Mike Vardy is a husband, father, and the founder of Productivityist, helping you be productive through developing practical and tactical approaches to work and life. Mike currently lives in Victoria, Canada.
What is your morning routine?
I wake up at approximately 8:00am every weekday except for Fridays when I get up at 7:00am to accommodate my wife’s work schedule. Upon waking, I head to the bathroom and splash water on my face to wake me up further before throwing on some clothes (nice ones if I’m doing a video coaching call) and heading to the kitchen to make an AeroPress coffee and a smoothie for breakfast with the NutriBullet.
Once all of that is done I’ll head downstairs and begin my reading workflow, which I do while sitting in my office with the door open, sitting in my “reading zone” chair. I do this for about 30 minutes.
After I’ve completed all the steps of my reading workflow (Reeder, Flipboard, and then my Instapaper queue), I’ll check the calendar for any appointments for the day. If nothing is happening right away, I’ll head upstairs and either say goodbye to my wife and kids for the day or if it’s a Saturday, I’ll begin to hang out with the family.
On the other days (my work days) I’ll look at My 3 Absolutes for the day (three tasks that must get done) which are written down on a sheet of paper that has been placed face down on top of my MacBook Pro the night before. I’ll dive into those absolutes, which basically ends my morning routine and gets my day off and running.
How long have you stuck with this routine so far?
I’ve been working with this morning routine for about three years now, with some minor tweaks along the way to optimize it a bit further. For example, I’ve made it so that Launch Center Pro prompts me to start my reading in the morning and outlines all the steps to my reading workflow within the app. Beyond that, it’s been pretty consistent.
How has your morning routine changed over recent years, and are you currently experimenting with adding or removing anything from your routine?
I’ve added things like “Take Vitamin D pill” during the grey months here in Victoria (which isn’t unlike Seattle when it comes to grey skies from November until April or May).
When we bought the NutriBullet that became a more integral part of it as well. But it’s remained fairly simple and easily adjustable when new elements in our home or environment arrive on the scene. The key for me is to avoid complicating the routines I’ve put in place so I can stick to them.
What time do you go to sleep?
I am a night owl, so my bedtime is usually around 1:00am. I want to get in at least 4 full sleep cycles in so if I don’t go to bed by that time then I won’t be able to function the next day.
Do you do anything before going to bed to make your morning easier?
I have a specific evening routine I carry out as well so to help me wind down my day and start the next one with a sense of direction; part of my evening routine is writing down My 3 Absolutes for the next day. I prepare my NutriBullet shakes for the morning the night before, journal in an app I use called Day One, and then meditate (using the Muse device when I’m at home and Calm when I’m traveling).
Do you use an alarm to wake you up in the morning, and if so do you ever hit the snooze button?
I use Sleep Cycle for that so I don’t wake up feeling too groggy. I think that’s also is the reason I never hit the snooze button.
How soon after waking up do you have breakfast, and what do you typically have?
The smoothie is my usual breakfast, and it happens almost right away since I have it while going through my morning reading workflow. Sometimes I’ll add steel cut oatmeal to the mix, but that’s usually on weekends when my wife prepares breakfast.
Do you have a morning workout routine?
I try to get outside as early as I can, so sometimes I’ll do my reading out there if the weather cooperates. But when I work out, I tend to do it at around midday so that I have enough energy to make it through the rest of the afternoon and evening, when I’m inclined to be most creative.
Do you have a morning meditation routine, and if so what kind of meditation do you practice?
I’m practicing meditation more these days, but not in the morning. I think I’d probably fall back asleep if I did it then!
I actually think the reading in the morning acts as a mild form of reflection and preparation, so it may do for me at that time of day what meditation does for others.
Do you answer email first thing in the morning or leave it until later in the day?
I never answer email first thing in the morning. If I go into email early on it’s because I’m going in with a mission from My 3 Absolutes, not because I want to know who has reached out since I was last in email.
I will often check email after I get at least one of my absolutes done, though.
Do you use any apps or products to enhance your sleep or morning routine?
Productive for iOS is the app I use to help me keep my morning routine active. I also have an alarm set to remind me when it is time to start my evening routine so I can get a more restful sleep.
Sleep Cycle is my alarm clock of choice when needed, and Day One is where I journal as part of my evening routine.
How soon do you check your phone in the morning?
It depends, but definitely not first thing. I’ve arranged my schedule so that the earliest I’ll have a coaching call or meeting is 11:00am, so I’ll usually check it before then but not much earlier.
What are your most important tasks in the morning?
I will often do administrative tasks early in the day because I’m not all that creative in the morning in terms of writing. I will do some outlining or planning in the late morning, though, because I find that does get the creative juices flowing.
I’m using “horizontal theming” from 9:00 through 10:30am every weekday morning for online writing (that includes blog posts, email newsletters, anything written online) so I can get that out of the way early before clients and meetings start to creep into my day. I’ve usually “primed” these the previous day in Evernote so it doesn’t take much to start the writing process—even at 9:00am for a night owl like me!
Email is another thing I’ll tackle in the later part of the morning so I can get through it and create whatever actions need to come from messages so I can get out of email and into the work I need to focus on.
What and when is your first drink in the morning?
My first drink is a decaffeinated coffee that I make with the AeroPress. The brand varies, depending on what my wife buys. But it’s always a decent enough brand - something like Kicking Horse or Salt Spring Coffee.
I save my caffeine intake for later on, when I make myself a pot of CogniTea, normally around 1:00pm or so.
How does your partner fit into your morning routine?
I’ve designed my morning routine to work with and around my wife’s schedule. We respect each other’s needs for routine (our kids have routines as well) and rarely do we have anything that disrupts them. We’re lucky that way, I suppose!
Do you also follow this routine on weekends, or do you change some steps?
Occasionally on weekends I will sleep in a bit, but no longer than half an hour. I theme every day of the week (which is part of my “time crafting” process) and Saturday is my Family Day. So I avoid the office and spend time with them after doing my reading. Sunday is my Planning Day (I also consider Sunday to be the start of my week), so it falls in line with how my morning routine usually works.
Same goes for my evening routine… especially the journaling aspect.
On days you’re not settled in your home, are you able to adapt your routine to fit in with a different environment?
Absolutely. I’ve kept things simple enough that I can use this routine wherever I am—and I do travel quite a bit.
What do you do if you fail to follow your morning routine, and how does this influence the rest of your day?
I feel ‘off’ if I miss any aspect of my morning routine. There have been days when I skipped splashing water on my face and I wound up going through the morning feeling out of sync. It usually happens when I’m sick, and so I’ll notice a slowdown in progress anyway. So I guess if I miss it when I’m not sick the same results would occur, only probably not as drastic.
Routines are the ideal way to bookend your day. I think they are the building blocks of effectiveness, efficiency, and efficacy. Without my morning and evening routine, I’d be far less productive than I am, and I’d achieve less in the process.
Mike updated his morning routine with us on Apr 25, 2017. View what has changed since May 6, 2015.
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