12 tips for a perfect morning routine (according to science)

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What does your morning routine look like?

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

– Hear the alarm. Tap snooze for an extra 10 minutes sleep.
– Repeat alarm routine a few times.
– Suddenly, you’re late for work, so you rush to have a quick shower.
– Have a quick breakfast (if at all) and then rush to work.

Morning routines become ingrained.

This also means that if we adopt the right morning routines, we can become happier and more productive.

As Tony Robbins says, the best way to change your life is through habits:

“In essence, if we want to direct our lives, we must take control of our consistent actions. It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives, but what we do consistently.”

Luckily, there’s a lot of recent research on what morning habits lead to a healthy and happy life.

Read on to find out what they are:

1) Set your intentions

After waking up and getting out of bed right away (yes, right away! Don’t lay around in bed for any length of time. Get up and start the day!), spend a few minutes thinking about how you want your day to look.

We often wake up filled with anxiety and fear for what might happen as if we are at the mercy of our calendars and clocks, bosses and responsibilities, but the truth is that we can have any kind of day we want to have.

We don’t have to dread our lives if we are intentional about how we spend our time.

Set your intentions for the day to include what you want to do (creative and family time) and what you have to do (work and other responsibilities).

One of the best ways to set your intentions is with a to-do list.

To-do lists are an excellent way to figure out what you’re going to get done for the rest of the day.

While I’m sure that most of us do this, the problem is we create lists that aren’t realistic.

We write down everything that needs to be done believing we have a kind of superhuman ability to get it all done in one day.

According to Cal Newport, professor of computer science at Georgetown University, it’s crucial to create a to-do list that’s possible:

“Scheduling forces you to confront the reality of how much time you actually have and how long things will take. Now that you look at the whole picture you’re able to get something productive out of every free hour you have in your workday. You not only squeeze more work in but you’re able to put work into places where you can do it best.”

When you know exactly what you have to do, how much time it will take to do it, and what you can accomplish if you use your time effectively, you will be inspired every morning just to stand up and get those things done.

2) What aren’t you going to do today?

As part of setting your intentions, be sure to spend some time thinking about what you don’t want to do today.

What doesn’t deserve your attention? What can wait or what needs to be revisited so that you can make a decision on its importance?

Exercise can’t wait. Use your body today to make you feel better.

Don’t ignore important work deadlines that are only causing you stress. Getting it done will make you feel better.

Instead, focus on the things you don’t want to do: you don’t want to feel rushed. You don’t want to feel stressed.

How do you want to feel instead? Focus on that.

3) Create boundaries and barriers

When you have set you to-do and not-to-do list for the day, create boundaries for yourself to get those things done or to prevent you from doing the things you don’t want to do.

For example, if you set a boundary that you are not going to check your phone until at least 9 am every day, charge your phone in a different part of the house than where you eat, sleep and do work.

Charge it in the laundry room if you have to. Keep it out of sight so you won’t go looking for it when you first get out of bed in the morning.

By creating boundaries (I won’t check my phone until 9 am every day), and by implementing barriers (my phone is in the laundry room and that’s really far away), you’ll be able to focus on the tasks at hand in the time you’ve given yourself in the morning.

4) Swap out the things that aren’t working

If your breakfast leaves you feeling bloated and tired, you’ll want to think about what else you could be eating instead. Swap out fried eggs for boiled eggs. Swap out toast for fruit. Swap out juice for the real orange.

Eating better in the morning will set you up for a successful, focused day. When you feel bloated and overfull, it’s hard to concentrate.

Plus, sugar spikes in your diet make you crash hard throughout the day. If your exercise routine isn’t working for you, swap it out.

Don’t force yourself to go for a run if you don’t like running. Go for a brisk walk instead. Spend your time the way you want – that’s the whole point of how to get the perfect morning.

5) Forget about a shower

Most people believe you should shower daily.

But recent research is suggesting that we shower too much, and it’s messing with our hair and skin.


