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Increase Effectiveness With This Simple Morning Ritual

by | Process

What is the first thing you do when you get out of bed in the morning? Do you grab your phone and check your e-mail? Do you run for the coffee pot? Check the news?

So much of our effectiveness is about mindset, and how we start our day can impact our trajectory. A strong start can facilitate a confident, clear mindset, while a false start can cause us to feel behind the gun throughout the day.

Here’s a simple morning ritual that can help get you off to a good start each day:

It starts the night before. Before you go to bed each night, spend five minutes reviewing your day. Think about your successes and shortcomings over the course of the day. What did you learn? Also, decide then and there when you’ll wake up and what the first thing you’ll do the next morning will be (even if it’s the same thing you always do!) Making this choice in advance will give you added incentive to get up in the morning.

Don’t jump out of bed. Set your alarm five minutes before you really need to get up. Spend the first five minutes of your waking day – while still in bed – answering three questions: (1) what am I excited about today?, (2) what is my biggest priority, what will I do about it, and when?, and (3) how will I know today was a success? (This last question is critical! It’s impossible to hit a mark we’ve never set. This question prevents our days and weeks from feeling like one long, run-on sentence. By the way… Ben Franklin had a similar practice, and Peter Bregman shares something similar in [amazon_link id=”B004QZ9POM” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]18 Minutes[/amazon_link].)

Spend your first fifteen minutes filling your well. Grab a cup of coffee, then spend fifteen minutes reading something inspiring, reflecting, and easing into your day. Don’t jump straight into your inbox or calendar. If you need more time for this, set your alarm a little earlier. (I’ve gradually arrived at the place where I spend about an hour on this ritual each day. Because of three children, my alarm goes off much earlier than it used to!)

Why is this simple ritual important? Because it provides punctuation for our day. It is the inhalation before a day of frenetic exhale. While many of us spend our days in uncertainty, trying to determine the right course of action in our work, this simple ritual allows us to reach a place of clarity about our expectations, our hopes, and our tactical plans.

Have a morning ritual. It doesn’t have to be this one, but it should be something that grounds you in your humanity and in possibility.

Do you have a morning ritual? Do share.

Todd Henry

Todd Henry

Positioning himself as an “arms dealer for the creative revolution”, Todd Henry teaches leaders and organizations how to establish practices that lead to everyday brilliance. He is the author of five books (The Accidental Creative, Die Empty, Louder Than Words, Herding Tigers, The Motivation Code) which have been translated into more than a dozen languages, and he speaks and consults across dozens of industries on creativity, leadership, and passion for work.

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  1. Hope

    My morning ritual is a few minutes of yoga. I don’t check my email until after I’ve given myself those few minutes.

    • Todd Henry

      REALLY wish I could get my body moving early in the morning like that… I have to settle for my mind… :) Thanks for sharing.

  2. Janelle

    I look forward to the day when waking up does not involve trying to get my toddler’s toes out from my ribs. (That was her favorite spot for them when I carried her, too!) :) Even so, a morning snuggle is a pretty good way to fill my well.

  3. Stacie

    I am guilty of checking my email first thing! But I’ve also noticed, like Hope, that a few minutes of gentle exercise in the morning really primes my mind for a productive day. Thanks for this article… I’m definitely going to make a few changes in my morning routine. :)

    • Todd Henry

      When I was writing The Accidental Creative, I’d get out of bed at 5:30a and walk a mile to the local coffee shop to write. The exercise first thing definitely jump-started my writing process. 

  4. Christine

    Thank you so much for the powerful simplicity of this article!

  5. Alysa (a-lee-sah) Seeland

    Hi Todd! I love your line, “Spend your first 15 minutes filling your well.” Too often I’m in a hurry to get up and out the door. The way I prevent starting my day in a huff is by making my espresso in a french press. That might seem silly but there is a ritual involved and the process is slow, slow for my anyway because I’ve shattered my fair share of presses by plunging too fast! Somehow waiting that 1 minute for the grounds to steep and then sloooooowly pressing them to the bottom is all I need to step back, take a breath and reflect on the day ahead. 

  6. Greg

    Unfortunately my morning ritual is wake up at 4:30 and begin to worry. About everything. Bad habit. Although I will say that that same time is when I think deep (creative?) thoughts and try to write stuff down.  

    • Todd Henry

      Erg – sorry to hear that, Greg. Perhaps a short worry truce in the morning?

    • Linda Soelystio

      I am guilty of the same thing, too.  

  7. Jim Mau

    Seldom do my mornings begin without my morning coffee while taking the time to enjoy the sun rise and putting my day into perspective. Even on these cloudy rainy days, the sun always rises for me…

    • Todd Henry

      My home office looks directly out on the sunrise over the tree line – it often happens in the midst of my reading/thinking time…and there is always coffee involved too… lots of it.

  8. Josh Hogg

    I’ve had to ban myself from checking my phone in the morning or I’ll spend an extra 15 minutes in bed going through e-mails. Some great thoughts in this list.

    Personally, I like to do ten minutes worth of Sun Salutations to get my body flowing. This is a great time to think about the day ahead and look on the word with complete gratitude. I’d recommend this to everyone.

