coffee mug

I’ve been interested in productivity for about five years now, and I’m a little embarassed to admit I only recently adopted an intentional, well-designed morning routine.

Productivity experts the world over will tell you that mornings are key: “If you win the morning, you win the day,” as the saying goes.

Everyone has a collection of things they do each morning, but most of us don’t have a premeditated, deliberate routine:

  • we don’t do things in the most efficient order and at the same time each day
  • we give our 6 AM selves too much power
  • we make far too many unnecessary decisions

Here’s why and how to make some positive changes to how you approach your morning.

Find the most efficient order

Doing things the same way each time increases speed and efficiency.

Every morning I shower, make coffee, let the dog out, and make a pot of oatmeal for breakfast. For the longest time, and I swear this is true, I would put a pot of water on the stove and stand there reading Google News on my phone until it boiled. 5 wasted minutes.

When I sat down to create a morning routine a couple of months ago, I realized it made a lot more sense to set the pot of water on the stove and take the dog out while it came to a boil. Duh.

This might seem obvious, but think about your own morning routine. Is there anything you can rearrange to eliminate wasted time?

Don’t trust “6 AM you”

My alarm goes off at 6 AM, and the person whom that alarm rouses, I call “6 AM Jonathan.”

6 AM Jonathan isn’t exactly an all-star. He’s lazy, grouchy, and and has a singular focus: continuing to sleep. When he gets to make decisions, bad things happen. It’s like putting a dog in charge of guarding a birthday cake.

My goal each morning is to give 6 AM Jonathan as little control over my day as possible, and that means destroying the source of his power:

The snooze button. (Dun dun dun!)

I stopped using the snooze button in 2007 (after failing a college class due to an inability to get out of bed), and I can tell you that life’s better without it. I’m no longer tempted by it, and that’s one less choice 6 AM Jonathan gets to make. (If you’re curious about how I broke my snooze habit, by the way, here are the instructions I followed).

6 AM You doesn’t have your best interest in mind. Like Odysseus among the Sirens, he can’t be trusted. Lash him to the mast.

Don’t give him any decision-making power.

Avoid decision fatigue

There’s a fascinating concept in psychology called decision fatigue:

The more decisions we’ve made recently, the more likely we are to make a poor one.

If there’s a finite number of good decisions we can make each day, we want to waste as few as possible on unimportant things. As we’re executing our morning routines, we don’t ever want to think “Okay, what should I do next?” Better to save our decisions for things that matter. Some specific suggestions I’ve found helpful:

  • Lay out your clothes the night before.
  • If possible, have the same thing for breakfast every day.
  • Put your keys, wallet, phone, etc. in the same place each night.
  • As we talked about previously, decide on an order for your morning activities and stick to it ruthlessly. Don’t decide each day whether to start the coffee or feed the cat first. Use that decision on something more important.

Where to start

If your morning routine just needs a little tweaking, then tweak away, I say! If you’re feeling like a redesign is in order, I’ve got just the thing.

  1. Make a list of everything you currently do each morning. It might look something like this: shower/get dressed walk dog feed dog make breakfast

  2. Estimate how long each of these activities takes, and add that number to the item itself: shower/get dressed (30 minutes) walk dog (30 minutes) feed dog (2 minutes) make breakfast (10 minutes)

  3. This is a personal development site, so how about adding something both beneficial and fun? read (15 minutes) meditate (10 minutes) write (30 minutes)

  4. Try it out

  5. Make adjustments

The end result is pretty neat: a process that gets more efficient each time you execute it.

What does your morning routine look like?