthy, sugar-laden cereal or a  bagel that lacks any real nutrition value.

By eating a healthy meal early on, you set the tone for continued good food decisions for the rest of the day as well as provide yourself with better energy to accomplish what you want to accomplish.

Practice Gratitude

Ask yourself what you are thankful for as soon as you wake up.

Here is an exercise that is a sure way to put you in a good mood. Try to be as genuine as possible with this exercise.

Write down the things you are thankful for. Don’t just write the same thing every day. As you do this, write down not just what you are thankful for, but why.

This forces you to really think about it rather than just note random things.

Take Care Of Your Hygiene

A necessary part of any morning routine is to take care of your hygiene.

Hopefully this would go without saying, but its a good idea to brush your teeth, floss, wash your face, shower, etc.

Do what you gotta do.

Try Out The 30 Days Of Happiness Program

Set aside an hour each morning to complete the exercises on that program, and you will become a happier person.

Some of the exercises will take longer than others, so you need to account for that in your routine.

On days with longer exercises, start them in the morning and then finish them later in the day.

How To Decide What To Do

Now that we’ve reviewed a few of the possible things you might include in your morning routine, it’s time to figure out what you should do specifically.

There are a few factors to consider when designing your routine, so keep these three questions in mind as you begin this process.

1. How Much Time Do You Have, Realistically?

Most of us will tend to get really ambitious when designing a morning routine and try to pack it with as many things as possible.

This is a sure way to fail immediately.

If you need to be at work at 9:00 AM, you better not design a four hour morning routine unless you are willing to wake up at 5:00 AM.

If you are willing to wake up then, great.

But if you aren’t, you’d better figure out how much time you can realistically commit to your routine.

2. What Specific Goals Do You Have That Can Be Advanced Through A Morning Routine?

Some goals are more suited for a morning routine than others.

Your goal of being able to bench press 300 lbs. is something than can be worked on each morning, but your goal of owning the worlds largest shot glass collection might not.

Or maybe it could, but you’ll have to think of a way to tie in daily activity towards that goal.

The point is, the goal needs to be something that will be advanced through habitual action rather than more haphazard action.

3. Are You Logistically Capable Of Structuring A Morning Routine To suit Your Needs?

Let’s say you belong to a gym that doesn’t open until 9:00 AM, but you have to be at work by then.

That makes it pretty difficult to work on your bench press goal, don’t you think?

Now, if you have a home gym, maybe it could work. Or if you feel like you can work on it by doing push ups.

Either way, you need to consider the logistics of your situation.

Getting Started With Your Morning Routine

Here comes the tricky part.

Once you have decided what you want included in your routine (it can be any amount of time, but I recommend three hours or less), you need to actually start doing it.

There are more than a few reasons why getting started can be so difficult, but I want to focus on the most common ones here.

It Might Require Waking Up Earlier Than You Are Used To.

Most likely you have been waking up as late as you possibly can before attending to your daily commitments.

Once you’ve designed your morning routine, it can be very intimidating to realize that you’ll probably have to wake up significantly earlier than you are used to.

You’ll probably want to start by waking up earlier in small, 15-30 minute increments instead of jumping into it all at once. You’ll probably also have to go to bed earlier, which will take some getting used to as well.

Much good advice has been written about getting up early, so if this is a problem for you, go here, here, or here. I’ve had success using the advice found in Steve Pavlina’s articles here and here.

You Might Not Be In The Habit Of Doing The Routine Activities In The First Place.

Let’s say you want to wake up a half hour early to meditate each morning.

If you’ve never meditated before, you might find this to be a bit challenging!

If you have specific activities that you want in your routine but you don’t have any practice doing that activity in general, it will help you immensely to start doing that activity regardless of the time of day first.

Trust me, if you’ve never worked out before, you won’t be able to wake up early and start doing it at the same time.

You Were Too Ambitious During The Design Phase.

In the last section, I gave you several questions to ask yourself while you design a routine.

Especially if you have never designed a morning routine before, you may have messed up on one or more of those questions.

Perhaps you thought it would only take you a half hour to do a certain workout, but it actually takes an hour.

Maybe you thought the weather would be nicer and you could take walks at 6:00 AM, but it turns out to be too cold.

Whatever it is, you need to be flexible enough to adjust your routine until you’ve found something that works for you.

Don’t give up on it just because you made some false assumptions in the beginning.

You Weren’t Ambitious Enough During The Design Phase.

On the other hand, perhaps the morning routine that you designed is devoid of substance.

This problem is a little bit nuanced, because different people have different needs and wants with regards to these routines.

That being said, you wouldn’t be reading this if you weren’t at least a little bit interested in gaining the benefits of having a solid routine, so you should at least make sure you are getting some value out of it.

Sure it’s not the end of the world if your routine is just to brush your teeth and eat breakfast, but you could very well be missing out on a world of benefit by being a little more ambitious.

Other Thoughts On The Morning Routine

We’ve covered a lot so far in this post.

First we discussed the benefits of a morning routine, then we covered some ideas for things to include, and finally we covered the more practical aspect of making it happen.

At this point, there are a few miscellaneous things I wanted to go over.

The Morning Tends To Have A Different “Feel” To It.

You have probably noticed this if you’ve ever woken up before sunrise to go on a road trip or to catch a plane (or for any reason, actually).

The morning is quiet, and it is easy to be more focused on the present moment during the morning hours.

This makes the morning an ideal time for reflection, thinking, and meditating.

Fewer things are vying for your attention, so take advantage of this time.

Be Mindful About Your Caffeine Intake.

What comes up must come down.

Take it from a caffeine addict with numerous “relapses”; it is important to be very mindful of caffeine intake.

Caffeine is a topic for a totally separate post, but I will give my basic thoughts here.

If you are addicted and trying to stop, cut back slowly. Decrease intake by half a cup of coffee per day until you are at your desired level.

Going cold turkey will probably have you passing out on your desk if you are currently drinking at least four cups per day.

If you still want to consume caffeine, do so in moderation, and spread your intake throughout the day rather than having it all at once.

I recommend green tea instead of coffee, because it has a more moderate amount of caffeine as well as many other health benefits.

Not Everyone Is A Morning Person.

It’s ok if you are a night owl.

The problem is that many people think that they are night owls, but they’ve never really given the morning a fair shot.

My suggestion is that everyone try to establish a morning routine, but it truly might not be right for you to wake up earlier.

Now of course, this doesn’t mean you can’t still have a routine, it would just be done at a later time of day (but still right after waking).


So there you have it!

Pretty much everything you need to know about morning routines, including advantages, possible things to do, how to design it, common pitfalls, and a whole bunch of other stuff was covered in this post.

If you have any interesting advice on morning routines or just want to post your own, leave a comment!

photo by: Photo Extremist

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  1. Stormin' Norman says:

    I actually think that a morning exercise routine would help me, and waking up earlier to take a walk sounds like a pretty good idea to me. Thanks for writing this, bro. I’m psyched to read more posts.

    • Right? And then you just get everything done but it doesn’t really interfere with anything else in your life while you are doing it. I would consider getting up a little earlier for a walk too, especially now that the weather is nice.

  2. Point 3: On my bookshelf is the quote “it might be best at this point to declare a 100-year moratorium on all book writing so that readers can be given the opportunity to catch up with what’s already on the shelves.” (attributed to Hillel Halkin)

  3. Nearly a year after you wrote this article, I am re-reading it. Seems like a useful article. How does it feel to be more than 1 year into your blog?

    • I am surprised and impressed that I’ve continued it this long. It feels nice, but I still have a ways to go.


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