A look at my morning routine and how it sets me up to be more focused, productive, and less stressed every day.
My morning routine has become a critical part of my day. For a long time, I didn’t really have one, and each morning was different. But, over time, I slowly began to establish certain rituals and routines that have made me more productive and less stressed.
The first part of my morning routine takes place the evening before. I set my coffeemaker to brew the following day. This reduces the number of things I have to do the following day and provides additional incentive to crawl out of bed. The smell of freshly brewed coffee helps pull me out of bed when I don’t want to wake up.
Another evening ritual is checking my calendar and tasks scheduled for the next day in Taskable (of course). Since I do my weekly planning on Mondays, I have a pretty good idea of how each day will go for the rest of the week. Checking my meetings and priorities means I go to sleep knowing roughly how the next day will shape up. Not only does this reduce decision fatigue, but it also means fewer surprise meetings or deadlines.
One part of the routine I‘m improving upon is my bedtime. I aim to be asleep by 9pm - about 90 minutes after the kids go to sleep. But this is easier said than done, especially when I’m in the middle of a binge-worthy series like Squid Games. And Succession is back...
I use a Fitbit watch for an alarm rather than a phone because it vibrates, so I don’t wake anyone else up. Plus, the subtle vibration is a more pleasant way to awake, in my opinion. Another great feature of the Fitbit is the smart wake feature, which goes off when my sleep is the lightest, making waking up early relatively easy. I generally hit the snooze button at least once, but I’m always awake by 5:15am.
The reason for such an early wake-up time is two-fold. First, after a lifetime of being a night owl, my daughter was born in 2016. I reluctantly learned to become a morning person. Now mornings are my favorite time of day. The world is mostly asleep, and I can put my head down and focus with minimal interruptions. The other reason for the early wake-up is my co-founder and team are based in Europe. Early wake-ups allow us to maximize time online together.
The first thing I do is grab my phone while still in bed and check Slack to see what I missed while sleeping - messages from my co-founder, new sign-up numbers, surveys, and user feedback. I love getting a download of what’s going on in the world of Taskable while I sleep, though I know this probably isn’t the healthiest way to start my day.
Next, I grab my 30oz Yeti mug and head downstairs to my freshly brewed pot of coffee and fill up for the morning. 30oz might seem like a ridiculous amount of coffee. I switched to decaf a while ago when I realized the caffeine wasn’t why I drank coffee. Instead, I loved the ritual, and having a warm drink is my favorite way to start the day. Plus, the Yeti keeps coffee piping hot all morning.
Then I head to my desk and begin my morning planning ritual. Because I use Taskable to plan out my week, this is relatively quick. I’m just reviewing my Taskable inbox of items created from the day before and decide if they are a priority for today or later. I’ll also reorder items in my daily priority list based on how I want to approach them in my day.
This daily planning ritual sets me up nicely for our morning stand-up at 5:30am, where we share all the things we got done the day before and our priorities for the day. This only takes about 5 minutes, but we spend another 10 minutes talking about personal stuff or making jokes, which is essential to continue building that personal connection with your teammates.
Once stand-up is over, I kick off on my daily priorities. I try and keep meetings to a minimum before 9am and instead devote the morning to deep work.
Eat a live frog first thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day - Mark Twain.
Many people advocate that you ‘eat the frog’ early and tackle your most challenging task first. While I understand the thinking behind this, I’ve found that starting my day with some smaller, more fun tasks is the best way to build momentum for my day. So my priority list always begins with a few smaller, joyful tasks like emailing with users, checking in on analytics, and other things I generally enjoy.
I always ensure that I leave some room in the morning for eating at least one frog so that no matter what happens when the rest of the world wakes up that I’ve got at least one hairy task under my belt.
My morning routine wraps up around 8:15am when I head downstairs to say good morning to the kids and then get on the bike to take my daughter to kindergarten. Ideally, I’d exercise before work, but since I’m up so early, this generally isn’t possible, and I save a more intensive workout for mid-morning before lunch. So the bike ride to and from my daughter’s school is an excellent exercise amuse-bouche and gets my blood flowing while giving me my first break of the day.
Another thing you might have noticed I am missing is eating breakfast. During the week, I am not a breakfast person and generally don’t start eating until 11am when I have an early lunch.
The primary reason for my morning routine is reducing decision fatigue. I know how every morning is going to go, and I can do it on autopilot. My weekly planning ritual significantly reduces the decisions I need to make each day. My morning planning routine lets me get the remainder of the decisions out of the way in the first five minutes of the day.
In addition, starting the evening before by checking my schedule for the next day eliminates as many surprises as possible. I do this because surprises burden me with even more decisions and increase my stress and uncertainty. Starting my coffee the night before allows me more time to sleep in and provides more incentive to get out of bed early.
Planning my day and the order I want to go through my priorities makes it easier to operate when stress does bubble up. If I feel like I am hitting a wall, I just fall back on my task list and keep going through it in order. Starting with smaller, more joyful tasks helps me build some momentum and find my flow early. And checking in with Slack and my team means I am on the same page as everyone to start the day.
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