Life Hacks

The Imperfect Morning Routine I’ve Used to Write 10,000+ Words per Day, Twice a Week

Tim Denning Morning Motivation

Photo by Omid Armin on Unsplash

A gorgeous morning routine isn’t something I have.

My morning routine doesn’t make for a good story on Forbes. Tim Ferriss would chase me down the street with a Texas Chainsaw if he knew about my morning routine.

My morning routine is full of imperfections, screw-ups, and breaks most productivity gurus’ rules. Who needs productivity gurus anyway? Seneca wannabes? Nope.

This morning routine helps me write 10,000+ words twice a week, on Thursdays and Saturdays. You can use elements of my routine for your own. Or you can grab the whole thing.

Whether you want to be a writer, entrepreneur, 9-5 worker (like me), or the next man/woman to beat a Guinness World Record, I’m sure there’s some good stuff in my morning routine for you.

If nothing else, this morning routine will help you wake up from your own and allow you to try a new routine out.

I Use a Loud Alarm Clock That Will Probably Give Me a Heart Attack

You’re not supposed to use loud wake up sounds, says science. It puts you into fight or flight mode.

You’re supposed to wake up peacefully like Madonna. You’re supposed to sleep on a golden pillow full of duck feathers. You’re supposed to wake up gracefully and have the morning sun shine through your curtains and make you look young again. This moment is supposed to be even better with a selfie of you holding a mug with a motivational quote on it.

My alarm clock is more hardcore than guns and roses.

It’s one of the standard bell sounds you get on a new iPhone (a phone that would have Steve Jobs rolling in his grave if he saw all the new complexity).

Without this abrasive alarm sound I’d never wake up. I used to hate my life. I drank many of the good years away. This meant morning routines were not possible, because my hangover from the night before replaced them.

The loud alarm helped me win again.

What really helped me was placing my phone on the other side of the bedroom in aeroplane mode.

Since trying this strategy, I’ve never looked back. It’s worked for six years straight now, without once screwing me over and making me sleep in. I estimate I’ve gained about two hours per day of time back, multiplied by 365, multiplied by 6 years, because I don’t sleep in anymore.

(Total time saved: 2 Hours per day x 365 x 6 years = 262,800 minutes… or 4380 hours)

Do this: be hardcore with an abrasive alarm and place it on the other side of your bedroom.

I Break Every Rule and Check My Email First

Yep, I break every rule. I find looking at my emails while still half asleep makes me more ruthless with deleting the noise in my inbox.

It sounds like this in case you’re wondering: “What are you looking at?” *Spoken in a drunk person’s voice*

Productivity experts say email is the devil. I say that from time to time too. But I love email in the morning. My favorite emails come from Todd Brison.

Todd treats the email subject line like the headline of a blog post he has written for James Altucher to evaluate and turn into a New York Times Best Selling Book. (Wait, James and New York have a thing. Forget I said anything.)

Why not check email first thing? Emails help me think about my to-do list. Emails contain good news. Emails contain opportunities to earn a living. If you ignore your email, you probably ignore your life too.

Email is only terrible if you use it like an amateur. Use email like a pro and it’s not so bad.

Email doesn’t ruin your morning routine; only you can do that.

I Drink Water Without the Lemon

The glorious productivity gods preach water with lemon first thing in the morning. I tried it.

My dentist yelled at me and left me with a nasty bill. He said “all the lemon water is messing up your teeth and decaying your gum lines.” I could have got fancy and bought a straw. But a morning routine hack layered with another morning routine hack is just too much. This isn’t the morning routine olympics where you’re trying to make your life difficult to win a gold medal of broken dreams.

Maybe you don’t need all the lemon water alkalizing hacks.

The First Three Hours Don’t Make or Break Me

My best hours are 8 AM to 11 AM. Everybody is different. As a music producer earlier in my career, my best hours were after 10 PM.

It takes your body time to wake up in the morning. You may not be most effective right after you wake up. That’s okay. Don’t let stoic wisdom force you to live your life 100% their way.

I Do My Work in the Morning on My Computer

Doing anything on the small screen of a phone is a pain in the butt.

One of my biggest morning routine hacks is not using my phone to do pretty much anything. I use my phone to send text messages (old school) and answer phone calls that are sent to me from mobile phone towers.

The phone is the least effective device in my productivity arsenal. I need a full-size keyboard with real keys to feel safe and sound.

I’d write one-hundred words a day, not 10,000+, if I was forced to write on the tiny ass screen of my con job productivity myth of a phone-piece-of-shit.

I Meditate On and Off

Meditation does make you calm.

