3 important habits for productive morning routines

23 March 2021

Morning routines are essential for supporting you to have a productive and energy-filled day. Gopiha Nandagopal from Student Psychological and Counselling Services has done lots of research for her own morning routine, and has three important habits to support you.

A hand holding a steaming mug of coffee

Ever since reading The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod, I’ve been inspired to set up my own morning routine. Being a night owl, I tended to work best in the evenings, but I noticed that increasingly as my energy levels dwindled, I was working later and later on shallow and unimportant tasks - and my productivity was flat lining.

I started to imagine how amazing it would be to wake up energised each morning, whilst the world was sound asleep, and give my most productive hours wholeheartedly to the very things that would help me to get closer to achieving my own personal goals.

But that’s the thing; my morning routine continued to stay in my imagination as I rushed about with long commutes and balancing the early morning demands of a busy household. I was constantly in reaction mode, playing catch up with competing requests on my time and the things that were important to me were left to the end of the day, when I was too exhausted to do them, so they got pushed to the end of week, then end of the month… you know where I’m going with this.

That’s until everything came to a grinding halt, as the whole world went into pandemic lockdown, I thought to myself, right it’s either now or never to transition from a night owl to an early bird. So, I launched myself into a whole load of research, and I’ve summarised for you the three most effective strategies that have helped me to make progress with my morning routine.

1. The 5 Second Rule

“If you have an impulse to act on a goal, you must physically move within 5 seconds or your brain will kill the idea.” - Mel Robbins

Being a serial snooze button hitter, I really struggled with getting up earlier. Mel Robbins a well renowned motivational speaker, and in her book The 5 Second Rule, introduces a super simple way of turning our intention into action.

Just pretend that NASA is in the room with you, count down 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and when you get to 1, launch yourself into action, be it jumping out of bed, speaking up at a tutorial, putting your idea forward at a meeting, whatever it is that you want to do, count down and just do it.

When we have those moments of micro hesitation, our brain will hijack our intention to step out of our comfort zone. Robbins explains that it’s not enough to know what to do or why we need to do it; we need something that will help us to move from thought into a state of action.

2. Keep it consistent

Of course, we want to keep our morning routines interesting so that we are motivated to get up and want to do these activities. However, to enable these to become habits, we need to keep our morning routine consistent each day. Even with the time that we wake up, we want to try to keep it the same every day, so that we develop the ability to do it on auto-pilot.

3. Plan ahead

We’re all able to muster up a limited amount of willpower and decision-making ability every day. That’s why we want to aim to have our morning routine to-do list done the evening before, so that we can make the best use of our energy and time.

Science writer Jennifer Ackerman looked into the impact of our circadian rhythm on our productivity. In her research, she found that the brain is most alert between 2.5 to 4 hours after waking up. So, this is when it’s going to be the best at difficult and complex tasks, and we want to use these productive hours for those tasks that are important to us. 

Brendon Burchard, a leading high performance coach, explains a way of putting together effective to-do lists, he calls it Project Planning.

“Write out the steps that it’s going to take—especially the big steps—to accomplish your different projects, with a timeline for each of them, and then work backwards from that point to create tomorrow’s to-do lists.” - Brendon Burchard


To round up, as much as it’s important to work on getting up earlier, keep our routines consistent and plan ahead, we need to remember that every good morning routine is backed up by a good evening routine. It’s vital to get enough rest and sleep to avoid burnout.

Also, as much as we want structure, it’s important to include flexibility in our routines, pockets of time that we can use to fall back on if things don’t always go according to plan.

If you’re interested in finding out more on becoming an early bird, check out Eric Barker’s article on morning routines.

References and further reading

Elrod, H. (2016) The Miracle Morning: The 6 Habits That Will Transform Your Life Before 8am. Great Britain: Hodder & Stoughton

Robbins, M. (2017) The 5 Second Rule: Transform your Life, Work, and Confidence With Everyday Courage. Savio Republic: Post Hill Press

Buchard, B. Overcoming Procrastination.

Gopiha Nandagopal, Senior Executive Officer, Student Psychological and Counselling Services