My Morning Routine – 10 Hacks on How to be More Productive (Backed by Science)

morning routine
Written by Charles Ngo
Written by Charles Ngo

Whenever people try to “dissect” success, they wanna focus on the BIG decisions or the BIG “ah-ha” moments.
I’m the opposite.
I think success is the result of thousands of “little decisions” and habits added up over the long term.
A great example is what you do in the morning.
I remember a period of time when I didn’t have a morning routine. I’d wake up and immediately check my phone. I’d spend the next hour catching up on social media.
By the time I was ready to actually do some work, it’d be 11 AM.
But then I was introduced to the concept of a morning routine, and have been optimizing mine ever since.
You wanna get more done by lunch than others do in a full day.
That’s what a morning routine is all about. It’s setting you up for the end result that YOU really want.
I shot a video of my morning routine, but I want to show you guys more of the “why” behind my decisions.
Here’s a quick tip: Don’t overanalyze my morning routine. Just try it out for a week and see how you feel.
After you get some experience with it, you can adapt it to your needs.
Here’s an interesting analogy by my friend Thanh. In personal finance, there’s a concept called pay yourself first.
Whenever you get a check, you should put 10% in your savings. Before anyone else gets paid, you invest first in your future.
It’s kind of the same concept here. You’re investing the first hour of the day to yourself, before you pay anyone else.
Here’s the video, and the explanations below. Enjoy!

#1: Wake Up Early

how to wake up
I use a method called the “reverse” alarm clock.
I don’t set an alarm in the morning. (unless I have a flight)
Instead, I’m in a bed by a certain time each night. I go to bed at 11pm, and my body naturally wakes up at 7am.
I’ve tried waking up earlier at 5am, but it doesn’t work for me.
I wake up at 7am, do my morning routine for an hour, and I’m ready to work at 8am.

#2: Drink Water ASAP

I keep a drink bottle beside my bed so I can drink as soon as I wake up.
Why drink water first thing?
You’ve just gone 8 hours without drinking anything. You’re dehydrated.
That’s one of the reasons why it’s hard to get up in the morning. You’re groggy, tired, and probably too warm.
The solution is to drink water as soon as you wake up.
It’ll wake you up and put you in a good mood fast.
Protip: There are benefits to adding lemons to the water.

#3: Morning Run + Walk Dog
tips running dog 1

Every morning I take my dog for a 1-mile run.
Why go for a run in the morning?

  • It wakes me up & gets me pumped for the day
  • My dog needs to get out of the apartment sometimes
  • Builds discipline and good habits
  • If I don’t make it to the gym, a morning run is a good insurance policy – at least I get some exercise in rather than nothing

I used to do full workouts in the morning, but I don’t do it that often anymore.
My workouts tend to be intense (BJJ or compound lifts). I find doing full workouts in the morning will drain me of my energy for the rest of the day.
I prefer to save workouts for the end of the day. It’s something to look forward to, and it doesn’t require a ton of thought.
There are other benefits of doing some quick exercise in the morning, but this is why I do it.

#4: 5-Minute Cold Shower
cold shower benefits

I first heard about cold therapy a while back from Tim Ferriss. He talks about ice baths for boosting your metabolism, building discipline, and for sleeping better.
I’m not gonna force myself into an ice bath, but a cold shower is a good alternative.
Here are some of the benefits you get from a cold shower:

  • Build discipline and mental toughness
  • Increases testosterone
  • Increases alertness
  • It’s better for your skin

“It’s amazing how much you can learn about someone when they get caught in the rain! Some will run with their hands over their heads, others will smile and take a deep breath while enjoying the wind. What does this say about one’s relationship to discomfort? The reaction to surprise? The need for control?”
Josh Waitzkin, author, chess prodigy, and martial arts World Champion martial artist.
I also find that it’s good to build up mental toughness.
Ok, I did the horrible morning cold shower. I can do anything today.

#5: Hygiene Routine

I get jokes all the time about how young I look.
It’s mainly genetics, but I do take care of myself.
Here’s my morning routine:

  • Brush teeth
  • Floss
  • Mouthwash
  • Facial cleanse
  • Toner
  • Moisturizer
  • Style my hair

Your chance of success in your career, relationships, and networking are all higher if you look better.

