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The Morning Rituals That Have Made Me More Happier and Productive

There’s no denying that there’s a ton of information out there right now about the morning rituals and routines of the rich and famous (and successful). From Tim Ferriss’ hugely popular books and blog, to The Miracle Morning and The 5am Club, you don’t need me to tell you that the early morning is when the good stuff happens.

So if the sun catches you napping, you’d be forgiven for thinking that you’re missing out on some peak hours of productivity.

Being happy and productive is the key to freedom in your freelancing. Check out productivity expert Al Clunnie's tips on how to implement a morning ritual to attain that.

One thing to note, though, is that different folks have different natural rhythms, and particularly there are two main groups – Owls and Larks. Owls tend to get up late and stay up late and are most productive in the afternoon. Larks tend to get up early, go to bed early, and are most productive early in the day. I’m certainly not saying that Larks are better than Owls – whatever works for you.

Instead of preaching what you should do, I’m just going to fill you in on what I do so you can take what you will from my experience.

A bit of background to set the scene. I am:

  • male
  • in my mid-30s
  • married
  • a father to a 9-month-old boy
  • a self employed consultant, freelancer and coach
  • a dog owner

And this is what a typical morning looks like in 10 steps:

  1. Wake up “early“. Depending on the day, week or month this varies and fluctuates. Sometimes it’ll be 5am for a while, other times it’s closer to 6:30am. On the weekends I’ve been known to sleep in as late as 7.
  2. Switch on all the lights. I get out of the bedroom pretty sharpish and leave my good wife to sleep, but then I switch on all the lights wherever I am to wake myself up. This trick alone made me feel so much better when I started getting up earlier and earlier, especially in the winter here in the UK.
  3. Step outside. I have to let my dogs out into the garden for, you know, obvious reasons. But instead of remaining inside, I step out, too, and take a few good, deep breaths of fresh, cool air.
  4. Meditate. Six minutes is all I need. Some days it’s more, but six will hit the spot. I don’t have a particular practice, just listen to some white noise (I use an app called Thunderspace) and when the countdown stops, I stop. I try to focus on my breathing and just “be”.
  5. Prep the coffee. I use my trusty moka pot (aka macchinetta) because there is a certain ritualistic feeling to the preparation of the coffee compared to other types of coffee maker. Plus, it tastes good!
  6. Exercise. As the coffee brews I have enough time to get in some sets of push ups.
  7. Journal. Now that the coffee is ready, I sit down with an espresso and my Moleskine notebook. Some days I write more than others – it can be just a few sentences or as much as a couple of pages. I don’t set a target other than – write. Anything goes, from reflection on the previous day, to expanding on my goals, dreams and desires.
  8. Plan. Next I’ll take a look at my schedule for the day, my to-do list, and write out my plan for a distraction-free, productive day.
  9. Walk and “read”. After all that writing it’s time to take the dogs out for their morning walk. If you don’t have dogs I highly recommend doing this step anyway. Take a nice long walk accompanied by an audiobook. If you’re not an audiobook fan, just enjoy the sights and sounds of the world in the early morning and fit some reading in later in your day.
  10. Get started. Now’s the time to put that plan (step 8) into action and get started on task #1 for the day!

A few things to note:

The highlights are:
Meditate, Exercise, Journal, Plan, and Read.

Any order is fine if it fits with your schedule.

You don’t need long – a few minutes of each and the whole thing could take you less than 30 minutes a day.

Be flexible. Some days I get up earlier than others, some days the weather is too bad to go out first thing, some days the baby has other ideas about the schedule.

You might have noticed that breakfast doesn’t feature in my morning routine. For years I’ve been one of those people that skips breakfast. Then, recently, I discovered that there’s a name for that, and it could be the reason I can eat what I want and maintain a healthy weight (marathon training probably helps with that, too) – Intermittent Fasting. That’s the technical term for skipping breakfast – if you’d like to know more about that the Mr Google is your friend (disclaimer: I am not a medical professional and do not pretend to be one on the internet).

Why do I claim that this morning routine has made me 1279% happier and more productive?

Because meditation helps me clear the cobwebs from yesterday and start this day fresh with no (ok, almost no) baggage. If you only take one thing from this post, let it be 6 minutes of meditation every day.

Because getting in just a few minutes of exercise first thing in the morning gets my blood pumping and wakes me up even more. If I wasn’t doing push ups I’d probably be checking Facebook, and don’t get me started on why starting your day off by scrolling endlessly through your Facebook feed is a bad strategy for success.

Because journaling finishes off what meditation started. I get to clear my head of anything that might be hanging over me – business, personal, a specific client I’m coaching. You name it, I’ll write about it!

Because planning gives me a headstart on the day – I’m being proactive rather than reactive. I can protect my time and therefore find it easier to say no to time hijackers that crop up later in the day.

Because reading is learning, and if you’re not learning you might as well just stop everything. I tend to listen to audiobooks in the personal development and entrepreneurship genres, I’ll save the fiction for bed time (and a good old fashioned book made out of paper!).

Over to you – what’s your secret to the perfect morning?

Al Clunnie Al Clunnie is a Lifestyle Design and Personal Development coach. He helps people take their “One day I’ll…” and make it happen by getting clear on their goals and the steps required to achieve them. When he isn’t coaching people, he’s probably out running, brewing some beer, walking his dogs or spending time with his newborn son. You can find out more, and request a free consultation at or by joining the friendly, inspiring and free community of like-minded people in The Momentum Group on Facebook.

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{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Thanks Al. My new years resolution – starting one day early – is “no more snooze bar.” I was up at 6:30am, ate a healthy breakfast and took the dog for a “longer than normal” walk. I’m definitely going to try the bright lights as soon as I’m out of the bedroom – but the dog is going out on her own first thing in the morning!

  • I really liked this article! I’ve been shying away from a morning routine for years – but it’s starting to take form slowly but surely. I’ve found that Bullet Journaling really helps me. I need to start tackling the to-do list within about 60mins from waking up – otherwise, I start procrastinating. 😉 Do you mostly work from home, or other places as well?

  • I’m one of those owls you speak of! If I get up too early I’m just too tired during the day and unproductive. I have a morning ritual that I love. If I don’t have time to fit it in I feel “off” all day. It really does make a difference! Great article!

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