Good enough - Morning routine
Even if you have your principles pretty fleshed out, we all have 24 hours a day – a woefully short amount. So, any recurring habits or practices that cost time have to be prioritized even more ruthlessly.
The morning routine is a classic, as it's often when someone has the highest store of willpower and can set the precedent for the rest of the day. I have tried a number of different things, but here is the routine I ended up with. Timing is at the top, with deeper details and playlists below. Overall, it’s aimed to be the most optimal 60 minutes I can have from waking up to starting my work.
Morning routine (60 minutes):
Meditation (9 minutes)
Yoga (6 minutes)
HIIT Workout (9 minutes)
Start audiobook (0 minutes)
Shower (10 minutes)
Eat/vitamins (5 minutes)
Dress (3 minutes)
Brush teeth (2 minutes)
Bike to work (14 minutes)
Set up my workspace/Fill out happiness tracking (1 minute)
Email someone with a positive or social email (1 minute)
So, the routine’s order is as important as its components, and all tasks follow a theme of building energy to hit work with the max force. Sometimes (~5% of the time) I trade the first 30 minutes of this routine for extra sleep. Most other workdays (6 days a week) I do it fully.
I will have a full two-pager for meditation, so I won’t go into the overwhelming evidence that it helps with an insane number of areas. I will instead focus on how to get it to work more practically for a tightly timed routine. For the first 3 elements of my morning, I have created a playlist that can easily be played from a phone and automatically moves onto the next step. There are a number of pretty great meditation applications. Waking Up worked uniquely well for me, but I think what matters more is what clicks for you vs. the specific software or even type of meditation. One thing I do differently is really focus on the core of meditation instead of the signaling around it. I do not sit with a straight back or on a special cushion. Any set-up where you do not fall asleep works (although if you cannot lie down in the dark for 10 minutes without falling asleep, it’s a good sign you are not getting enough sleep). The goal is that it works and is easy to do. As you build experience, you can always add time (I often do a 30-minute meditation at the end of the day, but the morning practice is far more consistent, in part due to its ease). If you hate meditation (as I did for many years before getting into the habit consistently), you can substitute it with listening to 10 minutes of people talking about its benefits. After a while, this will encourage you to do the action itself. The Waking Up application has some good content for this as well, although it does not fit onto a playlist as nicely.
For meditation, I do not even get out of the bed, but for yoga I have to. Stretching in the morning is a pretty common and pleasurable activity. Doing it right after meditation keeps you in the same mindset. The yoga on my playlist is quite light, even for people not that physically active, and is the right length to feel noticeable but take almost no time. Yoga has a slightly more mixed bag of evidence compared to meditation, but in synthesis it looks quite good and smooths the transition to the next step. Like meditation, I also do once a week yoga classes that push far harder than this morning routine, but the latter is the more reliable source.
This is a 7-minute body-weight-based workout. It covers a pretty insane amount of ground. That high-intensity workouts (HIITs) are good per time spent is very well known. However, this unique one is very easy to do without any start-up cost, and the music adds a flow-inducing, predictable element. After the yoga, you will feel more body-ready to do a HIIT workout even early in the morning. It is the same 7-minute workout, it just takes slightly longer due to the breaks in between.
Want to know how to read a ton of books? Build it into your routine. During the next 30 minutes, I am tuned in to the best non-fiction writers as I do the other steps in the process. This time alone gives you about 20 books to read a year. If you listen at x2 speed and also listen on your travel time home, it easily gets you past a book a week. I listen to books at x2–3.5 speed, depending on the author speaking, and consume even monster books as though they are nothing. It takes time to get to that speed, and some might get capped at some point, but I think almost everyone can get to x2 speed. Books are often pretty low content density, so x2 speed is more possible than it would be for articles.
Hopefully I do not need to justify a shower too much, but after a workout and a sleep, almost everyone will need a shower. This presents a good time to listen to your audiobook. I might make a video at some point about how to optimize that too, and why I use a towel that is 1/8th the size of what most people use.
Dress well/brush teeth
I have a video on how to optimize tooth health, so the details are there. I will write about dressing at some point, but long story short, a casual non-iron blue button up and black dress pants work for an outrageous number of situations for a male.
First I take a multi micronutrient vitamin made to cover some of the gaps of my diet identified using Cronometer (paying extra and trading off some nutrient power for the vitamin being both tasty and incredibly time-effective is worth it for me, but I have also used a pillbox and custom sets for the majority of my life). Then I start on a huge 1.5L bottle of flavored water mixed with creatine. Breakfast is a rotation of oatmeal or dry multi-grain cereal. Neither are that exciting, but both create no dishes and are quick and cost-effective. I round that out with an apple, they come in packs of 6 and I can eat one in the time it takes me to walk from my 6th floor (I always take the stairs down and 75% of the time up) apartment to the trash can just outside the building.
Bike to work
There is strong evidence that biking or walking to work gives significant health and happiness benefits, the optimal travel time being about 11 minutes by bike. I also take considerable care when renting to map out what the bike route would be. My 15-minute commute is 11 minutes along a canal, making that part of the trip a real pleasure. I have strong views on the best bike, lock, and helmet such that it requires its own video.
Filling out happiness tracking
When I am at work, the first thing I do is fill out a spreadsheet with my happiness and productivity (from yesterday) as well as a couple hypotheses I am testing. You can see a more advanced version of this process here, but even with a simple 4-column sheet you would be surprised how many great lessons can be learned (turns out I really do need 9+ of sleep, damn!).
Send a social email
Social connectivity is such a strong factor in happiness and, like a plant, you need to water it every day. A nice email, compliment, or chat can be a great way to start the day. A nice short email can be written in a minute and really benefit all your relationships.
All that can be done in about 60 minutes if you move quickly while doing it. It’s worthwhile to plan a bit longer for the first week, but this is the sort of hour that will move up your hedonic setpoint and make you more productive than most people are over their the entire day. It’s also aimed to maximize multiple metrics: it's time-effective, happiness maximizing, cost-effective, and although not as fun as checking Facebook for the first hour, quite enjoyable with an audiobook.