You’ve Got 25,000 Mornings as an Adult: 8 Ways to Improve Your Morning Routine

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morning routine coffeeYou’ll wake up for about 25,000 mornings in your adult life, give or take a few.

According to a report from the World Health Organization, the average life expectancy in the United States is 79 years old. Most people in wealthy nations are hovering around the 80–year mark. Women in Japan are the highest, with an average life expectancy of 86 years.

If we use these average life expectancy numbers and assume that your adult life starts at 18 years old, then you’ve got about 68 years as an adult. (86 – 18 = 68) Perhaps a little less on average. A little more if you’re lucky.

(68 years as an adult) x (365 days each year) = 24,820 days.

25,000 mornings.

That’s what you get in your adult life. 25,000 times you get to open your eyes, face the day, and decide what to do next. I don’t know about you, but I’ve let a lot of those mornings slip by.

Once I realized this, I started thinking about how I could develop a better morning routine. I still have a lot to learn, but here are some strategies that you can use to get the most out of your 25,000 mornings.

8 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Morning

Here are the strategies that I’ve found to be most effective for getting the most out of my morning.

1. Manage your energy, not your time. If you take a moment to think about it, you’ll probably realize that you are better at doing certain tasks at certain times. For example, my creative energy is highest in the morning, so that’s when I do my writing each day.

By comparison, I block out my afternoons for interviews, phone calls, and emails. I don’t need my creative energy to be high for those tasks, so that’s the best time for me to get them done. And I tend to have my best workouts in the late afternoon or early evening, so that’s when I head to the gym.

Respecting your internal, ultradian rhythm for whichever task is at hand is one of the most powerful things you can do.

What type of energy do you have in the morning? What task is that energy best suited for?

2. Prepare the night before. I don’t do this nearly as often as I should, but if you only do one thing each day then spend a few minutes each night organizing your to–do list for tomorrow. When I do it right, I’ll outline the article I’m going to write the next day and develop a short list of the most important items for me to accomplish. It takes 10 minutes that night and saves 3 hours the next day.

3. Don’t open email until noon. Sounds simple. Nobody does it. It took me awhile to get over the urge to open my inbox, but eventually I realized that everything can wait a few hours. Nobody is going to email you about a true emergency (a death in the family, etc.), so leave your email alone for the first few hours of each day. Use the morning to do what’s important rather than responding to what is “urgent.”

4. Turn your phone off and leave it in another room. Or on your colleagues desk. Or at the very least, put it somewhere that is out of sight. This eliminates the urge to check text messages, Facebook, Twitter, and so on. This simple strategy eliminates the likelihood of slipping into half–work where you waste time dividing your attention among meaningless tasks.

The power of receiving zero notifications, especially at night can boost your sleep time and make your morning that much more productive.

5. Work in a cool place. Have you ever noticed how you feel groggy and sluggish in a hot room? Turning the temperature down or moving to a cooler place is an easy way to focus your mind and body. (Hat tip to Michael Hyatt for this one.)

The science behind temperature and lighting in your workplace has shown that adjusting both can have a significant impact on your productivity, day in day out. It’s worth to spend a few minutes adjusting it.

6. Sit up or stand up. Your mind needs oxygen to work properly. Your lungs need to be able to expand and contract to fill your body with oxygen. That sounds simple enough, but here’s the problem: most people sit hunched over while staring at a screen and typing.

When you sit hunched over, your chest is in a collapsed position and your diaphragm is pressing against the bottom of your lungs, which hinders your ability to breathe easily and deeply. Sit up straight or stand up and you’ll find that you can breathe easier and more fully. As a result, your brain will get more oxygen and you’ll be able to concentrate better.

(Small tip: When sitting, I usually place a pillow in the small of my back. This prevents my lower back from rounding, which keeps me more upright.)

7. Eat as a reward for working hard. I practice intermittent fasting, which means that I eat my first meal around noon each day. I’ve been doing this for almost two years. There are plenty of health benefits, which I explained in great detail herehere, and here.

But health is just one piece of the puzzle. I also fast because it allows me to get more out of my day. Take a moment to think about how much time people spend each day thinking, planning, and consuming food. By adopting intermittent fasting, I don’t waste an hour each morning figuring out what to eat for breakfast, cooking it, and cleaning up. Instead, I use my morning to work on things that are important to me. Then, I eat good food and big meals as a reward for working hard.

