How to Set Yourself Up for a Productive Day

How many times has this happened to you? You go to bed after a long, unproductive day with the intention that tomorrow is going to be different.

How to Set Yourself Up for a Productive Day

Then you wake up the next day and fall right back into the same old trap. It feels like you’re trapped inside your own private version of Groundhog Day.

Before you know it, it is time to eat lunch and you can’t point to one significant thing you’ve accomplished.

In my experience, the best way to ensure a productive day is to set myself up for one the night before. This gives me a chance to make sure I do the most important things first.

Even if my day gets hijacked—and sometimes it does—I’ve achieved my most important tasks. I structure everything around this.

Here are five strategies I use to set myself up for the most productive day possible:

  1. Protect my morning routine. I don’t take early morning appointments. Ever. I rarely take breakfast appointments. My hours from 4:45 to 8:00 are sacred. I don’t allow them to get interrupted by anything other than the occasional flight—which I loathe. Fortunately, they only happen once or twice a year.
  2. Create a to-do list with my top three must-dos. Before I wake up in the morning, I already know what my top three must-dos are for the day. These are the non-negotiables. I am committed to making them happen no matter what. I list them in Nozbe in priority order. (These are in addition to my routine habits.)

    How to Set Yourself Up for a Productive Day

  3. Set up your computer with only the first programs you will need loaded. This is so important. The reason I used to get sucked into e-mail, Twitter, or Facebook, is because I had those programs open when I woke up. Now I shut them down at the end of the day. I only have open those apps I need to see when I wake up. These are the ones I will use in my morning ritual.
  4. Set your exercise clothes out. I’m no different than anyone else. With the exception of amazing spring or fall weather, I’d rather stay inside where it’s comfortable. But I need exercise—for numerous reasons. I am always more productive when I get it. For me, that begins by setting out my exercise clothes the night before. It’s how I make my intention real to my subconscious.
  5. Get to bed at a designated time. It’s a heck of a lot easier to get up on time if you go to bed on time. I rarely go to bed after 10:00 p.m. I start getting ready at 9:00 p.m. (Yes, I have an evening ritual, too, that I intend to write about in a future post.) I personally never have to use an alarm. I have conditioned my mind and body to wake up at 4:45. I am sometimes early but never late.

Do I ever fall short of this ideal? Absolutely. It happened just this morning. I got up extra early. By 7:00 a.m., I was running ahead of schedule. I had finished my morning ritual.

I then said to myself, I’m a little ahead of schedule. I can afford to check the news before I head to the office and start writing.

Bad mistake. I got sucked into the tractor pull of the Internet. Before I knew it, I had lost an hour. Not only was I not ahead of schedule, I was behind. Argh.

Oh well, I don’t beat myself up about it. In my view there is no failure, there is only learning. What I learned was that I must, must resist the temptation to get on the Internet before my must-dos are done.

Fortunately, I’ll have another chance to practice tomorrow. And I know that having a productive day tomorrow begins tonight. It’s all in the setup.

Question: What do you need to do this evening to set yourself up for a productive day tomorrow? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • Andrzej Tucholski

    I love finding blog posts like this during my “web-check” before jogging :)

    From my experience – it helps to close the screen of your laptop for the night. In the morning it’s a little harder to open it as the first thing after waking up so I actually start the day with something offline. Let’s say – a calm time with my coffee.

    • Joe Lalonde

      Nice suggestion Andrzej. Do you also put the laptop to sleep and/or shut it down? I’d think that would make it even harder to open it back up in the morning.

      • Andrzej Tucholski

        No, my laptop has been online for the last 3 months or so, I must be a terrible user :) I just close the screen – it’s always that one more move needed to be online. It’s enough though.

        • Joe Lalonde

          Nah, not a terrible user. Lots of people do it and computers are made to take that kind of use now.

          For me, I think I’d need more than that step. It’d be too easy and tempting to just lift the screen and POOF there’s my stuff.

          • Andrzej Tucholski

            Maybe try setting up some password – even easy one like “1234” or so. You know, just to increase the number of steps.

    • Caleb

      I have that problem too! It’s such a temptation to just “check” a few sites. Great suggestion!

  • Jonathan Harrison

    I have difficulty with my own bed time (#5) – If my son’s schdule gets mixed up, or he has trouble going to bed be fore 9pm-9:30pm, I tend to burn the candle a little too late.
    It is difficult, since the time my wife and I have together is typically not until he goes to bed. I know I need to make a intentional effort to get to sleep before 11pm – I’ve got my work cut out for me!

    • TorConstantino

      Jonathan, my wife and I have a similar situation regarding a “small window of alone” time after the kids go to bed. We want to be intentional and maximize that time alone but it can be challenging. Luckily, we both head to bed by 10pm because the days tend to be so draining.

      BTW, it’s good to connect with you over on LinkedIn!

      • Jonathan Harrison

        I’m still preaching the merits of an early morning start to her – I’ll just have to keep at it!
        Tor – thank you for connecting – I think you’ll be seeing more of me over on your blog as well, really like what I see there.

      • Caleb

        Jonathan and Tor, we have 5 kids and it always seems like there’s one that can’t get to sleep. After they’re down we want the quiet time. Unfortunately that quiet time can easily push us past 11 and 12. I tend to get up early anyway but it’s more difficult for my wife.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Those years are challenging, to be sure!

    • Travis Dommert

      Jonathan, I’m with you. We have 5 kids under 10, so every single day is absolutely jam-packed. If we don’t get up and get our workout done by 6:45am (even Sat/Sun), for example, it just isn’t going to happen.

