Just as setting bedtime routines can be an incredibly powerful practice to get to sleep more efficiently, morning routines can help prime us both physically and mentally to take on the day to come. With so much noise and so many distractions to deal with from the moment we wake up to the moment, we go to bed, creating a controlled and established way in which to start the day can help the mind immensely in focusing on what really matters. But don’t take my word for it – many entrepreneurs, military leaders, successful actors, and other influential minds all use morning routines to bring control and process into their lives.
For example, Tim Ferriss (entrepreneur, author, and angel investor) interviewed marketing guru Seth Godin, former Navy Seal commander Jocko Willink, and actor Jamie Foxx to find out how their morning routines contributed to their state of mind throughout the day, and their overall success (1). What he found was not surprising – each individual uses a predictable and scripted sequence of events every morning that seem almost meditative in nature. And while the tactics may differ, the sentiment remains the same: predictability and dedication to a controlled sequence of actions in the morning becomes something almost second nature that contributes to your overall happiness and success.
What Are the Benefits of a Morning Routine?
While the specific benefits rely largely on the types of tactics you are incorporating into your morning routine, there are some universal benefits that most people tend to report. These include:
No need to worry about hitting all your marks in the mornings since you have already defined them for yourself
Less Likely to Forget
If you have a predefined process, forgetting something along your way is far less likely to happen
You’re putting time back into your pocket by setting a process for your morning
Without any extraneous variables to deal with, you can promote a mindset that will set the tone for the day
However, in addition to these advantages, there are other benefits that accompany some of the more specific tactics you might choose to incorporate into your morning routine:
Most morning routines incorporate some sort of healthy breakfast into the mix
Some tactics include breathing exercises or meditation that can help the brain sustain better focus throughout the day
if you choose to incorporate a workout into your morning routine (and you are diligent in adhering to it), then your fitness will most likely improve
A tactic might include incorporating listening to an inspirational podcast on your way to work in the mornings which leaves you inspired and motivated
With those benefits in mind, here are some of the best morning routine ideas and inspiration for successful living!
Physical Morning Routines
First, we will cover off on several physical tactics you could incorporate into your morning routine for a more energized and healthier you:
Working some stretches into your morning routine offers a strong myriad of health benefits to get your day off to a great start. For one, stretching boost your circulation to your muscles and throughout the body, and helping to improve blood flow early in the morning will help stimulate the cells and help you feel more naturally awake. Stretching is also excellent for stress relief, and especially useful for reducing muscle soreness if you accidentally slept in an awkward position the night before. However, stretching most importantly helps to calm the mind and promote a tranquil mental state as you move into your day.
Try working 5-10 minutes of uninterrupted quality stretching time into your morning by reserving this time for right after you wake up. Try focusing on stretching the major muscles of the body, such as the hamstrings, arms, upper legs, and gently stretching the neck muscles.
Yoga sits somewhere in between stretching exercises and working out, such that it provides many of the same benefits stretching offers at a more strenuous pace. Similar to meditation, yoga has been studied extensively for its immense benefits on both the human body as well as the mind. For example, research has found that regular yoga practice significantly lowered levels of cortisol (the human stress hormone) in participants (2). In addition to reducing stress, research has also found that yoga boosts mood while reducing symptoms of anxiety, thus improving overall quality of life (3).
Other science-backed benefits include reducing inflammation, improving heart health, helping to lower the signs of depression, increasing strength, and even helping to promote healthy eating habits. What better way to begin the day than with a practice that offers such a rich diversity of physical and mental health benefits?
Although Jocko Willink has been retired from the US Navy since 2010, he still adheres to the same morning routine that led his task unit team to become the most decorated special operations group in the Iraq War (4). After getting up at 4:30 am, he heads straight to the gym where he puts in an hour’s workout before getting ready for work.
While waking up at 4:30 am might not be a feasible feat for everyone, adding exercise into your morning routine might be just what you need to get your day off to the right foot. This doesn’t necessarily require you to do a full workout before you head to work – perhaps you choose to jog for 30 minutes in the morning and lift weights after you get home from work. The point here is to get up and moving right after waking up to stimulate blood circulation throughout the body and to the brain.
Working out in the morning also comes with many benefits compared to exercising at other times throughout the day. These include:
• The gym is far less packed in the morning
• Your growth hormones are naturally elevated when you wake up
• It raises your metabolic rate
• You won’t feel groggy going into work after a full-blown workout
Mental Morning Routines
Next, we will review several tactics that can help prepare the mind for a successful day:
Meditation and Breathing Exercises
The benefits of meditation, mindfulness, and breathing exercises have also become more well-documents and well-known in recent years. It is considered a practice, meaning that the more regularly people meditate the more effective and easier the method becomes, however even novices can greatly benefit from the most basic mindfulness exercises. Although there are many different disciplines of meditation, at the most basic level meditation helps people to be more conscientious of their surroundings, helping to bring more awareness to the present while tuning out or reducing the ever-occurring excess noise that comes with living. In other words, an excellent way to level-set the mind before beginning the day!
