My morning routine

My Morning Routine – How to take positive action before 9am

What is your morning routine?

I wake up at 5:00am on most days during the week, 6am on the others.. I have a glass of water and at least two coffees.

My partner refers to my morning routine as my ‘huffing and faffing’ time. I see it as an opportunity to plan the day and get ahead. It’s an opportunity to be half a day ahead of everyone else as they get into the office at nine. My mornings are about planning the rest of the day and getting something significant done.

Most days I will try to get out and do some exercise, I find it’s really the only good time to motivate myself to do something energetic. I love the freedom of running. It’s incredibly difficult in Phnom Penh as there’s hardly any space.

I spend an hour or so writing Morning Pages in my Journal, expressing gratitude, capturing my mood, my plans and my aspirations. Journalling was something I picked up in 2013 after being given the book The Artists Way at Work. Of all the exercises the book offered, that one stuck.

I’ll try to get in 15 minutes meditation and then I get to work planning the day. This involves reading the e-mail highlights but generally not replying. I action some of the small tasks if I can, and then chunking up some of the bigger items. I will track and update progress and then move on to the bigger things. I’m generally quite hard on myself in terms of expectations of productivity.

I then take breakfast around seven, shower and out of the door by eight if I’m meeting clients, or sat at the desk in my home office.

I always try to make the bed before I leave the apartment. I see this as achieving a ‘small win’ early in the day.

How long have you stuck with this routine so far

I’ve been doing this morning routine since December 2012 when I travelled to Hawaii. The rare bout of jet-lag kept forcing me up at 5am. I found myself so productive during these early morning hours that I continued it during my stay and then reproduced the same environment when I got back to the UK where I was living at the time.

How has my morning routine changed over recent years?

It’s remained pretty much constant, there are slight variations on what I do, dependent on where I am in the world, and I always said I wouldn’t read my e-mail first thing, but in terms of planning the day and knowing what’s happening with various clients its important to get an overview even if I don’t reply to the emails until later.

What time do you go to sleep?

Used to try and be in bed by 11 at the latest. More recently, since the cat adopted me and always gets up at 6am, I’ve started going to bed earlier to get at least seven hours of sleep. My head generally hits the pillow and I’m out like a light.  I’ve learnt that good sleep is so important. More important than so many think. There are a gazillion ideas out there in terms of “increasing your productivity” – getting consistently good sleep beats all of them. 

Do you do anything before going to bed to make your morning easier?

No, not really. We do a 10minute abs workout in the evening. My partner is keen to keep a fitness routine in her life and she’s never one for doing things on her own.

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

My phone used to be set for the 5am early starts when it was dark outside in the UK. I’m now a firm believer in being woken by the light. I worked with a client once who taught me about the benefits of being woken by the increase in light rather than the jolt of an alarm. Once I’m awake my mind is way too active to go back to sleep.

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

I generally have breakfast around seven. It varies between green smoothies, croissants, or eggs. I love eggs, really love them, poached are my favourite.

Do you have a morning workout routine?

Not at the moment, but I’m trying the idea of getting out and running again. The roads are chaos here in Phnom Penh and it’s just too dangerous to run anywhere unless the roads are empty. There are no sidewalks/pavements and very little open space. In London, I run around Victoria Park and alongside the canal. There are many others doing the same.

Do you have a morning meditation routine?

Yes, I like to do 15 minutes. I used to use the Calm App to learn about meditation and love the falling rain sound. It reminds me of time in our cottage in Czech. I’ve given Headspace a try and quite like this App too, but Oak is the one I use all the time now.

Do you answer email first thing in the morning, or leave it until later in the day?

I read the important headlines but don’t reply until later.

Do you use any apps or products to enhance your sleep or morning routine?

Being the minimalist, I tend not to clutter life with the unnecessary. There’s just the Calm Oak App for meditation, (though I can do without it) and I’m briefly tried out Habit List to get me running again, but it failed miserably. Now I just have a bunch of checkboxes in Notion.

How soon do you check your phone in the morning?

Probably only before I leave the house or if I need to charge it. Thankfully I’ve not become one of the ever-increasing number of phone zombies. There are so many of them here in Asia.

What are your most important tasks in the morning?

Drink coffee, drink water, plan the day.

What and when is your first drink in the morning?

A glass of ice cold water, as soon as I wake up. Followed closely by black sweetened coffee. (I use Erithritol not sugar as a sweetener)

Do you also follow this routine on weekends, or do you change some steps?

I don’t set an alarm for the weekends but still tend to wake with the light around six-ish. My partner used to be out of the door early on Saturday for art class. On Sundays we go to quite a posh French restaurant for breakfast and then we sit by the pool and swim until early afternoon. 

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

It depends on where we are in the world, but generally, I stick to the same routine where possible. When we’re on holiday the exercise and breakfast timing may be influenced by our location.

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

I’m a little obsessed by productivity, and I’m a firm believer that to fail to plan is a plan to fail. I find that the early morning is a chance to get ahead of the world and do stuff, while everyone else is still asleep. If I’ve achieved something significant in the morning, I feel so much better about myself.

The post  My Morning Routine, first appeared on the blog of Chris Wray. It was written on July 11, 2016 and then revised and published on September 26, 2017. It was updated again on March 14, and November 1, 2023

Previous Post

Where's Chris - in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Next Post

Where's Chris - in Siem Reap, Cambodia