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Health and Performance: How your morning routine can improve your productivity

Calendar Icon14 June 2019

Does rolling out of bed every morning only to drag yourself to work in a coffee-induced haze, feeling hurried, stressed and overwhelmed – sound familiar to you?

We all have routines. Whether we like it or not, there is a certain sequence of activities we do every day. There might be some of you out there who are saying to yourself:-

I don’t have a fixed routine.

If you’re sceptical, I’d like you to try this: Write down everything you do for the first 1 – 2 hours of your day for three consecutive days. You’ll see that there are certain things that you do every day, which would include at least some of these activities (and others not on the list):-

  • Making your bed.
  • Brushing your teeth and taking a shower.
  • A cup of Coffee or tea while checking your email & social media
  • Having breakfast, maybe eggs or cereal.
  • Commuting to work

Morning routines are important because they help you set the tone for the rest of your day. However, instead of feeling rushed and tense, I’m sure you’d rather feel like you’re on top of things and energised!

Fortunately, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Some of the most successful people in the world follow peculiar routines every morning. Let’s take a quick look at a few of them.

Morning routines of the extreme achievers

Richard Branson

Branson is a proponent of waking up early. He’s up by 5:00 AM each morning. Opting to sleep with the curtains open so that the first few rays of sunlight help wake him. I recently tried doing this myself and I definitely prefer being awakened by natural light instead of a blaring alarm clock.

This is followed by some sort of outdoors physical activity like a game of tennis, a walk, jog, biking or kite surfing (well, he’s Richard Branson after all).

Then, he has breakfast with his family, and only then does he turn his attention to his emails and his work (and he still does it before the rest of his Company has logged on).

Mr Branson, illustrates the importance of waking up early to get a head start on the day.

Anthony Robbins

Probably the most famous Performance Coach and Speaker today, Tony Robbins follows a morning routine to maximize his energy levels and put himself into peak state.

He wakes up sometime between 7AM and 9AM, and his routine consists of:

  • An energizing breathing exercise similar to Kapalabhati Pranayama.
  • 10 minutes of meditation focusing on gratitude, connection with the world and three things he wants to accomplish on that day.
  • A short but intense workout followed by hot & cold therapy.

Robbin’s routine is intense, just like he is!

Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey’s morning routine starts at 7:10 AM with some coffee and 20 minutes of meditation. This is followed by one-hour workout (either low impact resistance training or aerobic work on the treadmill), which she says is vital to maintaining productivity throughout the day.

Finally, she either goes for a walk while listening to music or prepares a nice breakfast.

The common threads between high achievers and morning routines

Apart from these 3 examples, there are many more famous morning routines that you can read up on at your leisure if you’d like to. What’s really important to understand that although no two routines will be exactly alike, there are a few commonalities between them:

Waking up early

Most high achievers rise early, between 5 AM – 9 AM. Do you need to wake up early to be successful or fit? Not necessarily.

But does it help a great deal? In my experience, absolutely.

The biggest contributing factor is that following an awake – sleep cycle synced with our natural circadian rhythm is important for the proper functioning of our bodies. We’ve evolved to wake up when the sun rises, and go to sleep when the sun sets (in the absence of light).

With the advent of electricity, we don’t have to follow our natural circadian rhythms anymore. While this has it’s advantages (we don’t have to stop working or playing when the sun sets), it also has a cost.

Apart from that, there’s a certain sense of accomplishment and certainty that comes from waking up early and getting some important tasks out of the way first. It starts the day off on the right foot and sets the tone of ‘getting things done’ for the rest of the day.

Light exposure

Another common theme between most high achievers is that they get early morning light exposure.

Early sunlight exposure is a very important cue for our circadian rhythm to synchronize with the day & night cycle. This, along with cessation to artificial blue light exposure in the evenings is important to improve the overall quantity and quality of sleep.

Besides that, sunlight also releases small amounts of endorphins, our body’s feel-good hormones.

Finally, sunlight is also important from a nutritional standpoint, as it stimulates the production of Vitamin D in our skin.

