3 Science-Backed Morning Routines ☀️

According to a new poll, the majority of adults say they’re at their best in the morning. And while most of us have heard those morning routines are important, let’s take a quick look at a couple of reasons why.

Dog stretching good morning GIF

Q: Why bother to take the time to craft a perfect morning routine?

A: Because morning routines maximize mental energy!

The research the University of Southern California, shows that “[w]hen it comes to doing cognitive work, most adults perform best in the late morning.” 2  The benefit of a morning routine is that you don’t expend cognitive energy thinking about what you want or need to do. You just do it.

Psychologists call this automaticity. It’s the ability to do a task without occupying the mind with the details it requires.  Meanwhile, your mind is freed to maximize your peak window of cognitive function by focusing your energy on the few things that matter most.

Bedside table with alarm clock, incense, baby's breath flowers

Morning Routines Give us Momentum

Most importantly, a morning routine generates momentum. Momentum is a fundamental part of human psychology. According to the endowment effect discovered by research Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, if you’ve already started the day by moving your life forward, you have established positive momentum, and are more likely to keep doing positive things. This then is the purpose of the morning routine: You should get one “small win” to create momentum in each life domain that’s important to you. This can be as small as making your bed or reading one article on a subject that matters to you. Each small win creates powerful momentum you’ll carry with you through the whole day.

GIF of contents in a cup of coffee

Rise Early

Rising early allows us to face the day with proactivity. As noted in the Harvard Business Review: “One theory is that morning people are more proactive because getting up early gives them more time to prepare for the day. If that’s true, then increasing your morningness might improve your proactivity... Studies show that conscientiousness is also associated with morningness. Perhaps proactivity grows out of conscientiousness.”

Additionally, a study done at DePaul University discovered that those who rise early are much less likely to procrastinate: “Proneness toward behavioral (but not decisional) procrastination was significantly related to number of activities performed in the evening. Together, these studies suggest that procrastinators may be ‘late starters’ who prefer to engage in daily activities later in the day than early in the morning.”

Finally, an in-depth study regarding sleep effectiveness found that those who rise early achieve a much better quality sleep than those who work late into the night. This in turn leads to optimal performance the next day. All the reason for us to set the alarm just a bit earlier.

And on another point, there's simply LESS people out there in the AM.  


With our phones constantly buzzing, meditation allows us to unplug and center ourselves

American Journal of Psychiatry reported that meditation had a significant positive effect on those who suffer from anxiety disorders. They note that “repeated measures analyses of variance documented significant reductions in anxiety and depression scores after treatment for 20 of the subjects–changes that were maintained at follow-up.

Graphic design of the human mind as a pool

Second, meditation has been shown to enhance creativity. A recent study revealed that there is a distinct positive correlation between “focused attention” (a.k.a. meditation) and divergent thinking, which is the ability to generate a significant variety of discrete ideas.

Finally, meditation has been proven to promote the ability to focus on a particular item without getting distracted. 

Inhale-exhale meditation analogy graphic

"Mental training” such as meditation allows you to have increased control over your limited focus. So if you’re looking to set a foundation of calm and focus for the day, it might be adding meditation to your morning routine.

Begin with Essentialism (so hot rn)

This is THE hot topic of the moment with the buzziest book in start-up circles. You can't walk into a strategy discussion without this word popping up. Essentialism begins with questions like the famous Steve Jobs quote, “If today were the last day of my life, would I do what I’m about to do?

In his book Essentialism, Greg McKeown puts it this way. “It is about making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to operate at our highest point of contribution by doing only what is essential.”

Table of attributes of non-essentialists and essentialists

To dig into the science of things, our brains perform best when it is focused on one single task, and essentialism helps us do that. When an MRI was taken of participants given a singular task to complete, both halves of their brains worked together. But when a second task was added, the right half of the brain took care of the first task, while the left half took care of the other.

That resulted in both sides working independently, each chasing their own goal and reward. Instead of one brain, at full power, working on one task you now have two less powerful brain halves, spending shorter periods of time on more tasks.

Hand-drawn comic about essentialism

Starting our morning routines with a mindset of essentialism helps us to focus our whole brains on the few tasks that really matter to us.

Graphic of clock and simplify-amplify text