What do you do first when you wake up in the morning?
If you’re like most of us, you probably reach for your phone on your bedside table and check the notifications and messages that have been beamed in overnight.
You probably already know that’s not the best idea.
How you start your mornings can have a huge impact on shaping your days and ulitmately, your life.
The truth is, there’s no one ‘set rule’ for starting your day.
These days, there are thousands of tips and articles about how to create your perfect morning routine. From downing vitamin shots and journalling, to meditation and exercise, there’s so much seemingly conflicting advice out there.
I prefer to keep things simple.
In this article I’m going to reveal my top seven tips for starting your day off on the right foot.
These are tips that I’ve experimented with over the years and which have helped me to be more productive in the mornings.
They are not set rules, and are not listed in any particular order. I don’t do every single one of them every day.
But they are extremely useful tools that you can use to shape your own killer morning routine that suits your life.
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1) Don’t Reach For Your Phone
Smartphones have become part of our everyday lives. There’s simply no getting away from our Dopamine-driven use of their highly additive social media and messaging apps.
According to a 2017 study, the average person struggles to go little more than 10 minutes without checking their phone.
Indeed, Americans reach for their phone on average once every 12 minutes, checking their phone as many as 80 times a day.
Those numbers are no surprise, but there’s no need to demonize smartphones, all it takes is a little bit more awareness about our use of them.
That’s why I never check my phone first thing in the morning.
I put it into ‘Airplane Mode’ overnight and leave it on my bedside table when I start my day.
Not only does this allow me to start my day on my own terms, rather than letting external messages and news enter my realm of consciousness first thing in the morning, but it also helps to build a little bit more discipline and awareness when it comes to the use of my phone.
If you really need to check your emails and texts early in the morning, that’s fine. Just don’t make it the very first thing you do when you wake up.
2) Meditate – Or At Least Sit Quietly For A Few Minutes
I know what you’re thinking – ‘I’ve just been asleep, I feel calm and refreshed, why do I need to meditate?’
Here’s a secret for you – I’m not very good at meditation. I’ve read plenty of books on it, including Eckhart Tolle’s excellent The Power of Now, and used plenty of the guided meditation apps such as Headspace – but I’ve always felt that I haven’t really been able to get to where I should be with it.
However, I do notice the benefits, even if I do it for just five minutes or so.
The first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is sit (or lie) quietly, and focus on my breathing. Nothing more, nothing less.
It’s amazing how doing this for just five minutes upon waking can help to ground me for the rest of the day.
3) Make Your Bed
I’ve borrowed this one from the brilliant Tim Ferriss, who suggests making your bed as one of his top tips for the best morning routine.
I’m going to level with you – I sleep with a duvet, so making my bed takes around 30 seconds, and I’ve been doing it pretty much all my life. I wouldn’t leave the house without having made my bed – it’s just a deeply ingrained habit at this stage.
But hearing Ferriss mention it made me realize how important this little daily ritual can be.
Having a tidy room sets the tone for the day ahead, and if, like me, you work from home a lot of the time, it sends a subconscious message to yourself for the day ahead in your working environment.
There’s also something to be said about the importance of coming home to find a nicely-made bed in the evening. It’s like sending a little message of respect to your future self.
4) Hydrate With A Mineral Cocktail
This is the newest addition to my morning routine and it’s one I’ve borrowed from Aubrey Marcus’ book, Own the Day, Own your Life.
Aubrey recommends starting your day with a glass of water containing three grams of Sea Salt, Lemon Juice, and if you’re feeling extra creative – some Apple Cider Vinegar.
The theory is that sea salt (not regular table salt) contains trace amounts of a lot of important minerals that your body needs to function properly, and so starting your day with a dose can help to replenish what you’ve lost overnight.
It tastes pretty grim and takes some getting used to, but it’s become a regular ritual for me each morning.
5) Don’t Eat
If you’ve read any of my content on Intermittent Fasting, you’ll know that I’m a big advocate of it and have been practicing it for more than three years now.
Simply put, I don’t eat breakfast.
Instead, I’ll get the work I need to do done within the first two hours of the morning. Then, I’ll usually hit the gym, before breaking my ‘fast’ at around 11am or midday.
I usually try to have my final meal as early in the evening as I can, although that’s not always possible.
Typically, I will stop eating at 6pm and have my first meal the next day after training at around 12pm. That adds up to a 18-hour daily fast, with a six-hour eating window.
There are many health benefits associated with intermittent fasting. I won’t go into them in detail here, but be sure so check out my interview with Max Lowery to find out more.
Mainly, I like it because I feel that I’m most productive and enegized in the morning when I haven’t eaten anything, and those first few hours of the day is often when I get my best work done.
6) Delay Your Morning Coffee
While you’re sleeping, your body becomes progressively more and more dehydrated.
That’s why drinking a big glass of water first thing in the morning is always a good idea – so you can replenish what’s been lost overnight.
Coffee is a morning staple for most people in the western world. I love my morning coffee – but I don’t have it within the first hour of waking up.
There are two reasons for this.
One, Coffee contains Caffeine, which is a diuretic. This means that it will make you pass urine more quickly. And this is not ideal when you’re already dehydrated from your night’s sleep.
Two, I prefer to let my body wake itself up naturally, rather than relying on an external stimulant to get it to click into gear.
Instead of immediately having a coffee, one of the best things you can do when you first wake up is seek some exposure to natural sunlight. Sunlight tells your brain to stop producing Melatonin (the sleep hormone) and it’s a much more natural ‘stimulant’ than the Caffeine found in coffee.
As I mentioned, I’m a big coffee fan, but I will usually not drink my first cup until I’ve got my first batch of work done, which is around one-and-a-half hours after having first woken up.
7) Get Up 15 Minutes Earlier
This final tip I’ve borrowed from Craig Ballantyne’s excellent book, The Perfect Day Formula.
It’s simple really. Set your alarm clock for 15 minutes earlier than usual.
The thinking here is that getting up 15 minutes earlier is not really going to affect your sleep that much, and it allows you an extra quarter-of-an-hour to dedicate to your most important task in the morning.
Say you’re writing a book. Getting up 15 minutes earlier gives you that extra bit of time to focus on writing, before all of the inevitable distractions of the day head your way.
Even if the rest of your day is a disaster from then onwards, at least you got something done first thing in the morning.
In his book, Craig also talks about ‘protecting your mornings’. This means minimizing external distractions from things such as phones, news and media – and focusing instead on your top tasks for the day.
Again, even if your day turns into a nightmare in the afternoon, at least you were able to make some progress on your most important tasks first thing in the morning.
Conclusion – Wrapping Things Up
So there we have it, my top seven tips for creating the best morning routine to suit your needs.
Remember that these won’t suit everyone, and I don’t do every single one of them every day.
Realistically, I’ll be happy if I hit four or five of the above on a regular basis.
If you’re able to incorporate just a few of the tips above into your daily practice, you’re sure to see positive results.