Morning is a sacred time for me. When our children lived with us, the morning was the only time I had to myself. It allowed me to start the day on my terms and set the pace for the rest of the day. The kids are now traveling alone, just me and my wife, but the morning remains crucial for the rest of the day. Every morning is a blank slate. Every morning you can start anew, the promise and potential of the near future is filled to bursting point.
And so my morning routine is the foundation of my day. The day just doesn’t “last” without them.
If you want to be “agile” and “intuitive” in your life, a morning routine will help. You need the foundation to use your talents and to express your intuition and dynamic capacity. When your mornings are slapdash and all over the place, you will struggle to venture out into the world and achieve your goals. A child needs security to grow. You need a morning routine to excel.
Here is my morning routine.
Go to bed between 10 and 11.
A morning routine starts with your night routine. As I’ve said many times before, it’s important to get to bed at a good time—around 10 but no later than 11—while also following proper sleep hygiene practices so you can get enough sleep and wake up feeling energized and vital in the morning. So your morning routine starts the night before. You need to sleep well if your morning routine is to help you.
Get up around 7.
I wake up around the same time every day – mostly because I’m so religious about going to bed at a good time. Seven o’clock is my typical wake-up time. So I can go to bed between 10 and 11 a.m. and still get as much sleep as I need. I’m in bed by 10am, usually earlier, but I’ll be reading in bed. Sometimes I rush out, sometimes I stay up and read on. Waking up at 7am gives me air to breathe at night.
It is important to wake up at the same time every day. For one, you don’t need an alarm. You just wake up because your body knows and it’s so much easier. Second, waking up is the beginning of your routine. Everything depends on waking up being simultaneous. When you wake up at 5 a.m. on one day and 8:30 a.m. on another, it’s difficult to plan a consistent morning routine.
Get sun in my eyes
Early morning sun exposure—ideally sunrise—helps your circadian rhythm adjust to the rhythm of the day. It “tells” your internal clock that it’s morning, that it’s time to move, that it’s time to build and go.
I’ve always made it a point throughout my adult life to live in places that get plenty of sunlight all year round. At the beginning of my health journey, this was not a conscious decision. I knew nothing about the intricacies of circadian rhythms and natural exposure to light, but I did know that I liked sunlight, warmth, and spending time outdoors. Before I even knew what it was doing to my health, I was getting sunlight every morning.
That doesn’t mean staring at the sun. Do not do that. It means being outside, facing the sun, poking indirect light through your eyes, and acting as a circadian timer that sets the clock. Also, you don’t have to have visible sunlight. The clouds can be outside. It can rain or even snow, and sunlight still gets through to your circadian clock. The point is to go outside for full natural light.
Drink coffee, whipped cream and a spoonful of sugar.
Then I make my coffee. Always in a stainless steel French Press with freshly ground beans, always with cream and a spoonful of sugar. Yes, plain white sugar to reduce bitterness. I often take my coffee outside in the sunlight.
Solve Sudoku, the NY Times crossword puzzle and read the newspaper.
While the science on “training the brain” with crosswords and math games like Sudoku isn’t conclusive, I don’t care. I notice a big difference when I’m making the games and when I’m not. Something is missing if I don’t do it. A fluidity, a sharpness of thought. My writing and creativity are worse on days when I can’t get to the puzzles.
I also read the newspaper. Yes, the physical newspaper made of paper. Everything about the newspaper experience — the crease, the way you have to *pop* it to smooth it out — is comforting, and it’s still my favorite medium of reading the news. “Don’t believe everything you read” goes without saying. I consider this an essential part of my morning routine.
Take part in a small friendly competition.
The latest addition to my morning routine is a friend and I started a contest about six months ago. We do it every day. Every morning we play the word games World, Quordle and Sedecordle.
We do all three every day and rank them to see who gets the lowest score. The base score is the sum of the numbers in the quordle. Then you can subtract or add points based on your results in Sedecordle and Wordle. In Wordle, subtract how many guesses you have left. So one point for each remaining tip. At Sedecordle, you can subtract three points for each guess left, or add one point for each word left on the board. You have to understand the games, but it’s quite challenging.
At this point in my life, competing with something significant on a physical level is counterproductive. This is the new challenge. This is the new competition. It’s a great way to start the day.
breakfast or not.
Most days I fast until 1pm (after my late morning workout). On days when I’m not fasting, I take something light. Recently soft-boiled eggs or scrambled eggs with kale in butter. I eat breakfast when I’m hungry and want to eat, usually while I’m doing the mental games. I fast when going deep into work mode and really trying to get into the flow state.
Get “simple” work wins.
I do the basics for half an hour to an hour: answering emails, taking or making calls, checking social media to see if I have to reply to anything. These are things that don’t require a lot of active brain power. You just have to “do” them. I often take a quick peek at Twitter or Instagram to get a “bird’s eye view” of what might be happening in the world, what people are worried about, what fitness or nutrition trends are coming to a head.
Getting those easy wins out of the way sets a good tone for the rest of the day.
Take a 15-minute break from moving.
After emails and calls, I go outside for a short exercise break. This is supposed to get the blood flowing to the brain, warming up my body, lubricating my joints and preparing me for the real work to come.
Sometimes it’s a short walk to the beach for a dip and a swim. Sometimes it’s a quick jog to the beach for a few short sprints. Sometimes it’s 15 minutes on the slackline. Sometimes it’s just a few sets of trap bar deadlifts, push-ups, and pull-ups.
It’s about getting some physical exercise, preferably outside, before the actual mental work begins.
Deep creative work.
When I write articles, I have already done the research the day or days before. I’ve built a mental skeleton of the post in my head, with tabs and links to any supporting evidence, so all I have to do is write. meat it out. This makes it a creative exercise to go through instead of having to stop every five minutes to review my work and read studies. Of course, when the situation calls for it, I stop and do research, but I do my best to avoid it so I can focus on the writing itself.
When I don’t need to write finished pieces, I can take my phone for a walk and create a rough draft via voice-to-text. Voice-to-text is invaluable to me – a great way to jot down thoughts and ideas that walking often inspires. I “wrote” whole posts and Sundays with Sisson newsletters on walks. I have developed business ideas that have turned into business realities. I keep working as long as it flows. It could be two hours. Could be one. Could be four But it usually takes at least two hours.
movement, training and play.
I usually go to the gym, both to work out and to socialize. Get a quick, hard, efficient 30-45 minute strength workout, hang out with the regulars, joke around, catch up. It’s a good atmosphere to push yourself while keeping things light and fun. I am currently not doing PRs (Personal Records). I only get in to train my muscles, strengthen my bones and strengthen my connective tissue so I can keep playing and staying active doing the things I really enjoy. antiaging.
The social aspect is just as important as the physical aspect. I spend so much time on devices that I need this Facetime (not FaceTime).
When I’m not going to the gym, I do a paddle board session or ride a fat tire bike on the beach. I do this often with my wife or a buddy to get that social time back. Whatever I do, the block of time after my intense workday is to stay active—both physically and socially.
After that, I break the (usual) fast with lunch and get on with the rest of my day, which often looks very different from day to day. But that morning routine before lunch is non-negotiable and rarely changes.
What is your morning routine like?
About the author
Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather of the primal food and lifestyle movement, and New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, in which he explains how he combines the keto diet with a primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is also the author of numerous other books, including The Primal Blueprint, which in 2009 is credited with accelerating the growth of the Primal/Paleo movement and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark founded Primal Kitchen, a real food company that sells Primal/ Paleo, Keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen clips.
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