How I Increased by Productivity with a Morning Ritual

I’ve been listening to Tim Ferriss’ podcast for sometime. Tim is the author of the New York Times bestseller “The Four Hour Work Week”. One of the things he asks nearly everyone on his podcast is “What does your morning routine look like?” After listening to the morning routines of so many of his guests and also reading “Tools of Titans” which was largely taken from his podcast interviews, I became convinced that I could increase my productivity by coming up with a morning ritual of my own.

Start Slowly

One of the things that Mr. Ferriss and many other productivity experts advise is to start slow. It’s best to come up with something small and build on it gradually rather than trying to implement a complex routine all at once. I started with simply waking up at the same time everyday and also setting a goal to start exercising by 8am. It was my wife Sandy, in fact, who asked that we set this goal together. She noticed that she sometimes didn’t get back from our walk until late in the morning and, rightly so, wanted to get started earlier. Once we had our workout scheduled, everything else seemed to fall in place.

Habit Stacking

In his book “Habit Stacking: 97 Small Life Changes That Take Five Minutes or Less” author S.J. Scott describes a process by which anyone can add dozens of positive changes to his or her daily routine. While the scope of this book goes well beyond one’s morning routine, the concepts presented in it were helpful for my immediate purpose which was to link habits together as a way to get more done in less time. For example, I typically would swim in the late afternoon. But, because I didn’t want to take two showers, I would sit around all day with smelly clothes from my morning workout. And, if I had something that required something a bit more formal than workout clothes (like a doctor’s visit), I would typically skip my swim. Habit stacking changed all this. By, tacking my swim on to the end of my walk with Sandy, I was able to accomplish more in a shorter time and also make swimming a more-consistent habit.

Darren likes to swim at least three times a week

Write it Down

I use Diaro as my online diary. It’s available on iOS, Android and the web, so it’s always there when I need something to jot something down. I used Diaro to store a copy of my initial morning routine and then went back to it over and over again to refine and augment it.

Just the other day, I was reading an article by coach, author and triathlete Ben Greenfield about the effectiveness of cold showers. I had first heard about cold showers from Josh Waitzkin (another interviewee on the Tim Ferriss podcast). I really wanted to give this one a try since it literally took no time to implement. In fact, I have found my showers are much shorter now that I leave the hot water faucet off! After I tried it a few mornings, I added cold shower to my list.

Eventually, my morning routine stabilized and thus, I felt comfortable printing it. I now have my morning routine taped to my computer monitor so that I can review it every day.

My Morning Routine

For anyone who is interested, here’s my current morning routine.

  • Wake up at 6:30
  • Weigh in (log it on the Garmin app)
  • Drink coffee/read the morning news
  • Exercise (walk/run/swim depending on the day)
  • Take cold shower
  • Make smoothie
  • Meditate
  • Read Bible/devotional
  • Journal
  • Review plan for day
  • Start work

How My Morning Routine is Contributing to My Other Goals

One of my major goals right now is to lose weight. I have a specific number of pounds I would like to lose (more than 10). This goal is referenced throughout my morning routine. For example, getting up early gives me more time to exercise. Also, when I drink my coffee, it is fortified with Heavy Whipping Cream (exercising without eating carbs first encourages my body to burn fat). This is thing I consume before I start my workout. If you are interested in learning more about my diet, you can try this article on WebMD.com.

My morning smoothie which contains EAS protein powder, half an avocado, half a banana, an apple, spinach and other greens. Very happy with my Blendtec blender which pulverizes everything in just a minute.

Another example: I’ve wanted to try mediation for some time. During the podcast with Josh Waitzkin (referenced earlier), he mentioned that his corporate clients were better able to clear their mind if they tried it after intense exercise. This has been my experience as well. I don’t have a mantra. I simply try to clear my mind for 10 minutes while listening to recorded nature sounds. I typically meditate with a pen and paper nearby in case anything pops into my head.

Finally, as a Christian, I have always of wanted to include Bible and/or Devotional reading into my schedule but I’ve always had trouble sticking with it. These days, I have been far more consistent because this habit is built on solid list of other habits. I also know that exercising and meditating before I start allows me to really concentrate and reflect on what I am reading.

Conclusion

My morning routine is likely to morph over time. I do have a concern that it will all go out the window when I travel. Over time, I will try to wake up earlier to get the benefits of maintaining good habits and finishing them earlier. If you have thoughts about morning routines, I would invite you to add them to the comments below.

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Darren Van Soye

Darren started programming computers when he was 16. Because of his intense interest, he applied for and was accepted to UC Irvine’s Computer Science program. Now, after 25 years in the High Tech industry, his passion has turned to high-leverage projects that bring about sustainable improvement in the areas of health, economic empowerment and education.

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