#101: My New Morning Productivity Routine [Podcast]

I believe the way you start your day determines how it will end; productive and happy, or frustrated and fruitless.  That's why I put so much focus on my morning routine,  which is the foundation of my personal “Productivity Protocol”.  My morning routine is an intentional set of activities designed to set me up for the best possible day. With the right routine in place, I believe we can make our best days better, and perhaps even salvage what might have been a “bad day.”

Bronze vintage alarm clock

If you are familiar with my work, I have written about this before. But my routine has changed , and I have refined my process. On today's show, I will pull back the curtain on my newly re-engineered morning routine. Also coming up…

  • The Post-It Note ToDo System.
  • Stu McLaren returns.
  • A super-simple copy outline.
  • Now let's get on with it…


Conferences where I will be attending and/or speaking:

Tip Of The Week 

The Post-It Note Planning System.

Lifestyle Business Segment 

With Stu McLaren

Copywriting Corner

This week I share a “super simple copywriting outline”. It goes like this:

  1. Headline: How to Get the Thing You Want, In Three Easy Steps
  2. Here's the problem, and what happens if you don't solve it…
  3. I solved the problem, and here's how…
  4. Who the heck am I, and why should you believe me?
  5. Introducing my Fancy New Problem-Solving System
  6. It's worked for me, for my other customers, and it will work for you…
  7. Here's exactly what you get
  8. How much it costs, and why it's worth 10 times more
  9. I will take all the risk
  10. Here's exactly what to do now

Sure, there are lots of nuances to writing great copy. But this basic outline will help you quickly write a sales message. I flesh out the process and explain how to use the outline on today's show.

Spiritual Foundations

I have been accused of being a “hyper grace teacher”. According to this accusation, I have overemphasized the importance of the grace of Jesus Christ at the expense of his Lordship. Of course, I vehemently disagree with this criticism.

I recently had a discussion about this for a topic with my friend Frank Viola, and I asked him if he would be willing to join us on the show so we could talk about the controversy over so-called “greasy grace”. To hear this fascinating interview, you'll need to listen to the audio of this week's show.

You can find the course Frank mentioned by clicking here.

Feature Segment: Create A Morning Routine That Sets You Up For Success

The purpose of creating an intentional morning routine is to develop an habitual set of activities to start each day. The way you start the day sets the tone for the way you will finish out the rest of the day. A good routine in the morning will give you momentum for the rest the day, that increases the likelihood for productivity and success.

My own routine has gone through considerable evolution over the last few years. Recently, I found my previous routine had become stale and somewhat out of alignment with my current priorities. So I've decided to reengineer it. This new routine will also undoubtedly evolve over time, but this is what I'm doing now, and what seems to be working for me.