Because washing too much can get rid of the naturally occurring but beneficial bacteria and oil that keep our hair and skin healthy.

According to the Genetic Science Centre at the University of Utah, over-cleaning can not only damage the human microbiome but that “disrupting our microbial ecosystems can cause disease”.

The kicker?

Your immune system, digestion, and heart could be negatively affected.

The study from the University of Utah found that people who lived in the Yanomami village in the Amazon had a larger community of microbes in their skin and “the highest diversity of bacteria and genetic functions ever reported in a human group.”

However, not showering at all doesn’t sound too appealing (especially for the people near you).

So, the question is, how often should we shower?

You need to consider two things: The average dryness of your skin and scalp and the texture of your hair.

If they’re not oily or very dry, then you only need to shower once or twice a week.

But if you have dry skin, then you might need to wash more often, like every second day.

6) Skip the coffee

Now don’t get me wrong:

Coffee is beneficial to your health.

According to a meta-analysis of 217 studies, drinking coffee can:

– Reduce the risk of cancer by up to 20 percent.
– Reduce your risk of heart disease by 5 percent.
– Reduce your risk of Type 2 Diabetes by 30 percent.
– Reduce your risk of Parkinson’s disease by 30 percent.

According to research, this is most likely because coffee has natural antioxidants that repair your DNA, calm stress-related inflammation and improve the efficiency of the enzymes that regulate insulin.

But drinking your coffee at different times of the day can reduce or increase the benefits.

What you don’t want to do is to drink coffee when your cortisol levels peak.

This is because coffee + cortisol = extra stress.

Now for a person who wakes up at 6.30 am, cortisol levels peak at 8 to 9 am, noon to 1 pm and 5:30 to 6:30 pm.

If you wake 3 hours earlier or 3 hours later, you can adjust those levels by 3 hours.

Therefore, drinking coffee when you wake up may not be that good for you.

Instead, it’s more beneficial to drink coffee a couple of hours after you wake up to get its full benefits.

(To learn a set of simple yet powerful techniques to be mindful throughout the day, check it our eBook The Art of Mindfulness here).

7) Exercise.

You probably didn’t want to see this one here. Neither did I.

But 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.

In the video below, Dr. Wendy Suzuki explains how 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.

In other words, working out in the morning is priming your brain for a productive day ahead.

Also, one study found that people who exercise in the morning feel less stressed when they get to work.

8) Make sure you include aerobic exercise in your morning routines

Image credit: Shutterstock – By lzf

Any exercise is good for you, but aerobic exercise might be best for your body and brain in the morning.

As we mentioned above, fat oxidation occurs if you do aerobic exercise before breakfast.

And research shows that aerobic running or swimming helps to lift your mood and clear your mind. It also strengthens the heart and lungs.

According to Harvard Health Blog, aerobic exercise is better for your brain compared to resistance training:

“In a study done at the University of British Columbia, researchers found that regular aerobic exercise, the kind that gets your heart and your sweat glands pumping, appears to boost the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning. Resistance training, balance and muscle toning exercises did not have the same results.” – Harvard Health Blog

Furthermore, it’s easier to get in the habit of exercise in the morning.


Because you always associate the workout with getting up.

(To learn how to make exercise an unbreakable habit, check out my 10-step guide here).

9) Breakfast

Firstly, should you eat breakfast?

Some people believe that skipping breakfast is good for you, but according to health expert Marcela Fuiza, eating breakfast is essential for stabilizing your eating during the day:

“We know that as well as providing fuel throughout the morning, breakfast helps stabilise our eating during the day…Very often those that skip breakfast can find it difficult to recognize feelings of hunger or fullness during the rest of the day which can potentially lead to over-eating.”

Now when you eat breakfast, there are a few key things you need to make sure you include: protein, fiber, and healthy fats.

The problem is: Most typical breakfasts don’t include these three ingredients. Pancakes, bagels, and muffins just don’t cut it.

So what should you try?