      But then I’m also working hard on 2 new “key actions” for my days: 1) four focused hours on my most important work every day (following Gary Keller’s new book, The ONE Thing, and 2) zero inbox at least up to whatever’s come in by 5pm.

      Great when it works, but dicey when a wrench gets thrown in (which happens a lot). My make-up time is after everyone else goes to bed…in tonight’s case, that would be from 10:30pm to 1am. My first meeting tomorrow is at 6:30a. It’s gonna hurt and I won’t be my best…so have to do better tomorrow.

      I thank God daily for giving me a wife, kids, and work I love. Otherwise, this would wear me out!!! Hang tough and run hard!

      • Caleb

        Travis, we also have 5 kids. Ours our 13 years and under so I feel you! Blessings on your 6:30am meeting!

  • John Richardson

    Great post, Michael. If I have a lot on my mind, I like to write down important items before going to bed. This gives them a secure place, and my mind can let them go. This has two benefits. It lets me sleep better and I wake up with a list that’s ready to go.

    • TorConstantino

      John, I still use a written day-planner system – it acts as a “second brain” for the types of tasks, appointments and lists you mentioned. Even though it’s low tech, it’s still an effective tool for me.

      • John Richardson

        I do the same. Paper rules with me!

  • Jeanne Takenaka

    Ahhh, yes. Getting to bed early. That’s tricky for me too. I’m definitely working on it. With young children home, one of my best writing hours of the day is well before they are awake.

    I need to re-establish laying out clothes the night before. I also need to be diligent about not getting online early in the morning. E-mail early slips me up, almost every time. Thanks for the tips, Michael!

  • Carolyn O’Connor

    To be productive tomorrow, I need to get rid of my evening meetings and conference calls as I go to bed later (takes longer to wind down) and get a good night’s sleep. Then, I can get up in the morning so I don’t feel rushed (or force myself up early and am exhausted all day because I didn’t get enough sleep the night before).

  • Ann Musico

    “In my view there is no failure, there is only learning.” That is beautifully said and so very true and yes praise God we have another opportunity to practice tomorrow.

  • chadbrooks

    Thanks Michael-Your thoughts on a morning routine really flipped my world around earlier this year. I have found myself defending those practices in the last few weeks to people who claim I am a little to zealous…but I can’t imagine life now without it.

    It is a lovely feeling going into work in the morning and being fully present and prepared.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Chad. I’m glad it is working for you.

    • Michael Mathews

      People ask me why I get up a little after 5 to catch my train at 6:30, but it’s because I have things I need to do besides a quick shower to get the day started off right. I ensure I have everything I need and have the right things ready to do on the train. I also do a few yoga poses and stretch.

  • Ben Nielsen

    Totally right Michael, it all begins the night before, my wife and I have an evening routine that involves scripture reading, journaling, and planning for the next day, this is super helpful in being ready to make the next day productive.

  • Kathy Holzapfel

    Great tips, Michael. Thanks! You mentioned seven strategies, but I only see five. Or can I not count before coffee?

    • TorConstantino

      Thanks Kathy – Michael knows about it now, your eagle-eye is appreciated :-)

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Kathy. It’s now fixed.

  • Daniel Sanders

    Exercise first thing is also key for me – either running, cycling or meditation and yoga if raining. Puts me in a happy, positive mood and shakes off any cobwebs. It is hard to get up at first, but once you make it a routine, your body gets used to it and it becomes easier. After exercise, a shower and a healthy breakfast, I feel a miilion dollars and ready to attack tasks with an optimistic energy.

    • TorConstantino

      I agree Daniel that exercising at the start of the day helps ensure that things start off on the right foot. Sometimes our newborn throws a disruptive baby rattle into the mix – so I have to be flexible and more my exercise routine during my lunch break at work.

  • Lee J Tyler

    Thanks, Michael. I tweeted it out to other people who would also find this helpful. It is so important to get the important tasks out of the way so even if your day hijacks you ;) you feel like you’ve already got a head start.

  • Omotola

    Hi Mike, thanks for your post but I must comment that there are only five strategies listed by you, but you mentioned seven. thanks.

    • TorConstantino

      Thanks Omotola – Michael is aware of it. Usually when this type of thing happens on my blog, I’ll start out with more tactics but then realize that some of those tactics might be closely related so I’ll consolidate them. I’m usually caught up in the “writing zone” and read right over the original number when I proofread the piece.

      Frankly, I’m encouraged by this type of typo because it validates that Michael is indeed a human and not a cybernetic productivity-leadership-writing machine

      • Michael Hyatt

        That’s exactly what happened! That’s why I need an editor, which I now have, but she missed it too!

    • Michael Hyatt

      Yes, thank you. I have fixed it.

  • Carol McAdams Moore

    I really need to protect my morning routine. Real, focused writing needs to be early in the day. Other things (like social media) can be addressed later when I still have time to work but I am not as fresh.

    • Joe Lalonde

      Carol, it’s good you’re noticing that you need to protect the morning. Have you thought of using a program that would limit access to sites during a specific time to help keep you away from social media?

  • Kelly Combs

    I really loved these lines, “In my view there is no failure, there is only learning…. Fortunately, I’ll have another chance to practice tomorrow.” That is a great mind set to not get bogged down in the mis-steps, and to keep your momentum going. Great post!

    • TorConstantino

      No doubt Kelly – each day is a clean slate and God knows I need it!

