Tips on Establishing a Productive Morning Routine

Guilty after an unproductive day? Start your day off right by setting a productive tone for yourself. First, begin with a positive routine without putting things off. Second, follow through on your tasks by setting reasonable checkpoints.  And third, try not to insert too many rewards after you finish a habit. Instead, hold onto your momentum by habit stacking – after completing every habit, immediately complete another habit, and another before ending your routine with a reward.   

Feeling guilty over an unproductive day is a heavy feeling that comes around a bit too often.  Preventing this feeling means recognizing that we waste a lot of our day without even realizing it.  We have to stop wasting our time on things that are bad for us – unhealthy habits, you know who they are.  Here’s another way of overcoming those bad habits: make waking up your cue.   

If you’re struggling with your morning habits, try a new way of looking at your morning: it’s the quality of your wake up that matters – what you associate it with.  If your first thought when you wake up is to browse your phone for 3 hours before actually getting out of bed, you’re at risk for setting a slow tone for the day.  Our bad habits take many forms, but only you know which ones are bad for what you’re trying to do, and who you’re trying to become.  Get over those negative associations by waking up and getting habituated to good habits right off the bat: brushing your teeth, making yourself a healthy breakfast, getting to work.  By beginning on a productive note, you will begin a domino effect that sets the tone for a productive day. Plus, you have the greatest retention right after your wake up, which scales down as your day goes on (Moniuszko,2017).      

We have two recommendations to help you hone your focus on the right habits. 

1. The first is to follow through. 

Set out to finish exactly what you began on.  Leaving tasks half-complete will only contribute to the guilty conscience that we were just talking about. 

But what about my month-long project? 

You don’t have to take your project literally as assigned, in fact, you shouldn’t.  Divide it into manageable sections to fit reasonably into your schedule.  Never forget to set identifiable checkpoints to maximize your motivation and streamline your time management. 

2. The second is to stack your habits without interruption. 

One habit stacking error is habit sandwiching, a term that I just made up to describe inserting too many rewards between your good habits.  The result is a constantly disrupted routine that fails to make use of the momentum that you could be building.  After every bite-sized habit, go on to perform another one, and another one before ending your combo with a reward.   

To help you remember all the important things that you have to do before your reward, try writing out what you have to do before you take your break, say, before lunch.    

Time Slots  Tasks 
8:00am-8:30am Wake up Read a few pages 
8:30am-9:30am Shower (8:30-9am) Breakfast (9-9:30am) 
9:30am-10am Review one project source  
10:00am-10:30am Practice Russian  

Setting a schedule is a great mental trick because your anxious, competitive brain will hate to miss the deadline. If you’re going to have good habits, you’re going to have to be tough on yourself sooner or later. You might as well have a good start. 

To learn more about establishing a morning routine: 

Holton, L. – 10 Science-Backed Benefits of a Morning Routine  
Borges, A – 9 Small Morning Habits That Will Make Your Whole Day So Much Better
Moniuszko, G – Three Little-known Facts Explain Why Forming a Morning Routine Is so Important 

Author: Zac Lo
Editor: Cathy Xie
Researcher: Maureen Arsenal