Morning Routines: Optimizing Your Startup Sequence

Paul SufkaUncategorized


“It sounds plausible enough tonight, but wait until tomorrow. Wait for the common sense of the morning.” ― H.G. Wells

Humans don’t wake up ready to give 100%.

Our daily startup sequence has more similarities to older PCs that run best if restarted daily than modern devices that are always ready to go. Most of us benefit from going through some type of morning routine to get ourselves set for optimal output.

A well defined morning routine is important because it decreases the number of choices that you make in the beginning of your day, which reduces decision fatigue.

This concept was explained recently in a short podcast by Tim Ferriss:

“Imagine you have 100 points for making decisions every 24 hours. The more decisions you rack up in one area, the fewer decisions you can effectively make elsewhere.

If you make a ton of unnecessary decisions: which email to check, what to do first in the morning, what breakfast to have, you are going to deplete your hit points, and that will lead to poor decision making later, because you’re going to run out of your 100 points.”

An effective morning routine should essentially be a mental do-confirm checklist with the goal of getting minimizing or eliminating unnecessary decisions as you get ready for the day.

My typical morning has five things that rarely deviate:

  • Water. The first thing I do is drink a large glass of water. As much as I wish I could start with coffee, water is what wakes me up in the morning.
  • High protein breakfast. For at least the last 10 years, I have eaten two eggs almost every morning, typically with some sausage or ham. Rare exceptions are when I’m traveling or eat at a restaurant. (I’d love to eat bacon every day, but don’t typically have time to do the full bacon method). Sometimes I’ll have a small handful of berries, depending on the season.
  • Coffee. Usually French press with freshly ground beans. Caffeine is a wonderful thing.
  • Walk the dog. Although I typically only have time for a 5-10 minute walk on work days, I always find it refreshing to get outside and move around. Bonus: it keeps the dog from plotting against me.
  • Shower. I always feel mentally fresher after a shower, and given a chronically busy schedule, I used to say, “a shower is worth 2 hours of sleep.” We now know that sleep is much too important to skimp on, but my patients probably prefer that I take a morning shower anyway.

Over time, I’ve essentially designed my work wardrobe in the style of Steve Jobs’ daily uniform, so that I could get dressed in the dark (which occasionally happens) and still match.

On my way to work I usually listen to an audiobook on Audible (I recently finished and highly recommend Hatching Twitter) or a podcast.

What would I change about my routine?

I’m hoping to try adding about 10-15 minutes of meditation each morning right after waking, which is a common practice of many successful people. I simply need to form this into a habit.

Resources for designing your morning routine

Two websites exploring morning routines that are worth checking out are Morning Do and My Morning Routine, especially their list of recommended articles.