  • Kyle

    To Michael (or the tribe): Can you think back to any additional steps / tips you took when you had young kids. We have a newborn, a 2 year old, and a 5 year old. After reading much about morning routines of the highly successful, I’ve tried many times to establish ‘best of’ morning practices into my own life. But wow….it seems like failure after failure with the kids, as I’m always interrupted but what amounts to clear and present priorities with caring for them. I’m sure any parent of multiple young ones gets what I’m saying. When mornings and evenings are often the only time I see the kids, I feel more than guilty and completely selfish if I then block out the mornings to be “all about me.” When kids get up at 5:30 and need fed, dressed, and nurtured, by all means, that’s my main calling in life, and it has my attention until the school bus comes around at 7:45. Then, of course, it’s time for the office….

    Perhaps this is simply my season of life, and I merely need to make the most of it for now while staying true to my priorities. But perhaps you can also think back to those times and offer any tips. Thx in advance…

    • Guest

      Michael, I don’t have any advice for you — but, if it helps, I can certainly know that you’re not alone! Balancing the demands of work and home (especially with young kinds) is a tremendous challenge for me. That’s why I’ve decided that it’s not practical or necessary to rigidly segment my lives.

    • Doug Isenberg

      Kyle, I don’t have any advice for you — but, if it helps, I can
      certainly know that you’re not alone! Balancing the demands of work and
      home (especially with young kinds) is a tremendous challenge for me.
      That’s why I’ve decided that it’s not practical or necessary to rigidly
      segment my lives.

    • Jim Woods

      Kyle, I’m in the same boat as you with a 3 yr old and a 3 month old–and the biggest tip I have is this–don’t try to do too much or you will get burnt out. Do the work when you actually have energy, or you will spend more time spinning your wheels redoing the work.

      I agree with Michael on this–working out is SO important to boost your energy level. I personally make working out a priority and listen to a podcast, audio book or watch a movie that makes me think to feed my brain as well.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I think it is your season. Don’t be too hard on yourself. But keep experimenting. You might have to do something different now that you can change later. Thanks.

    • Cindy Finley

      As a mom of many (7), I would agree that it’s definitely your season. Mine were all born within 8 years of each other, although the youngest didn’t join our family until she was 8 years old. With a house full of young children, I did have a commitment to the a run and a quiet time, but I had to fit it in. I’m thankful to have a husband who has always supported my need to take care of myself. Give yourself grace. Take care of your wife. And enjoy this season. It will pass sooner than you think!

      • John Tiller

        “Give yourself grace. Take care of your wife. And enjoy this season.” Great advice, Cindy!

    • Julie Sunne

      I commend you for being the kind of father that actually makes your family a priority, Kyle. Many say they do, but when the rubber meets the road (pardon my cliche), they choose other “things” deemed too important not to address. I do believe you can figure out some time to hold open, early Sat. morning, later evenings, take a morning off work now and then to focus on your project.

      However, you are wise to recognize that this is the season you are in now. Please don’t take it for granted! These years are but a blink of an eye. My oldest is in college now–8 hours away–and I miss him terribly. Within 6 short years, the remaining 3 will be on their own as well, and my husband and I’ll be empty nesting. It seems like just yesterday we began this journey of parenthood.

      Pray about it, talk it over with your wife, eek out a little time, but keep your wife and kiddos front and center. You will never regret it.

    • Kyle

      Thx to all for your very encouraging and wise remarks.

      I remembered a story yesterday of a woman who approached pastor Andy Stanley. As a devoted mother of 3, she approached Andy, feeling guilty about how little time she was able to spend in the study of Scripture and in prayer after the daily grind of raising 3 with purpose. Andy wisely replied to the woman with something to the effect of: “I wish I were half as productive with my time for the Kingdom as you are.”

      To each her own calling…faithfully.

  • frenat

    I have followed most of these guidelines in my own routine for the past several years. Unfortunately, having a newborn doesn’t allow for any type of routine. I’m pretty sure it’s normal, but right now we’re just in survival mode (and incredibly blessed to be!!). Any tips for how to have an “infant” productive day?

    • Adam Martin

      I can relate completely. We have an 18 month old and two older boys. We always feel like we are in survival mode :)

    • TorConstantino

      Hi Frenat – I can relate because my wife and I currently have a 10 month old son. He’s our third child, our others are ages 11 and 8 respectively. Our son is on a semi-regular schedule now, but here are a few common sense tips we’ve been using:

      1. Create and stick to a routine for the baby – this is important because it helps establish a safe, predictable ritual for the child. Don’t underestimate the power of routine. Every night we do the same thing to help him acclimate to a pattern.

      2. Work as a team – I work full-time and my wife stays home. The first few months after the boy was born, when I got home from work at about 6pm, my wife would go to bed until midnight. Then I would put the baby down for the night and she would be on call for night feedings through 6am. Then I was on the clock from 6-8am before heading to work. That ensured we both had six hours of uninterrupted sleep. It’s not optimal but parenting never is ;-)

      3. Go mobile – both my wife and I keep our smartphones with us at all times, so if the baby falls asleep and one of us needs something – we can text each other without disturbing the baby. I’ve also become proficient at clearing my Gmail box with a single thumb while the baby sleeps on me.

      Just a couple of tips….

      • frenat

        Thanks for the advice! He’s three weeks today and I think we’re at least a few more week out before we get a schedule down.

    • Jayson Feltner

      frenat – I know how you’re feeling right now, my son is 2. I was in your shoes not to long ago. The best advice I have is start establishing a schedule that works for both parent and baby. Routines are very important.

      Once the baby starts to fall into the routine, you’ll be able to find highly productive chunks of time you can use. I’ve written on Biphasic sleeping and a few times about having a baby an my site.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I think you have to be really flexible with an infant. The food news is that it will get easier later.

  • Ryan Latham

    Great post. The morning is so very important. I have four kids all very young (8, 6.5, 3, 1.5). We are both into fitness (I just ran a marathon yesterday), devotional time, etc. for us it was always a battle until we sat down and truly talked about how to handle it, together! So now as part of our planning meeting were we talk about bills and calender we talk about our mornings and work together to help the other secceed.