The thing is, sometimes I want to be pissed off. Sometimes I don’t want to sit quietly with an app and create a perfect morning routine. There are periods of my life when I’ve meditated consistently in the morning and periods when I haven’t. Habits can help you change your life. Habits can also rob you of a lot of joy if you don’t know why you do them, or you don’t love them.

I don’t always love mediation. Sometimes sitting quietly in a room is the last thing I want to do because I have words inside of me that I’m dying to release out of my mind as soon as possible.

Meditate if you want. Or don’t.

Not meditating doesn’t make you a bad person. You can live your life without meditation if you want. You do you sunshine.

I Don’t Do Cold Showers

It’s freezing cold in Melbourne (where I live) already. Why the heck would I want to ruin a good shower with freezing cold water?

I have tried this hack multiple times in my life and failed. I like warm showers. Why?

Warm showers put me in a flow state.

Warm showers are where I do my best thinking. Warm showers are where I come up with the writing ideas I need to write 10,000+ words in a day. Without warm showers, I’d be screwed. Cold showers might be good for your body. But so is doing the best work of your life, thanks to clear shower thinking.

Your best work can happen in the shower. You can write ideas on the wall of your shower with liquid chalk so you don’t forget them.

Bulletproof Coffee Destroys My Morning

Bulletproof coffee is too hardcore.

I drink normal instant coffee two days a week, on writing days only. Coffee helps me get into a flow state. But drinking coffee every day turns me into an anxious skinny dude who is in too much of a hurry.

Coffee loses its magic if you rely on it every day to get you going, and keep you going.


There’s some conventional morning routine stuff I do. Here goes.


I DO Wake up at 6 AM

I used to wake up at 4 AM — not anymore.

I realized 4 AM is for single people who don’t have partners. Most partners won’t want to wake up at 4 AM with you because they probably like to sleep and live a semi-normal, non-productivity obsessed life.

Still, waking up early has enormous benefits. 6 AM works for me. It’s early enough to get stuff done. But late enough that my girlfriend doesn’t want to leave me for a sleep-in man.

I DO Go to Bed and Wake up at the Same Time Every Day

Routine has been good for me. My body naturally knows, after so many years of going to bed and waking up at the same time, what time it is.

I go to bed at 10 PM and wake up at 6 AM like it’s a religion. If I have to decide when to go to bed, then I will be guided by my willpower and off a cliff.

Decide when you want to sleep and when you want to wake up so you can remove a major decision from your day. Your life can be better with less decisions to make.

I DO Listen to Music on Repeat in the Morning

Matt Mullenweg, the founder of WordPress (a website creation platform that runs more than half the blogs on the internet), says he listens to one song on repeat to get into flow. Tim Ferriss and Ryan Holiday also use this tactic.

I borrowed this hack from Matt, too, for my mornings. I play movie soundtrack playlists in the morning. Music played on repeat in the morning puts you in a trance. A trance-like state can help you win your morning and get your most important tasks done.

Music on repeat silences your mind, it blocks distractions, and helps you focus. Focus is how you achieve a ridiculous goal like writing 10,000+ words in a day.


One Thing I Might Add to My Morning Routine

I haven’t got a fully optimized morning routine yet. It’s always a work in progress. I’ve always hated journaling in Morning Pages like a lot of self-help folks love doing — and brag about doing.

Hollywood actor Matthew McConaughey published a book called “Greenlights.” The book is the result of over 30 years of journaling every day in the morning. When things go wrong in his life, or right, he looks back at his journal to see what might explain it.

Matt uses his journal like a self-help book he wrote himself of his best tips, because he knows he’ll forget the small things that helped him achieve his big goals.

I hate journaling, but after listening to McConaughey, I’m considering adding the habit to my morning routine.


Your morning routine doesn’t need to mimic a navy seals. You can go non-hardcore in the morning and still live a fulfilling life. Many morning routines I’ve read are just not practical for a writer like me. Perhaps you feel the same way.

The one hack I’ve used consistently in my imperfect morning routine is to have a reason to wake up.

Every morning, I have given myself a reason to wake up and make the most of the day. It took me 30+ years to realize the reason I wake up is to serve people, by writing about experiences and topics that have made a difference in my life. This reason to wake up has made writing so much easier.

If you want to win the morning, have an empowering reason to wake up.

Tim Denning
Tim is a thought leader in the personal development, entrepreneur and startup fields.Outside of blogging, Tim works for a large organisation helping fast moving technology companies come to Australia as well as helping Australian tech companies go to the world.
1 Comment
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