5 apps I use for a productive morning routine

Image for post
Image for post

Can a morning routine help you wake up happier in the morning and be more productive during the day? Here are 5 apps that achieve this for me. Will they help you to establish a productive morning routine?

1. Waking Up

“Each night, when I go to sleep, I die. And the next morning, when I wake up, I am reborn.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

The first thing in the morning that determines my mood, energy and potential for the day, is how I wake up. Waking up early and having enough time for my morning routine — and even some more time for doing fun things like watching a TED talk or reading a book — is very important for my productivity later in the day. Let me clarify this: I love being up early and watching the sunrise, but I hate getting up early!

A regular alarm rarely gets me out of bed in time. Usually my reptile brain makes me exploit every single minute for sleeping (via snooze buttons and other little demons). The result: I get up rather late and just in time to do the basic body hygene — no time for meditation, working on my startup or having a relaxed breakfast.

The Sleep Cycle App has a fantastic “smart snooze” function, which starts half an hour before your set alarm time. It increases in frequency and volume until it freaks out around the time wanted to wake up. Sleep Cycle also does not let you snooze the alarm at that point. Basically it is an alarm clock on which you set the time you want to be awake instead of the time you want to start waking up. While this sounds brutal, it is actually a very soft awakening and your body can adjust to waking up over the period of half an hour instead of being ripped out of beautiful dreams in a second.

Sleep Cycle has another nice feature: it monitores your sleep cycles (hence the name, I guess) and tries to wake you up when you’re almost awake anyway. Due to this feature I had fewer of those mornings where you feel like a truck hit you when the alarm rings.

Waking up softly and at the time I planned to goes a long way to set the mood for the rest of my day!

2. Meditation

“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.”
― Amit Ray, Om Chanting and Meditation

Meditation is nothing religious or spiritual for me. It is simply a way to refresh your mind and put it to better use. It is also a tool for happiness. I tried to meditate in various phases of my life, but always quit after a few days or weeks.

The Headspace app was the first thing that kept me meditating for months. Furthermore I could clearly see and reap the benefits of meditation: making better decisions, being more relaxed, being more focused, being more productive and being happier The guiding of this app is just right for me: 10–20min a day with more instructions initially and less and less over time. Today I really love to meditate — it feels so good.

Being smarter, happier and more relaxed are enormous benefits — and I get all this for just getting up 10 minutes earlier in the morning and doing something I absolutely enjoy!

3. Fitness

“A healthy mind in a healthy body.”
– Popular wisdom

I used to do a lot of sports when I was younger. Somewhere along the way, studying, working freelance jobs and touring with my bands ate up all my time; so I quit exercising on a regular basis. I still go surfing and jogging occasionally, but it is not comparable to working my body three times a week on the soccer field.

I’m lucky in a sense, that I still look pretty athletic even without exercising regularly. But my body posture and flexibility definitely showed that something was missing. So today I have a habit of doing a half hour yoga session every day. This doesn’t turn me in into an olympic athlete, but it definitely helps my body posture and flexibility. It also adds to my happiness level.

I find the Yoga Studio app to be a great tool. They have videos for beginners and advanced yogis and — very important for me– videos with various durations. If I’m in a hurry I just do a ten minute session, on a regular day I do a 30 minute session and if I feel like it I do a one hour session. The explanations are good and voice and presentation feel very relaxing to me — even after I heard the sessions more than a hundred times. They also have an Apple TV app, which is very convenient.

Your body and mind give you something in return for a little exercise each day. Do it! You’ll feel the benefits pretty quickly.

4. Focus

“You can do anything, but not everything.”
― David Allen, Getting Things Done

I juggle a lot of different projects. At my company Dreimannzelt we build new products, companies or entire markets every day. Add my bands on the weekends, bootstrapping projects like Gixtra and my private life, and you can’t possibly keep everything in mind. There is also a tendency to always fall back on the tasks I want to do right now rather than focussing on the task that are most important right now. Sometimes the important stuff simply gets buried under the mountain of tasks.

I tried various approaches to stay focused on the important stuff. On single projects, prioritized backlogs from Scrum work very well. But across projects and with a variety of tasks, this still doesn’t help to do the right things at the right time. From all the “productivity approaches” out there, only David Allen’s Getting Things Done really made a difference for me. I must admit, that following the GTD approach is still hard, but at least it betters my situation.

To keep all the tasks that come from emails, Trello boards, Sprint backlogs, the phone or my mind in one place, I use the OmniFocus apps — which are losely based on David Allen’s philosophy. You might get away with different and simpler tools though. With OmniFocus I have the feeling of “mind like water” most of the time. I trust myself, that everything that goes into OmniFocus will not be forgotten. I also can focus on one task at a time in a relaxed way, because I know, everything else is right there once I finished my task.

By the way: I use the “flagging” in OmniFocus to mark tasks for the next day. I do that in the evening for the next day or in the morning, before I start the day. During the day, I have just the flagged items view open and check off the tasks. That way I don’t occupy my mind with other things that I “must not forget” or “must remember to do tomorrow”. Not having to worry about other things you “have to remember to do” while you’re working on a task is a huge productivity boost. It let’s you stay focused. It also feels much better.

5. Happiness

“Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.”
― Ernest Hemingway, The Garden of Eden

Being happy and content is very important for my productivity. I aim for 100% happy days ;). Everyone has better days and worse days. My trick is to accept the bad days and fully enjoy the good ones. I still have bad days, but not grudging about a bad day already makes it less bad.

My morning routine from above helps to boost happiness. Meditating gives me the ability to accept “bad” days. It also constantly corrects my perspective on life and what’s important. Yoga makes my body feel good, which also boosts my mood. I also feel happy while doing things like meditating and yoga. Focussing on tasks without juggling twenty other “do not forget me!” tasks in my mind with GTD helps me to feel happier at work. I helps to reach that state of “flow” more often.

For some time I used a little app called Mr. Mood. This app simply asks you every day: how do you feel. The emerging history of your mood can help you determine, which things in life made you happy in retrospect — and you can then aim to do these things more often. The mood history also helps me to straighten my perspective. If I feel sad, depressed or stressed, the feeling easily colors everything I see negatively. Looking at the data of the past in terms of happiness level shows me: it’s not all bad, overall you have good days and bad days, everything is fine, relax.

Being happy does not come from an app. But objectifying your perspective on your projects, relationships and life from time to time can help to see, how good life is overall.

What more?

This was a glimpse into my morning routine. But how is yours? What do you do or would like to do in the morning? Which apps do you use to support your morning routine?

Written by

Agile Coach, Business Innovator, Software Engineer, Musician

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store