A Morning Routine That Will Transform Your Entire Day

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morning-routine-300wI was staring at my laptop screen and starting to panic.

My Outlook window prominently displayed “141 Unread Messages” in bold font. Then, a meeting reminder popped up. Two meetings were starting in 15 minutes, and I was a critical attendee for both meetings.


“Sounds like someone has a case of the Mondays…” (watch the clip here)

That happened to me last week and it wasn’t the first time. I have a suspicion you have your own personal version of that Monday.

Even though I am one of the lucky ones that work from home, I can still become discouraged and overwhelmed when I sit down to start my day.

Although we can’t control many aspects of our jobs, we can control how we react. We can deal with emails that never stop, shifting demands, and unrealistic expectations in a positive way or a negative way.

Before I decided to take control, this was my typical morning routine:

  • Wake up at about 6 AM
  • Immediately grab my phone to check email
  • Have a protein shake
  • Walk the dog for about an hour
  • Check email & look at Facebook during the walk
  • Maybe a short workout before I start the work day
  • Start my work day

On most days, I was happy with that routine. I have a healthy breakfast and usually get a bit of exercise.


However, checking my email so early started to cause problems. Here is a common scenario:

I check my email before work and see a huge issue that occupies all my mental energy. I start complaining to anyone who will listen.

I spiral out of control into a negative mindset, and start reacting. **I’m not proactively doing anything in that scenario.**

The Goal

My goal was to change my morning routine to help more effectively control my mindset.

I suspected the root of my issue was that I was not accomplishing my goals outside of my 9-5 job (working out, cooking, writing, etc). I had a really hard time recovering after a poor start to the day, and felt like I was immediately behind.

If this sounds familiar, here is what you can do:

  • Wake up earlier than normal, about 90 minutes to 2 hours earlier
  • Stick to a routine each morning
  • Set a goal to complete 1 – 2 tasks, **preferably just 1**.

Crazy simple, right. Here are a couple rules to go along with it:

  • No email until 9 AM
  • No Facebook until 9 AM
  • Keep the routine simple and do it in the same order

If you need to check your email to complete your tasks, that’s okay. Just stick to the essential emails and don’t go into a reactive mode.

**This is a proactive approach to controlling your day on your own terms.**

A quick note:

I was inspired by the Tim Ferriss Podcast. He interviews people from all industries that are at the top of their game.

The vast majority of these industry leaders have a solid morning routine.

Tim frequently references “Daily Rituals,” the book by Mason Currey. I am currently reading the book now.

Wake up at 4 AM.

That’s really early, but I am a morning person in this stage of my life. I also get some satisfaction from knowing how much I’ve accomplished before my peers and coworkers are even out of bed.

Define My Routine

  • Heat the water for coffee.
  • Drink a big glass of cold water, about 20 ounces, almost 600mL.
  • Make bulletproof coffee. I am a big fan of coffee and have been really enjoying the bulletproof concept. It sounds crazy but, trust me you should try it.
  • Feed Brodie, my dog
  • Meditate for 10 – 20 minutes. I’m just getting started with meditation so I keep it simple by focusing on my breathing. I used to wake up early but not on purpose – it was because my mind was racing and I couldn’t turn it off. This period of meditation calms me and prepares me to focus.
  • Keep the routine simple and do it in the same order

The routine is key for me. I don’t have to think about what I need to do. I’m lining up several very small “wins” in a row. I know what’s coming up next and I know the outcome.

Start (and hopefully finish) my 1 or 2 task(s)

My general goal is to write 1000 words every morning. Some days I may only write 500 words and instead spend some time editing. Your task could be anything – just be sure you do it.

You may be wondering, “How do you pick the task?” I recently finished reading “The One Thing”, by Gary Keller.

He frames this in the Focusing Question:

What’s the ONE Thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?

The question breaks down into 3 parts:

1. You have to pick one thing. That’s it.

2. The thing needs to be for a specific purpose.

3. Completing the thing makes other things easier or unnecessary.


I’m a week into my new routine, and after just one day I could feel the difference and see the results. This is a game changing shift in mindset.

I am getting so much more done each day.

And, I’m getting it done before I check my email or even sit down to work my 9-5 job. I feel great about the accomplishment after I finish the one task. It makes my work day far less frustrating and I am complaining less.

Give it a shot. You’ll be shocked at the difference it makes in your day. So, don’t sleep in…get up early and get things done.

<Whining voice> But Doug, I’m not a morning person.

Okay. No problem.

Flip the concept over and work on the 1 task in your prime productivity window. However, you must ensure that you can block off distractions, schedule the time, and focus solely on your task.

The reason I like the mornings is that my ability to focus is much higher, earlier in the day and there are less distractions.

Don’t squander your best hours of focus on watching cat gifs or reading the news.

Use it to actually get some shit done.

