Morning Mastery: How I Optimized my Morning to Conquer my Day
Since writing about the psychological benefits of cold showers, I’ve received questions about my morning routine. What rituals do I have? What tools do I use? What do I eat?
This is the first time I’ve felt ready to write about this topic. Although I’ve had many rituals and habits to start the day, this is the first time I’ve had my morning routine down to a science.
The morning sets the pace for the day. I feel that every day has a rhythm to it. The morning determines the bassline, for better or worse.
On days where my morning starts off rushed and chaotic, that’s usually how my day unfolds. Like a storm. But when I’m lazy in the morning and drag myself through the motions, I usually struggle with motivation throughout the day and don’t accomplish what I had intended.
By starting the morning off right, however, I feel that I’m able to perform at my best not only during those beginning hours, but throughout the entire day.
I truly need to be at my best in order to optimally serve the people I’m working with. My results suffer when I am tired and dull. So does my mood. Ultimately, my morning routine sets the foundation for a day well-lived.
It all begins with…
The morning routine begins with how you wake up.
The whole blasting alarm clock never worked too well for me. It’s abrasive. And I usually end up hitting snooze. Snoozing is starting your day off with procrastination. Not a good way to set the tone.
I use an app called Sleep Cycle. Our movements vary with each sleep phase. This app tracks those movements throughout the night to determine your sleep patterns. It then uses a wake up phase that monitors your movement and wakes you up in the lightest possible sleep state over a 30 minute interval of time. It effectively lifts you out of sleep, so you wake up feeling refreshed and rested, rather than jolted out of your deep slumber.
My routine is 1 hour and 15 minutes long. So, at a minimum, I wake up 1.25 hours before I leave the house. If I have other things I want to do before I leave home, I obviously allow more time so that my routine is able to stay the same.
1) 6:00–6:05 AM. The first thing I do is make my bed. Nothing fancy here. I just put the sheets, pillows, and covers back in order. This takes me less than a couple minutes. I basically make sure it looks presentable. It starts my day off with some discipline, which is a theme that flows throughout my morning.
2) 6:05–6:40 AM. The next thing I used to do is take a cold shower. But now I wake up a little bit earlier and go for a 30 minute walk or do a half-hour workout. I find that a little movement is best for me first thing upon waking up. A brisk walk is very inviting. I love the crisp morning air and walking does wonders for my mental state. I use this time to listen to a podcast, audiobook, or lecture. But sometimes I just listen to the birds. Other times I get in a run or a resistance work-out. Movement is key. By the time I get back home, I’m physically primed and mentally stimulated from learning something new.
3) 6:40–6:50 AM. When I get back home I put some water (16 oz.) on the stove and get in the shower. I’m an advocate for cold showers and that is how I prefer to take them in the morning. Not only do I get the psychological benefit of resilience and opposite action, but I also get the physical benefits. Nothing beats the rush of ice cold water to wake you up. My shower lasts about 5 minutes, and I get out feeling energized and invigorated.
4) 6:50–6:51 AM. By the time I get out of the shower, the water is boiling or near-boiling. I head to the kitchen, put some coffee in my french press and pour in the water fresh off the boil. I stir it and pop on the lid. At this point, I have about 4 minutes until I press it, so I head back to the bathroom.
5) 6:51–6:55 AM. Back in the bathroom, I brush my teeth, put on deodorant, put some rosehip seed oil on my face, and manage my hair. 4 minutes is up.
6) 6:55–7:00 AM. Back in the kitchen I press the french press and pour 16 oz. of coffee into a glass blender. It’s Bulletproof coffee time. I add in one tablespoon of grass-fed unsalted butter and one tablespoon of Brain Octane oil. I used to use coconut oil and/or regular MCT oil, but I find Brain Octane to be the highest quality, since it contains caprylic acid (C8) that metabolize more efficiently into ketone energy than other oils. I blend this up into a frothy mixture and pour it into my travel mug (assuming I’m leaving the house first thing). For a travel mug I use a Contigo AUTOSEAL or Yeti Tumblr. I let this sit without a lid while I get dressed.
7) 7:00–7:05 AM. These days I’m more of a minimalist with my clothing, so outfits come simple. Some combination of my 10 dress shirts and 5 pants does the trick with black or brown shoes/belt. It takes me about 5 minutes to get dressed and put on cologne and accessories.
8) 7:05–7:15 AM. It’s time to meditate. I received a Muse as a birthday gift last year and I love to use it in my morning meditation in combination with a guided gratitude meditation (I prefer one of Tony Robbins’ heart meditations, such as this). I usually do 5 minutes of each for 10 minutes of total meditation time.
9) 7:15 AM — I head back to the kitchen, put the lid on the travel mug (I leave it off initially so the coffee cools to drinking temperature, otherwise it will stay too hot in these mugs), and move on with my day.
This doesn’t always mean I’m out the door at this point, but this is the end of my morning routine. This is the part that stays consistent. I may head to my office or make a phone call. I may review email. I may spend some time writing or reading. It depends on my schedule and what i have planned.
This is the first hour and fifteen minutes of my day unless something prohibits it, in which case I keep whatever parts I’m able to. Usually eliminating the walk/work-out first in order to save the most time.
Note: The only time this changes is when I go to the gym in the morning. I tend to go in the evening, but if I’m there in the morning my routine changes very slightly: I simply make the coffee first, seal it in the travel mug, and then meditate before heading to the gym, where I follow the rest of my routine as usual (exercise, cold shower, dress). The coffee is hot as new when I’m all done.
This is just what works for me. It has taken a lot of experimentation to get to this point and this is entirely personalized, custom to my needs and preferences. Some people may need more time to get ready (hair, make-up, clothing, etc.). Other people might prefer to do yoga instead of walk. Some people may need to get the kids ready. Some people might need time to prepare breakfast or lunch. I regularly do intermittent fasting, so I do not eat until the evening (aside from Bulletproof Coffee). This saves me time in the morning.
The point is, you need to find what works for you. This routine is simply the result of figuring out what works for me. It is subject to change over time as my schedule and lifestyle changes. My morning routine will undoubtedly evolve as I do. But, for now, this is the routine that helps me enter my day with discipline, enjoyment, and energy.
I hope that you use this routine to borrow tools, tactics, and ideas to apply to your own life in order to design an ideal morning that helps you thrive.