How Adopting This Morning Routine Changed My Life

And how it can change yours, too (it even works with a 9–5 job).

Alex Booth
Curious
8 min readJan 24, 2021

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Photo by Tim Riesner on Unsplash

It was the end of August 2020. The many months of the first UK National Covid-19 lockdown were drawing to a close.

I teach (feel free to shower me with sympathy) and had spent the past 6 months furiously wrestling with online learning (to mixed success).

With the new academic year in sight, though, I was determined to start September with a new approach to work.

Working from home— despite its limitations and challenges — had helped me realise that it was possible to obtain a more healthy work-life balance.

I had spent much of my working life prior to lockdown with Monday to Friday dominated by my job.

Like some automated robot, I would get up, go to work, come home, sleep and repeat.

I was determined not to revert back to this mindset. The question was, how could I avoid it?

The birth of a morning routine

The solution came in the form of a morning routine.

Prior to my eureka moment, my mornings were based on a simple premise: spend as long as humanly possible in bed before I absolutely needed to get up.

Needless to say, this mindset wasn’t the most productive.

After doing just a bit of reading, I realised that this needed to change. I had an untapped gold mine of time that I was throwing away.

So, I got reading as many articles that I could find about improving productivity in the morning.

And quickly hit a bit of a snag.

A morning routine for the 9–5

I do not mean any disrespect to morning routine lists. After all, many of them provided inspiration for me to buck my ideas up.

I also realise the irony that I am now writing my own article about my own morning routine.

The issue that I found with most of these articles is that they tend to assume our lives are isolated, streamlined affairs.

A two hour morning routine is fine when your job involves sitting in your home office with a cafetiere of coffee and the soothing sounds of your ‘chillout’ Spotify Playlist purring away in the background.

It is not ideal when you have to commute somewhere for work. Particularly if that job starts at half 8 and involves dealing with bickering students by 09:00.

So, I decided to experiment.

I got reading- digging up all I could about morning routines. Like some productivity magpie, I stole bits and bobs from a whole host of sources.

After experimenting over a few weeks, my own, more flexible morning routine evolved. One that I have found works even when you have to drag yourself out of the house to the office every day.

Six months down the line, and I can tell you that my life has improved immeasurably.

More on that later, though.

My morning routine

So, here it is. The morning routine that has helped change my life for the better.

Before you delve in, just a reminder. Flexibility is key here.

Although I do try to stick to this, these timings are certainly not set in stone. I’m of the opinion that if you become a slave to the routine, it sucks the enjoyment from it.

Along the way I have changed elements. I have removed and moved sections. If you adopt your own routine, I would recommend you do the same.

Anyway, here we go:

06:00: Alarm goes off. Now, there are some who suggest that you should absolutely, under no circumstances hit snooze. Personally, I love the feeling of being awake in bed when it’s warm and early.

I allow 10 minutes to bask in this feeling before;

06:10: I force myself out of bed. This is the hardest part of the morning.

Head downstairs (grumbling all the way) to the kitchen. Feed cat (I appreciate that this is not essential. If you don’t own a cat, you are welcome to put down food anyway. You never know — one might just turn up).

Down a couple of glasses of cold water. Not only does it help your metabolism and improve your complexion, I am usually parched in the morning. All of us sweat, to varying degrees, at night and most start the day dehydrated.

There are some who advocate drinking only ice cold water. I toyed with putting a jug in the fridge the night before but, in reality, I know I will always forget. Tap water is fine.

06:20: Yoga time. This is something I drag my ‘better half’ into. We do 10 minutes every morning. Yes, it’s a bit ‘cutesy’, but we find it’s nice to do something together. It has become a sacred ritual.

Not only does it help banish the dregs of tiredness, after six months it’s nice to be able to put my socks on without my back screaming in discomfort.

We use the paid app ‘Down Dog’. There are loads of others, though.

Following this, I ‘attempt’ 25 press ups. This usually ends up with my in a crumpled heap on the floor. For something less painful on the shoulders, you could substitute press-ups with anything that gets the heart pumping a little bit. Lunges, maybe? Some star jumps?

06:30: Cold shower. You read about posts saying that, although hideous to begin with, you do get used to it.

I have doused myself in freezing water ever morning for 6 months, and I can’t say I’m ‘used’ to it.

