An Effective Morning Routine, Minus Fluff (Mid-2023 Update)

For quite a long time, the morning routine and associated habits have been a public-facing cornerstone of “highly-productive people”. The concept of a morning routine, and optimizing the start of your day, took on new legs in the spring of 2020. Once the pandemic pushed a large chunk of the office workforce into work-from-home scenarios, everything was turned on its head.

In fact, productivity services such as Trello, Asana, and even co-working services such as WeWork have dug into the optimization of morning routines for a more productive day. I’m going to do the same, but a little bit more expanded. I’ll start with some things that I have purposefully omitted from my morning routine over time, and then a more detailed version of my own morning routine.

To jump straight to my personal routine, though, click here. This isn’t a recipe blog where you have to scroll through 15 ads and a life story for SEO purposes.

5 things I purposefully omit from my morning routine

Over the years, I’ve tried to solidify a morning routine. From over a decade of focus on starting my day on the right track, here are five things I’ve decidedly left out of my morning routines:

  1. Bulletproof coffee or titanium tea
  2. Meditation
  3. Journaling
  4. To-do lists
  5. Extreme gimmicks

Check out why I have omitted these items from my morning routine below.

What started as simply “add butter to your coffee” transformed into a massive movement tied in with keto, intermittent fasting, and the like. I tried both. I didn’t really like it.

Conversely, MCT oil simply did not agree with my digestive system. If you have a sensitive stomach, I’d highly recommend steering clear. That is unless you want a bad rest of your day. Completely up to you.

Meditation

There is nothing wrong with meditating, obviously. Heck, it’s been sworn by billions for millennia. I just haven’t been able to get into it distraction-free. I tried Headspace and Calm, I tried going my own way. No dice, I couldn’t keep with it.

I get my mindfulness from things like counting steps and the like. Odd, I know, but that’s me, and it works for me.

Journaling

Much like meditation, journaling just isn’t for me. I gave it a shot for a bit, specifically utilizing the Bullet Journal method with this Moleskine notebook (dotted is best, fight me about it). It just ended up taking too much valuable time in my eyes that could have been better spent elsewhere.

To-Do Lists

Yes, you read that correctly. I don’t do to-do lists, as I have tweeted about in the past. I used to make to-do lists, and did for years. I’ve tried them all, from Todoist to Wunderlist, regular old pen and paper to Asana and beyond.

However, I have found more success with a mix of iCloud Calendar and putting emphasis on a bulleted accomplishments list using Apple’s Notes app. I’ll do a write-up on why I do this, what it is, and the advantages and drawbacks at a later time. This article is all about morning routines, though.

Extreme gimmicks

I’m not going to sit in a sauna, take an ice barrel plunge, suck down a supplement stack, drink a half gallon of water at once, sip on mushroom coffee, or anything that isn’t simple and effective, and something that can be done from basically anywhere.


Those likely somewhat controversial points above aside, let’s dig into the morning routine I’ve sculpted out over the past decade or so. Some notes to follow about where I am in my life in early January 2023.

Some things to note to provide context to my morning routine

  • Age: 32.
  • Location: North/Northeast Portland, Oregon, United States.
  • Job: Full-time digital marketing strategy.
  • Side Gig: Managing director and owner of Zesumme Web Properties, focused on the development and growth of passion project sites such as Killer Urbex, Hiking Washington, and a few dozen more.
  • Relationship Status: Married to an amazing and successful trauma surgeon fellow for almost ten years. The reason why the early wake-up time is ingrained in me.
  • Kids? Pets?: No kids (TrINK status), but two small, wonderful dogs.

My morning routine, with a focus on effectiveness over efficiency

This is my typical morning routine. I tend to stray from it for pieces and bits. It happens. Holding myself to some kind of militarized, rigorous process is the fast track to a feeling of failure early in the day.

However, if I am able to get 75% or more of the morning routine below done, I would consider it a successful, productive, and effective morning.

5:00 am to 6:00 am

I typically wake up at 5:00 am. From here, I’ll freshen up, weigh myself and log it in Noom, and take my dogs outside into the backyard to do their business. Once back in, I’ll give our pups their necessary meds, then take my own meds.

I used to have quite the extensive supplement stack, but have trimmed it down a good bit to the following six supplements/medications:

That’s it. I used to have a bunch of vitamins, cinnamon, cranberry, the whole nine yards. However, I realized that a lot of it really wasn’t doing anything for me. So, right now, it’s just the above.