  1. Get up early. I don't use an alarm clock, but I tend to naturally awaken between 4 and 5 AM. Most days, my day starts at 5 AM.
  2. Drink 24 ounces of water. Most of us live in a constant state of mild dehydration. This is bad for your body, and bad for your brain. I intentionally hydrate first thing in the morning. Especially considering the next part of my routine…
  3. Drink a cup of Bulletproof Coffee.  This is a blend of organic coffee, high quality MCT oil, and butter, blended into a delightful, flavorful, and creamy beverage. It tastes better than a latte, and  supports the healthy functioning of your brain.  there is a great deal of research about the benefits of Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT), especially for preventing or alleviating the symptoms of conditions such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. The best part, though, is that drinking Bulletproof Coffee gives me a great jolt of energy and mental clarity and focus.
  4. Prayer and mindfulness. This is where, in the words of Brother Lawrence, I “practice the presence” of Jesus. I'm listening for what he has to say to me today.
  5. Execute the Morning Reading Process. I'm currently reading nine books simultaneously, and I have written about this process recently. If you'd like to know more about how I managed to read as many as 40 books in a week, refer to this post. Quickly, though, I start by reading the Bible, then a devotional, and follow that up with some kind of theological work. Then I read a chapter in each of the other books I'm currently working through.
  6.  Write in my journal. I use the journaling app Day One, a template for each station journal entry that I adapted from one Michael Hyatt wrote about his blog, and usually spend only about 15 minutes journaling. The template is key. Before, whenever I attempted to Journal, I felt as though it was some sort of “artsy crafty” thing and really couldn't get into it. Having a template gives me an intentional set of data and/or thoughts that I want to record each day, and makes the journaling process as easy as filling in the blanks. It also means that later in life, when I refer back to this journal, it will have context and meaning.
  7. Plan my day. I still plan my day the night before. Planning tomorrow is the last activity I will do today. However, I have found it is extremely useful to review that plan at this step in my morning routine. I often end up changing the plan, because I have a fresh perspective on the day. While I am a big proponent of David Allen's GTD methodology, I'm afraid I still use a daily task list. I know GTD devotees will be disappointed to hear this, but this is what works for me. Years ago, I learned the “6 Most Important Things” to-do list method from Earl Nightingale (if memory serves correctly.) Robert Plank and Lance Tamashiro teach a system they call “4 Daily Tasks”, which I think is a better refinement of Nightingale's original idea. I simply make a list of “5 Things”. Each day, I have 5 things I want to accomplish, no matter what else happens. I start with number 1 and don't work on anything else until that is done. Then I move to number 2, and so on until I get to number 5. Once I've completed number 5, I am free to do whatever I want for the rest of the day. The key to making the system work is to make sure that they really are 5 “things”, and not 5 “projects”.
  8. Exercise.  By this time it is around 8 AM. At least four days out of the week, but ideally seven, I either go to the gym or hit the road for 40 minutes of physical exercise. It's good for your body,  it's good for your brain, and it's good for your emotional well-being. If I don't do it at this point in my day, it becomes much less likely that I will do it at all.
  9. Start working on my “5 Things.” Once upon a time, I wrote my 5 Things on a whiteboard, and at the end of the day would take a photo with my iPhone of the 5 Things crossed out. These days I use the Post-it note system I described in the Tip of the Week. I admit that I still cross off the items… but I don't take a picture. I just throw the Post-Its away.
  10.  Stop working at 3 PM. This is more of a goal than it is a reality as of this writing. This represents a big change in my modus operandi. But having a hard stop at the end of the day, and making it this early, give me the freedom to engage in other activities that are important to me that otherwise get shortchanged by work.

That's my morning routine, and how transitions into the rest of my productivity protocol for the day. It's a new revision, I just started working this routine, and I will update you let you know how it's going somewhere down the line (if you're interested.)

What To Do Now

If you enjoy the podcast, I would consider it a great favor if you subscribe (and leave a review) in iTunes. This helps new people discover the show. You can also find the podcast on Stitcher.

Question:   What is your morning routine, and is it time to reengineer it? Click here to leave your comments.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Ray,

    Thanks for the extended discussion of “hyper grace” with Frank Viola.

    You should take comfort in the fact that you’re being lumped in with the apostle Paul, who scandalized others with his teaching of grace (Romans 6:1).

    • Bud,

      Thank you brother. You have been a great support in this area, and while I don’t compare myself to Paul, I am encouraged by him. 🙂

  • My mornings are pretty routine:
    5am up and make coffee.
    Read my Bible and pray until 6.
    6 Create my daily plan ( I use the A-1 List method I learned from Dave Ramsey) and then I start working a morning ritual of process email (I only check email once per day now), I check in on Social Media and comment here or there (again, only once per day now). And then I do this…comment on blogs. (Except every other Wednesday, like today, my morning is off pushed back because I’m in a Mastermind group that meets via Google Hangout every other week).
    8 am, breakfast with my wife and kids.
    9 am, back to work for the day until 6, ( I have lunch with the family at noon).

    I would love to end my day earlier, but with a day job and a dream job…I need to push it like this.

    Thanks for sharing Ray.

    • They say “birds of a feather flock together.” I should have figured you’d be a Ray Edwards listener/reader. I began listening about a month ago, and I’m hooked! Great and highly valuable content here!

      That mastermind group sounds pretty interesting. 😉 I’m sure you bring tons of value to the group!

      Actually, I think I heard Ray mention your name one episode when you rated the podcast on iTunes.

      • HaHa…that’s right. Find the best, and learn from them. Ray has been an amazing inspiration. He did mention my name, I’m totally copying the idea…we are recording our next Podcast episode today…and we are going to start mentioning names from iTunes…and Facebook commenters. You’re on that list…thanks for that.

        • Awesome!

          • Just as an aside, guys, doing that one simple thing (thanking people for rating the podcast in iTunes) has dramatically boosted our ranking. It’s amazing what gratitude can do.

