How to Start Your Day off Right

Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.
— Paul J. Meyer

One quality that sets apart the super-productive from many others around them is their morning rituals. The things that these people do each morning set the tone for their day and help them to maximize their focus and productivity.

Of course, there is no particular list of foods and activities that all industrious and successful people subscribe to. What we do know, however, is that nearly every one of these men and women have one that they follow religiously.

While I do not include myself in the above category of success, I do work hard each day towards that goal. Part of what I do each day (or at least on a scheduled basis throughout my week) is to follow a regimen of prescriptive activities that guide how I start my mornings and get each day off right.

  1. Follow a regular routine – My days end each night at about midnight. I shoot for six hours of sleep a night, so in most cases I am up at 6:00. My body has become conditioned to this scheduled so even on days where I don’t have an alarm set, my biological clock kicks in. This is important because our bodies perform best when they are able to adapt to a regular, comfortable schedule.  
  2. Pray – The first thing that I do each day after waking is to pray. This frames my mind about something that I care deeply about (God and spirituality) and gives meaning to everything in my day that follows. Many people use time each morning to meditate and/or to contemplate their purpose and direction. (It may be tempting to skip this step in order to get to the brass tacks. But people of all backgrounds and faiths maintain that there is deep power in prayer/meditation/thought. Even a small investment here can make a huge impact in your motivation and drive to succeed.)
  3. Exercise – Upon return from prayer I jump into an exercise regimen. This gets my heart pumping and my blood flowing, greatly reducing my need for morning coffee consumption.
  4. Eat right – After I work out I go for a lean, power-packed breakfast. This includes fruit and whole grain cereal. (I do indulge on occasion in (French) toast, pancakes and other breakfast yummies on occasion. Too often, I come to regret it.)
  5. Drink often – I keep a few bottles of water at my desk to ensure that I am getting enough throughout the day. The short bathroom breaks also help to get me moving and refocus upon my return.
  6. Set a to-do list – I work with two lists, a weekly list that I develop over the weekend and a daily list that I craft in the morning. I set goals each day and review them often to make sure that I remain on track. I also set reminders on my phone to attend to particular things at specific times, such as calling clients or attending to other time-sensitive tasks.
  7. Think sprint… and marathon – Mornings are just the beginning of a long, hopefully productive day. You ought to be thinking sprint (how can I get a bunch of things done quickly) and marathon how can I establish a sustainable pace that will keep me going into the mid-afternoon and beyond. Often, this includes taking a power nap for a few minutes during the day when I start to hit a lull.


For the less scripted among us, rituals may seem stifling and boring. Do you really want to do the same thing every single morning? Can’t we enjoy a break every now and again? The answer, of course, is no (for most people) and yes. The beauty of these rituals, however, is that they allow for some variation while still keeping us focused on the essentials that drive us forward.

Remember to make it (and every day) a great day!

What are your rituals? How do they help you succeed? Share your secrets in the comments section below or shoot me an email.

Naphtali Hoff, PsyD, became an executive coach and organizational consultant following a career as an educator and school administrator. Read his blog at Get a free chapter of his new book, Becoming the New Boss, by clicking here.