    • Todd Henry

      I got one of these at SXSW. Thinking about employing it overnight as a reminder… 

  9. Domestic Executive

    One of my favourite things to do in the morning is take my coffee to my kitchen garden to reflect and plan for the day.  I may pull a weed or two as I pass but it’s not a time for chores it’s time for me just be with my thoughts. I tend to move around to do my thinking – usually away from my desk which is where I do routine work so if it’s raining/cold and the garden isn’t that appealing I will sit under the veranda eaves or on the window seat so the location is as important as the ritual.

    • Todd Henry

      It’s funny – I used to DESPISE gardening and yard work. It’s now become one of my favorite meditative activities. I would always have an audiobook or podcast playing, but now I just enjoy the sounds of nature. Maybe I’m just getting old, or maybe wise. I don’t know.

  10. fjr

    I wake early without an alarm and think about whatever is on my mind (without specific directed attention). Then I consider my day and go downstairs to check my email. That email often includes short pieces from Accidental Creative, Box of Crayons, Lateral Action, Seth, and Harvard Business Review. It tends not to be fires for me to put out. So I like starting my day that way.

  11. Saya

    I try to have 7- 10 min meditation moments. It helps a lot

  12. Rachel Marsden

    My current morning ritual is to wake up and jot down my dream. I find this keeps me connected me with the creative part of my brain starting me off on the right foot for the day.  Then I write a page or two of stream of conscious in my journal where I plan my day, decide what is important to me and work through any concerns I may have.  I then get up and often do a bit of yoga, then breakfast, then work.  I found it’s much nicer to stay in bed a little longer after the alarm goes off and I’m a lot more relaxed throughout the day. 

  13. Jean Burman

    Lately I begin my day with a great big yippee yahoo in front of the mirror while imagining I’ve just got the best news possible.  [I don’t always feel like it but I do it anyway] It might sound odd but when I look at that familiar person standing there looking back at me with a big goofy grin… [it’s compelling -grin] and I can’t help smiling back LOL Coffee comes later… after breakfast.

  14. Ralph Dopping

    Hey Todd, thanks for sharing.

    Great routine. My morning ritual is walking the dog. It’s the first thing I do and anyone with a dog can likely relate (like we have a choice). I typicall spend that time (no more than 10-15min) planning out my day. The questions you ask yourself are great and something I don’t regularly do. Planning your day is important especially if you have a large team of people relying on your leadership. Planning your success is even more critical.

    Thanks for the great tips.

    BTW, loved the podcast with Julien Smith. I also read The Flinch and openly admit the concepts behind the flinch have at times affected my life. As with many others we know what it is and Julien put it into words in a tangible and useful way. The interview helped to solidify some of those ideas.


  15. Christopher Battles

    Thank you Todd for this blog post.  
    My routine is:
    – Waking up and saying, “Thank You God for this day” and then verbally putting on the Armor   of God.  
    – Then I journal/reading from the Bible.
    – I drink a good amount of water that I pour the night before so I can stay in my room and focused. I heard drinking 16 ounces of water first thing is a good way to wake your mind and flush your organ.  It is like a shower for your insides.

    Thank you again Dan, you gave me some things to think about and reminded me to do.

    K, bye

  16. Steve Perry

    Couldn’t agree more.

    I used to grab my phone and check my emails as soon as I woke up. The most important thing in my inbox suddenly felt like the most important thing for that day. Very reactionary.

    I’ve now added much more structure to my day and always begin with a 40-minute meditation. Thinking about nothing at all. Then I start my normal routine of shower, brushing teeth, coffee, breakfast etc., as I ease into my emails and social network activity. 30 mins of that and then 30 minutes of inspirational reading before I start work.

    I’ve found that having this structure really has helped me keep my focus throughout the day. I’ve also set time aside, at certain periods throughout the day, to check my emails and social networks. Keeping to those times is awesome. My focus has really increased a lot by doing just that alone. Finally, I check my emails at 6pm and that’s it for the day. Anything else waits until the next morning. I end the day with a 30-minute meditation and mind-clearing session, as Todd mentions above.

    Great book, Todd. This topic is covered well in it.

  17. Shery Campbell

    HI Todd,
    While there are still times when I stress and fret about deadlines or pressure-filled assignments, I too have found that having an hour of quiet to myself in the early morning is the most lovely way to start my day.

    It grounds me and give me the opportunity to think of the things for which I am grateful. And to plan and calmly recognize paths that I can consider taking. It is a sweet time of day for me, without question. But – I am naturally an early riser, and I wake at 5:30 a.m. very easily…

    Thanks – nice article to read.


  18. Rosella

    About two months ago, I started getting up 15 minutes earlier.  15 minutes to myself (and the dogs)  I quietly feed the dogs, give them fresh water, do my hygiene routine, get dressed.  By then, it is about the time I used to wake up.  I love looking at the clock thinking “I used to get up now”.  Then I take the extra time to pet the dogs and relax before getting into work mode.  It has really made a difference in my day.

  19. joemillerjd

    This is great.  It’s worth going to bed early the night before to get a jump start on the day.


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