I was recently reminded of how incredibly important a morning routine is to personal productivity. Over the last two months, I skipped my morning routine and noticed I was having trouble focusing throughout the rest of my day. You might even say I got stuck–my writing was sporadic and several projects stalled.

In the last 2 weeks, I restarted my morning routine and have noticed a surge in my productivity. Here are 7 ideas to start a morning routine that will help you get focused and increase your productivity.

  1. Start small.

    Not everyone has uninterrupted time to devote to a morning routine each morning. Instead of getting overwhelmed, my recommendation is to start with one thing. Maybe you wake up 10 minutes early so you can meditate for 5 minutes each morning.

  2. Slowly add in a new routine each week.

    Once you get settled with your first routine (e.g., meditation), try adding another 5 minute activity. Journaling about what you’re grateful for, or how you will make your day productive, are excellent ways to set a positive focus for your day.

    Other activities that can be broken down into 5-to-20 minute chunks include:
    Jogging / Running
    Enjoying breakfast with family

  3. Use the 20-20-20 approach.

    Author Steve Scott writes about breaking your routine into 3 chunks. This is how I’ve approached my new routine:
    20 min reading+treadmill walking,
    20 min journaling/meditation,
    20 min light exercise

    I like the discrete chunks–easy to remember. My phone functions as a timer.

    I enjoy starting off my day by getting my body active–grabbing a coffee, walking on my treadmill and reading quality non-fiction (currently Drive by Daniel Pink). Since I live in a Northern U.S. city, I also use a sun lamp during my morning routine to give me some much needed day light exposure.

    3 Most Important Tasks

    3 Most Important Tasks

  4. Focus your day by writing down your 3 Most Important Tasks (MIT).

    One of my favorite ways to get focused for the day ahead of me is to write down my 3 most important tasks. These are 3 priorities that contribute to my strategic goals. For example, if I am working on a new book, I will set a word count goal for the day. If I have an important work project, I will write down the next step that can move it forward.The idea isn’t to list a long to-do list of tasks–that can be overwhelming. Rather, the point is to focus your time on the few strategic items that will really move you forward. Personally, I like to knock these out early in my day if possible. Sometimes that means waking up earlier, or dedicating time first thing during my evening.

  5. Write down your morning routine and post it somewhere visible.

    A key principle of agile project management (I’m a huge fan) is to keep your work visible. I’m certainly a visual thinker, so I post a simple sticky note that lists out my routine. Another idea is to schedule a calendar appointment for yourself every day at the same time listing out the activities you will do each morning as part of your routine.

  6. Find short YouTube workout videos.

    Incorporating a workout into your morning routine can be a great time-saver. I’ve long maintained that there’s no need to join a gym and spend hours there each week–there are many simple free-or-body weight exercises that you can do at home. A great way to start is by searching YouTube. There are many exercise phone apps available as well.

    Because I’ve been experiencing some muscle pain lately, I’ve started doing light yoga and stretching as part of my routine. I use free 15-minute YouTube videos that I watch on my phone. I like the portability of being able to watch it anywhere…

  7. Continue your morning routine even when you travel.

    I have business travel coming up and I fully intend to continue my morning routine while on the road. I believe it’s especially important to focus your mental energy while you travel because a routine can keep you energized and help you stay positive. Let’s face it, business travel isn’t always glamorous, and can be exhausting. You need to stay strong mentally and physically–pushing forward with your morning routine.

If you’re experiencing a feeling of being stuck–whether personally, professionally, or creatively–consider the power of starting a morning routine. Good luck and enjoy!