All around, light exposure plays a very important role in improving and maintaining energy levels, and mood.

Physical activity

Physical activity is a great physiological primer. Movement immediately helps us feel better by releasing endorphins, boosting production of neurotransmitters, reducing inflammation and improving glucose tolerance.

Depending on the form of exercise there are a host of other benefits ranging from the cardiovascular to the immune system and the skeletal & muscular system.

For people who aren’t sure when their work day will end, it’s a great idea to get physical activity out of the way in the morning.

On the other hand, if you have trouble waking up in the morning as I do, some light aerobic training (like a brisk walk or a jog), preferably outdoors is a great way to wake yourself up and start the day on an upbeat, energised state.

Mindfulness practice

I’m well aware that meditation isn’t everyone’s jam. However, I do feel that most people will benefit from some form of mindfulness practice in the morning.

If you’re confused about mindfulness and meditation and all of that hoopla – a simple way of looking at it is spending some time in a relaxed, peaceful state in the morning without being inundated with a barrage of distracting stimuli like our phones, social media, emails or even our runaway thoughts.

Instead, try and spend a few minutes in stillness. It could be when you just wake up or when you’re waiting for your morning cup of tea to boil.

You could even consciously focus on something. What you decide to focus on depends upon what’s important for you. It could be having a sense of gratitude, your self-beliefs, your goals for the day, prayer or some combination that makes sense for you!

The important thing is that you consciously use your mind instead of letting it use you!


Although I don’t believe everybody needs to have breakfast to be healthy, most people will do better on a heavy breakfast than not.

A nutritious breakfast with lot’s of protein, good fats, complex carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables will go a long way to keeping you satiated well into your day.

If you’re an extremely busy person that has very little dedicated time for lunch, then having a breakfast that keeps you sated will go a long way in helping your productivity at work. It’ll keep your blood sugar stable and you won’t feel that dreaded dip in energy levels till much later on in the day.

Finishing a Task that’s important for you

Finally, here’s one more tidbit that I personally prescribe to. Finishing a task that’s important to you first thing in the morning. This not only starts your day on a positive note but also gives you a great sense of accomplishment.

It could be anything – from working out, to planning your day, studying, to working on a side project/business.

I personally like to write first thing in the morning. You’ll find me tapping away at my keyboard with my morning cup of coffee almost immediately after I wake up.

My focus is usually through the roof in the morning (assuming I’ve had enough sleep), and its the best time to get intense, creative work done.

The Difference between a Productive Morning routine and an Unproductive one

The difference is subtle, but an important one. In fact, two individuals morning routines might look identical from the outside, but be very productive for one person, and unproductive for the other.

One aspect as we have seen is that morning routines (just like everything else about Nutrition & Lifestyle) is meant to be very specific to the individual. Simply copying something done by someone else isn’t going to ensure that your productivity will excel, or that your health & fitness will suddenly improve.

Second, no matter how amazing your morning routine is, it isn’t going to help you become more productive without sufficient, quality sleep. A good morning routine is about priming your mind and body to have a great day, but it isn’t a cheat code that’ll help you with poor sleeping habits (especially if you’re consistently getting poor sleep). If that is something you struggle with, this article about Improving your Sleep will help you out a great deal!

Finally, its the underlying intention behind the routine. What do you want out of your morning routine? What is your goal and how is your morning routine helping you get there? Do you have an intention in the first place? Or do your emails, pending phone calls and other obligations chase you out of bed?

Your morning routine doesn’t have to be complicated and elaborate, but it does need to be purposeful, being a means to an end that is meaningful to you!

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The article was written by Jay Parekh. Jay Parekh is a Health & Performance Coach, specializing in coaching busy professionals. entrepreneurs and athletes. He is also a Writer & a Speaker, conducting workshops and seminars on these topics. His articles have been featured among the ‘Best Fitness Articles for Fatloss & General Health’ by the internationally renowned Personal Trainer Development Center (PTDC).

Follow Jay on Instagram (Jay.alc_athlete) & Facebook (Alchemic Athlete)



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