I love the morning magical time. It’s my favorite time of day – before dawn when most of the city is still snug in bed.

This morning I hopped out of bed at 4:45am, feeling happy to start another adventurous day. By 7am this morning, I had done the following:

  • Ran 5 miles / 8 kilometers
  • Did 12,000 steps
  • Listened to 4 hours of The Art of Possibility audiobook (100 minutes x 2.5 speed)
  • Did 15 minutes of yoga with a little meditation at the end
  • Made a green smoothie (1 banana, 6 mandarin oranges, spinach, celery, blueberries, maca, dehydrated barley grass juice, chia seeds, hemp seeds, water)
  • Mopped the kitchen floor (well… assigned a robot to do it)
  • Started some steel cut oats cooking (I love the InstantPot!)
  • Dreamed up an idea for a new course / launch

Afterwards I reviewed my goals, and now I’m sipping the smoothie and writing this blog post while the oatmeal is cooking and the robot is diligently cleaning the kitchen floor.

Caffeine isn’t part of my day by the way, nor is chocolate, caffeinated teas, or other stimulants. That would just slow me down.

When I was 20 years old, this is what my morning would have looked like (sometimes all the way to noon and beyond):

  • Zzzzzzzz
  • Yawn
  • Zzzzzzzz

Then I’d drag myself out of bed and start my day very sluggishly. It would take me at least an hour or two just to feel awake enough to function much at all. Then the rest of the day would be a blur, with the main decisions being figuring out what to eat. My biggest accomplishment of the day would be going for a long walk. At least I liked to walk.

What made the difference? Really it came down to a decision. I decided I didn’t want to live like that first person anymore. I didn’t want his life or his results – because they sucked! It was a boring, low energy, depressing way to live. And I decided that I could change that.

When I would read about highly productive people and their morning routines, I was envious at first, but their routines also seemed unreachable for me. Still, I felt attracted to having an empowering morning routine and starting my day with high energy. It took a long time to figure out what works best for me. I experimented a lot.

A solid cardio workout is such an essential part of my routine because of the benefits it produces. What many people don’t realize is that cardio exercises the brain, not just the body. It makes your brain and your mind stronger. See the Mental Benefits of Cardio video for more details on that. A good minimum is 45 minutes per day.

Running 5 miles (8K) to start my day is a stretch for me. I’m used to running closer to 3 miles (5K) on a normal basis. But it feels so much better to stretch myself. The feeling isn’t 60-70% better, relative to the mileage increase. It’s more like 3x better. Running farther than usual creates a disproportionate boost in mood and energy above the baseline.

Nailing an empowering morning routine sets you up for a strong day. It’s wonderful to know that you’ve accomplished something meaningful during those first couple of hours.

I’m not in competition with anyone here. I compare my results to where I’ve been. My past self is the baseline, and as I generate new past selves, I develop new baselines. Presently I’m pushing myself to surpass my old baseline from earlier this year.

I especially like the combo of audiobooks and running. It’s nice to go through an audiobook every few days without having to take any extra time. Maybe you won’t retain every idea as well this way, but it still helps.

That app in the lower left of my Apple Watch screen (with the number 3 in the middle of a circle) is Nozbe. If I get a cool idea while running, I can tap that app and record a quick voice message that will go into my capture system as text. So if I do catch a cool idea from an audiobook while running, I send it into my system while on the road, and then I can decide if I want to turn it into something actionable later that day.

What’s the best morning routine you’ve ever had in your life? Are you at least using that as your baseline today? Now what are you doing to surpass it? Just because it’s good doesn’t mean you should settle. How could you make it even more kickass?

My morning routine works well for me. It’s energizing and mood-boosting. But it could be better, so I’ll keep tinkering with it and improving it over time. There is no reason to settle for good enough.