#6: 10 Minute Meditation
meditating miami

You guys should know I’m a massive fan of meditation.

  • It helps build focus and attention so you can get deeper work done
  • You’re training your brain to do what YOU want it to do, not to be a reptile brain
  • Meditation builds mental discipline

There are hundreds of meditation apps out there. To be honest I don’t think it matters which one you use.
I use and I’ve used it forever (I’ve meditated for 60+ hours in total using this app).
Protip: If you wanna get the full benefit of meditation, do it in the morning. If you have trouble sleeping meditation can help. But you get the most out of it if you do it in the morning.
It’s like eating – you’ve got to do it every day to keep your brain and body health.

#7: Brew My Morning Coffee
morning coffee

I’m a huge coffee fan.
It’s something I look forward to, and I love the process of making coffee the slow way.
Grinding the beans, slowly doing it manually.
It’s a form of meditation when you do things the long way.
Why coffee in the morning?

  • Get a caffeine buzz for work
  • Time to mentally prepare for the day
  • Get some more liquid into my system

My coffee gear is from CoffeeGator.

#8: 2-Minute Confidence Pose
body language power poses

Amy Cuddy, a Harvard professor talks about this in her TED Talk.
This is something I started doing last year and I’ve seen a high ROI from it.

  • It builds confidence
  • Makes you feel unstoppable
  • Practices good posture
  • Helps to boost testosterone levels (study results here)

This image shows you why focusing on your posture is important.
Who are you gonna be?
The dominant player, or the defensive nervous wreck?

#9: Reflection

Right before I get into work, I like to think for a moment.
What is my vision?
Am I working on my goals?
What is my purpose?
Why reflection?
I want that extra injection of urgency.
You will push 10x harder if you know your ultimate goal and vision.
Straight after this, it’s time for deep work – uninterrupted time when I can focus on my most important tasks.

#10: Deep Work

deep work
This is always my next step
I go straight into my most important tasks & use the pomodoro technique to work productively.
Deep work is when I’m working on my most challenging tasks with zero distractions.
Here’s my schedule:
8am-9:30am: Deep Work
9:30am-10am: Break
10am-10:50am: Deep Work
10:50am-11am: Break
11am-11:50am: Deep Work
11:50am-12pm: Break
12pm- 12:15pm: Daily huddle with my team
12:15-1pm- Lunch
1pm – Afternoon: Work on Campaigns

Frequently Asked Questions

#1 You don’t eat breakfast?
No, I do something called intermittent fasting where I skip breakfast. Instead, I have two large meals a day (lunch and dinner).
#2 You don’t plan your day or go over your tasks in the morning?
Nope. I have a 30 minute “daily planning” session the day before. By the time 8am hits, I know exactly what I’m doing for the day.
#3 What happens if you have a girlfriend / wife / kids? How would that affect your routine?
If you have a wife or girlfriend, hopefully, they can follow your schedule. If not, then you have to make sure they give you space to do yours.
As for kids…I’ll let you know in 10 years.
#4 What’s your Evening Routine like?
My evening routine is a lot simpler.
All screens off by 9pm
Hygiene (shower, brush teeth, wash face, etc.)
5-minute meditation

How To Build Your Own Morning Routine

One tip: take baby steps.
You’re not gonna become a zen guru overnight.
What’s the 80/20 of a morning routine?
Meditation and exercise.
If you don’t have a morning routine, here’s one for you to start with:

  1. Meditate for 1 minute using a meditation app
  2. Do 30 seconds of body weight exercises

Now you’re done.
90 seconds.
Don’t try and stack a ton of things onto your routine.
Focus on doing this for 7 days.
On day 8 you can step it up a little.
Two minutes of meditation and 60 seconds of exercise.
The most powerful habits are ones that you build over time and slowly increase. Keep it so simple that you can’t fail.
Let me know if you enjoyed this post + video!
If you’ve got any questions/comments/feedback, hit me up in the comments.

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                The posts published by Charles are prepared and analyzed, including the author’s own experience…

The posts published by Charles are prepared and analyzed, including the author’s own experience…

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