According to Business Insider, try having eggs, avocado slices, and Greek yogurt. These choices will fill you up, help your digestion and power up your muscles.

10) Wake up early

Image credit: Shutterstock – By oatawa

This is another tip you might not like, but waking up early could have its advantages.


Because early risers have been found to procrastinate less compared with people who stay up late at night, according to a research study published in The Journal of General Psychology.

You’ll also have more opportunity to get things done in the morning.

Morning is the best time to get into a routine, so if you can get into a habit of doing important tasks, you’ll end up being much more productive.

As much love as night owls get for being smarter and having higher IQs, it might be better to turn into an early riser. Why? Because almost all hugely successful people wake up at the crack of dawn.

Laura Vanderkam, author of the book, “What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast” and time-management expert interviewed several CEOs of giant worldwide corporations, and over 90% of them all share the same single characteristic: they wake up before six in the morning on the weekdays.

The CEO of PepsiCo wakes up at 4; CEO of Twitter is already jogging by 5:30, and the CEO of Disney finds himself buried in a book as early as 4:30.

If you’re wondering how you can teach yourself to wake up early, an effective way is to gradually work your way up by waking up 15 minutes earlier every day for one week, then 30 minutes earlier for the next week, and so on, until you get to your desired wake-up time.

11) Meditate

Person with a deep personality meditating
Image Credit: Shutterstock –
Yuganov Konstantin

Most people think that you have to meditate for 30, 45 or even 60 minutes a day to experience any results. But this isn’t the case.

According to Dr. Herbert Benson, director emeritus of the Harvard-affiliated Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine, 20 minutes is enough to experience benefits from meditation.

Dr. Herbert Benson says using meditation to create a relaxation response is important. The “relaxation response” is a deep physiological shift in the body that’s the opposite of the stress response.

“The idea is to create a reflex to more easily bring forth a sense of relaxation.”

“Mindfulness meditation is just one of a smorgasbord of techniques that evoke the relaxation response.”

According to Harvard Health Blog, the relaxation response can “help ease many stress-related ailments, including depression, pain, and high blood pressure.

How do you practice meditation?

Here are 2 simple steps:

1) Choose a calming focus. This could be your breath, a sound (“Om”), a positive word (like “relax” or “peace”), or a phrase (like “I am relaxed”), or an object (like a candle).

2) Let go and relax: Don’t worry if you’re struggling to maintain focus. When your mind wanders, just take a deep breath and gently return your attention to your focus.

(If you’re looking for a more in-depth guide to meditation, check out our cheat sheet to meditation here).

12) Be diligent

As your morning wears on, do things to pick yourself up and keep the momentum going. Stretch in your chair or get up and walk around the office. Drink water. Talk to other people, either on the phone or in person.

Drink your coffee later in the morning instead of as soon as you get out of bed to prevent caffeine crashes when you need your energy most.

Book your meetings for first thing in the morning to get them out of the way and set intentions for the work day as well.

Sum Up

For a perfect morning routine:

1) Forget the shower: Research suggests you only need to shower every 2nd or 3rd day.

2) Skip the coffee early in the morning. Coffee is healthy, but you want to avoid having it when your cortisol levels peak early in the morning.

3) Exercise: Working out on an empty stomach is great for your body’s energy levels and burning fat. It also primes the brain for a productive day ahead.

4) Aerobic exercise is particularly good for you. It will lift your mood and clear your mind for the day ahead.

5) Have a big, nutritious breakfast: It will stabilize your eating during the day. Make sure you have enough protein, fiber, and healthy fats.

6) Wake up early: You’ll have more opportunity to get more done. Morning is generally a productive part of the day for most people, so the more of it, the better.

7) Meditate: You only need to meditate for 20 minutes a day to experience benefits. It helps you relax and there many proven health benefits to meditation.

8) Create a to-do list: Write down what you have to do for the day and how much time it will take you. Don’t overestimate your abilities. Be realistic about what you can achieve and then get to it!



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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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