Frictionless routines

April 19, 2016

I’m obsessed with morning routines. I constantly tweak my morning (and evening) routines, with the goal of doing them without thinking. I want to get all of the miscellany out of the way so that I can get to mentally demanding tasks after having made as few decisions possible. That leaves me with more energy to write books.

I’ve found that the key is to make the routine frictionless, especially in the morning. My willpower is always low in the morning, so I’m prone to slacking off rather than getting ready for the day—not productive. So I work with my natural energy levels.

I’ll give an example. When I first wake up I’ve found that I only have so long before I’ll want to check a few routine websites (webcomics, mostly). Not doing this annoys me enough that it hurts my productivity, so instead of fighting it, I plan for it. I wake up, throw on some workout clothes, drink some tea while meditating, and then heat up breakfast (which I made the night before). Maybe 30 minutes will have passed of mostly effortless tasks, and then I can check my sites while I eat.

This works for me. What didn’t work was when I tried to cook in the morning or workout before I checked my sites. I kept faltering either before or after the cooking, which meant some days I didn’t even eat breakfast—not a great start. There was too much friction, and I wasn’t obeying the natural rhythms of my morning energy.

Evening routines can include a little more friction, since the reward of a nice, warm bed will spur you to get it all done, though too much friction can still cause you to delay, delay, delay…and soon you’re going to bed two hours later than planned. Or at least that’s true of me.

The most important thing, though, is to constantly refine your routine until it flows like hot butter. I talked about my morning routine half a year ago, and it’s changed a lot since then. Here’s where I’m at now:

  • Wash face, put on workout clothes.
  • Make black tea, sit on the couch, and meditate with a blue light on. (This helps wake me up and prepares my mind for the day.)
  • Eat breakfast (see below).
  • Do one of three predesignated workouts, with which one I do determined by the day of the week.
  • Shower and shave.
  • Make green tea, consume a protein bar &/or protein shake, and then write.

For my evening routine:

  • Take a warm bath (idea stolen from the Japanese/Tim Ferriss).
  • Journal about the day.
  • Do to-do notecard for tomorrow.
  • Prepare breakfast (rice, chicken, & black beans), lunch (slice vegetables for stir fry), & dinner (thaw fish, set aside vegetables) for the next day.
  • Put my laptop in the kitchen, so I can’t access it first thing in the morning.

At this point, there are only a few points of failure in my routine. I sometimes slack off after working out or showering, as well as between my evening bath and prepping tomorrow’s meals, but compared to past routines I’m pretty pleased. By the time I’m writing each day, most of the miscellany has been taken care of with minimal thought, which means I can focus on writing books with a full tank of gas. Plus I’m healthier, happier, and more emotionally centered, which is nice too I guess.

As always, thank you for using my Amazon Affiliate link (info).

By Stephen W. Gee

Author of Wage Slave Rebellion, Freelance Heroics, and about two good blog posts out of a hundred.


  1. Reply

    Andrea J

    I am a HUGE fan of making a list at bedtime of things I don’t want to forget in the morning. I’ve learned the hard way that if I don’t write it down, I’ll be afraid that I’ll forget it, so I fixate on it all night and don’t sleep very well. If I get it down on a piece of paper, my brain knows the info is in a safe place, so I can relax and fall asleep. I tend to start working by 7:30am, and the list is handy, because I’m not usually 100% awake at 7:30am!

    1. Reply

      Stephen W. Gee

      I totally agree! I keep a bunch of notecards by my bed for that reason. Once it’s out of my mind, I can sleep.

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