There are mornings it takes me several minutes to pluck up the courage to step under the icy stream of water.

Having said that, it’s hard to explain how great you feel afterwards. I will admit that (once the painfully numb phase immediately post shower has subsided) the tingling sensation is addictive.

It wakes you up no end, too!

06:45: Meditation. This is my most prone to ‘squeezing’. If I find myself running behind (which happens more often than I’d like to admit) this is where I can cut some time.

I try to mix things up, doing different sessions and lengths. For this, the app ‘Insight Timer’ has been great. There are tonnes of free meditations.

If I don’t get this done in the morning, I usually attempt a ~10 minute session in the afternoon/evening.

06:55: Breakfast. I am not going to break down my breakfast choices (I can’t imagine it making action packed reading). I do, however, have three breakfast rules:

  1. I make sure that I have a vitamin D tablet before eating. I was sold after reading this 2011 study. The authors found that over 40% of US adults were found to be vitamin D deficient. Living in the famously grim north of England, I figured that this amount is probably going to be higher here.
  2. I don’t look at my phone. Aside from turning off my alarm, that’s the most I look at the screen in the morning.
  3. I try to read a book. This Medium post provides a great justification why that it important. I find both stimulating and relaxing.

07:10: Start work. Not ‘work’ work, obviously.

It depends very much on your circadian rhythm whether or not this is the most productive time of the day.

For me, I was surprised at just how focussed I am in the morning. I can quite happily while away an hour without even realising it.

It’s completely up to you what you spend this time doing. I use it to write blog posts for my website (click here for those interested), to come up with ideas for articles, or else read and make notes on something interesting.

I think, whatever you do, try to make it creative. Try and produce something rather than consume something.

When it comes to maximising my productivity at this point, I adopt the pomodoro technique. Two timed 25 minute sessions, with a 3–5 minute gap between them.

This, combined with the lack of distractions and yoga/cold shower/meditated brain all come together to create a really productive hour.

08:10: Get ready to go to work. Far from the calm of the rest of the morning, this usually involves me dashing around with a toothbrush in my mouth, flinging tins of soup into my work bag and hunting for my shoes.

08:18: Head to work.

Flexibility is key

So there we go — my morning routine in all of its glory.

Now, if you’ve read that and are feeling a little overwhelmed, don’t panic!

There are hacks here. There are numerous corners and sections you can cut.

You can get straight out of bed. You can cut the meditation, shorten the yoga. I think, at my quickest, I have got through the whole routine in about half an hour.

I think that’s the power from a morning routine. It should work for you, as much as you for it.

These timings don’t shape my life. They guide and support.

There are innumerate benefits to waking up at the same time every day. A stronger immunity and improved concentration are just two. That said, I rarely stick to these timings at the weekend.

What I do make sure I do is follow the same rough routine. So, if it’s 06:00, or 08:30, you can be guaranteed that I the first things I do will be water, press-ups, yoga, shower and work.

In a world of uncertainty and so much outside of your control, I find this certainty comforting.

Why this routine works for me

Since adopting this morning routine, I think it’s fair to say my life has improved.

From a personal perspective, it’s amazing how taking control over the first two hours of your day really does empower the remainder of it.

I feel much more collected, aware and controlled. Rather than roll out of bed and straight into the car to get to work, I have now found a whole extra 10 hours a week to devote to things I want to do!

Rather than trying to cram this into the evening, when you are tired and grumpy, you can dedicate the best hours of your day to doing something you enjoy.

It is almost a running joke that I am ‘Mr Jolly’ in the morning. Whilst my colleagues are sucking up caffeine like dependent sponges, and shooting dark glances at their laptop screens, I am smiling at my desk. Feeling serenely (although probably naively) calm.

I’m not the sort to rub it in, but there’s something great about the smug feeling you get knowing that you’ve already put in a solid two hours worth of self-improvement.

All thanks to my morning routine.

If you haven’t already, I would implore you to get yourself a morning routine together. Even if it’s only half an hour, I guarantee you will feel better, more fulfilled and happier for it.

If you enjoyed this article, why not head over to EduGoat for more posts like this?

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Alex Booth
Curious
Writer for

Using educational insight and bad jokes to promote personal and professional development. Find out more at www.edugoat.com