What is the perfect morning routine? Here are 9 steps that set me up to crush each day


If you asked me 10 years ago what my morning routine was, I would have looked at you with a blank stare and answered something along the lines of ‘Alarm goes off, get up, shower and head to work’.

That was before I started to educate myself about the benefits of winning the morning to win the day.

Crafting my morning routine started by working out in the morning instead of after work, in the days when I was still practicing as a property lawyer. My workouts were getting more and more infrequent after work as I put in longer shifts in the office, so I thought ‘fuck that, I’ll just get up an hour earlier.’

And that was that.

That was the one and only step that comprised my morning routine for another 5 years. Working out in the morning, showering, having breakfast and then heading off on my commute.

The foundations of my morning routine

Then two things happened in 2016 that radically changed my approach.

I traveled to Guilin, China for a business and personal development retreat. One requirement on the retreat was waking up at 5am every day for personal reflection sessions followed by exercise.

We were also encouraged to sit in silence for periods of time throughout the retreat and to go on mindfulness walks around the resort.

These two practices provided me with a framework to start my day, and I liked it.

When I got back from the retreat, I continued setting my alarm at 5am to start my day and someone recommended Headspace to develop a daily mindfulness meditation practice.

In the space of a couple of weeks, the foundations for my perfect morning routine started to take shape.

Wake up at 5am, meditate and workout.

I’m not sure where the cold showers came from, they might have been suggested on the retreat as well, but they were quickly added to my routine.

I started 2016 by working out in the morning before following the same pattern I’d done for years - shower, eat and go to work (by this time I was running my cleaning business).

By the end of 2016, I was waking up at 5am, meditating, working out and having a cold shower. I was feeling calmer, less stressed and more refreshed at the start of the day.

Testing 21 early days

For the next couple of years, very little changed with my morning routine and I was quite happy with the effects it was having on my wellbeing.

The only thing I tried to adjust was my wake-up time. I listened to a podcast that mentioned the 21 early days challenge. In my newfound spirit of discovery, I gave it a go.

The premise of the challenge was to get up every day at 4.30am and watch how life-changing events unfold in the quiet time before the world wakes up. Well, you are part of the world anyway.

The 4.30am wake-up call over the course of the 21 days was quite a stretch, even though it was only half an hour earlier than my normal wake up. The trouble was that I didn’t change my bedtime routine and I was still going to bed around midnight, which made getting up at 4.30am even harder.

Nevertheless, I stuck with my 4.30am alarm for about 6 months before switching back to a 5am wake-up.

I’ve since learned a lot more about sleep and our sleep routines as humans, and I think one of the reasons why the 4.30am wake up was a challenge, was down to the fact that I was waking up halfway through a 90 minute sleep cycle, while I was in deep sleep, which is the hardest sleep phase to wake up from.

I tried to implement a 4.30am wake up again this year after getting excited listening to Jocko Wilink on The Drive podcast with Peter Attia. In this particular episode, Jocko was describing his morning and evening routine and how he religiously gets up at 4.30am after going to bed at 11am.

I tried this for a couple of weeks before admitting defeat and coming to the understanding that waking up at 5am is my sweet spot.

Building on the foundations

In 2018 I spent 5 days with Tony Robbins at Unleash the Power Within. Firewalk anyone?

That event was a second game-changer for me, as it introduced me to Wim Hof and his breathing method.

Wim Hof created The Wim Hof Method, which is a recognized cold therapy and breathing technique that has a number of benefits. After seeing him on stage at Tony Robbins, I booked myself onto a workshop hosted by one of his instructors, so that I could utilize the method properly.

The Wim Hof Method is now firmly entrenched in my morning routine, and one of my goals is to join Wim Hof on one of his weekend retreats in Holland to further deepen my practice.

I also started to incorporate drinking a glass or two of water as soon as I woke up. Why?

When we wake up in the morning, we’re dehydrated after spending 6,7,8 hours asleep. During the day, we probably drink some sort of fluid every couple of hours. Therefore, it makes sense to rehydrate as soon as you wake up to bring the body back into homeostasis, rather than leaving it dehydrated as you start your day.

The finishing touches to my morning routine

As we went into lockdown in 2020, I was taking a greater interest in Stoic philosophy, after reading The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday and listening to his Daily Stoic podcast every day.

For some reason, in April 2020 there seemed to be a recurring theme about journalling in his podcasts, so I decided to give it a go. I’ve not looked back since.

Journaling has been the one practice that has caused the biggest and most significant change in my life over the last couple of years. Self-reflection is a powerful tool, and there is nothing more patient than paper for your thoughts.

I’ve tried different methods of journaling, from freehand to one line a day journaling and journaling with prompts.

My current practice includes The Bullet Journal Method, the 5 Minute Journal, and The Daily Stoic journal, each with its own benefits.

Over the last couple of years I’ve also incorporated a 20-minute morning learning practice into my routine, prompted by Robin Sharma’s The 5am Club. I’ve joined platforms like Mindvalley, Optimize and Evercoach for my learning fix.

Towards the end of 2021, I injured my back. I’m a tall guy and have always had problems with my back, but this time the injury was so innocuous it made me pay attention.

I sat down. That’s how I injured my back. This was on a Saturday. Monday morning I was at the chiropractor's and for the next couple of weeks, I was on YouTube trying out different combinations of stretching, flexibility, and mobility routines to help loosen up my back.

That’s how my morning mobility routine was incorporated into my morning. 10 minutes of movement, which focus on my lower and upper back, calves, glutes, hamstrings, quads, and the rest of my core.

Starting this routine has helped me become more flexible, increased my overall mobility, and helped me protect my back as I take on more weight-bearing exercises.

9 Steps to my Perfect Morning Routine

If you ask me what the perfect morning routine looks like right now, my answer would go something like this:

  • Wake up at 5 am and put on my Apple Watch, which triggers the rest of my morning routine
  • Drink 2 glasses of water
  • Practice 1-2 rounds of the Wif Hoff breathing method
  • 10-minute sun salutation and morning mobility routine
  • Workout for up to an hour - a mixture of bodyweight training with a weighted vest, kettlebell, sandbag, and macebell workouts plus endurance training like running, skipping, or shadow boxing.
  • 1-minute box breathing
  • 10-20 minute meditation
  • 20 minutes journaling
  • 20 minutes of learning.

This takes me a couple of hours and I’m ready to crush the day at around 7-7.30am.