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The Lever #033 - Bookend Your Day

Having a productive day starts the moment you wake up with your morning routine.

Create these two habits to bookend your day and set yourself up for success.


But first:

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The Power of Habit

A habit consists of three parts:

  1. A trigger

  2. A routine

  3. A reward

You probably have many small habits and routines running throughout the day, even if you aren't totally aware of them.

But there is one specific routine that will offer the greatest return over time. If you make the effort to develop it.

Your alarm clock will be the trigger and completing your most important task of the day will be your reward.

The Morning Routine

Whether the day is for writing, designing, or painting, the consistent practice of a morning routine is the doorway into it all. – Elle Luna

Much has been written about the power of a strong morning routine. There are websites dedicated to it. Books full of inspirational quotes and stories.

Famous people throughout history have lauded the morning routine; Theodore Roosevelt, Benjamin Franklin, Mark Twain. On The Tim Ferris Show every guest (all of whom are world class in their field) are asked what the first 90 minutes of their day looks like.

The evidence is all around us; if you want to go far then pay attention to the first thing you do each day.

A Simple Routine

Everything you do is a task.

All tasks need time to complete.

When you have a clear goals you want to achieve, determining the steps to get there is as simple as working that backwards into projects, milestones, and daily tasks that need doing.

Think about your most important goal. What is the daily task that will let you achieve that?

Do that thing as soon as you wake up.

Jump out of bed and head straight to the typewriter, the easel, the gym.

A strong routine needs consistency. It's important to wake up at the same time each day in order for this to be maximally effective. The routine begins from the moment you open your eyes, and your best work will typically be done before the rest of the world wakes up.

Here is my routine:

  • Wake up at 0500

  • 3 minute meditation (while the coffee brews)

  • Write until 0630

​Any day I put words to paper is a good day. Its my most important task.

So it’s the first thing I focus on.

Every single day.

Keep Your Routine Simple

Subtraction > addition.

There is plenty of great advice out there but if you try to follow it all you will end up following none.

Stick with those two or three actions that will make the biggest impact in your life, and only add in something new when the previous routines are firmly established.

The Evening Routine

The evening routine has one single purpose - to facilitate the next day's morning routine.

Some people do their writing or training in the evening so will need to modify this, going so far as switching the two routines from morning to night. But most people will have better long term success from building a strong morning routine and working with that.

Life doesn't start to get in the way at 5:00 a.m.

The evening routine will be much shorter, as it is made up of smaller tasks. Creating a good one means you must examine everything you want to get done the next morning, then systematically remove as many barriers as possible the night before.

  • Create a to do list for the morning

  • Lay out your running clothes

  • Update your trackers

  • Prep the coffee pot

  • Make the lunches

Nothing earth shattering there. Simply take care of those little time sinks the night before, thereby maximizing the time available for your morning routine.

By eliminating the mundane jobs the night before you open the way for creativity and clear your mind of those niggling little thoughts of tiny tasks to be done, thus allowing stronger focus.

Finally, take the time to reflect on your day and to track your progress.

A small 'X' each day placed next to a completed task is great motivation, especially as the string of unbroken X's grows longer over the days and weeks.

Writing out what you intend to do the next day will set your intention. Then checking it off the next day will encourage you to do it again.

Two Routines = Results

Each night, clear the decks for the work you want to perform the next morning. Each morning, wake up and get straight into it.

Roll out of bed, into your running shoes, and out the door. Or push a button on the coffee pot, sit down, and start writing. Whatever your goals, now is the time to make it happen.

That same evening, think about any friction points that morning and eliminate them ahead of time. Remove any obstacle that takes valuable time away from your mornings work.

Greatness happens in the shadows. The hard work is done in the quiet hours, year after year. These two routines are how you carve out the time and create the proper mindset to make this happen.

Do you have a morning routine? Or does the morning have you?


When you are ready, here are a few ways I can help:

1. Subscribe to The Lever (if you haven't already)

This covers a science-based productivity concept each week, in about five minutes. Try a free chapter of my new book when you subscribe. And if you like it...

Peaceful Productivity outlines the time-management system I've created over the years as a ship's Captain and business executive. It will help you plan, prioritize, and get more of the right things done. Also available on Amazon  

This short course will teach you the fundamentals of a powerful timeblocking system to make sure you never miss an obligation and always show up prepared. Give yourself the space you need to create the life you deserve.

Smart systems to make you productive, prolific, and profitable | Find me on Twitter @SeanPHogue | Sign up here for the weekly newsletter, The Lever, and create some leverage in your life.

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