8. Develop a “pre–game routine” to start your day. My morning routine starts by pouring a cold glass of water. Some people kick off their day with ten minutes of meditation. Similarly, you should have a sequence that starts your morning ritual. This tiny routine signals to your brain that it’s time to get into work mode or exercise mode or whatever mode you need to be in to accomplish your task. Additionally, a pre–game routine helps you overcome a lack of motivation and get things done even when you don’t feel like it.

For more details about why this works, read this: How to Get Motivated.

25,000 Mornings: The Power of a Morning Routine

Just as it’s rare for anyone to experience overnight success, it’s also rare for our lives crumble to pieces in an instant. Most unproductive or unhealthy behaviors are the result of slow, gradual choices that add up to bad habits. A wasted morning here. An unproductive morning there.

The good news is that exceptional results are also the result of consistent daily choices. Nowhere is this more true than with your morning routine. The way you start your day is often the way that you finish it.

Take, for example, Jack LaLanne. He woke up each day at 4am and spent the first 90 minutes lifting weights. Then, he went for a swim or a run for the next 30 minutes. For more than 60 years, he spent each morning doing this routine. In addition to being one of the most influential people in fitness in the last 100 years, LaLanne also lived to the ripe old age of 96.

This is no coincidence. What you do each morning is an indicator of how you approach your entire day. It’s the choices that we repeatedly make that determine the life we live, the health we enjoy, and the work we create.

You’ve got 25,000 mornings. What will you do with each one?

motion vs action james clear

About the author:

James Clear writes at JamesClear.com, where he uses behavior science to help you master your habits and improve your health. For useful ideas on improving your mental and physical performance, join his free newsletter. Or, download his free guide: Transform Your Habits.

Photo credit: eggstone|eggstone

This post originally appeared on JamesClear.com
  • http://asghar.in/ C Asghar

    Nice article .. really helpful, thanks james :)

  • Mark Aaron Carlisle

    superb article- very insighful

  • Michal Pristas

    very nice article James, personally I do have incorporated most of the tips you mentioned into my morning routine for a very long time.

    I would add two more tips:

    1. Instead of cold water, i use warm (not hot) water with juice (1 whole lemon) and honey as a starter. It is very good for digestion, lemon will boost your immune system and prepare you for hard day and the whole mix gives you energy so it is ideal for grumpy mornings.

    My 2nd tip is doing some short workout right after you lemon warm drink. It can be 20 pushups and 20 squat or what I prefer is leaving my car at home and do 5 miles ride to work by bike. My workplace is only 4 miles away so it takes only 13 minutes to get there (7 minutes by car). Physical activity in the morning will start your brain right into turbo mode, after short workout I can think faster and my mind is clear so nothing disturbs me.

  • http://nateriggs.com/ nateriggs

    James! Really great post, my friend and I’m glad to see you writing on Buffer!

    I’ve been working hard on bullet #2 and have started a habit of blocking out certain times for tasks I know need to accomplish. I do this on my Google calendar as a part of my prep routine the night before. Takes about 5-10 minutes, and I’ve found that leaving cushions of space in between blocks allows me to shift things around if absolutely necessary. Sticking to it is the hard part… but it seems to be helping.

    I’m getting a ton of ideas from two books >> The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg and Your Brain at Work by David Rock.

    Hope to see more from you here!

  • JJ

    Wow, great great article, James! Very valid points, some of them new ideas, some of them things I have incorporated into my life less than I planned to so far. Apart from the intermittent fasting, which I have been practicing for more than 20 years now :)

    Thanks for sharing!

  • http://jeffala.com/ Jeff

    Hell if I started my day with meditation I’d have to re-start it constantly.

  • di

    Great article! Really helpful

  • deshantm

    Some of this is good. Especially the tips on managing energy and reducing distractions. However, I think that some of the other tips are not necessarily generally applicable. For example, food and metabolism can vary a lot. Posture is something to take seriously, but not sure if the pillow idea is the best in general. Environment can be super important, but a great environment is not required to get into a zone. Lastly, I am personally anti-routine and anti-habit as much as possible. I thrive on new things and constantly learning, since a couple of my top strengths are Input and Adaptive.

