14 things to do in the morning for a productive day ahead

What does your morning routine look like? 

If you’re like most people, it goes something like this:

– The alarm wakes you up too early

– You push the alarm button and get an extra 15 minutes

– You finally wake up, get a quick coffee, and have breakfast and rush out the door. 

Sound familiar?

Well, it doesn’t have to be this way. 

I should know. I used to struggle to get out of bed in the morning and I essentially achieved very little.

But I decided to change that, so I started to wake up earlier and build positive habits in the morning to get sh*t done. 

The result? 

I became more productive and happier throughout the day because of my morning routine. 

So in this article, I want to explore things to do in the morning to make your whole day more productive. 

Keep in mind:

I’m not suggesting you do ALL of these things, but I’m just giving you ideas to get started.  

We have a lot to cover so let’s get started.

1. Plan

I’ll be honest, this is probably the most effective habit I’ve adopted for my morning routine. 

I create a plan of what I need to get done the next day, and I make sure I know exactly what I will achieve in the morning.

This helps me get the day started on the right foot…before the day even starts. 

So before you go to sleep, make a plan of what needs to be accomplished the next day. 

This is great for your morning routine because you’ll know exactly what you’re doing when you wake up. 

No procrastination. No decision-making. Just get started on a task that needs doing. 

You can also layout your clothes you need to wear the next day and make sure you have your breakfast prepared as well. 

These small things can slow you down in the morning, and you’re also lessening your “decision fatigue” leaving you with more willpower to make important decisions for the rest of the day.

Habits enable you to get the day started with action, rather than spending time making decisions on what you need to get done. 

2. Wake up earlier

This is a tough one and it won’t be for everyone. 

But the truth is this:

The earlier you wake up in the morning, the more things you’ll be able to get done.

And the more you get yourself in a habit of waking up early the more you’ll get used to it.

And I don’t know about you, but I find that I’m performing at my best about 30 minutes after waking up – and this generally lasts the whole morning – leaving me quite a lot of time to get important tasks done. 

However, I’m not suggesting you forgo the recommended amount of sleep. 

I’m suggesting that you wake up earlier which will also mean going to bed earlier. 

But you’ll find that even an extra 30 minutes in the morning will help your productivity. 

3. Drink water

It sounds simple, but you’d be surprised how much people forget to drink water when they wake up. 

It’s important because you’ve had 8 hours (or probably longer) of no water and your body is naturally a little dehydrated. 

In fact, this feeling of slight dehydration might make you feel sluggish in the morning.

Not only that, but drinking water first thing in the morning kickstarts your metabolism and your digestive system as the body relies on water for digestion. 

Furthermore, according to nutritionist Rania Bataynheh, when you sleep your body is hard at work ridding your body of toxins, and by drinking enough water early in the morning, you can speed up the process in which your body flushes out those toxins.

Some people also like to add a lemon to the water as well for the added benefit of some vitamin c.

4. Meditate

If you’ve read any articles on my blog Hack Spirit, you’ll know how much of a fan I am of meditation. 

There’s been a lot of research suggesting that it helps people calm down and reduce stress. 

Now don’t get me wrong:

Meditation won’t give you energy.

But it’s a great morning routine because it will help you clear your mind and get it focused on the day ahead. 

Getting better at meditation will help you turn off your worries and unhelpful thoughts to get focused on the day ahead. 

Don’t know how to practice meditation?

Despite what some people may think, it’s actually pretty simple. 

Generally, the most efficient and easiest meditation techniques are breathing exercises, particularly an exercise called “equal breathing.”m

To do this breathing technique, firstly inhale through the nose to a count of 4, then exhale from the nose for a count of 4.

If you’re the type who likes to improve at something constantly, then over time you can increase the number seconds you inhale and exhale for. Just make sure it’s equal.

Yogis generally do 6-8 counts per breath.

Now if you find that you can’t quiet your mind no matter what you do and you’re also highly emotional, then the next technique may be for you instead. 

5. Journaling

Journaling is an excellent technique to calm down, slow down, and focus your thinking on expressing your feelings. 

I’ll be honest, this is a technique that has helped me a great deal over the past year.

I’m the type of person who thinks too much, so writing down what I was thinking and feeling gave me clarity.

Writing helps your mind slow down so you can structure the information in your head. It’s also a great way to release and understand your emotions.

In the Harvard Health Blog, Jeremy Nobel, MD, MPH says that when people write about what’s in their hearts and minds, they better make sense of the world and themselves:

“Writing provides a rewarding means of exploring and expressing feelings. It allows you to make sense of yourself and the world you are experiencing. Having a deeper understanding of how you think and feel — that self-knowledge — provides you with a stronger connection to yourself.”

The great thing is that writing helps you express yourself in a safe environment. No one is going to read what you’re about to write.

To begin writing, here some questions I have used to ask myself that have helped me figure out what my priorities are and what direction I want my life to head in.

1) What do I really want in life?

2) What am I no longer willing to accept?

3) What makes me happy?

4) Are my current habits enabling me to live the life I want?

5) How can I add value to this world?

Now if you make journaling a morning routine, you may want to vary those questions up a little. 

But I guarantee that you’ll feel much more clear and comfortable with who you are and what you want in life. 

And when you feel self-assured and focused on your goals, you’ll know what exactly needs to be done for the rest of the day.

6. Exercise

This one is obvious and I’m sure you’ve heard it a million times before. 