    • TorConstantino

      Congratulations on the marathon Ryan! Was that your first? Just curious because I’ve completed five full marathons myself and know the time commitment that training for that type of race requires. Awesome job!

      • Ryan Latham

        Yes, that was my first and it was a big time commitment. My wife was a great support over this time.

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  • John McCullough

    This is probably the best line I’ll hear today: “…I got sucked into the tractor pull of the Internet…”

    One of the things I have to do the night before is keep my phone on the other side of the bedroom so I’m not tempted to grab it and start checking email before I get out of bed.
    I have a home gym and I listen to Pandora radio. As you mentioned in the post, I only keep this program open so I’m not tempted to peek at emails before — or worse — during a workout!

    Thanks for another motivational and informative post Michael.

  • TorConstantino

    Point #3 is great – I’m consistently sucked into the social media tractor beam and this tactic sounds simple, yet extremely useful. As always, thanks for the great advice!

    • Adam Martin

      I think it seems like we are all getting sucked into this anymore. Persistence pays off.

  • Vincent Nguyen

    This isn’t setting it up for another day, but I often find changing the scenery of where I work is what kicks me into high gear. I have three places that I usually work from and I alternate frequently between my home, a collaborative workspace, and Starbucks. When one isn’t working, switching to another almost always does it.

  • Esther Aspling

    I have GOT to get to bed earlier. I’m always tempted to keep working late, when it would almost always be better for me to get sleep and start early.

    Thanks for the tips! :-)

    • Adam Martin

      I am always striving to get to bed earlier as well. I get on a roll with it and then fall off. I am trying to become more consistent with it, but it isn’t easy.

  • Adam Martin

    These are all great ideas. I think the points on planning your day and doing you most important items first are the key takeaways here. Thank you for that.

  • Wayne Stiles

    Michael, you’ve recommended Nozbe a lot. I’m sure many of us would enjoy a podcast that explains how you integrate the Getting Things Done mindset with Nozbe—as well as your own tips on this productivity tool. Thanks for considering this.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I probably won’t do a podcast on this Wayne, because it needs to be visual. Perhaps I’ll do a screencast.

      • Wayne Stiles

        A screencast would be tremendous, Michael—and well received. Thanks for considering it.

      • Dallon Christensen

        +1 for a screencast. I think Nozbe is just a little easier to run as an action management system instead of Evernote, but there are just a few things that still hang me up. For example, I’m trying to find a single inbox to process items. Right now, I can’t create an Evernote, sync that note with Nozbe, and then turn it into an action item in Nozbe. Just knowing a few of the “little things” I’m sure you know well as a long-time Nozbe user would be invaluable for those of us making it work on our own end.

  • Heather C Button

    These are great tips, and something I’m actually trying for myself this week. Although in my case it’s just getting my lunch prepared so that I don’t waste my lunch time and am ready for my evening workout. But somehow the day starts better when all those elements are in place.

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  • davebaldwin

    This post reminds me of the book I read a short time ago entitled “What Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast.” It was a great read and went fast. You could have been featured in the book Michael.


    • Michael Hyatt

      I like that title!

  • Katie McManners

    Hi Michael. I have nothing to add but wanted to come out of lurker status. :-)

    • Michael Hyatt

      Welcome. I’m glad you decided to comment.

  • Cierra Seay

    Getting to bed early is the hardest for me I work a split schedule so two days out of the week I don’t even get home from work until 3am. On my off days and normal days I’m lucky if I get to bed before midnight.

  • Jayson Feltner

    I’m loving the simplicity of your Nozbe list these days. I remember the first time I found a post of yours with a screenshot while you were still at Thomas Nelson. That list was much longer, but still not as long as mine today.

    How do you approach training those who work for you? Since my company is growing so rapidly, things end up on my list simply because I am the only one who can do them. This is killing my delegation.

    • Michael Hyatt

      The way I do training is I fine-tune the workflow, document it, delegate it, then follow-up if there are any problems. I am just starting to use an awesome workflow documentation program called SweetProcess.

      • Jayson Feltner

        That’s great. It is the documenting stage that is holding me up. I’ll check out the program. This will certainly help me get my Nozbe looking more like yours.

  • Laurinda Bellinger

    I needed this today. I bought a house just over a year ago. After living in one place for nearly a decade I didn’t realize how much a move to a new home would interrupt my daily routine. In fact I didn’t realize how much of my life was grounded in a routine. With my old address I drove pass the grocery store every day going to & from work. Now, I have to intentionally go to the grocery store. It’s little stuff but last year I felt out of sorts. This year I committed to new routines and rituals because the old ones just don’t work anymore.

  • Chris Arend

    This is exactly what I needed to hear this Monday morning. The reminders you listed were perfect. Thank you for your willingness to share your thought process on topics like this. I think I most resonate with your posts when you discuss how to get more out of life and your day. I clearly have a thirst for this and need to be more productive. I especially enjoyed your picture of your morning routine in Nozbe. I have been struggling at how to best use Nozbe and Evernote together effectively. Seeing you use Nozbe leads me to want to see how you can use it more. If you ever get the time to post on this topic explaining how to you use it effectively, it might be helpful to your viewers. I have enjoyed your archives on this subject as well, but I think you are just scratching the surface!


    • Michael Hyatt

      I probably should do a series of screencasts on this. Thanks for the nudge.

  • Eileen Knowles

    Great advice. I’m a huge believer of #1. I love my little routine and once I get off course it’s twice as hard to get back. These are little but help me: I like to have the coffee pot loaded and ready the night before, everything for my son’s lunchbox in order and I like to go to bed with no dirty dishes in the sink.

