You Get 25,000 Mornings as an Adult: Here are 8 Ways to Not Waste Them

You’ll wake up for about 25,000 mornings in your adult life, give or take a few.

According to a report from the World Health Organization, the average life expectancy in the United States is 79 years old. Most people in wealthy nations are hovering around the 80–year mark. Women in Japan are the highest, with an average life expectancy of 86 years.

If we use these average life expectancy numbers and assume that your adult life starts at 18 years old, then you’ve got about 68 years as an adult. (86 – 18 = 68) Perhaps a little less on average. A little more if you’re lucky.

(68 years as an adult) x (365 days each year) = 24,820 days.

25,000 mornings.

That’s what you get in your adult life. 25,000 times you get to open your eyes, face the day, and decide what to do next. I don’t know about you, but I’ve let a lot of those mornings slip by.

Once I realized this, I started thinking about how I could develop a better morning routine. I still have a lot to learn, but here are some strategies that you can use to get the most out of your 25,000 mornings.

8 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Morning

Here are the strategies that I’ve found to be most effective for getting the most out of my morning.

1. Manage your energy, not your time. If you take a moment to think about it, you’ll probably realize that you are better at doing certain tasks at certain times. For example, my creative energy is highest in the morning, so that’s when I do my writing each day.

By comparison, I block out my afternoons for interviews, phone calls, and emails. I don’t need my creative energy to be high for those tasks, so that’s the best time for me to get them done. And I tend to have my best workouts in the late afternoon or early evening, so that’s when I head to the gym.

What type of energy do you have in the morning? What task is that energy best suited for?

2. Prepare the night before. I don’t do this nearly as often as I should, but if you only do one thing each day then spend a few minutes each night organizing your to–do list for tomorrow. When I do it right, I’ll outline the article I’m going to write the next day and develop a short list of the most important items for me to accomplish. It takes 10 minutes that night and saves 3 hours the next day.

3. Don’t open email until noon. Sounds simple. Nobody does it. It took me awhile to get over the urge to open my inbox, but eventually I realized that everything can wait a few hours. Nobody is going to email you about a true emergency (a death in the family, etc.), so leave your email alone for the first few hours of each day. Use the morning to do what’s important rather than responding to what is “urgent.”

4. Turn your phone off and leave it in another room. Or on your colleagues desk. Or at the very least, put it somewhere that is out of sight. This eliminates the urge to check text messages, Facebook, Twitter, and so on. This simple strategy eliminates the likelihood of slipping into half–work where you waste time dividing your attention among meaningless tasks.

5. Work in a cool place. Have you ever noticed how you feel groggy and sluggish in a hot room? Turning the temperature down or moving to a cooler place is an easy way to focus your mind and body. (Hat tip to Michael Hyatt for this one.)

6. Sit up or stand up. Your mind needs oxygen to work properly. Your lungs need to be able to expand and contract to fill your body with oxygen. That sounds simple enough, but here’s the problem: most people sit hunched over while staring at a screen and typing.

When you sit hunched over, your chest is in a collapsed position and your diaphragm is pressing against the bottom of your lungs, which hinders your ability to breathe easily and deeply. Sit up straight or stand up and you’ll find that you can breathe easier and more fully. As a result, your brain will get more oxygen and you’ll be able to concentrate better.

(Small tip: When sitting, I usually place a pillow in the small of my back. This prevents my lower back from rounding, which keeps me more upright.)

7. Eat as a reward for working hard. I practice intermittent fasting, which means that I eat my first meal around noon each day. I’ve been doing this for almost two years. There are plenty of health benefits, which I explained in great detail here, here, and here.

But health is just one piece of the puzzle. I also fast because it allows me to get more out of my day. Take a moment to think about how much time people spend each day thinking, planning, and consuming food. By adopting intermittent fasting, I don’t waste an hour each morning figuring out what to eat for breakfast, cooking it, and cleaning up. Instead, I use my morning to work on things that are important to me. Then, I eat good food and big meals as a reward for working hard.

8. Develop a “pre–game routine” to start your day. My morning routine starts by pouring a cold glass of water. Some people kick off their day with ten minutes of meditation. Similarly, you should have a sequence that starts your morning ritual. This tiny routine signals to your brain that it’s time to get into work mode or exercise mode or whatever mode you need to be in to accomplish your task. Additionally, a pre–game routine helps you overcome a lack of motivation and get things done even when you don’t feel like it.

For more details about why this works, read this: How to Get Motivated.

25,000 Mornings: The Power of a Morning Routine

Just as it’s rare for anyone to experience overnight success, it’s also rare for our lives crumble to pieces in an instant. Most unproductive or unhealthy behaviors are the result of slow, gradual choices that add up to bad habits. A wasted morning here. An unproductive morning there.