    • There are different seasons in our lives, and some seasons involve “pushing”. Thanks for being part of our community Eric.

  • Kathleen Thompson

    There is so much to say about this fantastic episode. I’ll just leave it to one comment: I LOVE the post-it note system. As someone who works in Technology, I am a firm believer in using technology when it makes sense, and using other means when they make sense. I like the blend of Evernote, Nozbe, GTD, and post-it notes.
    Blessings, Kathleen

    • Coming from a master of technology like you, that means a lot to me Kathleen!

  • Kathleen Thompson

    OK – I have a second comment. I used a short-form of the copy-writing outline you showed above when creating a flyer for a class that I am teaching. It is MUCH better than the last one I designed. Can’t wait to see how it translates into people signing up. Thanks again, Ray.

    • Great! Be sure and let us know how it goes…

  • Love the morning routine, Ray. Bulletproof coffee and MCT oil. I’m checking it out as I’ve always wanted to be bulletproof. 🙂 Thanks again for having me on. Honored.

    • Frank, baseball fan here. Do people ever confuse you with the former MLB pitcher, who was MVP in the 1987 World Series? The entire time I was listening that thought kept popping in my head, “is that Frank Viola…the pitcher???”

      Anyway, this was great stuff you shared in this episode. Thanks for sharing! I’m looking forward to checking out your site, and all the other content you offer.

    • It was my privilege Frank. I’ve gotten so many great responses to your interview, thanks for being a guest.

  • Good stuff Ray! Thanks for sharing.

    I have to say I had heard of “Ray Edwards” many times in the past, from some of my favorite people online, but until recently (the past 30 days or so), I had never listened to your podcast, or read any blog posts. BOY, was that a big mistake!

    I absolutely love your podcast. In fact, it is probably one of my favorites. I honestly can’t think of another podcast I’d choose to listen to ahead of yours.

    I am in the process of re-engineering my morning routine. Mine has been very similar to yours, but I’m trying to figure out a way to include working out with my wife 6 days per week. I also want toadd journal writing (consistently). And the biggest challenge are getting up early enough so I can get all or most of my routine out of the way before our 4-year old and 8-year-old sons wake up (usually between 6:30-7:30am). That probably would require me to wake up at 4am…I’m not opposed to that, but that is no easy task.

    Anyway, I have one question.

    Is eating included in your morning routine?

    I thought I missed that while listening this morning, but I don’t see it here in the show notes.

    • LOL, good point Jackie. Yes, eating is definitely part of my routine!

    • Robert Plank

      If you are drinking bulletproof coffee in the morning then you shouldn’t need to eat until lunch.

  • Paolo_Sini

    Another great podcast, Ray.

    I liked your “super simple copywriting outline”. I think I will adapt and use it as a template for my “how to” blog posts.


  • Shane Black

    Thanks for sharing Ray. I always enjoy finding out about other peoples routines, especially morning ones. I have been trying the following routine for the past month and have quite enjoyed it, although with a 1.5 year old son, it doesn’t always go to plan.

    5:00 am – Wake up, Have Water & Coffee
    5:15 am – Journal. I also use Day One and love it
    5:30 am – Meditate
    5:45 am – Breakfast
    6:00 am – Spend time with my son
    6:30 am – Go for a walk. (I visit the gym later in the day)
    7:00 am – Get ready
    7:15 am – Emails
    7:30 am – Social media, Blogs, Forums
    8:00 am – Start work for the day. Normally with some easier tasks followed by some writing.

    Ideally I would have reading in here but that’s become a bit hard with my son of a morning so now I do that during the day.

  • Ray,

    Awesome podcast… as always.

    One thing missing from the description of your day…. what time do you shoot for as “bed time”? With you getting up between 4:00 and 5:00 am, I would love to know what your target bed time is.

  • Vicente Cotto

    Hi Ray, great blog!!! This was by far my favorite podcast so far. I’ve listen to over 15 of them so far. I’m playing catch up. 😉

    Thank you for doing such an amazing job sharing your knowledge and experience. I have picked up at least 1 tip, hack or idea from every single podcast. I subscribed on itunes and I’m working Stitcher like crazy. (Great tip! You sound great at 1.5x speed.)

    Looking forward to learning and growing with you. Count me in as 1 of the 1000 Kingdom Millionaires your touching.

    God bless,

    Vicente Cotto
    U.S. Virgin Islands