  • dangossett

    Wow – only 9 items in your next actions? Our team loves your blog and use Nozbe and Evernote, largely influenced by you, to get everything done. Every day I have about 40 things that jump into Next Actions. How did you get your list so trim?

    • Lynford Morton

      Only 40? :-) I also have the curse of the exploding Next Actions.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I only mark tasks for next actions that I plan to do today. Otherwise, they stay in the project folder. This is the key with Nozbe!

  • Lynford Morton

    Thanks for sharing these, Michael. I’ve been a Nozbe user for a couple years now and have found it really helps me to keep organized. If you are ever thinking about topics, you might consider how you set up and use the app…or any other of the GTD systems. Cheers!

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, I plan to do that.

  • Justin Hayslett

    Thanks so much for writing this. It is really practical and helpful! I really like the idea of writing out the first 3 tasks I must do in the morning. I’m like you, I wake up around 4:30am. My problem is I could have my quit time and read for hours. I need to get out of that mode and jump into those 3-4 tasks before 8. Great stuff.

  • Steve Pate

    Finnish what I started today and then make sure I got my list of materials done before I go into town tomorrow! Thanks for a great post.

  • Kingsley

    Hi Michael,
    Thanks for these reminders / tips. Unfortunately you only gave us five instead of the seven you promised. I like the ones about only keeping your apps open that you need and keeping sacred the most important things. Helpful.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Sorry about that. I have corrected the text. It should have been five. (I started out with seven but consolidated the list.)

  • Chris Jeub

    “The tractor pull of the internet”…now THAT metaphor fits!

    Since the election, I have (for the most part) unplugged from politics. My childhood friend, Paul Ryan, lost and I was bummed. The Good: Since the election I have never been more productive or focused on the good work I do. The Bad: I’m afraid I have never been more ignorant in the political landscape than now.

    So, I have a question, Michael (and commentators): What is your proper balance with news & politics?

    • Michael Hyatt

      Personally, I check my news sites once in the morning. That’s it.

  • Don McAllister

    Love this post and how you protect this morning routine. I’m learning it’s very important to keep focused during this time. It’s so easy to get distracted and hop on the internet, but then I waste much more time then I should have, and end up regretting it later. My other problem is going to bed early. My morning then suffers, and I realize I’m basically hurting myself because I don’t get to work on my dreams.

  • Mary

    Love this post. I’m severely ADD and can say that the exercise routine helps break that cycle of not being able to sleep. I think the picture of sharp looking exercise clothes is inspiring too. This sounds dumb, but I love the way my running shoes look. I never thought of parking them next to my bed so I see them in the morning.

    I look forward to the post on an evening routine. That one’s a challenge for me because evening is when we finally get around to doing the fun stuff in our lives!

  • Terry Hadaway

    It’s interesting that this is the third thing I’ve read this morning that addresses the issue of increasing productivity. I recently wrote a post that included some quick tips for improving daily productivity ( I’ve discovered that protecting my morning routine is the key. If my morning gets out of whack, the remainder of the day seems to follow.

  • Matt

    Back in January a job changed basically forced me to become a very early morning gym-goer, and I agree 100% that setting your clothes out the night before tip is pure gold!

    My process includes getting EVERYTHING ready the night before so that I can just
    grab my bag, my lunch, and go. Prior to developing this habit my half awake and incredibly hazy morning dash for the gym left me wanting for certain necessities on more than one occasion after my workout. Not fun. :-)

    I really would like to get on board with #5, especially on the weekends. I find myself in bed at the normal time, but then I get sucked into late night TV for an hour or so. The sad thing is that most of the crap I watch I have on DVR, so what the heck?

    Best wishes,


  • Don Finn

    For me the greatest struggle has been the regular bedtime. Early to bed, early to rise (to my workout clothes) is my next goal. I have a nice new treadmill in the next room that I intend on using, and since there is no drive to the gym, there are no excuses. My days following a vigorous morning workout tend to be my most productive, and I need as many as those as I can get! I appreciate your pointers Michael.

  • Andy Mort

    The ‘shutting down all programs other than the ones I need in the morning initiative’ (catchy name for it I know), has changed my morning productivity. I just leave Byword on the screen with one word written in it (a word that I decide on the night before too). Then as soon as I open my laptop I spend 10 minutes writing about that word. It gets me flowing. Great post. Thanks!

    • Jim Martin

      Andy, I like what you do with Byword before going to bed (leaving one word on the screen). Very nice!

      • Andy Mort

        Thanks, Jim! It’s been fun so far!

  • Karla Reisch Akins

    Getting to bed earlier. I need to do that. Thanks for the push this morning!

  • Adam Faughn

    When I started truly focusing on having a routine in the morning, not only did my productivity rise, but I also starting feeling better on a more consistent basis. I don’t get up quite as early as you do, but the first 2 hours of my day cannot be changed unless it is a complete and total emergency. In the last 3 years, I think I have changed my Monday-Friday morning routine only about 4 times, and having that strict consistency has made such a difference.

    • John Tiller

      Great example that once you have a good habit, it’s hard to break it into a bad habit!

  • Kathy Kuhl

    Michael, thanks for suggesting choosing 3 must-dos the day before. I’ll try that. My newest idea for preparing the night before is to put my smartphone in airplane mode. Then if I’m tempted to check the web or email before my quiet time is over, those extra seconds it take to turn off Airplane mode give me time to remember my priorities.
    Regarding exercise, I prefer to use my least productive time of day, late afternoon. By listening to one of your podcasts, a good sermon or lecture in my field (helping parents help struggling learners), the time on the elliptical goes a lot faster.