After this, I will assist in ensuring my wife leaves for work without any added stress. I’ll then make my bed (thank you Admiral McRaven), start a load of laundry, and spend a few minutes tidying up around the house. On Mondays and Thursdays, I strip the bed and wash the sheets. I like clean sheets.

While doing the above, I am typically listening to Start Here and Up First, two morning podcasts that I find super beneficial for keeping up with current events. The total time for both is around 40 minutes and is a great way to start the day knowing what is going on in the world.

To close out the 5:00 hour, I’ll get my workstation set up and work on clearing out my morning inboxes (I like to start the working part of the day with as close to inbox zero as possible.

Note: I use this adjustable standing desk. I’ve been using it for a month now, and it has been a game-changer. I am firmly in the camp of sitting being the new smoking. Currently, I try my absolute best to not sit down before 10 am.

6:00 am to 7:00 am

My career work starts at around 6:00 am by choice. I work East Coast hours on West Coast time. I work from home, which is fantastic. The lack of a commute and traffic has been one of the strongest productivity enhancers in the past few years. If you have the ability to work remotely in your profession, please do so.

I’ll spend a little bit of time working on getting some of the most urgent tasks done utilizing the Two Minute Rule popularized by the book Getting Things Done. There are typically some small requests that can be taken care of quickly and help decrease the workload and stress throughout a busier day.

Once those are complete, usually taking about 15 minutes or so, I’ll get up, tidy some more things up around the house (I like to maintain a very clean home) and make a cup of coffee and breakfast. We don’t have some ridiculous espresso machine or anything, just a Keurig K Cafe.

I drink a cup of coffee (10oz) with two tablespoons of some kind of creamer (I’m not picky or partial) and a few packets of Splenda. Breakfast is two slices of toasted Dave’s Killer Bread, two pasture-raised scrambled eggs with some hot sauce and everything bagel seasoning, and a Chobani Complete.

Once that is finished and cleaned up, I return to my workstation and start working on my most important, large-scale tasks for the day.

Podcast-wise, this hour is relatively monopolized by The Daily, The NPR Politics Podcast, and Pod Save America when there’s a new episode out.

7:00 am to 8:00 am

For the first half of the hour, I will continue working on my most important tasks and projects for the day with my career role. I make it a point to not touch any of my side project sites until mid-afternoon, allowing me to truly put deep work focus on my day-to-day work when applicable.

Once 7:30 hits, I’ll take the pups outside for a walk for between 15 and 30 minutes. They are pretty reactive, so I try to walk them right as it’s starting to get bright and avoid other people and dogs whenever possible. I let them lead the way, sniffing as they please. This is their favorite time of the day, so I make sure to get them their outdoor time, rain or shine.

This timing typically works great, too, as we live near a school. So by the time they are done with their walk, kids are starting to be dropped off. They enjoy watching people and cars come and go out the front windows, so after the walk and their treat for being great boys, they post up to keep an eye on things.

8:00 am to 9:00 am

This time of year, it’s a bit chilly and dreary. I want to get the blood flowing, though, so I’ll hop on the treadmill in our living room and walk for 20 minutes at a 5 percent incline and a 3-mile-per-hour pace.

I’m a big fan of multitasking. While walking, I’ll work on my daily Noom lessons and do some Duolingo Spanish lessons. I’ve been working for a bit on being conversational in Spanish, and Duolingo’s organization has been extremely helpful in learning to do so, especially while on the go.

Noom Note: The progress to becoming a “Noom Expert” has been strongly beneficial in getting a handle on my relationship with food, weight loss, exercise, and more. I don’t buy into snake oil, but this product/service I highly recommend. Not sponsored, just impressed.

After this, the laundry will be all done, so I’ll fold that and put it away. Time-wise it might be more effective to batch laundry together, have it done outside the home, or have some kind of housekeeping service. However, I enjoy keeping a clean house and maintaining a structured home hygiene routine. That includes cleaning, bed making, laundry, lawn care, and more.

Then, it’s back to work! The rest of my day is dependent on my workload, meetings, appointments, and more. Around mid-day, I like taking a walk for between 30 to 90 minutes (weather and schedule dependent), to get some nice fresh air. But that’s not part of the morning routine.

Final Thoughts on my Morning Routine

Everything above is subject to change, but this is a standard rubric that ensures my day is set up for success by 9:00 in the morning.