My morning routine for calm and productivity

Photo by Matt Hoffman / Unsplash

This is my actual morning routine. It's not a routine I aspire to; it's the one I actually do every single weekday before work. I do this stuff because I think it's good for me, and because it includes stuff to enjoy and savour. It isn't difficult to do, and nothing in here is particularly radical. And I think that's why it works.

Wake up at 6:30

My morning routine takes about 1.5 hours, and I like to be at my desk ready to start work at 8am. So, maths!

I've been waking up at this time for a few years so most of the time it feels fairly natural. It's definitely harder in winter when it's still absolutely pitch-dark outside and the central heating hasn't come on yet.

Hygiene and cleanliness

The first place I go after I've woken up is the bathroom. There, I take my morning dump (no, not that kind) and jump in the shower. I don't have cold showers. That sounds awful.

The shower is where my brain starts to wake up. As I'm cleaning myself I tend to review the day ahead and mentally prepare myself.

As for products, I use whatever shower gel happened to be on offer when I went shopping. I do enjoy Man Cave hair products though; I shampoo every other day, and condition daily. I also use CeraVe hydrating face wash.

After my shower I brush my teeth and apply Wild deodorant. I also use Altruist's moisturiser with built-in SPF-50 sun protection. This last bit is particularly important for me as I'm immunocompromised, so I'm slightly more susceptible to getting skin cancer from normal exposure to the sun.

I don't shave every day, but when I do I use a simple double-edged safety razor and some nice sandalwood shaving cream, which I apply using a shaving brush. It's a nice ritual but does feel like a bit of a chore sometimes.

Dog's morning routine

Pippa, our puppy

After I'm washed and dressed, I head downstairs to the kitchen, where Pippa the dog sleeps. I wake her up and take her outside to the garden for her morning dump.

In the depths of winter it would still be pitch-dark at this time. But now, in early February, I'm able to stand outside and look at the sunrise while Pippa does her thing. It's a moment I'm trying to savour while it lasts; I don't imagine this serendipitous timing will last long.

Once she has evacuated to her satisfaction, I bring Pippa back inside and give her some breakfast. We just feed her basic dry puppy food. She usually ignores it though, at least until my partner comes downstairs.


At this point I fire up my Sage/Breville Barista Express machine. While it warms up I pop the kettle on to make my partner's tea. When making English breakfast tea, there are two very important rules:

  1. Use good tea. Acceptable products are, in order of preference: Twining's, Yorkshire Gold, Yorkshire Tea. All other tea is trash, especially if you're working with hard water like we do in the North of England. If you serve me or someone I love PG Tips, I will not speak to you again.
  2. The milk and the teabag must never come into contact. If this happens, throw everything away and start again; you have failed.

While the tea is brewing (which it should do for 3-5 minutes), I set about the process of making my morning espresso. The coffee I use varies widely as I like to experiment with coffees from different roasters. Right now I'm brewing something from Abe & Co.

Once coffee is ready, I finish making the tea (remember, remove teabag before adding milk) and let my partner know that it's ready.

The morning paper

You read that right! I subscribe to the Kindle edition of The Guardian, and read it every morning while I enjoy my espresso.

What's the deal with this habit? I agree it's probably the most far-out one on the list so far. But it's an idea I stole from Chris Bailey's How To Calm Your Mind, which I'm halfway through right now. One of the suggestions in the book is around continuous news consumption, which has been found to be a pretty common source of chronic stress. We have immediate access to a constantly updating feed of anxiety-inducing information in the form of news apps and websites, which can't be healthy. It's far better to consume news in single daily digests, and then not worry about it for the rest of the day.

Chris takes a physical morning paper, which sounds wonderful but also costs around £50 a month depending on which paper(s) you want. So I use The Guardian's Kindle subscription, which is £10 a month and has the added bonus of not taking up any space in my house, which my partner appreciates.

I've been doing this for about a week now, and I have to say that I worry a lot less about politics and current affairs. I'm still interested and curious, and I think it's important to be informed. But allowing the news to make me anxious seems pointless, given that it's largely outside of my control.

Meditation and Morning Pages

At around 7:45 I put the Kindle down and head upstairs to my office. In the past I would get started on my morning catch-up at this point, but there are a couple of newer habits I'm trying to slot in before I start work.

The first is meditation. I'm just getting started with this, so I just do 5 minutes of unguided meditation, trying to focus on my breath and allowing thoughts to pass by. I'm still pretty bad at this, but I do believe in the value of meditation as a wellness exercise, so I'm persevering!

The second new habit is Morning Pages. I have a really nice notebook and pen I use for this, which makes the habit more enjoyable and therefore more likely to actually happen (thanks, Atomic Habits). I do find that getting thoughts out of my head and onto paper helps with clarity, and reduces the brain noise that can happen if there's a lot on my mind. Problems are unavoidable, but journalling is a good way of sorting them out in your own head so they don't constantly nag you throughout the day.

Getting to work

That sums up the first chunk of almost every one of my working days. I don't achieve every habit every time, but it's a framework I keep coming back to. It includes stuff I can enjoy and savour, as well as stuff that's good for my overall wellbeing. My routine means I can usually get my workday started in a good mood, which makes it a success in my eyes.