Research indicates that practices such as mindfulness meditation significantly reduces inflammation caused by stress in the body (5). In addition to reducing stress, research has also shown that meditation helps to boost mood and sustain positive thinking throughout the day (6). Other studies have shown that mindfulness has the ability to improve cognition and attention span, making it an ideal practice to start the day with (7).
If you are new to meditation, try committing 10-20 minutes of your morning during which time you won’t be interrupted. Then, close your eyes and breathe naturally. Focus on your breath as it enters your nasal passages and proceeds to fill your lungs with oxygen. Observe the sensations of the air leaving through your mouth and passing over your tongue as you exhale. Try to only focus on these sensations of the breath – when you notice other thoughts as they enter your mind, briefly acknowledge that they are there, and then return to focusing on your breath. You will find that as you become more experienced, staying focused on your breath becomes easier.
While there are many different ways to go about practicing gratitude, incorporating this into your regular morning routine offers many surprising science-backed benefits. For example, researcher Robert Emmons found that practicing gratitude regularly reduces toxic emotions while enhancing empathy, thus overall contributing to a greater sense of well-being (8). Additionally, such practices also increase self-esteem, helping us to reduce social comparisons to other people and allow ourselves to appreciate the accomplishments of others.
But what does this actually mean in the context of a morning routine? To begin, try carving out 5-10 minutes into your morning, ideally after you’ve exercised and showered but before you go to work. Start by keeping a record of the things you are grateful for, beginning on a new page of your notebook every morning. If you need thought-starters as a jumping-off point, try the following:
• What challenges am I grateful for that are helping me to grow and become better?
• Which people in my life push me to become a better human?
• What skills am I good at that I want to share with the world?
• What experiences make me happy?
Every day as you start anew, think about the specific projects, endeavors, and people that are affecting you in that present moment that you are grateful for, and write them down. You may begin to notice a trend as you look back at your gratitude history.
If you already practice gratitude by recording your thoughts into a journal, then this tactic will go hand-in-hand. However, many people approach journaling in varying ways, so you may choose to spend your time journaling writing about whatever fits your needs best.
For example, Tim Ferriss uses his morning journaling practice to service two major objectives (9). These include:
• Getting the clutter of one’s mind onto a piece of paper
• Organizing the clutter on the paper, which in turn organizes one’s mind
In essence, Tim uses his journaling practice to purge the messiness, stressful thoughts, and conflicting goals onto a piece of paper first thing in the morning. For him, this helps him to calm the incessant, ricocheting thoughts bouncing around inside his head, which allows him to get on with his day.
You, however, might choose a different approach. For example, your journaling practice could include a combination of practicing gratitude with the organization of thought. Or, you could choose to use this time to do goal-setting or to define your objectives for the day.
Dietary Morning Routines
The fuel you put into your body at the start of your day undoubtedly sets the stage for the day to come. Here are some dietary changes you should consider:
Bulletproof Your Coffee
There are several ways to bulletproof your coffee in the morning to help naturally sustain energy and focus throughout the day. One of the most common is the traditional combination of medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil, ghee butter, and organic hot coffee that is blended into a creamy and delicious beverage. Both MCT oil and ghee butter provide tremendous benefits to the brain and body early in the morning, aiding in cognitive efficiency throughout the day.
Research has shown that the consumption of MCT oil increases the brain’s total energy metabolism by increasing ketone supply, which in effect helps cognition (10). Additionally, ghee butter has been researched to have anti-inflammatory benefits on the body (11). In combination with the caffeine in coffee, these two substances deliver better energy efficiency to the cells in both the brain and body, offering a fantastic way to start your morning.
The recipe is simple:
- Measure out a normal mug of your organic trip coffee
- Measure 1 tablespoon of MCT oil
- Measure 1 tablespoon of Ghee Butter
- Blend, serve, and enjoy
Try it here: Premium MCT Oil
Try it here: Organic Valley Ghee Butter
Supercharge Your Tea
If you enjoy tea over coffee or are drawn to the incredible antioxidant levels many teas contain, there are alternatives to bulletproof coffee that offer just as many benefits. For example, there are certain unexpected teas that give you energy beyond your traditional black or earl grey brews.
For example, Guayusa tea comes from a plant that grows in the Amazon Rainforest and has been used by native cultures in countries such as Ecuador for thousands of years. Guayusa tea contains far more caffeine compared to regular black tea – about 100 milligrams per standard 8-ounce cup. Additionally, Guayusa actually has higher levels of antioxidants and nutrients than even green tea, making it a powerful source of healthy deliciousness ideal for morning consumption.