The good news is that exceptional results are also the result of consistent daily choices. Nowhere is this more true than with your morning routine. The way you start your day is often the way that you finish it.

Take, for example, Jack LaLanne. He woke up each day at 4am and spent the first 90 minutes lifting weights. Then, he went for a swim or a run for the next 30 minutes. For more than 60 years, he spent each morning doing this routine. In addition to being one of the most influential people in fitness in the last 100 years, LaLanne also lived to the ripe old age of 96.

This is no coincidence. What you do each morning is an indicator of how you approach your entire day. It’s the choices that we repeatedly make that determine the life we live, the health we enjoy, and the work we create.

You’ve got 25,000 mornings. What will you do with each one?

49 Comments

  1. Absolutely STELLAR article AND advice!

    I’ve archived it (to revisit often!) … and I am sharing it everywhere I possibly can.

    Yeah.

    I love it THAT much! :)

  2. Excellent points.

    I’m currently reading “Manage Your Day to Day” from the people at 99u.

    It’s really opened my eyes to figuring out how to get those big tasks done without wasting time. I too do my best creative work either early in the morning or late at night. For instance, my best prose writing is done in the morning but my best music is written at night. Afternoons are a waste.

    Either way, I’ve been trying to find ways to limit distractions and make the most of the times when I’m most productive. Not checking email/social networks first thing has been difficult beyond measure but so useful.

    • Tom — I’m glad to hear that you’re making progress. You’re right in saying that the urge to check email, social media, etc. is a tough one to counteract. That said, awareness is the first step. It sounds like you’re beginning to notice the urge, which means you’re one step closer to eliminating it.

      Keep up the good work!

      By the way, would you recommend “Manage Your Day to Day” … I haven’t read it yet.

      • Thanks!

        I would recommend the book.. It’s concise but has a lot of useful tips from a lot of extraordinary people (e.g. Seth Godin). I think it applies just as equally to people in the traditional workforce as well as “solopreneurs” if you will. I’m not quite halfway done the book and I already have a number of actionable things I want to implement this week.

  3. I love your posts.

    I am not a morning person at all.

    I will try to plan out my day and not look at the phone until the afternoon.

    Enjoy your wake up calls and, wow, 25,000 mornings was a hell of a wake up.

    Thanks.

    • Barbara — good luck with the changes. Take it slow and steady. You’ll get there.

      For my part, I’ll do my best to send useful ideas your way. Thanks for reading!

  4. I really dig the input on the night before prep. I know it can be so easy to put off, but it can end up being the best jumpstart to your day.

    Keep up the good writing in the am hours!

    JK3

    • Truth. I’m not as good about doing it as I should be, but it definitely works well.

      Thanks for reading, JKThrizzle.

  5. Hi James,

    I found this post really powerful, not just for the wonderful morning tips but also the number 25000. It’s sobering but it’s also helps you focus on making them count.

    Thanks mate.

    • Glad to hear you enjoyed it! I like thinking about the number too. It helps keep me focused since I don’t want to waste another one.

      Thanks for reading!

  6. Thanks for this James… I have built up a bad habit of pressing the snooze button after the alarm goes off. I agree about the glass of water… Actually with a pinch of natural sea salt to help hydrate the body… But wondering about not eating breakfast because it just created binge eating at lunch… A word of caution might be a good idea… To eat moderately when hungry… Thanks for the inspirational writing!

  7. Great post, James. If you haven’t read Gary Keller & Jay Papasan’s new book, The One Thing, I think you might really enjoy it. Some additional ammo for powerful morning routines…particularly the idea of blocking 4 solid hours to hammer at what matters most. Sounds nearly impossible for many, but they make a strong case. I’m beginning to work on it…no doubt replacing email and reactive calls / meetings with a solid block of intentional behavior will drive big a impact.

    • Travis — thanks for sharing. I haven’t read The One Thing, so I’ll definitely add it to my reading list. I’m sure I could learn a lot from it.

      Thanks for reading and sharing!

  8. Interesting and I think very good point about doing important, not urgent, things first. I’m the most creative/productive in the mornings, so this will help me a great deal.

  9. Well said James. I agree with you on most of what you’ve said as an almost 80 year old who has loved running cycling and all other exercise through my life, with a strong early morning plan, it does really setup my day nicely for all else that is to follow. Thank You.

    • Hi Jack — it’s great to have you sharing your wisdom with our little community! I’m sure you know the power of morning routines better than I do.

      Thanks for taking the time to read! Your thoughts are always welcome here.

  10. I’ve been trying IF the last couple weeks and I feel so much better in the mornings by not having a breakfast. I’m more awake, my mind is more clear, and I feel better overall. I do love breakfast, but like you said in your post, I just move it to a different time.

  11. I have recently added this to my morning routine: get a healthy dose of sunshine as early as possible. This helps wake you up, get your mind and body going, and it helps establish your circadian sleep cycle so it’s easier to fall asleep at night and get better sleep.