    • John Tiller

      Great idea, Kathy! Airplane mode is an easy and quick solution!

    • Dallon Christensen

      I just read Leo Babuta’s “Zen to Done” book this weekend. It’s a good, quick read. Leo talks about doing the “most important tasks” each day. Michael is doing this with his non-negotiables. I really liked that idea and already created a “most important” context in my Nozbe where I can mark the three items I must create. I can then just keep my Nozbe app open with that context so I only see those three items.

      • Michael Hyatt

        This is brilliant, Dallon. I have official adopted this practice as well.

  • Adam Rico

    I love this Michael. I completely agree with preparing yourself for success by setting out clothes, closing apps or whatever it is we need to be intentional the night before.

    What percentage of your mornings do you spend working on a project versus personal development? i.e. Bible study, quiet time, prayer, other reading, etc.

    Thanks Michael.

  • Naked Leader

    Great advice, also like John McCulloughs’s – ” One of the things I have to do the night before is keep my phone on the other side of the bedroom so I’m not tempted to grab it and start checking email before I get out of bed.” !

  • Shannon Milholland

    As a wife and mother, I try to set my family up for success with my attitude. To a large degree, I set the temperature and tone for my household. Part of my morning routine includes being intentional to greet those who matter most to me with the best of me. That way I get their days and mine off to the best possible start.

    • Jim Martin

      Shannon, your comment is a nice reminder that we really can set the tone for the done with our attitude. And–this really does impact others. Thanks for the reminder.

  • Sally Ferguson

    I agree that the internet feels like a tractor pull. So much to learn and respond to. I have turned off the sound for my email so that it doesn’t act like a buzzer calling me to action. My best thinking time is late night, so it happens to percolate all night. Sometimes that’s good, sometimes it just keeps me awake. :)

  • Justin Buck

    Great thoughts, Michael. I’m going to look into Nozbe soon for daily workflow.

  • Teresa Potter

    The two most important things I do are make my lunch for the next day and then put everything I need to take with me into my bags and literally put them in front of the door. This way I can’t possibly forget anything important and I can’t use the excuse that I am running late so I can skip making lunch and just buy it somewhere.

    • Jim Martin

      Teresa, I have also found it helpful to place bags and my briefcase by the front door. Having them all together is very helpful.

  • Sarah Johnson

    Thank you for this post! I greatly enjoy your posts!

  • Matt Lapp

    Michael, Its encouraging to hear that you still have hiccups ,and do not have the ideal happen every day . A trap I tend to fall into when i slip, thinking that I am the only undisciplined person . Thanx for sharing and being transparent

  • Nikole Hahn

    I have a morning routine which begins with prayer and then a work out. The bible reading is new as I managed to get hijacked in that so I have made it a priority to protect that time as much as I protect my work outs. Weekends are more relaxed, but I always feel better when I work out, too. Blood is rushing, heart pumping, and endless energy for the rest of the day. When I don’t work out, I am unproductive and tired.

    • Jim Martin

      I have recently shifted my workouts from afternoon to mornings. I’ve noticed a real increase in my energy level in the mornings.

  • Joe Lalonde

    Like you, I’ve found laying out my exercise clothes to be a major help in getting ready and out the door running. By placing them out, I know what’s coming in my day and I am able to make a smoother transition.

  • Joe Lalonde

    Michael, that’s a tough one. You might be able to get away with a variable sleep schedule. On your non-committed days, go to bed at an early time, the later days find a way to get to bed shortly after the commitments.

    • Michael Andrzejewski

      I’ve thought about it, but I haven’t seemed to find a good rhythm
      yet. I’ve also thought about a power nap in the afternoon may help. I’m still working through it…slowly. Thanks for the tip, Joe.

  • Rachel Peregoy Lutz

    I found that my kids were just keeping us up too late. They were dragging showers out, remembering things at the last minute, oh, I have an assignment that needs the computer now, etc. I came up with Sequester Hour. I put the responsibility back on the kids. I told them all household business, lunches, computer access, and chores had to be done by 8:45pm. At that time you were sequestered in your room. No breaking sequester. If you weren’t, kitchen clean-up belonged to you the following night. It has been an amazing success. Let’s just say the kids hate doing dishes. Setting that deadline and meaning it has really made everyone move faster and think about what they need to get done. Now, my husband and I get to bed at 9:00 and feeling more refreshed the next day.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Love it. Great example!

  • Jim Martin

    I have found that laying out clothes, having my gym equipment ready is helpful. I will often place my briefcase or other items near the front door. Somehow, I feel like I am less scattered.

  • Erik Fisher

    My biggest weakness regarding having a productive morning is not preparing for it the night before. When I set it up in the window after the kids are put down, and when I go to sleep myself, the morning clicks.

  • chaz Ripley

    I have found that exercise always leads to a more productive day! And I have found setting out my clothes the night before actually is a huge draw for me to get up to exercise. I have also found that I am more likely to set my clothes at night when I am productive the day before. The problem is, I am only really productive the day before if I was able to exercise that morning! Currently, I am stuck in a routine of bad habits. Thanks for the blog. It was some good encouragement to step up my game!

    • Barry Hill

      You are not alone! —Be encouraged.

  • Jim Hamlett

    How timely. I calculated over the weekend that I would need to get up at 4:00 a.m. every day if I was to have a chance to complete my three top priorities: a quiet time (for me that’s either prepping for the college class I teach at church or translating the New Testament for a recording I’m making for my grandchildren), exercise (weight training / treadmill), and writing (blog posts, short stories, my next novel).

    One problem I occasionally have with early morning flights is I’m the one doing the flying. :) I have to get to the airport before everyone else and make sure the plane is ready.