    This is the first buffer article that I have read that I did not love and share. I still love buffer and you guys do a great job with content, curation, and research for articles. Keep up the great work and I’m happy to expand on my constructive criticism if you like. Perhaps I will consider a counterpoint post on my personal blog…

  • Mutualgain

    Like 3 and 4. I also like tea and cereal in the garden. No phone. Take in nature without technology. Aaahhh bliss

  • http://www.tylerjanderson.com/ Tyler Anderson

    Love #3! I think I’m going to try that out next week.

  • Erich Robinson

    Great article, thanks for sharing! Sure wish I could practice the one about not checking email until noon…

  • http://www.thepetedesign.com/ Pete R.

    My morning routine usually go like this:
    – Before sleeping, I list things I have to do in my mind and put the most challenging on top of the list.
    – Wake up, shower, commute and while commuting, I read all the news while enjoying great music (Arcade Fire anyone?)
    – Eat a big breakfast + coffee
    – Start my day with the biggest most challenging task that I planned last night.
    – Usually, by 12 everything complex should all be completed.

    I would love to see everyone’s morning routine. :)

  • http://michaelxander.com/ Michael Xander

    Morning’s are quite an interesting subject and I’m obsessed with morning routines. This is why I co-created http://mymorningroutine.com in 2012, which provides you every Wednesday an inspiring morning routines to set you up for a more productive and enjoyable day. I would be happy to welcome you on MMR if you seek further inspiration.

  • Saso

    Great advice! :)

  • Stuart

    Good advice – except if you run your own business, checking emails is a top priority if that’s the way your clients prefer to communicate.

  • http://fecklessgoblin.com/ G S Meredith

    Quite a sobering though that there are only 25,000 days to get through…sounds so much better in seconds. My biggest problem is keeping up energy levels. Having a 20 minutes exercise first off, something aerobic to get the blood and oxygen flowing, seems to work. I’ve prepared stuff the night before and it works well when I get round to doing it! The other, and biggest trick, is to begin. Sit down and start. Once I do that, then things fall into place. Might sound stupid and simple but the more I procrastinate, the less likely I am to get anything done.

    Thanks for the post.

  • Agnes Dadura

    Good tips, I’m kind of a morning person so I am all for the working in the morning :) I have started waking up at 5:30 recently, so I can jog (tried meditating, but I’m too groggy to do it well, so I do it in the evenings). But one question to those who wake up early (4:00AM! WOW!) … when do you go to sleep? I’m quite dead by 9:00 PM, and usually go to bed at 10:00 PM now, which is cool with me, but makes my social life a little difficult.

  • http://www.homeschool-your-boys.com Michelle Caskey

    Great post. Love #8. I usually feel pretty groggy when I first wake up – so having a plan already in place helps me to accomplish much more. Instead of trying to figure out what I should do next, I just look at my list and do the next thing. Thanks to Michael Hyatt for that tip. :)

  • silvadori

    Nice article .. very helpful…thanks a lot ;)

  • Matt Thomass

    Do you think reading a site like http://www.theskimm.com would help based on this advice? It’s a quick cheatsheet for current events M-F. I personally love it, but that would require me checking email…

  • Athena Lam

    I’ve experimented with different morning routines, and I feel there’s an optimal for different types of work / lifestyle phases. When I was doing a 9-5:30 in Hong Kong the routine would usually go: wake up at 6/6:30, flip through the news and Buffer items, make my first lighter breakfast and eat it while continuing the news or scanning e-mails so I know what I’m in for, cycle for 1.5 hours, come home and shower and eat a second breakfast, and commute to work. If I get to work at the time I want to, then usually it’s 30 mins before anyone else arrives, which means I have the place to myself, I can make coffee with good beans, and settle in. Once I settled in with my coffee on my desk, I would say I’ve finished my morning routine – always very happy :-)

    Now, because I don’t have that office job, I’m not pressed to get in the cycling or gym in before going to work so they get built organically into my day but I’m still a morning person. The only thing essential to me in the morning is 1) quiet and 2) a proper, full, yummy breakfast. It often includes messaging back and forth with friends from different parts of the globe, and they’ve become my morning wake up conversations. :-)

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