The 4 Essential Elements of a Morning Routine

  • SumoMe

What do you do first thing in the morning? What’s the best way to spend the first hour of the day? How should you structure your morning routine? Okay, so I’m tackling a mammoth here. So much advice has been given on this topic from people much smarter and more successful than me. I might as well write an article about true love or the meaning of life. Nevertheless, at the risk of adding to the noise, I wanted to share how I spend my mornings. I wouldn’t call it the gold standard of morning routines, but I think it taps into the four basic needs we have as human beings…and that’s why I practice it–and perhaps why you’ll want to as well.

Successful people spend their morning routines in a variety of ways. A couple of months ago, Fast Company put out an article documenting how several successful people spend the first hour of their work day. I did a little research to discover how some of the people I admire leverage their morning routines to live more successful lives and run more successful businesses.

  • Gini Dietrich spends her mornings (after walking her dog) writing blog posts, reading blogs, checking her social networks, and checking Twitter.
  • Anthony Iannarino, on of the most consistent writers I’ve ever met, starts his coffee pot at 5:15am and writes from 5:30am to 7am.
  • Scott Ginsberg (circa 2009) gets up at 4am and writes for five hours until 9am.
  • The late Stephen Covey spent his mornings in a combination of physical exercise and spiritual meditation.
  • Chris Brogan (circa 2009) spends his mornings reaching out to his communities via various social networks and communication platforms.
  • Jeff Goins spends his morning doing several maintenance tasks (eating, showering, etc.), followed by writing and reading.

So, how do I spend my mornings? Well, coincidentally, incorporates many elements of those listed above. Here are the four parts of my my morning routine and, I have come to believe, the essential parts of any morning routine.

The 4 Cs of My Morning Routine

1) Contemplate

15 Minutes of Contemplation

I get up at 4:44am (don’t ask) and grab a cup of coffee (the true first “C” of my morning routine) from my Keurig. As I’m waiting for the coffee to pour and while I’m drinking it in my personal cafe, I think about my life. I spend 15 minutes in contemplation. I don’t read anything. I don’t write anything. I simply ponder. I pray. I meditate. I think about where I’ve been, where I am, and where I’m going. I argue with myself about how to spend my day. I think about how I can help others. I ask myself if I’m being the best version of me that I can be. Starting my day with this internal dialogue is absolutely essential to me as it helps me understand myself and my role in the world. When by eight ounce cup of hot, fresh coffee is finished, I get up and move on to the next thing…

2) Consume

15 Minutes of Consumption

No, I’m not talking about breakfast. I’m talking about food for my mind. At about 5am, I open up my Google Reader and go through it, selecting five to seven articles whose headlines grab my attention. I read these articles, add the ones that I think are interesting to my Buffer, and save one or two (if they’re exceptional) to my Instapaper. These fifteen minutes are fuel for the conversations I will have throughout the day, as well as the content I will produce. In reading these few articles, I am mining the world for ideas that I can use. I read books in the evenings, but these are fresh posts. This is my news. I subscribe to over 200 websites and get much of my inspiration, information, and entertainment from the content they produce. Without the help from all of these great content producers, my mind would be an empty shell. After I finish with these articles, I move on…

3) Communicate

15 Minutes of Communication

Now, I start coming out of my “passive” mode and begin to interact with the world around me. I check my email, my Facebook notifications, my Twitter mentions, and any other communication platform I’m using at the moment. But I always send out a message of some sort. It could be a response to a message someone sent me, or it could be a message that I’m initiating. Either way, this fifteen minutes isn’t about checking an item off my list. It’s about reaching out to another human being. If my inboxes are too full and I don’t have enough time, I’ll choose sending a message over reading all of my messages. Lately, I’ve been sending a thank you note to one person each day during this time. It’s important to reach out to other people. So important, in fact, that I want to do it every morning. After my fifteen minutes of communicating, I move on to the final element of my morning routine…

4) Create

45 Minutes of Creation

At 5:30am, I begin to write. That’s my creative work. Maybe it isn’t yours. But it’s mine. I’m a writer. I write. Regardless, this time isn’t about “writing.” It’s about “working.” It’s about doing something productive that requires my intentional, creative thinking. All of my morning has built up to this. It wouldn’t be possible without the previous forty-five minutes, but the previous forty-five minutes would be pointless without it. As a matter of fact, the first half of my morning routine could be said to be a preparation for the second half. I prepare to create and then I create. That’s it. So, what do I write? I write for my blog. I write fiction. I write various manifestos that I’m working on. I write all kinds of stuff. But, again, it isn’t about checking an item off a list or finishing a project at this point. It’s simply about applying my creative powers to build something that I can offer to the world.

So there you have it. At 6:15am, I begin doing the boring stuff. I eat, I shower, I make to-do lists, etc. By 7:00am, my work day has begin and I’m ready for just about any challenge. That’s the beauty of a morning routine. When you start the day with intention, you finish it with satisfaction (Tweet This). Without my morning routine, I’m an aimless, floundering mess throughout the day. With it, though, I feel as if I can fly.

So, again, the elements that work for me and that I think you might want to fit into your morning somehow are….

  1. Contemplation: Pray, medidate, and think about your life.
  2. Consumption: Read something. Watch something. Listen to something. Learn something.
  3. Communication: Interact with other people. Write a letter. Make a call. Anything. Just reach out.
  4. Creation: Do the work that matters. Build something that you can leave behind. You’re an artist. Make your art.

Take care and may your mornings set the pace for amazing days that become an amazing life!


"I might as well write an article about true love or the meaning of life." That made me laugh out loud!


I like that you limit your consumption and communication to 15 minutes. I should do that, too. Sometimes I get sucked into the vortex and look up an hour later.

douglaserice moderator

@ginidietrich I wish I could say that I'm immune to the vortex but, alas, I've been sucked a time or two myself ;-D