But the fact of the matter is this:

Exercise has been proven to be good for you in countless ways, and not only physically, but mentally as well.

The best bit? 

You only need an extra 20 minutes to get a good jog in. 

According to Harvard Health, exercise works because it reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol.

It also stimulates the production of endorphins, which are natural painkillers and mood elevators.

You’ll also feel an early sense of accomplishment that will follow you for the rest of the day.

Research suggests that an early morning workout, particularly on an empty stomach, can speed up weight loss and prime the body’s energy levels for the rest of the day.

By exercising early in the morning, you may force your body to tap into its fat reserves for fuel, rather than just using the latest meal for energy.

Furthermore, working out in the morning is also beneficial for the brain.

Neuroscientist Dr. Wendy Suzuki says that early morning exercise increases our neurotransmitters and growth factors in the brain at a time right before we need to use our brain to learn and remember.

7. Try to get some sunlight

Getting sunlight first thing in the morning tells your body it’s the start of the day. 

In fact, for most people, exposure to sunlight is most beneficial if it occurs in the morning just after waking.

Getting light in the morning is what enables your body to stop producing melatonin, the hormone that releases when it wants your body to sleep. 

Getting sunlight in the morning will make you feel more alert, and over time, help you become a natural morning person. 

In fact, not getting enough natural light can lead to mood problems like depression and low energy. 

If you’re living in a climate that doesn’t shine often, then you may want to consider specifically timed bright light therapy (with artificial blue light). 

Research has suggested that this can have the same benefits for your body clock as the sun does.

8. Make your self some coffee

Coffee can get a bad rap, but the truth is a lot different (at least according to several research studies).

In fact, according to Erikka Lotfield, a research fellow at the National Cancer Institute, “the evidence is pretty consistent that coffee is associated with a lower risk of mortality”.

A large 2017 review on coffee consumption and human health in the British Medical Journal also found that most research studies found coffee was associated with a benefit, rather than harm,

There’s also a lot of research suggesting it does make people feel more alert and less groggy, which is perfect for those that aren’t natural morning people. 

So go ahead, and pour yourself a cup of coffee. Your brain will thank you for it.

9. Treat your self some breakfast

Some people choose to skip breakfast because they don’t have enough time.

Or they’re practicing intermittent fasting.

That’s fine, and in fact, intermittent fasting may provide some benefits. I’ve actually done it myself for 30 days. If you want to read about my experiment, click here. 

But it’s important to remember that breakfast is a useful way to give yourself some energy in the morning. 

And as a matter of fact, your metabolism works better earlier in the day, so you really should be having your big meal in the morning, and not later in the day. 

And if you skip breakfast, research shows that you might be more likely to overeat later in the day. 

So when should you eat in the morning? Straight away?

Actually, no. Apparently the best time to eat is within 2 hours of waking up.

And try to make it healthy, so include some protein and healthy carbohydrates. This means eggs, grains, and fruit are a great candidate,

10. Spend time with your family and friends

Spending time with your loved ones is never a bad thing. In fact, according to an 80-year old Harvard study on happiness, our close relationships are the most consistent predictor of our happiness levels. 

So organize to go for a run with your partner or kids. 

Or have coffee or breakfast with them. 

Being with people you like and love will provide you with a big boost in your mood and energy levels.

11. Stretch your body

Simple, but necessary. Especially when you just wake up. 

Your body may act like it wants more sleep, but stretching wakes your muscles up and gets the blood flowing around your body. 

It’s a signal to your body to wake up and get ready for the day. 

According to Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy, “your body actions and your feelings are “obviously bi-directional…But the people who wake up like this (stretching out their arms in a V) are super happy.”

She also has said that people who “sleep in a fetal ball…we have some preliminary evidence that people who wake up like that wake up more stressed out.”

 Of course, it isn’t just Amy Cuddy that proposes stretching your body when you wake up.

Research suggests that it’s excellent for muscle flexibility and joint flexibility. Furthermore, it can also encourage stress relief as stretching helps relieve tension.

12. Gratitude journal

There are incredible benefits associated with gratitude journals, so you might want to also consider adding that to your morning routine as well.

We have a terrible tendency to just complain about things instead of trying to find the good in them.

If you can start to be grateful, without trying to make things better, you’ll be on your way to getting your sh*t together.

A major difference between happy and unhappy people is the ability to appreciate what they have.

In fact, a white paper by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkely says that people who consciously count what they’re grateful may have better physical and mental health:

“Research suggests that gratitude may be associated with many benefits for individuals, including better physical and psychological health, increased happiness and life satisfaction, decreased materialism, and more.”

To practice gratitude, list 3 things you’re grateful for each morning. Eventually, you’ll train your brain to be more optimistic and positive.

13. Turn on your morning playlist

It’s no secret that music has a huge influence on our mindset. 

The bottom line is this:

Music can lift your spirits, calm you down, or give you energy. 

Pick out your favorite tunes and just play them! Your mood will thank you for the rest of the day.

14. Read a book

Reading in the morning can benefit your brain a great deal. 

Not only will you gain knowledge, but it will wake up your mind as well. 

According to an infographic published by Global English Editing, reading is kind of like lifting weights but for the brain.

A study done at Emory University using fMRI found that the brain retains activity for as much as five days after reading a book. This “shadow activity” is similar to muscle building.

And if you make this a routine, it’s a great way to eventually finish a book.


Because 10-minutes a day of reading in the morning can lead to finishing a book 3 weeks later. 

Incremental gains are the real way to create change in this world.

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Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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