How To Completely #Unplug Your Morning Routine

Most days are abuzz with activity. Which is why you need to begin them with calm.

"Just as noise is meaningless without quiet," Fabrica CEO Dan Hill once observed, "connectivity becomes meaningless when pervasive, when it is without a few 'sanctuary spaces' as contrast."

For many, that contrast is most available in the early hours: management thinker Kevin Meyer does yoga after he gets up, Kayak cofounder Paul English makes sure to meditate, novelist Somerset Maugham thought on the first two sentences he would write while soaking in the bath tub.

The lesson? Before you join the world with your iPad at breakfast, you need to give yourself some unplugged space. Here's how.

First, rise outrageously early

Superlative executives tend to get up super early: AOL CEO Tim Armstrong and Newton Investment CEO Helena Morissey both rise by 5 a.m. (or perhaps earlier!). Why? The early-rising affords Amstrong time to work out and read, while Morissey's affords more time with the family later in the day. To learn how to get up early, consult Zen Habits.

Manage your devices

If you have an iPhone, extend the do-not-disturb time past your wakeup to add in some quiet. Alternatively, switch on airplane mode—that'll keep the noise out as you move through your routine.

Get some stillness

Try sitting still. Why? People who meditate a lot are better at introspecting—at understanding what the hell it is that's going inside of them—than people who don't. So if we want alignment between our personal and working lives—which is why the happiest people often have the hardest jobs—we'd do well to get mindful.

And get enough exercise

Few things are better for getting yourself (and your body) more primed to handle stress than exercise. To get enough of it, set up the habit. And if you're looking for stillness, mindfulness, and a bit of flexibility, doing yoga on your own or in a class is a way to start. Just 20 minutes gives your brain a boost.

Make it a easy-to-implement ritual

Technology tends to erode structure—ever forward an email before you're out of bed?—while rituals give structure. And since we're all lazy, set up your morning to be easily energizing, whether by putting your running shoes by the door or investing in an alarm clock that runs away from you. That's how you can readily get productive before you get to breakfast.

Minimize your decisions

We can clutter our early hours with menial decisions: which cereal, which socks, which exercise to do. Cut those out by making a few decisions about how you make decisions—that will lend your mornings some much-needed spaciousness.

Rise And Shine: How Top CEOs Kick Off Super-Productive Days

[Image: Flickr user Jacob Gube]

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  • Jon D. Andre

    I read three articles on FC this morning, and all three mentioned mindfulness or meditation. I feel like I was ahead of the curve, and people are starting to catch up. It's great to see it getting more accolades - if you are looking for a good resource to help you get started, check out the self-study course at (as well as their blog - insightful articles on the inner-workings of your mind).

  • Ophelie Lechat

    I recently came back to Melbourne from a trip to Canada, and those first days of jet lag were *delightful*. I woke up at 5, made a cup of tea and wrote before sunrise. I resisted the urge to nap in the afternoon, and would go to bed at 10pm instead. It was wonderful. 
    I'm (unfortunately) rid of this jet lag, but this post was a good reminder to integrate some of these habits into my life, jet lag or not.

  • RingCentral

    I must agree with all of these points, especially #1. The hardest for me to perform - working out. There just doesn't seem like there is enough time in the day. But the author is correct that having this in your regular routine is beneficial. ^Desiree

  • Molly Maloof

    It's really interesting that most of the articles I choose to read from Fast Company emails come from the same journalist. Keep up the excellent work!

  • Tyrell Mara

    Well said Drake! 

    I think you have spoken to so many critical points and laid them out in a way that allows us to give them our unique touch. I know that everyone experiences mornings a bit different but I completely agree that implementing the rituals/practices above have a huge impact! 


  • Srinivas Rao

    Love it. I always use apps that block sites like Facebook for the first 2 hours every morning and I'm usually up by 6am.