Setting a morning routine is one of the biggest productivity boosters for the least effort that I know.
Starting with a familiar pattern, one that is controlled by me and gets my head in the space where the day lead by my goals, not the whims of others, is immensely powerful.
Even if the day starts off with a disaster, if I'm woken early by a sick child, or if I have to get up early and dash for a flight, I can still turn back to elements of the routine to get the day back on track.
I've built up and modified the routine over a few years, particularly as my daughter grows up and can be left to her own devices more and more. I spend time with her every morning so it's not quite the same as someone who wants to dive straight into their work.
I also vary it a bit as I exercise hard almost every day. On days when I go out in my rowing boat it'll be earlier, as soon as I've dropped my daughter at the school bus. On days when I'm weight training I do it later or I need to put in an extra 20 minutes warm up.
Here's the meat of the routine and some suggestions I've heard from people I respect and know achieve a lot:
6am start. The day starts at 6am. My alarm clock is in the bathroom, out of reach so I HAVE to get up. I tried 5am starts for a while and I have to say I got loads done, after all, you don't get up early to watch Netflix. However it left me very sleep late in the day and I wasn't getting much time with my wife so I scaled it back a bit. When she's away on business I get up earlier and go to bed not long after my daughter goes to sleep.
Cold shower. Once I'm up, It's next to my toothbrush so I do my teeth, then have a quick shower. At the end of the shower I turn the water down to cold for at least 10 seconds. Brutal, but the best way to start the day. It's better than 3 cups of coffee and brings a surprising smile to my face. In the shower I'm already thinking about solutions to problems I wrote down yesterday.
Dress for success. I get dressed with my gym shorts, T-shirt & socks under my normal clothes so in my head I'm halfway to the gym already.
Then I go downstairs to our lounge where I wont disturb anyone.
Wake the body up. I do 20 squats and a handful of press-ups to get the blood moving. Just on the point of breaking a sweat. This isn't really exercise in the sense of bringing any gains, it's just to get my body fired up. If I don't do it and spend too long sat down I feel sludgy for hours.
Plan the day. Next I get out my day planner and review what I wrote the night before. I'll do the “3 great things” gratitudes exercise and spend a moment visualising the day ahead.
I don't meditate like a lot of people do. I juts never go the hang of it enough to get any benefit. Maybe someday I'll try a retreat as I've heard people say it gets easier after an intensive burst.
Start by finishing yesterday. Now I have about 45 minutes before my daughter gets up. Enough for a first block of work, usually writing. I'll review whatever I wrote the day before and edit it – a tip I learned form an interview with Ernest Hemingway and a great way to avoid starting the day with a blank page. I used to just write and publish on the same day. Now I let it settle a bit and I have to say the results are a lot better.
I'll start a new piece, either a blog, video script, email or a book chapter but leave it deliberately incomplete. That way I know my brain will be working on it in the next couple of hours I'm away form my desk.
Family time. At 7am I wake my daughter up and get her breakfast, I have little if anything at this hour, I try to keep 12 hours between my evening meal and breakfast and I often eat late when my wife gets home from work.
We do a little schoolwork to get her head ready for the day ahead, and I take her out to the school bus for 7:45. It's one of the most precious times of the day and as she's only 8 we can have conversations about world issues like who would win a swimming race between her headmistress and a dinosaur. I love the unfettered creativity she still has at this age, it's going to such a valuable resource to nurture for all our futures.
“Proper” Exercise. From there I cycle to the rowing club where I have a single scull that I can use without needing to fit someone else's agenda. There's a small group of us that train together bit there's rarely more than half of us there every day during the week.
I'll row about 6 miles most days which takes about an hour. After another shower I'll head to the cafe, get my first decent coffee of the day and some breakfast.
The meat of the day. This is when the day “proper” starts and the day planner comes into its own, making sure I hit my big goals for the day but also manage my energy so I don't burn out too early.
I'll wrote about that elsewhere in more detail. For now, let me know what your routines are and if there's anything you've tried that might be useful for others?