The Secret to a Productive Day, Part I: My Morning Routine

December 16

As you’ve probably guessed from past posts on this blog, I’m big on “split-testing” my life.  Over the years, I’ve tried hundreds of different things to improve my productivity and make the most out of my days, and I eventually learned that – for me – it all comes down to a few things.

One of these things is having a good morning routine.  What you do in the morning sets the tone for the whole day – so much so that I believe it can make or break the day’s productivity.  If you waste your morning hours, there’s a good chance you’re going to waste the rest of the day as well.  But if you can start your day on a productive note, you’re much more likely to carry that attitude with you throughout the rest of the day.

With that in mind, I try to achieve all of the following every morning before I go into the office: love, inspiration, motivation, physical activity, childish fun (laughing), learning and an accomplishment.  Here’s what all that looks like when put together…

6:00am – 7:30am

Love

One of the first things I do in the morning is kiss my wife.  Then, I use the first part of my day to have a brief conversation with her before she leaves for the day.  We’re both busy people (I run several businesses and she’s in school full-time), so making her a priority in the morning helps to keep our relationship strong.  We’ve both known too many people who let their work come between them, so it’s important to us not to grow apart as we each focus on our own pursuits.

Inspiration

Another thing I do in the morning is to remind myself why I want to get out of bed and accomplish something with my business.  I usually do this by watching a quick TED talk or checking out an inspiring story or video I’ve saved specifically for this purpose on Instapaper in the last few days.  I believe that your mindset is critically important in terms of your productivity, so I try to keep myself as positive an optimistic as possible with inspiring media.

Learning / Childish Fun

Once I’m feeling inspired, I start reading business articles on my phone or iPad.  I have a number of different websites and subscriptions saved on everything from SEO to business, and from tech news to startups and entrepreneurship topics.  Basically, I’ll read anything that catches my eye and that I think might give me some particular insight into an issue that’ll help improve my business.

At the same time, I drink my coffee and put cartoons on in the background.  Yes, it’s true – I watch cartoons every day and I love it.  Watching cartoons makes me feel like a kid again and it washes away the stress of being a business owner with real responsibilities – if only for 23 minutes at a time.

Motivation

Now that I’ve felt love and been inspired while washing away my worries and obligations with cartoons and learning something new, I’m ready to get out and start moving!  I like to start this part of my morning with some motivational Youtube videos that inspire me to challenge myself and do something bigger than I’ve ever done before.

Here are a few of the videos I watch in the morning to help me get up and start doing things:


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7:30am – 8:30am

Physical Activity

After checking out a few of those videos, I’m ready to hit the gym and challenge myself.  The specific workout I do depends on whether I’m focusing on a specific hobby (for example, running versus kickboxing) or working on a specific fitness challenge (like my “100 Day Fitness Challenge”).

But whatever I do at the gym, the important thing is that I’m getting my workout in first thing in the morning.  Not only does this ensure that a busy work day won’t throw off my workout schedule, it also gives me tons of energy to tackle whatever challenges come my way throughout the work day.  If you normally work out in the evenings, I’d definitely recommend giving morning exercise a try.

8:30am – 10:00am

Accomplishment

Of course, the first thing I do after my workout is take a shower.  I don’t want to be “that guy” who shows up at the office smelling bad!

But once I’m clean, I spend an hour or so working on my biggest problem of the day or week.  Every week, this could be something different – depending on what’s going on with my business.  What’s important is that I start out the day knocking out a big thing for me.  This gets the ball rolling and helps keep me feeling productive and motivated for the rest of the work day.

Trust me – it’s a lot easier to tackle the more mundane items on your to-do list when you’ve started your day off on such a powerfully productive note!

10:00am – 11:00am

Head to the Office

After all that, I’m finally ready to head to “the office.”  As I mentioned in my recent post on battling burnout, I try to maintain a dynamic work environment.  Sometimes, going to the office might mean walking a few feet to my desk or walking a few blocks to a coffee shop.

Wherever I’m working, though, the point is that my morning routine has left me ready to help my team, talk to clients, learn even more and respond to the hundreds of emails and phone calls I get a day.  With that kind of communication volume, I simply can’t be as productive as I can during the morning hours.  That makes it crucial that I get my days off to a good start and that I knock a few items off my to-do list before I even set foot in my “office.”

It also helps that I live my life within a 10-block radius.  This isn’t an accident – since moving to LA, I’ve set up my life so that my office, a few coffee shops, my gym and my bed are all a few blocks away from each other.  This saves me roughly an hour to an hour and a half in commuting time each day compared to when I was living in San Francisco – and that’s all time that I can redirect towards more important business activities.

If that all sounds like a lot to manage in the morning, that’s because it is.  I’m not one of those people who can be lazy all morning and then flip on the productivity switch when I hit the office.  I have to carefully structure my morning routine so that I’m in the right place – both physically and mentally – to handle the things I need to in my business.

So if you find that you aren’t getting as much done throughout the day as you’d like to, I’d recommend taking a closer look at your morning routine.  I’ll be sharing some of my other daily productivity secrets in future posts in this series, but I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that you’ll likely see the biggest gains in efficiency by targeting your morning habits.

Give the routine I’ve described above a try and then modify it to suit your own schedule and needs.  With a little trial and error, you’ll be amazed at how much more you can get done!

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19 Comments

  1. Dan Jeffers says:

    Great post. Picked up a few things. Appreciate it.

  2. Perry Bahniwal says:

    Loved this post!

  3. Great post Sujan….Loved it…

  4. Rob Commins says:

    Hi Sujan -

    While I fundamentally agree, I wish I read a piece of spirituality in your routine. If it is not there today, I bet your day will be that much better with 15 minutes with your inner self.

    Rob

  5. Kate says:

    A very inspiring article! Thank you for sharing.

  6. Jignesh says:

    Very inspirational post Sujan,

    I really liked your suggestion on watching motivational videos in the morning. It will give good start of your day for sure.

    I would add one small session of meditation at the evening when we came back from busy long day. It will really give good feeling and our mind will get relaxed for better sleep.

  7. Awesome post Sujan! Love the level of detail and the personal approach.

    Morning routines have transformed my performance as well so I am big believer in them. Mine looks a little different but the building blocks of motivation, physical activity and tackling the most important task first are exactly the same.

    Sometimes I find it hard to overcome the desire to jump right into work just 15 minutes after waking up, especially when I am working on a new project or something exciting. As an entrepreneur who loves what they do, it is sometimes hard to tame that short burst of enthusiasm and stick to the routine that I know it works. Have you have the same experience?

    P.S Thank you for sharing the videos. As I was reading the post I was making a mental note to ask for the videos in the comments but then I saw them listed below :)

  8. Thanks for sharing. For me, my morning routine involves, exercise, meditating, walking the dog, then writing (for me the hardest) and then getting ready to go to work. You are 100% right that only with a great morning routine can you be productive. It;s not an on and off switch!

  9. ricky says:

    thanks for sharing your routine! this is awesome

  10. It’s awesome, but it’s also common sense.

  11. Its one of the best posts:) Great motivations videos:) Morning excercises – all what we need to start a day:) And good breakfast ofc:)

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  15. Great post. Where is part 2?

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  17. Christian says:

    Great post Sujan, great post !

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