8 Morning Routine Habits To Optimize Productivity

Austin Gray
February 5, 2020
8 Morning Routine Habits To Optimize Productivity


Over the past 5 years of listening to the Tim Ferriss Show podcast, I’ve been obsessed with learning about habits successful people use to consistently achieve big goals. I begin my day by waking up at 5 am and opening Notion on my laptop to pull up my Daily Routine list. It seems that most productive people have some sort of Morning Routine so this is where I’ve chosen to start each new day. In this article, I’ll dive into what habits have made the cut for my current morning routine. 

Morning Routine

I’ve tested a lot of different habits, but the following have proven to boost my productivity and overall well being. Here’s the 8 that made the cut in 2020:

  1. Drink Green Shake
  2. Meditate
  3. Journal
  4. Gratitudes
  5. Review Goals
  6. Brainstorm "One Thing"
  7. Check Calendar
  8. Workout

I have a section in my Notion Daily Routine page specifically for each step so I know exactly what to do when I wake up. 


Drink Green Shake

This one is at the top of my list because it seems to fuel everything else. Drinking this blend of veggies, roots, and minimal fruits is literally rocket fuel for my brain. I learned this recipe from a friend and successful business owner. Not only is it rocket fuel, it’s also a fantastic detoxifier to help eliminate any unnecessary toxins floating around in your body. People consistently guess him in his mid to late 30’s and this year he will turn 50. I came to the conclusion that he’s obviously doing something right and I should follow his secret. I’ve been blending and juicing his recipe since 2015. I notice a drastic boost in energy levels when I start my morning with this drink opposed to when I don’t. This concoction consists of the following:

  • 1 green apple or kiwi
  • 1" chunk of ginger
  • 1" chunk of tumeric
  • 1/2 lemon
  • Handful of parsley
  • Handful of leafy greens (spinach, chard, or kale)

Meditate

I began experimenting with meditation 4 years ago and have made it a consistent practice over the last two years. Originally, I was attracted to meditation because it occurred to me that every person Tim Ferriss interviewed had some sort of meditation practice. Most of these people Tim interviews are not only successful in their field, but are often times masters in their field. These interviewees were claiming all sorts of benefits from meditation. I was hearing benefits like: 

  • Calm under pressure
  • Improved daily focus
  • Increased sense of overall well being
  • Clarity on life direction 

In my experience with the practice, I’ve noticed a significant improvement in my daily focus and have also gained more clarity on which direction I want to go in life. I was never able to pay attention in school. I was always the type of student who would do the following during test situations. 

  1. Fall asleep during class
  2. Open the book the night before the test
  3. Stay up all night studying 
  4. Quickly recall the information during the test
  5. Earn an A or B
  6. Dislodge any learned information from my brain immediately post test 

This type of mentality (or bad case of ADD) has historically made my professional life challenging to stay focused on a task.One of my strong points is coming up with new ideas, but historically I’ve been really bad at seeing an idea through to fruition. I realized I needed a solution to improve my focus and came up with two options:

  1. Go to the doctor and ask for Adderall 
  2. Figure out a way to overcome my ADD

I’ll go ahead and say it now. I have a strong dislike for pharmaceuticals. I believe the industry is pure corruption. They get people started on one pill early in life and continue to provide a new pill every time a side effect occurs from the last one. It’s a vicious cycle. I’ll stop now before I go on a further tangent. 

Not wanting to enter into this vicious cycle, I knew I had to figure something else out to help me focus better.  After hearing these successful people talk about the cognitive benefits of meditation, I decided to give it a try. With several years of practicing, I can say meditation has helped with my ADD and has had a positive effect on my ability to focus on the task at hand.I know the term meditation might sound all “woo-woo” to some people, but all I have to say is, “You can’t knock it ‘til you try it.” I firmly believe this is a primary driver as to why I have been able to set big goals over the last 2 years and achieve them. In my mind, the ability to focus has a direct correlation with goal achievement. So how does one get started? 

I’ve been using the Calm app for guided meditation and it’s worked well for me. With this being said, there’s other apps out there that might work better for you. I like Calm because it provides a new quick 10 minute practice each morning. The other app I’ve looked into is “Waking Up” by Sam Harris. I’ll likely experiment with this app after my annual Calm subscription is up in April of this year. Calm eliminated the barriers of entry for me to get started meditating and I believe it provides a solid foundation for anyone who is starting out. 

Journal

This one is probably the toughest for me. But I have noticed if I journal immediately after meditation, I’m able to document the observations of my mind during my practice. I have a section in my Notion Daily Routine page specifically for this. As long as I’m being honest, most times meditation and journaling feel like a chore. But, this combo practice has provided me with some deep personal insight about myself and how my mind works. Sometimes my journaling will be deep and insightful, other times it shows me how busy my mind really is. Contrary to popular belief, each meditation practice isn’t a super deep, insightful experience. Often times it’s sitting for 10 minutes observing a racing mind jumping from thought to thought.If you’re anything like me, some days the mind is simply overwhelmed with the endless to-do list of what’s going on at work. 

The meditation / journaling combo helps get the endless jumping thoughts on paper, which allows me to structure a productive way to tackle my never ending to-do list.On the other hand, there are days where the mind is quiet during meditation. (not often for me) This usually happens once every week or two if I’m practicing consistently. When the mind is quiet during meditation, pathways are opened to deeper personal insight. These days are fun. This is when I’m able to get clear on solutions to problems I’ve been lodging away in the back of my mind. Sometimes, I’m able to gain clarity on personal issues I’m dealing with. Keeping a post meditation journaling practice allows for a space to put insightful thoughts on paper. 