Similar to bulletproof coffee, you can make a morning cocktail using Guayusa tea, MCT oil, and ghee butter, although the taste is subjectively not quite as enjoyable. Even Tim Ferriss uses a similar mixture which he jokingly refers to as “Titanium Tea.” This is arguably a healthier, more nutrient-rich option compared to bulletproof coffee, although either would be a fantastic way to start the day.
The recipe is:
- Steep 2 tablespoons of loose-leaf Guayusa tea, measuring your regular mug size
- Measure 1 tablespoon of MCT oil
- Measure 1 tablespoon of Ghee Butter
- Filter out tea leaves
- Blend, serve, and enjoy
Try it here: RUNA Organic Guayusa Loose Leaf Tea
Try it here: Organic Valley Ghee Butter
Simple, Healthy, Protein-Rich Breakfast
Similar to your other morning routine techniques, you should make choosing a healthy protein-rich breakfast an easy and repeatable process. When you go grocery shopping, instead of grabbing all the possible options for breakfast, buy only the essentials so the decisions you have to make each morning are few to none.
With regard to what you should have for breakfast, set yourself up with something that is:
- Low/no sugar
- High protein
- Low in simple carbohydrates
- High in complex carbs/leafy greens
One of my favorite breakfast meals are breakfast egg muffins. These can be easily prepared the night before, and only requires oven heat. You will need:
- Red pepper
- Salt and pepper
- Muffin pan
- Non-stick pan spray
Then, follow these simple instructions:
- Beat your eggs together with chopped onion and salt and pepper
- Prepare your pan with non-stick spray
- Pour your egg mixture into each muffin cup in your pan
- Finely chop your spinach, red pepper, and broccoli
- Top each muffin with your spinach, red pepper, and broccoli before placing in oven
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
- Bake for 20 minutes
- Remove, let cool, and enjoy or store for the next morning
Operational Morning Routines
There are several habits you can use every morning to declutter your mind, organize your surroundings, and make better use of your time:
Make Your Bed
During a 2014 college commencement speech Naval Admiral William McRaven said:
“…if you make your bed every morning you have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another.”
This small sense of accomplishment and pride humans derive from even the most menial of tasks have more impact on our psychology than we give attention to, and these small impacts can produce a domino effect that McRaven mentions eventually snowballs into a day of completed tasks. While on the surface it may seem that the only benefit of making your bed is a tidier room, incorporating this practice into your morning routine subtly lends to the overarching habit of accomplishment and task completion that helps us to be successful throughout the day.
Set Out Your Outfit the Night Before
Have you ever wondered why “successful” people such as Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and even Obama tend to wear the same thing every day? According to Inc Mag, the habit of sporting similar attire every day reduces decision fatigue, which increases productivity. While many sources cite that the average human makes over 35,000 decisions every day, we are able to save brainpower when the decisions we have to make are cut back, especially less important ones like where to eat for lunch or what to wear.
That being said, many people take pride in organizing colorful wardrobes and wearing interesting attire to work or school. Whichever category you fall into, you can nonetheless benefit from setting out your outfit the night before each day, cutting back on one additional decision you would have to make the next morning.
Do Your Most Important Task First
Most self-improvement and process coaches teach their students to always perform the most important task of each day right when they get into work (or school, etc.). Why? Well, assuming that we have stayed true to our predefined morning routine of optimized food, meditation, and other items, when we finally leave the house and arrive at our destination, we are in the least distracted mindset. As the morning turns into the afternoon and more decision fatigue and other stimuli take place, our minds become cluttered, less efficient, and more distracted.
Inspirational Morning Routines
Sometimes all we need is inspiration to push us forward and drive us closer to our goals. Instead of waiting for the inspiration to come to you, use these habits to manifest it for yourself:
Listen to an Inspirational Podcast
Instead of tuning into your morning news podcast or listening to the radio on your way to work, try choosing an inspirational podcast instead. Rather than dealing with the variability of worrisome (and often disturbing) news we are fed on a daily basis or dealing with the annoyance of commercials early in the morning, controlling your environment by listening to a podcast that you know will inspire you is a great way to tune out the unnecessary noise. For example, The Tim Ferriss Show is a podcast specifically designed to distill the habits, characteristics, and motivations of leaders in a multitude of niches to better understand ways humans can optimize for better output. One of my personal favorite episodes is How to Say “No,” Market Life a Professional, and Win at Life, featuring bestselling author and marketing guru Seth Godin.
While this is yet another habit that can go hand-in-hand with journaling, many choose to practice goal-setting by using a whiteboard or another visual cue that will remind you what you are working towards each day. By placing your whiteboard or visual cue in a space you are forced to pass by every day (such as your home office or cubicle at work), you have no choice but to be reminded of your goals every day.
While it can be attractive to write down your big, lofty, long-term goals first, a better way to approach daily goal-setting is to reduce your daily objectives into small tasks that move you toward a goal you have identified. That way, you are able to physically cross something off your list every time you complete a task, which allows you to feel a small sense of pride and accomplishment at each completion touchpoint.