    Many thanks, Michael, for the extra prod to do a little “pre-flight planning” for our day. Very important.

  • Carey Green

    I actually get a TON done after 10PM… yet, I am a morning person. Different strokes for different folks, I guess. But I think two things you said really hit the mark for me (at least in my experience they have been true also). 1. Protect that morning time. 2. The top 3 things are the “must do” things for the day. I go a step further by determining ahead of time what the “next 3″ will be if I do get those 3 done and still have work time left. (It could happen…)

  • Alison Ward

    I like to plan the lunch for the office the next day so that we eat wisely, purposefully and healthily at work. Also, skim through the next day’s schedule to be focused on the success of the day ahead.

  • ThatGuyKC

    I’ve gotta get my stuff ready for the gym ahead of time or the morning is shot. Bedtime and morning distractions are my struggles. I like the idea of only having the programs you need open. I’ve got iA Writer and Evernote ready for the morning.

    Thank you for the tips.

    • Jeff Goins

      I’ve gotta do this for working out.

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  • Brent Dumler

    I love your point on the ‘to do’ list of a top 3 for the next day! I have to working to implement this practice since last September. Not perfect yet, but much better than prior to.
    Personally, i use Evernote for this. I have a revolving note I title, ‘weekly plan.’ On it, I have listed Monday through Sunday and all the ‘to dos’ I have for the week…space out and designated to specific days. Now, if something doesn’t get checked off for Tuesday, it gets copy & pasted to Wednesday. This is just the method that works best for how I’m wired.
    Love the post!

  • Dan Erickson

    I have a fair morning and evening routine. The problem is that that routine cuts into other important routines because I don’t have enough time in the day. I blog and comment on other blogs in the morning which leaves no time to write. I write blog posts in the evening which leaves no time to write books and play music and exercise. I work all day and care for an eight-year-old daughter. I’m starting to think about cutting back even further of blogging, but what about a platform for my books? Sometimes productivity itself seems like the trap.

    • Michael Hyatt

      You might want to think through creating a Not To-Do List. Thanks.

      • Dan Erickson

        Or at least a priority list.

  • Onder Hassan

    When it comes to personal development, I often always end up getting exposed to productivity time and time again. The truth is, it’s paramount to becoming a better person in life because it forces you to plan what it is you’re going to do for the day, which becomes so easy to put off.
    I’ve been a victim to this consistently and it hasn’t been until now where i’ve started to take things more seriously.
    Great article :)

  • Jeff Melvin

    #4 is one of the “best” things I’ve ever implemented to make my day more productive. Each night I set out my clothes for work & my work out, prepare my breakfast & lunch, so everything’s ready for me to hit the ground running.

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  • Lance Cashion

    “I got sucked into the tractor pull of the Internet.” Perfect description! LOL!

  • Tasmeena

    Good read! Normally I don’t take such posts seriously. I’ve been trying to work with to-do lists and routines but somehow they are always interrupted. I guess if this is combined with the other four steps it might still help out.
    Madinah Institute for Leadership and Entrpreneurship

  • Joseph Badger

    How we know these things, how we choose the wrong plan B due to little excuses. Will set out my clothes as the frustration and time of finding everything is too often a valid excuse to take a pass. Thanks again, again, again.

  • Dave Carroll

    I’m about to have to shift my morning wake-up from 5AM to 3:30 due to summertime scheduling with my job. I need to figure out how to rebalance my morning routine to be productive, but not have to wake up even earlier nor have to go to sleep very early. My wife is a “night-owl”, so you can see the potential for conflict!

  • Michelle

    Thank you for the much needed reminder (and nudge) to get back on track!

  • jim_schilt

    Thank you for this blog(as well as many others). This is a must to do if I am going to get ahead.

  • Michael H Smith

    Thanks Michael for affirming that my obsession with my morning routine is ok. The more I prepare the night before the more I get accomplished…and yes I am one of those who lays out exercise and work clothes the night before.

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  • Jeremy

    Thank you!

  • Joel Boggess

    Great points and strategies Mike.

    Far too many people stumble out of bed, feel their way to the bathroom, and then look at themselves in the mirror, crazy hair going everywhere, and wonder to themselves, or out-loud, “What do I need to do today?”

    In my upcoming book, and in my coaching, I encourage people to set their DFPs (daily focal points) for the coming day. That way, before the feet even hit the group, there is a plan set in motion.

    The DFPs (dailies) contribute to my monthly priorities. I typically have three main priorities.

    I eat my own cooking too and share my DFPs in my community. Nothing like accountability.

  • Joel Boggess

    Great ideas and strategies Mike.

    In my upcoming book and in my coaching, I encourage people to set for themselves their three DPFs (daily focal points) for the coming day.

    Far too many people stumble out of bed, feel their way to the bathroom, look into mirror, crazy hair going everywhere, and wonder to themselves or say out-loud, “What do I need to do today?”

    When you set your mind on the three things that are “MUSTS for manana”, the brain gets to chew on them throughout the night, possibly giving you an easier-than-you-originally-thought solution by morning-time.

  • Miss Britt

    I’ve noticed that having my to-do list for the day set up ahead of time makes a BIG difference. When I think I’m going to just wake up and decide which projects to work on, I seem to spend most of the day just screwing around.

  • Caleb

    Michael, I started reading this post and my first reaction was, “I’m so undisciplined”. However, as I kept reading I was also filled with hope that I can do this. I love getting up early when the house is still quiet and spending some time reading and working out. However, for me this can often be difficult because I have 5 young children and we all live in a small communist apartment. Any suggestions on how to deal with the chaos of family and little kids and yet stay disciplined?

