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  • Reyhan Erdogan

    after reading your article I regret having waisted the last 10 years of my life being just a around and harming my physical and mental self by not being productive and creative!! thank you for inspiring! I have had millions of these moments where I would start sports and healthy way of living i.e. eating habits..but these moments would last maximum 3 months and once I reached the weight I would just go back to my old habits.. but truly I found your article very inspiring and started to read every post as I only signed up to this link on September 10th... look forward to receiving those emails about healthy life on monday and thursdays. Greetings from İstanbul/Turkey

  • Peter DK

    Great article especially about the pre-game routine. We actually developed an App which does exactly that - well for families with children. It simply turns the morning routines into a game and suddenly we have happy children playing their way through clothing, washing and so on with us parents supporting them instead of rushing them. It's called Morning Kids and also comes in a free version. And you can read more on our website

  • Monique Chen

    It's a very nice healthy thinking article i have read in these years.

  • heather.marvin.3

    thanks James, a good article. Makes us aware of what is important. I like to read a portion of the Word of God first thing. Just a small part. Maybe even just a few words that are significant because it gets my head into the right place. eg "Do unto others as you would have them do for you." Makes me not just think of myself. Body mind all soul all matter. Thanks for giving of yourself in these articles, to help others.

  • Allison Cote

    Intermittent fasting isn't for everyone. I, myself, need five to six small meals every day to keep my energy up and my mood stable. A blood sugar dip tends to make me a bit cranky. Yes, food prep and cooking takes time, but if you enjoy doing it and enjoy how it makes you feel than that becomes a priority for you, rather than for someone else. Neither approach is wrong, just depends on whatever floats your boat. Thanks for all the great tips!

  • Emily Gaudette

    Definitely down with all except using food as a reward. Any emotional attachment to food is problematic for me - I just want to eat for fuel and enjoy sustaining myself. That doesn't interfere with my writing or work!

    • Allison Cote

      I'm the same way. If I reward myself with food, I will suddenly find any excuse to put a bit of chocolate or whatever else in my mouth because, "oh, well, I did a good job." No. I reward myself with trips to bookstores and comb the bargain sections. :)

  • Sheryl Leigh-Davault

    Loved this, just not sure about #7. Will look into your links to further learn and discern.... = )

  • Andrea Long

    I'm not sure there's evidence to back up #7. NPR just published an article today about the benefits of eating breakfast, which focuses on a new study that states, "men who routinely skipped breakfast had a 27 percent higher risk of having a heart attack or dying from coronary heart disease compared to men who ate breakfast."

    • Allison Cote

      It's one of the newer theories, so not a ton of information is available. Results will ultimately vary from person-to-person. I personally don't agree with the theory, and my body responds better when fueled every two or three hours, but there are certainly people who have done well fasting.

  • Andy C. Ng

    Thanks for a great article! As a 20-year-old, this was exactly what I needed to read. Excited to start my mornings off better!

  • Rachel

    Only 16,240 more mornings! Why would I want to start them all the same way?? ;)

  • orish

    What a wonderful article! I've been struggling with many of the points you raise, both for myself and when advising others (I develop minimalist-but-effective strategies for learning and healthy living).

    Points 1-6 are so *right*. I've been advising the same thing about managing (or increasing) your energy rather than time... a little along the lines of The Four-Hour Work Week (except the book misses the main point of how to *make it happen* in real life).

    Preparing the night before is so important. If you don't then it either takes you a good hour to faff about getting started in the morning... or you don't get started at all. Same applies if you want to get more exercise: prepare your kit and clothes in advance, so no matter how cold or wet or dark it is outside, you just have to pick up your pre-prepared sports bag and go!

    Don't open your mail till noon is my personal Achilles' Heel. I usually have important customer enquiries and I tend to deal with them at length, but then the whole morning is gone and I'm exhausted, and then hungry... and then I'm sleepy from eating a big lunch, and it's hot all afternoon - and my day is gone.

    I'm going to try this from now on... my customers can wait an extra half a day. And I'm far more inclined to deal with emails in the afternoon because it isn't quite as mentally taxing as my other projects - which require a lot of creating thinking "energy" and could be more effectively done in the mornings! Thanks for that kick-in-the-pants...

    Turning off phones and communication devices is something I've managed to do. It takes some effort to wean yourself off this (distracting) links to the outside world. I don't start up Skype automatically for instance, and keep logged out of facebook, etc. These are HUGE distractors - particularly if someone pings me a message and is expecting an immediate reply. If I'm simply not online then I won't get sucked into idle chat with my various friends and colleagues and customers... and if it's important then I can deal with it in writing later on.

    I live in a hot country (Thailand) and I can't stand the heat, nor do I have air conditioning. I've toyed with the idea of having one room with aircon, but it's kind of expensive because of the high running costs. It may be false economy because I might get a lot of (paid-for) work done if I had a cool place to work in. The previous president of Singapore Lee Kwan Yew made a famous remark that air conditioning was the greatest invention of the 20th century: it's the key success factor of Singapore's economy.

    Saying that, I could probably get just as much done if I did it in the morning, and dealt with emails and communication in the afternoons...

