What is your morning routine?
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve gotten comes from Shane Parrish at Farnam Street. It’s simple: If you want to be more productive, get up early.
So I get up around 8:00am and I have one other simple rule: Do one thing in the morning before checking email. It could be showering, it could be going for a long run, it could be jotting some thoughts down in my journal, it’s usually writing. Most mornings I try to write for one to two hours before I start the rest of the day (and the to do list I made the day before).
I shower, get ready and head downstairs to my office/library and sit and write. I recently got a Philips Hue light that helps with my vitamin D and regulates my rhythms. Then I eat and get on with everything else. The way I see it, after a productive morning where I accomplish my big things, the rest of the day can be played by ear. It’s all extra from there.
How long have you stuck with this routine so far?
Routines are an iterative process. You add and adapt it over time. I have been doing some version of this specific routine for nearly five years. It’s gotten me through three books in three years as well as dozens of projects for clients big and small.
How has your morning routine changed over recent years?
The no email in the mornings rule is probably the newest change. It has also had the biggest impact. Why? Because it means you’re not starting the morning behind the ball. Instead, you start with wins.
Specifically with writing, it allows me to approach it fresh and clear headed. The last thing you want when you’re writing is the specter of 46 UNREAD EMAILS looming over you. That doesn’t lend itself to existing in the moment well.
What time do you go to sleep?
Midnight at the latest.
Do you use an alarm to wake you up in the morning, and if so do you ever hit the snooze button?
iPhone alarm. Not a big snooze button guy. I wake up at a time that works for me and if it didn’t I would change it. I also try not to pointlessly stay up late.
How soon after waking up do you have breakfast, and what do you typically have?
It depends on if I go out or cook with my girlfriend.
When I lived in New York, we would go out and work together most mornings at a restaurant. Sometimes I do that when I am in Austin. But here I have chickens so usually we check the coop for eggs and cook something up. My office is right next to the kitchen so I am in and out of it anyway. I try to generally eat paleo/slow carb so it’s eggs, bacon, avocado usually.
Do you have a morning workout routine?
I tend to work out in the afternoon—usually sometime between 2-4:00pm.
I’ll run on the lake in Austin, or swim in Barton Springs. If it’s a CrossFit day, I’ll go to the early evening class. When I travel though, my schedule is not as much in my control so I go for a long run in the morning, say from 7:00-8:00am or 8:00-9:00am, and then start the day knowing that however it turns out, at least I got a run in.
How soon do you check your phone in the morning?
Without email to check, there is very little reason to check my phone in the morning besides maybe my calendar—but I try to do that the night before.
I don’t keep Facebook on my phone and I don’t use any apps with alerts. The idea is that the phone answers to me rather than the other way around.
What are your most important tasks in the morning?
Writing, that’s the real work. I find that showering and getting ready first helps me prepare and face it professionally, so I suppose that is part of it too.
What and when is your first drink in the morning?
Water. Usually Topo Chico, which is a Mexican sparkling mineral water that I am addicted to. No coffee for me. No protein shakes.
Sometimes my girlfriend will juice or make a smoothie but that’s pretty sporadic.
On days you’re not settled in your home, are you able to adapt your routine to fit in with a different environment?
Almost all of it, except the walking downstairs to my office.
I travel a lot so I’ve built my routine to be as resilient as possible and as location independent as possible. In some ways, I’m more productive on the road—excepting the writing.
What do you do if you fail to follow your morning routine, and how does this influence the rest of your day?
I feel like I am playing catch up—or worse, that I am not in control of my own life. I don’t like that. It defeats the purpose of achieving success.
Find and read Ryan’s updated routine, alongside 63 others, in our new book with Portfolio/Penguin.
If you enjoyed reading this morning routine interview, and have found value in what we’ve been doing for the past five years, it would mean the world to us if you could tell your friends and family about our book, and consider getting a copy for yourself.