UPDATE for September 2016

I don’t wake up at 4 AM anymore, at least not on a regular basis. I have a few reasons why:

  1. I don’t have a full-time, corporate job anymore. I used to when I started waking up at 4 AM, but I don’t now and I have a LOT more control over my time. Yay!
  2. I realized that sleep is more important than I thought. I re-read a book last summer, called Sleep Thieves. It’s a great read and very interesting if you’re interested in a thorough survey on the topic of sleep. It references studies, journals, and experiments, but the writing isn’t too dense. Anyway, I realized that I wasn’t sleeping as much as I should. While I can get by on 5-6 hours of sleep per night, I know my productivity is actually lower. When I started sleeping more, I could tell my brain was sharper – I felt smarter.
  3. Rest is essential for being productive. Spending more time sleeping and less time working makes me more productive. I never felt like all-nighters worked well for me, and I guess they don’t.
  4. I feel better and healthier when I sleep more. This one is obvious and a no-brainer. If you have a cold, flu, or some sickness, your doctor will tell you to “Get MORE Rest!” not less rest.

Okay, that said I still occasionally wake up really early, like 4 AM.

After the points above – WHY?

Every now and then, I have something that I want to work on before anything else. For example, I wrote a whole productivity Masterclass for my Multi Profit Site students. I knew I needed some super-quiet, uninterrupted time and the morning is the best time for me to get to it. My brain is the freshest it’ll be and the caffeine is at it’s peak.

I went to bed early the night before and woke up at 4 AM. I got a massive amount done and finished the whole masterclass in 4 days.

The point is I still love the early mornings, but being well rested is a higher priority for me on most days. When I really need to get something done, I’ll schedule it for the early morning.

Do you have a morning routine? What do you do? Let me know in the comments below.

If you don’t have one, try one – and start this week. Let me know how it works out.

About the Author: Doug Cunnington is the founder of Niche Site Project. He shows people how to create Affiliate Sites using project management and a proven, repeatable framework. Doug loves creating systems, using templates, and brewing beer (but usually not at the same time).

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • stackless

    I wish I could get up that early. When do you usually go to bed and do you follow your routine even on the weekend?

    • Hi there – thanks for the comment.

      I normally go to bed around 9-10 on most nights. There is normally one night that I go to bed around 8:30, and another night where I stay up till 11:30.

      For the first couple weekends I got up about 4:30 am – 5:15 am or so since I felt a little tired. I still end up waking up quite early on the weekends just from the habit of waking up early – something like 6 am.

      Keep in mind that it really sucks to wake up that early for the first few days. But after a few days you’ll get tired and will go to bed early.

      Trust me – if you wake up at 4 am for 3 days straight, you will be able to go to bed at 8:30 or 9 pm.

  • Dang it Doug – now you’ve introduced me to a coffee drink that I must try. Can’t see adding it to my everyday routine though. My time is limited enough as it is without spending those extra minutes to prepare that drink. Plus I don’t think my wife would appreciate me running the blender at 5am and waking everybody up! Lol

    As for my routine – pretty much get up, get coffee and get as much done on the computer as I possibly can before day job.

    • Hey Matt – haha, running the blender early in the morning isn’t the best move. You are right about that!

      I know you are an early riser too. It’s great eh?

      What time do you usually get to bed, @Matt76Allen:disqus?

      • Usually get to bed around 10:30 or 11 and wake up at 5 each morning. Getting to bed earlier is out of the question because I barely get my kids to bed by 9 and the wife and I need some time to ourselves after that.

  • Thanks for sharing your routine Doug. I’ve been working on my morning routine for about 1.5 years. Never had one before. Personally think everyone should have one as they can help “anchor” you with so much uncertaintly in life. I try to be in bed by 10 out of bed by 5:30. Brush teeth, walk dog, coffee, silence, affirmations, visualization, Exercise, Read, Scribe…every morning..time in each adjusted daily 🙂

    • Scott, That’s a solid routine man! If you just get 80% of that done 80% of the time, it’s a win.

      I’ve been in bed by 9:30 or 10 the last couple nights and I feel great. I wake up without an alarm a little before 6 – waking up without an alarm is great.

      What kind of dog do you have?

      • Yeah def the way I look at it. BTW I got this routine from a highly recommended book called Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod…check it out if you want to maximize your mornings. I have a 1.5y/o male Golden Retrevier + 18 month old baby boy so they were a big factor in getting more out of my mornings! Keep up the good work Doug.

        • I’ve heard of that book a lot. For whatever reason, I didn’t like the way Hal came off in any interview I’ve seen or heard. (I guess that says something about ME since Hal seems like the nicest guy in the world!)

          Whoa, Scott! You have a busy life man. You have a more challenging time than me.

          Aside: It’s funny how people give a child’s age in months (i.e. 18 months) and dog ages in years. You could have said, ” I have 2 x 18 month old males- one human, one golden retriever.” But I guess that sounds really weird.

  • Eric Carrell

    I’ve wanted to get into this type of routine for a while, but I can never seem to break the 5:30AM wake up time.

    I’m also really bad about waking up and checking emails, FB, stats, etc. first thing. I noticed the same thing you did; if I check emails first thing, I usually spend the morning with my mind occupied by one or two emails.

    • Eric, Yeah. Email & Skype (or other messaging app) is the worst.

      If you can ignore email until you get a couple big things done, you’ll be WAY better off.

      Try it for 1-2 days and see how you like it. I usually have 3-4 days a week where I ignore emails until 11 AM or Noon.

  • Josh

    I have to say, I read the Miracle Morning and it definitely changed my life. The morning routine I made based off the ideas presented in it make my day super productive.
    Great post Doug!