    Simple aerobic exercise - oxygenating those brain cells - is pretty obvious, but one has to read it as in your article for it to sink in. I'd like to add one small point: every few minutes or so (or whenever you think about it) allow your eyes to focus around the room because we can get quickly tired by staring at our computer screens for too long. A short, brisk walk outside of your regular work room for 2-3 minutes every hour is a good habit to get into. Our attention flags after about 45-50 minutes (which is why psychiatrists and school lessons tend to be this length of time). So chunk your work times to be no more than one hour maximum - ideally 50 minutes with a 5-10 minutes break to "regroup".

    Fasting is good, but I don't really do it. It's not always as "healthy" or "cleansing" as some people say. The caveat is that you need to understand how to fast. Long periods of fasting are not helpful, but fasting between your evening meal and lunch time the next day is OK. That's the routine that I've got into. I'm only slightly overweight, but only because I really enjoy eating, and I make up for not eating breakfast at breakfast time by eating lunch AND breakfast at lunch time (actually around 2pm by the time I get around to it). It's 2.30pm now as I write this and I haven't started lunch yet (!)

    One thing I can say in favour of "fasting" is that I really enjoy being hungry, because it means that I enjoy eating that much more. I really don't like to eat if I'm not hungry. And I *really* enjoy going to a great buffet after I've made sure not to eat for a good 16 hours or so before I go. I'm a buffet restaurant's worst nightmare: they always make a loss on me LOL!

    HOWEVER, you *must* drink! And I don't mean coffee or colas. Plain water is ideal. You body flushes itself out naturally during the night (special detox programs are *not* necessary and have been proven to be totally ineffectual). If you still want to "eat" before noon then it's usually a good idea to stick to water-based foods like fruit and vegetables. Have a fruit breakfast or snacking on fruit in the mornings (NOT fruit cereal bars: they're just sugar/carbohydrates). Or fruit/vegetable juices or smoothies. Cereals are totally useless, except for a quick energy spike, like the rush you get from coffee. It's very short-lived and - indeed - can deplete you of energy because of the action of your pancreas.

    Caveat: if you are in a profession where you are exerting a lot of physical effort then go ahead and eat a huge breakfast full of proteins and carbs. Fasting won't help you to work optimally at all. One study with athletes and fire-fighters did show, however, that if you liquidize your food and drink it as a tasty soup then you will feel far more energetic than if you eat the same food as solids.

    Using food as a "reward" doesn't work for me - and I'm not sure it works for many people. I do, however, find it useful to make a learning task more palatable by creating a ritual time with a (very) good coffee and cake/donuts/etc. I develop self-study language learning products that require 15-20 minutes every day to become fluent. And the best way to motivate yourself to study is to look forward to your coffee-and-cake time (where you happen to work through the language exercises while enjoying your coffee break).

    In general, the whole issue about food is contentious. It's certainly not healthy to overeat (and it would explain why I'm so sleepy in the afternoons because I eat a big lunch). One of the most fascinating studies that I came across was where mice were slightly underfed and they lived TWICE as long as their normal life expectancy. The (middle-aged) researchers immediately tried it out on themselves and discovered that by eating slightly less than the "RDA", they felt and looked at least 10 years younger and seemed to have a great deal more energy in their everyday lives. I can't do it, but if it makes you live longer and gives you more energy then why not give it a go?

    I can't comment on your last point (the "pre-game" routine). It sounds like a great idea and I'm gonna give it a try...


  • Joao Perre Viana

    Thank you James for sharing ! Inspiring and helpful to put things into perspective.

  • anne laoo-mcdonald

    Good tips except for the food ones. Starting the day off with a bowl of Wheaties is important and not such a hot idea to use food as a reward for exercising.

  • Alla Baskakova

    thank you James. that is my point - suggestions are great, the delivering of them is off. in fact we all have certain routines and a morning routine is one of the hardest to change (if it needs to be changed!). i am treating addicted people and want to share our technique how we motivate our patients to change their habbits without confrontation and making them feel inferior. imagine that you have to tell to an alcoholic that he should stop drinking or to the obese person that they should eat less and go to the gym. we all know 'just say no' does not work. we use motivational interviewing techniqus helps to bring the ideas of change on the surface in the way that the person who needs help is feeling engaged and that he himself generates the ways out of the terrible addiction traps. if you want to help to people and be popular take a look in this method.

  • Bill Samulenok

    aren't our current eating patterns based more on habit and culture than understanding how our bodies work?

    please remember that James' article has much more content than just his feelings about breaking fast in the morning. one size does not fit all. James is clearly doing ok despite his culture's preference in first meal.

    25,000 days. that's all we get. that's a chilling and at the same time motivating idea. Thanks, James. maybe this will help me get my mornings in order.

    • James Clear

      Thanks Bill! I'm glad you enjoyed the article.

      You're right that the 3 meals per day strategy is mostly shaped by culture and what we see as "normal." That's not to say it's a bad idea, but there are other good options as well.

      The most important thing is to find an approach that works well for you -- no strategy will work for everyone.

