A good morning routine sets the productivity tone for the day. But is it really as simple as a morning ritual and a healthy breakfast? Here’s what the experts have to say.
No matter how much chaos happens when your eyes open, know this: A morning routine for better productivity is a learnable science.
After analyzing the advice and morning routines of six top productivity experts, we’ve pinpointed the most common practices of successful people for a productive morning.
1. Wake up at YOUR right time
“Morning people” are supposed to be the high achievers. The early bird is supposed to catch the worm, right? And a cold shower to wake up? Groan. Where’s the snooze button on that? Can the early (or late) hours you sleep really make a difference?
One 2021 academic study found that waking up just one hour earlier was associated with a 23% lower depression rate. While some people who wake up earlier are more productive, night owls can still have a perfect morning routine that leads to a productive day. Think of it like breakfast and brunch. They’re both delicious, and they both work if you’re hungry.
Mike Vardy, productivity author, speaker, podcaster, and blogger at Productivityist, wrote, “Look, I’m a night owl—and proud of it. Why? Because despite having many say that my sleeping habits make me less likely to achieve, I prove them wrong. I don’t just do that every once in a while. I do it every single day.” The most important thing isn’t what time you get out of bed. It’s getting in tune with your body’s clock for a good routine.
According to Sleep.org, your body knows what it should be doing and when. Don’t force yourself to be part of the 5:00 a.m. club if you can’t fall asleep before midnight. Forcing yourself out of bed is a recipe for burnout. If you’re not a morning person, your body will only work with you for a few days before it begs for mercy.
Good ol’ science can help you find your most productive time of day.
2. Prepare the night before
Many productivity experts and successful people spend evenings preparing for the next day. Their reasoning: It leaves mornings free for an early start on important work (and breakfast).
We have a limited amount of willpower and decision-making ability. Too many decisions in the morning slow us down and drain our brain for the rest of the day. Eliminate morning decision-making for more energy and more time for productivity.
Subscribe to the idea that an a.m. routine can start in the p.m. Lay out your outfit for the next day. Pack your lunch. And create your checklist or a to-do list. Former American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault told Fast Company they end their evenings writing three things they want to accomplish the next day.
3. Focus on what matters
Erik Fisher is the voice behind the Beyond The To-Do List Podcast. He’s interviewed over 100 different productivity experts on topics like lifehacking, work-life balance, and creativity. He points out that if you analyze productivity experts’ morning routines, you’ll find a few things in common. Most focus on big picture goals, gratitude, and planning for the day.
Productivity coach Zack Sexton’s morning routine looks like this:
- Water (20oz. often w/ lemon)
- Cuddles (w/ fiancée Nikida)
- Read something inspirational (often in sauna)
- Shower (if sauna-ed)
- Look at calendar
- Start first journal entry (including prompts about something learned, things to be grateful for, and what to focus on for the day)
Set your mind on what you want to focus on for the day, and set your heart and mind with the right attitude. Kevin Kruse, author of 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management, starts their morning with five minutes of yoga stretches that accompany:
- Mental recitation of their personal mission statement
- Listing three items of gratitude
- Repetition of their three goals: Health, wealth, and love
Kevin thinks of what tasks he’ll do that day to help achieve each goal. “All that takes about five minutes,” he says.
You don’t need a lengthy meditation routine. Yoga, meditation, journaling, reading, or a quiet walk can help you focus on a positive outcome for the day.
4. Move around and hydrate
When you feel great, it makes it easier to handle the morning alarm clock. If it’s hard just get out of bed, you probably won’t be excited to run to the gym—and that’s ok. Simply moving your body will get your blood flowing and help get your day started.
Many successful people start their mornings in motion. Follow their lead to add some health to your life:
- Kevin Kruse does a daily 20-minute HIIT session on the treadmill.
- Jack Dorsey, founder of Block, Inc., jogs every morning.
- Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi powerwalks before work.
- Entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk works out with a personal trainer.
- Shark Tank investor Kevin O’Leary gets on his elliptical or exercise bike.
- Multi-board member Frits Dirk van Paasschen runs 10 miles every morning.
While you’re moving, stay hydrated. What you put in your mug matters. Drink water in the morning to kickstart your day and give you lasting energy.
Jeff Sanders, author of The 5 AM Miracle and host of the podcast with the same name, says his favorite morning habit is to drink one liter of water within the first 45 minutes of bouncing out of bed. “Hydration is incredibly important, especially after waking up. I always find that this larger quantity of water provides incredible energy and prepares my body for the day ahead.”
5. Eat the frog—or tadpole—first thing in the morning
Brian Tracy, author of Eat That Frog! 21 Great Ways To Stop Procrastinating And Get More Done In Less Time, bases his morning philosophy off of a quote from Mark Twain. “If the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long.”
The “frog” is your most important task or work—the one you’re dreading the most because it’s large and looming over you. Build the habit of doing your biggest task first for a huge boost of accomplishment first thing.
But procrastination is real, making it even harder to get your day started. Whether you eat the frog or tackle some small tadpoles first, find your ideal morning routine rhythm and get started.
Create your ideal morning routine for a productive day
Mornings don’t have to be rough, and you can learn to become more productive throughout the day. No need to overhaul your morning routine all at once; introduce one new practice a week and track your improvement. They say if you win the morning, you win the day.