    • Matt — I love this idea and it’s something I could do a much better job of myself. Most people don’t get enough sunshine in their daily routine, so this is a great addition to your morning schedule.

      Thanks for reading and sharing! Your thoughts are always welcome in our little community!

  12. Another positive perspective sharpening post, thanks again James!

    I had an awesome routine last winter and into spring… I let things slip a bit, but getting back on the right path again.

    Lessons learned: Don’t over-do and over-commit…

  13. Hey James — just wanted to say thank you!

    I listened to the Ben Coomber and Latest in Paleo podcasts you were on. Awesome stuff!

    I’ve implemented the energy management idea, so I now write my emails and articles in the morning (when my creative energy is highest).

    I bang out 3 times as many articles and emails it’s amazing! Everything just seems to flow!

    Awesome work! Need to read some more of your stuff!

    T

  14. Thanks for this piece of writing. For the longest time, I’m conditioned myself as an afternoon person. I always race for time and lose focus throughout the day, ending up doing nothing of value. I’m not sure how to apply this (since being an IT consultant makes me prone to shift changes), but definitely that’s not an excuse not to try this out!

  15. Hi James,

    Although I agree with every other point you have mentioned, skipping breakfast and not eating until noon is one of the worst habits one could develop.

    The body is anyway hungry because of the long break between dinner and the next meal in the morning. You do not need to ‘waste’ an hour thinking, wondering and then cooking your breakfast. It could just be fruits, milk and some carbs and this whole process shouldn’t take more than 15 mins but your body will be ever so grateful for the timely, healthy meal you provided.

    Anyway very good article. I shall practice every other point you mentioned.

    Thank you :)

  16. Great article James. How do you fight the fatigue in the morning? Let’s say you break your schedule and you stay up late or have a little too much coffee. Do you just shift you schedule and do what you would normally do in the morning in the after noon?

    Thanks buddy
    -Gene

  17. I’ve also found out that doing things rapidly, moving quickly is a great way to boost your productivity from the very early moment you get up, especially on those “off days”.

  18. 1. I love your site and find it super helpful!!

    2. Jack LaLane was a dedicated exerciser BUT
    if he were alive he would tell you his near vegan
    dietary habits kept him strong and healthy.

    3. Jack got sick at approx age 15. He read a book
    that said changing his food would improve his
    health. IT DID!!

    4. Even rigorous exercise will not reverse the damage
    we do to our bodies (the planet and animals) when we eat
    meat, eggs and cheese.

  19. I just listened to your interview on the Internet Business Mastery podcast, you have some great tips. I agree about preparing the night before, I think “the best way to start tomorrow off rIght is to end tonight off right”!

  20. This is the first time I’ve ever thought “man, this guy and his strategies will change people’s lives.” Awesome stuff. I really hope all these things work so I can improve all aspects of my life.

    Also, 25,000 mornings is quite powerful, it’s a big number but there’s something about the fact that that’s your lot, no more. Crazy.

    Keep up the great work, I’m hooked, ironically you’re making me a little less productive on some days haha!

    p.s. One of my previous comments on another article isn’t showing up? I think it was about breaking bad habits.

  21. James this was an interesting e-mail and since I’m 81 I’ve had a few mornings to deal with… and none would I probably change but for a few. I’m pretty much a morning person. I’m now giving a repeat try at writing a novel that’s been haunting me for quite sometime and having read this I realize I’ve been wasting too many of my mornings.

    Thank you for your “wake up”.

  22. Number 7 (eat as a reward for working hard) makes me wary. Treating food as anything other than sustenance and starving yourself because you haven’t “deserved” food yet is a huge slippery slope to developing an eating disorder. Eating disorders don’t just develop in people with body image issues- it’s also a huge problem for perfectionists, workaholics, and anyone who is depressed or always stressed out.

  23. Suggestions for someone who starts at a different time each day and works an average of 12-14 hours?

    Last week consisted of…
    Monday: 2am
    Tues: 5am
    Weds: 3:30am
    Thurs: 7am
    Fri: 4am

    And all days worked at least 11 hours one day was 16. One was 14.

  24. As a fellow weightlifter (bodybuilder) and somewhat of an entrepreneur, this is an awesome article to help give me some focus. Some mornings pass me by, and before I know it, I’m onto my 3rd meal of the day (I don’t follow intermittent fasting) and I’ve done nothing but check social media, email, and read articles.

    Also followed you on Twitter, James.

  25. Awesome post! Very thought-provoking. I used to wake up early and start my day with a run. I always found that a great way to set the tone for the rest of my day. I’d like to get back to that space. :)

  26. Great article sir. Truly amazing and motivational.

    I think everyone should know about this… I’ll share this article wherever possible.

    Thank you so much.

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