Gratitudes

Once I’m done with brain dumping my thoughts in my journal, I’ll move to writing down my gratitudes. This is simply a place for me to write down anything I’m thankful for in my life. This habit encourages me to find things to be grateful for, even on days when I’m tired, worn out, stressed, or overwhelmed.By doing this daily, I’m able to remind myself that no matter what, I still have a loving family, a roof over my head, and food on my plate. Sometimes the entrepreneurial journey brings stress and uncertainty because it involves risk. The habit of practicing gratitudes reminds me that I can always find something to be thankful for, regardless of the state of my business. 

Review Goals

At the beginning of each new year, I create goals for my professional, personal, and physical areas of life. I write down where I’d like to be in 3 years for each category and then break each goal down into 2 year, yearly, quarterly, monthly, and weekly milestones.By having a clear macro vision of where I plan to be in 3 years, I can break the goals down to an actionable micro level. This micro level action plan provides a framework for clarity on what needs to be accomplished on a daily basis to achieve the long term goals.It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day operations of business and lose sight of the “needle moving activities.” Reading goals each morning is a powerful process to keep the most important tasks top of mind to move the needle.

As mentioned above, I break each goal down into columns associated with 3 year, 2 year, yearly, quarterly, monthly, and weekly. I start by reading the 3 year column and move down the line until I get to the weekly column. This does two important things: 

  1. Allocates a time to review and iterate goals on a daily basis. 
  1. Provides a framework for deciding on what deserves attention each day. 

Brainstorm “One Thing”

This action item is done at the end of reading the weekly goal column. I have a section in my Notion stack that clearly states my weekly goals for each category of life (professional, personal, and physical.)Upon reading the weekly goals, I ask myself the following question, “What is the one thing that I can do today to “INSERT WEEKLY GOAL HERE” that if done would make everything else easier or unnecessary?  (The bold text inside the quotation marks is interchangeable based on the goal.)

By answering this question truthfully each day, clarity is defined for what task takes priority to move the needle. Taking small consistent action steps is a better plan than trying to change the world all in one day. This technique was pulled from the Tim Ferriss interview with Gary Keller, founder of Keller Williams Realty. Asking myself this one simple question for each category of life has helped me get crystal clear on what daily actions to prioritize. 

Check Calendar

After getting clear on my “one thing” question, I pull up Google Calendar to find open time slots to time block each proactive task that needs to be completed. Pulling up my calendar also doubles as a personal reminder to what I have on the books for the current day. This decreases the chance of missed tours or meetings on my end. Currently, my calendar is scattered with reactive items such as tour bookings at the coworking spaces, meetings over coffee, email, or interviews with new potential hires. 



I find open time slots in my day and book the proactive tasks to help move closer to my goals. I’ve learned by sticking to what I write down, there’s a good chance I’ll get close to accomplishing my proactive tasks within the time block I’ve allocated. Sometimes, I guess wrong on how long a task will take. Like right now, it’s 5:32pm and I originally booked a 1 hr time slot over lunch to write this article. I’m learning to be alright with this and give myself some grace. At the end of the day, I’m one step closer to my long term goals when I finish this article. 

Workout 

Last but not least. This one is an absolute no-brainer and non-negotiable for me. As I look back on my obsession with personal development, this is the one that started it all. As an athlete growing up, I learned quickly that I could have control over my strength, physique, and athletic performance by disciplining myself in the gym. There was a direct positive correlation between hours spent in the gym and performance on the field. I learned at a young age that mental discipline in the gym reaped huge rewards. Not to mention, working out also provided a great rush of positive, feel-good endorphins. 

Although I’m done with sports now, I still see a direct correlation between hours in the gym and performance in my professional life. Success in entrepreneurship is directly correlated with the level of brain performance. In studying Dave Asprey’s work, I’ve learned lifting, cardio, and HIIT workouts are proven to be amazing for brain performance. Almost every uberly successful person I know has some sort of exercise habit built into their daily routine. I don’t plan to remove mine anytime soon. With this being said, my physical goals are obviously different now than they were when I was playing college football.
It took several years for me to come up with a sustainable and consistent workout plan to fit my brain needs as an entrepreneur as opposed to body needs as an athlete. In 2020, I’ve made a commitment to lift weights 2x per week along with cardio 2x per week. Doesn’t sound like much, but over the course of a year that’s north of 100 gym visits and 100 cardio sessions. I used to set my goals high and hope to get close. For example, 5x per week of lifting. There would be a week here and there when I would hit my goal. But, more often than not, life would get in the way and I’d be stuck with the shame of not achieving my stated goals.  

Fast forward to 2020 and my mindset has completely shifted. I’m living by the mindset to set achievable goals and build a consistent habit of winning. No matter what, I know I can make it to the gym 2x per week. Recently, I’ve been crushing this goal by mid-week. This creates a mental win and often engages the overachiever in me to go to the gym a 3rd time during the week.I’m doing the same with cardio. No matter what, I know I can find time to get on the XC ski trails 2x per week in the winter season. I also know I’ll be able to continue this through the summer when mountain biking / running season gets here. By creating these small wins for myself throughout the week, I’m building more confidence in myself to complete what I start. I believe this concept carries over to entrepreneurship as well. After all, entrepreneurship is just a daily mental battle between one and one’s thoughts. I’ve created this morning routine to contain habits that improve mental discipline to increase the chance of achieving my entrepreneurship goals. 

Conclusion

There are many resources out there for daily habits. I’ve mentioned Tim Ferris like 324 times in this article, so it’s no surprise I recommend his podcast as a resource for finding other daily habits from successful people. But, if you’d rather save the years of research and testing, test these 8 habits I’ve mentioned as a starting point and decide which ones work for you. 

If you decide to test any of these out, let me know how it's working out for you on Twitter. Would love to hear what you like / dislike about this routine

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