Intentional Morning Design for Health, Happiness, and Productivity

January 21, 2023

3 min read

Having a good start in the morning makes so much difference later in the day. Let's take good practices for productivity and health and apply them to our mornings to make the most out of this part of the day. However, instead of optimizing the first hour after waking, let's focus on a more significant period and explore activities to prioritize during the first quarter of the day.

Morning could be a productive period for you, and you might want to spend most of it working, so let's pick habits that don't require much time but have a good return on investment. While everyone would have different preferences, certain things are rooted in biology and would apply to most people, so let's start with practices from Andrew Huberman's podcast first.

Respecting our circadian rhythm is very important, and what we need to do in the morning is to have as much light as possible. Preferably it would be to spend some time outside and have natural light exposure for at least ten minutes. While working, we should get enough light in the room to make it clear to our body that it's daytime, and we should be alert.

I love coffee and drink a cap every morning, but consuming caffeine too soon after waking up can interfere with the natural cortisol cycle, which can disrupt our sleep-wake cycle and make it harder to fall asleep at night. Waiting 90 minutes allows cortisol levels to decline, making caffeine more effective at increasing alertness and focus. If you're still having difficulty waking up after using the bathroom and hydrating well, consider alternative methods to coffee, such as breathwork, meditation, or a physical warm-up like stretching or hanging from a pull-up bar.

I have had consistent intermittent fasting practice for five years, and while I love eating, this protocol was easy to maintain. I aim to have at least 16 hours of no eating, so if my dinner ends at 7 PM, I would have breakfast at 11 AM. There are a bunch of health benefits to it, and having a later first meal serves as a nice reward after doing a bunch of work in the morning.

It's great to have some physical activity in the morning, and I've tried two approaches here. The first would be to work a lot in the morning and then exercise right before breakfast. The second option is to have a one-hour work session in the morning, then do a short activity like a walk, home workout, or yoga, then grab a coffee and do another work session before breakfast. The last month I tried going to a coffee shop in the morning that provides two walking breaks, but I didn't find a good enough place nearby, but maybe it would make sense in your location.

The earlier you wake up, the more work you can do in the morning, but it's more than just setting an alarm clock. You don't want to wake up at 6 am but suffer from lack of sleep. The better approach would be to have good habits for the circadian cycle throughout the day, which will automatically make you go to bed early and fall asleep fast. I use my productivity app at increaser.org to track those habits and set time goals to begin and finish the workday. Also, it has a great deep work time tracker that plays focus music and encourages you to have longer work sessions.