    • Michael Hyatt

      At one point, Gail and I had five daughters under the age of ten. It was crazy. Getting up early was my only hope. I had to get up before they got up in order to get anything done.

      • Caleb

        Thanks for the bit of information! I almost forgot that you also have five children. The calm before they wake up in the morning is very precious to me right now. They usually get up around 7:30 so that gives me 1.5 – 2 hours.


  • Ethan Kaseff

    Michael, I have been reading your posts or a while now and am really appreciating your insights. I am a college student, I attend Hampshire College, and these specifically are issues that hit me really hard.

    With randomly timed activities and consistently unforeseeable tasks I find it hard to get myself in a formalized routine, especially around finals time. My alarm today went off at 6 am, I got out of bed at 7:15, breakfast on the patio looking at my backyard of forestry till 8:15 and am online checking emails and reading this wonderful post until now.

    I amaze myself at how much I can get done, while still having a less than ideal style of organization and time management skills. I am a full-time student, run a food truck, am a presidentially appointed task force to propose and help idealize an entrepreneurship center for my school, and was on a committee to help recommend a new food service provider to the president (that was a fun 2,300 pages to read). I chuckle when I think of what I could be doing if I mastered some of the skills that you seem to have.

    Do you have some recommendations, or likely a link to a previous post, that could help with some starting points for getting into habits such as this?

    • Michael Hyatt

      I would start by listening to my podcast on reengineering your morning ritual. It’s the foundation of everything else for me. Also, my next podcast will be on how to become a morning person.

  • Elizabeth Young

    Michael I would love to know how you trained yourself to wake up without an alarm. I have an ongoing “conflict” of me wanting the alarm set early and my partner being a light sleeper and wanting it set later. It would be great if I could learn to wake on my own. Thanks.

    • Michael Hyatt

      For me, it just took practice and mentally saying to myself, “I will wake up at 4:45 (or whatever).”

      • Elizabeth Young

        Most everything does end up coming down to “practice.”
        Thanks Michael

    • Michael Hyatt

      Honestly, I’m not sure. I do say to myself before going to bed, “I will get up at 5:00 a.m.” or something similar. It’s almost like i verbally set my own internal clock.

  • Simon

    Hi Michael. Have you any post planned on your full use of Nozbe? I would be keen to hear of your, or anybody else’s, use of the programme, or any similar one, to see your approach?

    • Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I do. It’s on my “post ideas” list. I am not sure when I will get to it. Thanks.

  • Frank Eriksen

    Hi Micheal,
    Just wondering what the NN letters befire a task on Nozbe mean?
    Enjoy your work.

    Frank Eriksen

    • Michael Hyatt

      ”Non-negotiables.” These are the things I must do no matter what.

  • Jane Bromley

    Yes – all great stuff. Thank you.
    I find that just spending 5 minutes watching my breathing or listening to the noises (or quiet) around me also put me in a great space. As if I tune in to the peace and inner wisdom that we all have.

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  • Frank Nathe

    Check out Simpleology. Google it. It is a to do list on steroids. It does take some repetitive training, but you earn your belts and can develop lifelong good habits.

    • Michael Hyatt

      It does look pretty cool. I have watch a couple of the videos. Thanks.

  • Rocco DeLeo

    Include listening to This is Your Life Podcast on your run.

  • Dr. Brian J. Dixon

    Great tips @mhyatt:disqus. Laying out my clothes the night before had the greatest impact on the frequency of my workouts. I really need to work on #5- getting to bed on time. Have you ever considered using a sleep cycle alarm clock such as ?

  • David Sollars

    I have always been a moring person. From the time I figured out as a kid that getting up early for school allowed me to eat, watch Popeye cartoons and take my time getting to school. Staying up later now puts me behind the 8 ball! Love the downtime with my wife to share the thoughts of the day, yet makes it challenging to get up and get to it. Now there is no pull of the Popeye. Time to review.

  • JB Farrell

    I love breakfast meetings, whether they are networking sessions, Bible studies, or business meetings. I find they energize me for the rest of the day.

    Do you think this is based on personality style or something else?

  • Asset Point

    Creating a to-do list can be beneficial for boosting your productivity, this simple thing can change the way how you work, just try it.

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  • Michael Lindsay

    Great advice. I particularly like the reference to “Ground Hog day”! Sort of going through that today, so I found your article at the correct time! Thanks for sharing!

  • ryamane

    Listing the top 3 to do’s is a key for me. Before I leave the office at night, I take 3-4 minutes to list my top 3 for the next day on a sticky note which I stick to my desk in front of my keyboard. While I am still working to be more consistent with this, It is amazing the focus and momentum this simple exercise creates for me when I come in in the morning.

  • Dale Melchin

    I think the hardest thing for myself is that when I get sucked into the tractor pull, I tend to get down on myself. I have to intentionally identify the negative emotions and what they mean before I get to the core and realize its just the resistance showing up. Thanks for this Michael!

  • Elise Daly Parker

    Great…clear and straightforward. Thank you! My new day truly does begin at night. Have to work on that! And yes, really have to avoid the tractor pull of the Internet. Once I’ve hitched my wagon there…time starts fleeing out of control. UhOh…here I am now. And I wouldn’t want to miss this post, so I’ll have to search here on your site. I’m sure you’ve got answers for managing the Internet, such as the Mashable article on Twitter that I just retweeted. I really appreciate your hard work that helps us to be more efficient. Thanks again!

  • WJ Anderson

    Great advice! I was heard a performance expert say that the 2 highest impact things you can do to increase productivity are: 1) Eat Breakfast and 2) Start your day the night before – meaning, go to be a reasonable hour.