My Morning Routine

November 22, 2014

My routine via

What is your morning routine?

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve gotten comes from Shane Parrish at Farnam Street. It’s simple: If you want to be more productive, get up early.

So I get up around 8:00am and I have one other simple rule: Do one thing in the morning before checking email. It could be showering, it could be going for a long run, it could be jotting some thoughts down in my journal, it’s usually writing. Most mornings I try to write for one to two hours before I start the rest of the day (and the to do list I made the day before).

I shower, get ready and head downstairs to my office/library and sit and write. I recently got a Philips Hue light that helps with my vitamin D and regulates my rhythms. Then I eat and get on with everything else. The way I see it, after a productive morning where I accomplish my big things, the rest of the day can be played by ear. It’s all extra from there.

How long have you stuck with this routine so far?

Routines are an iterative process. You add and adapt it over time. I have been doing some version of this specific routine for nearly five years. It’s gotten me through three books in three years as well as dozens of projects for clients big and small.

How has your morning routine changed over recent years?

The no email in the mornings rule is probably the newest change. It has also had the biggest impact. Why? Because it means you’re not starting the morning behind the ball. Instead, you start with wins.

Specifically with writing, it allows me to approach it fresh and clear headed. The last thing you want when you’re writing is the specter of 46 UNREAD EMAILS looming over you. That doesn’t lend itself to existing in the moment well.

What time do you go to sleep?

Midnight at the latest.

Do you use an alarm to wake you up in the morning, and if so do you ever hit the snooze button?

iPhone alarm. Not a big snooze button guy. I wake up at a time that works for me and if it didn’t I would change it. I also try not to pointlessly stay up late.

How soon after waking up do you have breakfast, and what do you typically have?

It depends on if I go out or cook with my girlfriend.

When I lived in New York, we would go out and work together most mornings at a restaurant. Sometimes I do that when I am in Austin. But here I have chickens so usually we check the coop for eggs and cook something up. My office is right next to the kitchen so I am in and out of it anyway. I try to generally eat paleo/slow carb so it’s eggs, bacon, avocado usually.

Do you have a morning workout routine?

I tend to work out in the afternoon—usually sometime between 2-4:00pm.

I’ll run on the lake in Austin, or swim in Barton Springs. If it’s a CrossFit day, I’ll go to the early evening class. When I travel though, my schedule is not as much in my control so I go for a long run in the morning, say from 7:00-8:00am or 8:00-9:00am, and then start the day knowing that however it turns out, at least I got a run in.

How soon do you check your phone in the morning?

Without email to check, there is very little reason to check my phone in the morning besides maybe my calendar—but I try to do that the night before.

I don’t keep Facebook on my phone and I don’t use any apps with alerts. The idea is that the phone answers to me rather than the other way around.

What are your most important tasks in the morning?

Writing, that’s the real work. I find that showering and getting ready first helps me prepare and face it professionally, so I suppose that is part of it too.

What and when is your first drink in the morning?

Water. Usually Topo Chico, which is a Mexican sparkling mineral water that I am addicted to. No coffee for me. No protein shakes.

Sometimes my girlfriend will juice or make a smoothie but that’s pretty sporadic.

On days you’re not settled in your own home, are you able to adapt any of your routine to fit in with a different environment?

Almost all of it, except the walking downstairs to my office.

I travel a lot so I’ve built my routine to be as resilient as possible and as location independent as possible. In some ways, I’m more productive on the road—excepting the writing.

What do you do if you fail to follow your morning routine, and how does this influence the rest of your day?

I feel like I am playing catch up—or worse, that I am not in control of my own life. I don’t like that. It defeats the purpose of achieving success.

Ryan Holiday

I'm a strategist for bestselling authors and billion dollar brands like American Apparel, Tucker Max and Robert Greene. My work has been used as case studies by Twitter, YouTube and Google and has been written about in AdAge, the New York Times, Gawker and Fast Company.

18 responses to My Morning Routine

  1. Dude … Our morning routines are almost identical. It’s uncanny …

  2. I get up in time to get ready but not to start on anything productive prior to making my way to work. Definitely a good practice you’ve got down. Just out of curiosity, why no coffee? Austin is home of Cuvee Coffee, I’d suggest getting some beans from them and a little home brew setup (I love mine). Its such a therapeutic practice for me to make a pour-over in the morning with some fresh roasted beans. I take a day off a week to reset my “caffeine clock” so I’m not dependent on it.

  3. Is there a specific reason why you don’t drink coffee or protein shakes?

  4. Huge believer in a solid morning routine. My own includes:
    20 min yoga + hip stretches
    20 min meditation
    10 min journaling
    plant based protein smoothie
    cold shower
    20 min language practice

  5. Hey, man. I took email – except for new leads and signed contracts – off of my phone.

    I can send mail out, but I don’t get it unless I really try.

    It’s been a godsend.

  6. If you read The Willpower Instinct, you know that as we progress through the day, we usually wear and tear our willpower. So, that’s why it’s sane to do the most important stuff in the morning. There are also some tricks that you can do to power-boost your willpower mid-day.

    Secondly, sleeping over your “to-do” list is one of the best ways to have a clear and very focused mind when you wake up. Many very successful people in history and many contemporaries do it.

    Keep it up man!

  7. Hi Ryan, do you call 8:00 AM early?… 😉
    I get up at 5:00 AM, with no alarm clock, this is set in my biological clock.
    I have breakfast and then I work at my PC for 2 or 3 hours (depending on season). It’s amazing how productive I am during this time of the day! In 2 or 3 hours I do what would take 4 or 6 hours in the afternoon. Without being interrupted by mails and phone calls. After that, I go out for a 1.5-hour of fast walking with my dogs.
    When I’m back home, I shower, I have a coffee and head on with my work.
    Ah, there’s a variation to that, and I’m sure you like it. During the weekend, if I don’t have work to complete, after breakfast I read for 2 or 3 hours begore going out with my dogs. BTW, I got here via your beautiful Reading Newsletter!

  8. Early is relative. For some its 5 am, for others it’s before noon.

    However, I would advice AGAINST going up early to be productive. If you haven’t slept enough (which is my definition of early) you won’t be productive.

    I get up when I wake up/have slept enough, THAT ensures I’m productive.

  9. breanna martinez May 11, 2015 at 11:37 am

    *I get up at 7:00am
    *Then I go let out my dogs
    *Then I eat brakefast
    *After that I go feed my cats
    *Then I go get dressed
    *Then I do my makeup and my hair
    *Then I pack my athletic bag and backpack and lunch
    *Then I leave for school around 8:30am

  10. I love the simplicity of your routine. It’s so easy to get caught up in arbitrary tasks. After reading The Miracle Morning I realized I was sacrificing sleep and my big goals to accomplish a pile of shit that didn’t matter.

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