The morning is a sacred time for me. When our children were still living with us, the morning was the only time I had completely to myself. It allowed me to start the day on my terms, to set the pace for the rest of the day. The children are alone now, it’s just me and my wife, but the morning is still crucial for the rest of the day. Every morning is a blank page. Every morning you begin again, the promise and potential of the near future filled to the brim.
And so my morning routine is the foundation of my day. Without it, the day simply does not “take”.
If you want to be “agile” and “intuitive” in your life, a morning routine helps. You need the base from which to leverage your talents and express your intuition and dynamic ability. If your mornings are sloppy and all over the place, you’ll have a hard time venturing out into the world and conquering your goals. A child needs security to grow. You need a morning routine to excel.
Here is my morning routine.
Go to bed between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m.
A morning routine starts with your evening routine. As I’ve said many times before, getting to bed at a good time – around 10 a.m., but no later than 11 a.m. – while maintaining good sleep hygiene practices in order to get enough sleep and wake up with energy and vitality is essential for a good morning. So your morning routine starts the night before. You need to get a good night’s sleep if your morning routine helps.
Wake up around 7am.
I wake up around the same time every day, mostly because I’m so keen on getting to bed at the right time. Seven o’clock is my typical wake-up time. It allows me to go to bed between 10 and 11 p.m. and sleep all the time I need. I’m in bed at 10 am, and usually earlier, but I read in bed. Sometimes I get out quickly, other times I stay up and keep reading. Waking up at 7 a.m. allows me to breathe at night.
Waking up at the same time every day is essential. For one, you don’t need an alarm. You just wake up because your body knows it, and it’s a lot easier that way. Second, waking up is the start of your routine. It all depends on the revival happening at the same time. If you wake up at 5 a.m. one day and 8:30 a.m. another, it’s hard to plan a consistent morning routine.
Put the sun in my eyes.
Sun exposure early in the morning — sunrise, ideally — helps your circadian rhythm adjust to the rhythm of the day. It “tells” your internal clocks that it’s morning, time to move, time to build and go.
I have always made it a point in my adult life to live in sunny places all year round. Earlier in my health journey, it wasn’t a conscious decision. I didn’t know the intricacies of circadian rhythm and exposure to natural light, but I did know that I loved sunlight, loved being warm, and loved spending time outdoors. So before I even knew what it was doing to my health, I was getting sunlight every morning.
It does not mean looking at the sun. Do not do that. It means being outdoors with your face directed towards the sun, indirect light piercing your eyes and acting as a circadian zeitgeber that sets your clock. Also, you don’t need to have visible sunlight. Clouds can be taken out. It may be raining or even snowing, and sunlight will still reach your circadian clock. The goal is to go outside to take full advantage of the natural light.
Drink coffee, heavy cream and a spoonful of sugar.
Then I brew my coffee. Always in a stainless steel French press with fresh ground beans, always with heavy cream and a dollop of sugar. Yes, plain white sugar, to reduce bitterness. Often, I will take my coffee outside in the sun.
Do Sudoku, NY Times crosswords, and read the newspaper.
While the science on “brain training” with crossword puzzles and math games like sudoku is inconclusive, I don’t care. I notice a big difference when I play the games and when I don’t. Something is missing when I don’t. A fluidity, an acuity of thought. My writing and creativity are worse on days when I can’t figure out the puzzles.
I also read the newspaper. Yes, the physical paper diary. Everything about the newspaper experience – the crumpling, the way you have to *pop* it to straighten it out – is soothing, and it’s still my favorite way to read the news. “Don’t believe everything you read” goes without saying, of course. I consider this an essential part of my morning routine.
Take part in a little friendly competition.
The latest addition to my morning routine is a friend and I started competing about six months ago. We do it every day. Every morning we play World, Quordle and Sedecordle word games.
We do all three every day and score them to see who gets the lowest score. The base score is obtained by adding the numbers in Quordle. Then you can subtract or add points based on your scores in Sedecordle and Wordle. In Wordle, you subtract the number of guesses you have left. So one point for each remaining guess. With Sedecordle, you subtract three points for each remaining guess, or add one point for each remaining word on the board. You have to understand the games, but it’s quite difficult.
At this point in my life, it’s counterproductive to physically compete with anything big at stake. That’s the new challenge. This is the new contest. It’s a great way to start the day.
Have breakfast, or not.
Most days I fast until 1pm (after my late morning workout). On the days that I don’t fast, I will have something light. Lately it’s boiled eggs or scrambled eggs with buttered kale. I eat breakfast if I’m hungry and want to eat, usually while playing mind games. I fast if I go deep into work mode and really try to reach flow state.
Get “easy” job gains.
I’ll be doing the heavy lifting for half an hour to an hour: answering emails, taking or making calls, checking social media to see if I need to answer anything. These are things that do not require a lot of active intelligence. You just have to “do” them. I often do a quick scan of Twitter or Instagram to get a “big picture” of what might be happening in the world, what people are worried about, developments in fitness or nutrition.
Knocking out those easy wins sets a good tone for the rest of the day.
Take a 15 minute movement break.
After the emails and the calls, I go out for a quick motion break. It’s to get blood flowing to the brain, warming up my body, lubricating my joints, and preparing me for the real work ahead.
- Sometimes it’s a quick jog to the beach to snorkel and swim.
- Sometimes it’s a quick jog to the beach for a few short sprints.
- Sometimes it’s 15 minutes on the slack line.
- Sometimes it’s just a few sets of deadlifts, push-ups, and pull-ups with a trap bar.
The goal is to get some light physical movement, preferably outdoors, before the real mental work begins.
Extensive creative work.
When I write articles, I have already done the research the day before or the previous days. I have a mental skeleton of the post erected in my mind, with open tabs and links to all the supporting evidence, so all I have to do is write. Flesh it out. So it becomes an exercise in creativity that I can do, rather than having to stop every five minutes to check my work and read studies. Of course, if the situation calls for it, I’ll stop and read the research, but I do my best to avoid that so I can focus on the writing itself.
If I don’t have to write finished pieces, I can walk around with my phone and write a rough draft using voice to text. Voice to text is invaluable to me – a great way to jot down thoughts and ideas, which walking often stimulates. I “wrote” entire articles and Sundays with Sisson newsletters on walks. I found business ideas that turned into business realities. I continue to work as long as it flows. It may take two hours. Maybe a. Maybe four. But it usually lasts at least two hours.
Movement, training and play.
Usually I go to the gym, both to work out and to socialize. Get a quick, hard, and effective 30-45 minute workout, hang out with the regulars, joke around, catch up. It’s a great atmosphere to push yourself while keeping things light and fun. I’m not doing PR (personal records) at this point. I’m just starting to hit my muscles, strengthen my bones, and strengthen my connective tissue so I can keep playing and staying active doing the things I really love. Anti-aging.
The social aspect is just as important as the physical aspect. I spend so much time on devices that I need that touch time (not FaceTime).
If I’m not going to the gym, I’ll go paddleboard or ride a fat bike on the beach. I will often do this with my wife or a boyfriend, again getting that social time. Whatever I do, the block of time after my extensive work time is to stay active, both physically and socially.
After that, I break the (usual) fast with lunch and go on with the rest of my day, which is often very different from day to day. But that morning routine before lunch is non-negotiable and rarely changes.
What does your morning routine look like?