I Followed James Clear’s Simple and Easy morning routine – Did I Become Super Productive?

I recently finished Atomic Habits by James Clear, a #1 New York Times best-selling novel. I think I learned SO much about habit keeping/breaking. So, slightly idolizing the author, and thinking about my own morning routine, I wanted to give his morning routine a try. If one of the most successful writers of productivity does it, maybe it’ll make me a little more productive? 

Naturally, I did not go into this little experiment with super high expectations. Everyone is different and his process may not work as well for me. 

A quick Google search led me to this article, where James Clear quickly sums up his morning routine in one sentence. Here’s the gist of it:

  1. Wake up naturally – without an alarm
  2. Take a shower
  3. Drink a glass of water
  4. Write down 3 things I’m grateful for 
  5. Read 20 pages of a book 
  6. Get into work 

Seems like a super simple and straightforward routine. I like that. I don’t feel like something is a routine if it takes hours and hours to complete, that’s a day routine. Anyway, I was excited for the next morning!

I took notes after the routine everyday to keep track of how I felt. What I liked, what I didn’t, what wasn’t working for me.

Here are my thoughts:

  • Waking up without an alarm – life changing. How amazing it is to avoid that huge spike in anxiety when I hear my LOUD VIBRATING phone alarm?

I’ve recently started leaving my phone outside the room because I don’t want to check it first-thing in the morning. In the beginning, I set an alarm with my nightstand clock but then I realized I didn’t really need it. I’ve learned to trust my own internal clock, I’ve surprisingly woken up a few minutes before my alarm would ring!

  • Showering first-thing in the morning can be quite a nuisance. 

I don’t usually sweat over night, so I don’t feel particularly dirty in the morning. Then, when I would work out later, I would have to shower again. That was annoying.

On a positive note, it was nice to feel fresh every morning. Showering first thing certainly helped with making sure I got dressed for the day and getting into work mode, even if I didn’t plan on leaving the house that day. 

  • Drinking a glass of water first thing in the morning is a must. 

Everyone should start their day rehydrating themselves after HOURS without water during our sleep! I added some lemon juice to my glass of water as always, it’s probably my favourite part of the morning.

You may be wondering when James Clear eats breakfast? He doesn’t! He intermittent fasts, meaning he’ll eat his first meal later in the day, around 12-1 PM. That’s why his breakfast isn’t included in the routine. 

Luckily for me, I’m also not a fan of  early breakfasts and thus I inadvertently intermittently fast as well. I also find that I’m a little slower after breakfast and I know mornings are my most productive time. A lot of people fast in the morning for this reason as well. 

  • Writing THREE things I’m grateful for every single day feels like a lot.

I’ve spoken about writing down things I’m grateful for before, I love doing it! Just not 3 things. For me, it’s a bit much. I usually write down one thing I’m grateful for at night, when I’m planning tomorrow’s tasks. It helps me reflect and find good things about my day.

I found that the list of three things I wrote every morning consisted of big, general things, not so much the little things that brightened up my day. It started feeling like a chore, rather than making me more appreciative. 

I loved starting the day on such a positive note though! Maybe I’ll try writing one thing in the morning, and another at night.

  • It’s so difficult to put a limit to the number of pages you read. 

You can’t stop at a really good part, and sometimes that really good part just leads to another, and another, how do you stop yourself?

Or how can you stop at 20 pages, when the chapter ends in 5 more pages? Or what if 20 pages is 1 page into the next chapter? Maybe I took this step a little too literally?

The last thing I would’ve thought I’d have a lack of self-control in, is reading. I love reading, but truly it takes much more effort than endlessly scrolling through Instagram reels. But my book was at its peak and I couldn’t put it down. 

On the 5th day of the week, I read over 100 pages and ended up finishing my book. The work I was supposed to get to? Forgot about it. 

What I loved about this though, is having a time slot dedicated to reading. I often leave reading for the end of the day, so if I am too tired, I will skip it. Sometimes, I can ignore my book  for 2 weeks or more. It’s unfortunate. So, I think I’ll try to dedicate a 30-minute time slot every day for reading.  

  • I love starting my work early in the morning! 

I didn’t need this routine to figure this out. Truly, I really don’t have a choice, because once later in the day hits, I’m lethargic, easily distracted, and there are so many more interruptions.

In the early hours of the morning (as long as I’ve slept well), I’m clear-headed and my creativity peaks. I like to save these hours for personal work and goals, or work I am super passionate about. The later hours of my day, I’ll do work that doesn’t require as much of my brain power.

BIG QUESTION: Did this routine make me more productive?

In short, no. Following James’ morning routine did not make me more productive. I think it probably made me less productive. I would take long, hot showers that make me feel cozy, then sit down with a book and a glass of warm lemon water? Way too comfy.

I would read and read and read until I saw the time and was shocked that I needed to start my work ASAP! Now, this is not the fault of the routine. If I had stopped myself at 20 pages, I wouldn’t have been late to start my work. So clearly, reading before working is not helpful for me.

What I’m taking from this routine though, or continuing, is waking up without an alarm, and having that glass of water first thing in the morning. It’s honestly the best way to ease into a new day. 

I liked showering in the morning because I felt fresh, so maybe I’ll try adding my work out to my morning routine. I’ve been trying to work out in the morning throughout my whole life really…but I’ll keep trying. This way I can still get that fresh feeling in the morning, but not have to shower again later.

I think I might add another section to write one thing that I’m grateful for each morning when I look at my To-Dos for the day. I’ll still keep writing at night too when I can reflect on my day. 

I wasn’t expecting this to be a life-changing routine – unless you stop using your alarm because of this routine, I recommend this 100% if you have a great internal clock and self-control – but I wanted to give it a try because this author’s habits are quite impressive. 

I’ve learned to keep my morning routine simple, and that I still need to find the one that is right for me. Whose routine should I try next?

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