A simplified morning routine

‘I’ll tell you how the sun rose a ribbon at a time.’ ~Emily Dickinson

By Leo Babauta

These days, I wake as the sun begins to softly express itself on the day, and enjoy the early light and the quiet thrum of the world.

Then I do three things: Sit. Read. Write.

It’s my new simplified morning routine.

If you’ve read the old Zen Habits posts, you might have read about my old morning routine — still one of the more popular posts on this patinated site (I actually like the patina here).

Like almost anything else I’ve written about, however, this has changed in my life over the last few years. At one point I abandoned routine altogether, and since have revisited the idea a few times.

Recently, I’ve simplified my routine to those three things. And those three things have been wonderful. Because of this routine, I now start my days slowly, in peace, doing the things I love, mindfully.

It’s hard to start a day better than that.

The Routine

Not everyone will love the three things I do in the morning, so I don’t recommend that everyone adopt it wholesale, but I thought I’d share just to provide ideas for others who might be interested:

1. Sit. I wake up and start the coffeemaker, drink a glass of water, then sit on a small pillow. I just sit, and focus on my breathing. You don’t have to meditate — sitting still, contemplating, taking in the world, is a beautiful thing.
2. Read. I read a book. The paper kind, that doesn’t require electricity. I like reading with no distractions. I’ll read for about half an hour to an hour.
3. Write. Before I check email or Twitter or read my feeds, I sit down and write. It doesn’t matter what — a chapter for my new book, a blog post, answers to an interview someone emailed me, anything. I just write, without distractions.

After I’ve done that, I am now free to check email and read my feeds (I only follow a handful). I get on with the rest of my day.

I used to exercise in the morning, but since moving to San Francisco I’ve found that I prefer waiting until the day has heated up before I venture outside. Moving my exercise has also allowed me to simplify the morning routine.

I used to eat breakfast in the morning, but now I wait until mid-day to eat my steel-cut oats. Why? No special reason — I’m experimenting a bit with compressing my “eating window” from the normal 12-14 hours or so (the time you first eat until the time you last eat in the day) to about 8 hours. It hasn’t been a major change but something I’ve been trying out. It also means I can simplify my morning routine.

Later in the day, I also have tea with my wife, usually, and find time to play with the kids, read some more, write some more.

But early in the morning, I’m enjoying the simplicity of this morning routine.