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Tooling in real life: A developer’s guide to a productive morning routine6 min read

I want to preface this by stating that I’m not an expert on productivity, but what I do want to do is to share with you a morning routine that I’ve been following for years and has worked for me.

We get 24 hours a day, depends on how many hours you spend sleeping, that may get narrowed down to 18 or 15 hours of waking time to do what you need to do.  As developers, we spent most of that time in front of a computer screen either at work or school.  How can we utilize the limited time we have each day to become the best developers we can be?

Wake Up Early (6AM)

This is THE most important habit you’ll need to adapt to, start your day early. This is a monumental task for someone who’s not used to waking up early, but trust me, the benefits will outweigh the cons.  Now you may say “I’m not a morning person” or “It’s impossible for me to wake up this early, I’ll just fall back asleep again”, etc,  I’ve been there and I know for a fact that at the beginning this can be very challenging.  However, with any new habit, it gets easier as you go.  Here are some of my tips to help you ease into it:

  • Go to sleep early the night before.  You should finish up whatever you need to do at night at 10:30PM the latest
  • Eat a healthy dinner to help induce food coma
  • Place your alarm clock at the furthermost point of your room/bed
  • Open your window blinds so sunlight shines directly at you the next day

It took me about a week to get used to this, and by the end of it, I stopped thinking about going back to sleep after I wake up, I didn’t need an alarm clock anymore and I realized the following nice things about mornings:

  • Serenity, the world is still waking up and outside distractions are reduced to a minimum
  • Natural Air, the air is fresh, it is as though you can taste it
  • Your mind is fresh knowing that you have a few hours of time to YOU and YOU only

Find Reading/Video Resources (6am-6:30am)

Twitter

Believe it or not, Twitter is an extremely useful tool to discover new learning materials on the web.  The key to using Twitter is to know who to follow.  I recommend following “digest” accounts that gather latest and greatest from the community straight to your feed. Here are some of my favorites as a web developer:

I also recommend following engineering blogs from well known big companies, because they often blog about some of the behind the scenes details about their latest features:

If you know any famous figures within the community of your interest, they most likely have a Twitter account where they provide useful insights to their expertise.

Twitter’s “Like” button is actually a bookmark feature, since there’s no way I’ll be able to consume all the information in one sitting, I press the like button as I scroll through the feed and bookmark them for reading later.

A screenshot of my Favorites list

Remember, use this part of the morning routine is to gather information for later.

Pocket

If you’re not on Twitter, then Pocket would be the tool for you.  Pocket allows you to save articles from any website and strip them to their minimal form and allows you to read them offline.  Pocket comes with an app for iOS and Android and even an extension for browser.

Similar to our process with Twitter, we use pocket to find articles for the day and save them for later reading.

pocketfavs

Youtube

If you’re a visual/audio learner, then this is for you. Open a Youtube Account and start saving educational videos as “Watch Later” by clicking on the little clock on the bottom right of the video thumbnail.

Youtube Watch Later

Youtube videos are essential for our next step so be sure to find channels that are relevant to your interest and start building a list of videos to watch.

Exercise + Videos (6:30am-7am)

This is the fun part! Start by playing a video from your Youtube Watch Later list and let it run in the background, then at the same time begin stretching your legs and arms. I know it sounds weird, but trust me, if the video is interesting enough, you won’t even notice that you’re stretching.  After your stretching session, begin a mini cardio session by running on the same spot.  After that it’s totally up to you what exercise you do. The point is to get your blood flowing and your mind thinking at the same time, all while consuming the information the video is showing you.

Here’s my routine (I suggest you get a set of dumbells or a barbell, they cost < $150):

  • Stretch arms and legs (5 mins)
  • Cardio (3 mins)
  • Sit ups (100)
  • Monday: Arms and Shoulders (dumbells)
  • Wednesday: Back  (dumbells)
  • Friday: Chest and Triceps (dumbells)
  • Sunday: Legs

These are not heavy duty bodybuilding routines, they’re light weight and designed to be a circuit workout to get your blood pumping.  The most amazing part of this is that you’re doing all that while watching youtube videos about your favorite subjects, you’ll notice that the exercises will become secondary the more you focus on the videos.

Silent Reading (7am-7:30am)

This is the most serene part of the routine, reading.  Remember the articles we saved earlier? We’re going to read them for 30 minutes.  I recommend you to buy a noise canceling headphone to cancel out any background distractions.  It is the absolute best time to catch up on your reading about your field of interest.  Try to think of your reading list as a game: You want to get through the list faster than it grows.

Personal Projects (7:30am-8:00am)

If you have side projects/businesses you need to work on, then this is the time reserved for them.  Setting a time frame truly allows you to focus on it.  Use a Trello Board to organize your list of things to do and use this time to plow through them.

Breakfast and Work/School (8:00am)

Time to shower and prepare to eat a healthy breakfast before heading out to work/school.  Your mind and body should already be prepared for the day to come and I can guarantee you, that when you arrive at work/school, you are already in the right state of mind to perform your best.

Believe it or not, if you do this routine for a week, you’ll feel the difference on your mind and body.

  • Physical exercises will help your body stay fit and release chemicals to relieve stress
  • Youtube Videos and Reading helps you expand your mind so you can continue to improve your field of expertise.
  • Combination of Physical and Mental exercises helps you prepare for the day so you can handle work/school at your optimal mental state.

I’ve been following this routine for a long time now, and it is now second nature to me,  I don’t even have to think about it anymore.  I used to not be a morning person, so doing this not only helped train discipline, it also helped me achieve personal development goals. The key to success is habit, if you can form a habit around activities that benefit you, then it can lead to amazing accomplishments. I challenge you to follow this routine for a week and let me know how it works out for you.

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