      Thanks for reading and good luck with your morning routine!

  • Alla Baskakova

    i read all advises and they are not too bad, the only my comment is that the author uses himself as an absolute. it is all sounds like 'do this and that because i do and it works for me!'. well, there are very few people are writers who can afford their set up routine the way how the author does... in fact, he should(!) realize that the more he says 'you should...' the least anyone will want to do it.

    • James Clear

      Hi Alla -- thanks for reading and commenting.

      Sorry I came off like I was using myself as the only possible example -- I'm anything but that!

      I simply wanted to share these ideas because they have worked well for me. I still have a lot to learn and I'm sure my routine will change as I learn more and progress through life.

      Hopefully you found a few ideas in this post that you can use. That's the most important thing: take the ideas that work for you and forget the rest.

      Good luck!

  • Joanne Hughes

    most of your points are good, I'm a firm believer in eating SOMETHING within an hour or so of rising (ideally protein), manage your energy✓, plan the night before✓ ( I prepare/plan breakfast/lunch on Sunday for the week), work in a cool place ✓ and stand up...absolutely! Pre-game rountine...indeed, matcha tea and a 20 minute walk with my dog and its all good after that! Off to work...
    I'm 58 and I plan on another 50 years of mornings, I'll keep you posted.

    • James Clear

      Joanne -- thanks for reading! And congrats on your routine. Sounds like you really have things down.

      Also, the protein within an hour of waking up is a great strategy. I've used that myself at different times. Fasting has produced the best results for me recently, but there are a lot of good options.

      Good luck with the next 50 years!

  • BD3

    There is TONS of evidence showing that if you don't eat breakfast, you have a tendency to be overweight. Eating the first meal at noon is what sumo wrestlers do to gain weight (not making this up). You can read it anywhere, tons of documented evidence. Glad it works for you, but for many people it helps cause obesity.

    • James Clear

      Hey BD3 -- thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.

      Do you have links to some of the studies showing the link between missing breakfast and being obese? If so, please share.

      For the other side of the argument, I wrote about the health benefits of fasting and the research behind it here:

      And I appreciate the feedback. I'm always looking to improve. I still have a lot to learn and I'm merely sharing what has worked well for me thus far.

      Hopefully you found the rest of the article to be helpful. Thanks for reading!

      • BD3

        Oh, and think the rest of the article is for people who don't do what I do for a living. However, I appreciate the comment that you need to use the morning to do what your energy says you should. I'm not a morning person. I do the least creative and active things then. I actually do email and phone support in the am and go see clients in the afternoon when my brain is working. My original comment about your article was made in the morning. I can tell my brain wasn't working yet!

      • BD3

        I got all of the information in my comment about sumo wrestlers and skipping meals from the book "Ultra-Metabolism" by Mark Hyman MD. Chapter 5 is called "The Sumo Wrestler Myth: Skipping Meals Helps You Lose Weight". This book is well supported and has lots of notes and sources in the back. This is a book you should really take a look at. The book is designed to help you get your metabolism moving faster so you can lose weight easier. I also read an article recently in the NY Times (they won't let me log on right now without a membership) that discussed that there was yet another study done stating that skipping breakfast is one of the things that overweight/obese people tend to do. Eating first thing in the morning gets your metabolism moving.

    • Alessandra Rizzotti

      He's not saying to skip breakfast for weight purposes. He's saying reward yourself after completing a morning routine.

    • mcatherine.thomas

      Thank you for your article! These are good tips.

      I agree, BD3.

      Chinese Medicine teaches us that our digestive system is most active between the hours of 7AM and 9AM. This is the time when we should have our largest meal of the day. Skipping breakfast is like missing the bus - your metabolism will spend the rest of the day playing catch-up. Doing so frequently can result in poor food absorption.

      Fasting is indeed an effective way to cleanse the body, but one should exercise caution. Doctors of TCM will recommend no more than one day a week for a strong, healthy person; one day a month for a person who is elderly or prone to illness.

      But "fasting" from email? That I can get behind.

      • James Clear

        Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts! I'll definitely look into the metabolism research.

        And I love the "fasting from email" slogan! It will work wonders!

    • Jen Grant

      I was a little taken aback by the recommendation to skip a meal. However, if the big meals consumed later are healthful, I doubt one would turn into a sumo wrestler. Perhaps having a set "breakfast meal" decided, prepared, easy to eat and easy to clean up set out the night before?

      • James Clear

        Hi Jen -- thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts!

        Preparing a meal beforehand would definitely help with productivity, but I think your general idea of eating a larger, healthy meal is on the money.

        In my experience, if you get proper nutrition during a 24-hour period (in my case, 3,500+ calories from whole, real foods) ... then you rarely have to worry that much about the timing. It's not necessarily skipping a meal, it's just "moving it back" to lunch and dinner.

        Anyway, even if that doesn't sound appetizing to you, hopefully you found the other suggestions useful!

        • Jen Grant

          As a mother of 2 young children, getting motivated before I "have" to in the morning (like, before the kids are awake) is sometimes a tricky task. I'll stash some of the other tips aside for when I start obeying my alarm clock.