My Morning Routine

Stefan Imhoff

Lately I have been thinking a lot about habits and routines. I’ve had always some routines in my life, but I wanted to build a better morning routine, because I’ve come along so many sources, that emphasised the importance of routines for success in life.

Bed sheets with books, a journal and coffee
Photo by Anni Spratt

Of course you are not automatically successful with routines, but it’s very unlikely to be successful or happy without one. Jordan Peterson, a clinical psychologist, author and speaker, mentioned in his talk 2017 Personality 02/03: Historical & Mythological Context the importance of a schedule and routine:

You need to pick a time to get up, whatever time you want, but pick one and stick to it, because otherwise you dysregulate your circadian rhythms and they regulate your mood.

A morning routine does not only give health benefits, but if you include time for learning, reflection, thought, and fitness, you will improve in all aspects of life.

After reading a lot of articles, and watches a lot of talks about morning routine a similar pattern appeared in all of these routines. So I sat down a month ago and created a routine for me, which included also most of these patterns. I took some inspiration from Tim Ferris, Ryan Holiday, and other inspiring people.


My Morning Routine

  • Wake up at 6:00 AM
  • Read in bed for an hour
  • Get up, make my bed, move, and do some stretches
  • Open the windows everywhere to get fresh air in
  • Record weight
  • Drink something
  • Sit down at my desk, get some information
  • Prepare for the day, by checking the calendar and select To-Do items for the day
  • Reflect. Open my paper journal and write for 5 minutes about the previous day and think about the upcoming day.
  • Learn for 30 minutes
  • Meditate for 15-20 minutes
  • Workout with Calisthenics for 30-45 minutes
  • Bathroom & Clothes
  • Prepare and eat breakfast while reading RSS Feeds
  • Get Ready & Leave the house

I do this routine every day, the only difference is, that I do not use an alarm clock at the weekend, but instead wake up when I wake up, which is usually around 7:00 AM. I’m doing it now for a month and I’m really happy with it. I’ll keep updating this article, should my routine change.


Details of My Morning Routine

Wake up

I wake up at 6:00 AM, usually after 7 hours of sleep. I don’t have any electrical devices in my bedroom (no phones, tablets, cables, TV, …). Only two bed Slamp lights, which turn on automatically (during winter season) at 6:00 AM (with Philips Hue light bulbs) and my Sonos box, which plays a wake up Spotify playlist for 5 minutes, which consists of a mix of classical, chill out, soundtrack, and electronica music. I can’t hit a snooze button, because there is none. And my box is standing out of reach, so I would need to get up to mute it. I also get woken up by my Fitbit armband, which also records the sleep.

I really like waking up that early because it is quiet outside and I have more time for reading. I would love to join the 5AM Club, but currently this is too early for me.

Read

Reading is honestly the most satisfying thing I do in the morning. I never did it before and read usually mostly on the commuting or in the evening. But reading in the morning is different. My mind is much clearer and I’m able to read much harder books.

I have a Traveler’s Notebook Passport Size with a ball pen and my Kindle Paperwhite (or some paper books) on my nightstand. The first thing I do after waking up is turn on my belly and read in this position for a hour. It’s a good exercise for the back and stretches the opposite of the usually C-bend shape most people sit in during the day.

I start by reading the daily chapter of the fantastic book The Daily Stoic. The stoic practice is the best start in a day you can have. After that I read in 1-2 books, usually not novels, but harder stuff (philosophy, science, psychology etc.). Whenever I want to remember a quote or part of a book, I mark it and extract it later into my Commonplace book or write it down in my pocket size notebook.

Get Up

Then I stand up and get up, and make my bed. Because if you want to change the world, start off by making your bed says William McRaven, a former US Navy Admiral and Navy Seal:

If you wanna change the world, start off by making your bed. If you make your bed every morning, you’ll have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and encourage you to do another task, and another, and another. And by the end of the day, that one task completed, will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reenforce the fact, that the little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you’ll never be able to do the big things right.

It also gives me movement, and I add some stretches and occasionally some Burpees.

Fresh Air

I open the windows to all other rooms to let in fresh air. My bedroom has always fresh air during the night.

Record Weight

I step on my Nokia Body Cardio scale to measure weight, fat, muscle, bone, and water. It’s important to always do this every day at the same time. It’s the only way to see health trends early.

Drink

After that I drink a glass of juice (no added sugar), this will refill some lost water of the night and add some quick energy for the workout.

Sit Down

Then I sit down at my desk and gather shortly some information. No social media! I just check the weather forecast of the day, my weight progress and my sleep tracking results.

Prepare For the Day

I prepare for the day, by checking my calendar for upcoming events, meetings, birthdays etc. I also open my To-Do app Things on my tablet and select my tasks for the day.

Reflect

I reflect the previous day and think about upcoming challenges of the current day. For that I write 5 minutes into my Traveler’s Notebook. My current notebook consists of three notebooks:

  • Commonplace Book – for recording anything, from quotes, ideas to thoughts
  • Journal – for recording my daily reflection and affirmation
  • Sketchnotes – for doing sketchnotes on ideas and thoughts

This is also a good time for daily affirmation, gratefulness, and positive outlook. Even Marcus Aurelius, the famous Stoic and Emperor of the Roman Empire, wrote in his Journal while being at the border to Germania and preparing for battle with the Germanic tribes. A lot of people did it and it’s a good practice to get yourself into the right mindset.

Learn

Then I learn for 30 minutes. I pick up to three tasks and practice them. These 10-15 minutes add up to 5-7 hours at the end of the month.

Currently, I start with some writing practice in Spencerian Penmanship, because I love this writing style and want to learn it. Then I practice some Sketchnote vocabulary from Bikablo®. At the end I learn a few minutes Japanese with Duolingo.

Meditate

After that I sit down on a meditation mattress and on a meditation pillow. I use the Headspace app to meditate for 20 minutes. In cold seasons I wrap myself in a big blanket to stay warm.

Workout

Depending on my current training program, I do Calisthenics 3-5 times a week. I start with some warm up, followed by a full-body workout, including pulling, pushing, core and leg body weight exercises. At the end I do some skill work like working with rings or practising handstand. The workout usually lasts between 30 and 45 minutes.

After the workout I sit down for a minute and do some breathing exercise.

Bathroom & Clothes

Then I take a shower. The benefits of cold showers are well-known, but I take a warm one. At the end I switch to cool temperature for a minute. The ice-cold shower I’ll skip for now, this is something I leave to Wim Hof. 😄

I put on my clothes, which is easy, since I changed my style to a minimalistic one: black jeans, black, grey, white or some coloured shirt and a belt. I took some inspiration for my wardrobe from filmmaker Matt D’Avella, who showed his wardrobe in this video.

Breakfast

My breakfast consists of 5 different types of cereal (oats, spelt, barley, rye, rice), corn flakes, poppy, sesame, linseed, almonds, hazelnuts and brazil nuts, amaranth and some dark chocolate flakes. I add cinnamon and honey and mix everything. I drink coconut water and and a glass of juice while reading my RSS Feeds in Feedly.

Get Ready & Leave the House

Depending on the weather and season, I’ll take the subway to work or my bicycle. I just started recently going to work by bicycle (11 km) and need some time to work up going everyday by bike. Currently I’m trying twice a week.


Conclusion

I’m quite happy with my routine for now and hope you also see the benefits of building some routines in your life. The morning routine seems to be the one with the most benefits. Because if you start your day successful, the chances are high you end the day successful. And as Jordan Peterson said: You cannot be mentally healthy without a routine. So I recommend, build yourself a morning routine.