A Perfect Morning – Joshua Holland Edition

Routine, it often helps lay the groundwork for success. But while routine is often billed as the formula for success, the form it takes widely varies. After all, some business leaders start their day with a solid 3-mile run while others prefer a slower pace which includes coffee and a collection of news stories. So that begs the question, what is the perfect morning routine?

Honestly, I thought about writing yet another, “how to have a perfect morning” blog post but immediately hit backspace after I came to my senses; there is way too much of that content out on the web today.  Instead, here is “Joshua Holland’s Morning Guide.” It’s not glamorous or 100% original – portions of it are borrowed from people I’ve come to admire over the years. But it works for me and might be a good template for others to consider.

A Strong Cup of Coffee
If you know anything about me, you know I drink a fair amount of coffee. But oddly enough most of the time I’m primarily a “social coffee drinker.” I have yet to develop a caffeine addiction (knock on wood) but after being introduced to the ability to make decent coffee at home by my Stepdad, it’s become a major part of my routine and a welcome treat I look forward to each morning as I stumble out of bed and attempt to not bump into anything.


Finding Place in My Hourglass for Sand and Rocks
Your day as I learned while working at Tacoma Public Utilities during a Franklin Covey workshop is a lot like a glass jar you’re trying to fit rocks and sand into. If you don’t plan how you’re going to fill the jar, you’re going to run out of space quickly. If you however decide where to place the large and medium sized rocks first and then add the sand, the bottle will be able to be filled.


To this end, I examine the big items on my calendar (longtime fan of Sunrise) and adjust the structure of my day based on the number of events and tasks on my list.


Charting My Day
Once I’ve decided what rocks need to go where and how that’s going to happen, I put my ideas to paper using Tac Anderson’s GTD Hack. A handy process for mapping out your day. Tac already has an excellent blog post detailing the specifics of the process on his blog but below are a few highlights.

The “Day Map” is broken up into a number of sections. It starts with three lists which force you to ask yourself

“3 Things I Have to Do”
“3 Things I’m Working On”
“3 Things I Did”

The first section contains the three biggest items I’ve flagged for the day, while the second section is comprised of items that need to happen but likely won’t complete in the day – as an imperfect perfectionist, this part is often the hardest for me, especially since I may not actually complete the tasks in this bucket but will most certainly make headway on them. The last section is dedicated to things I did. While this section isn’t completed in the morning, it lets me add in a few wins (big or small) at the end of the day.


After the list of three things comes the “Return and Report” section. Like the three things I did mentioned above, it’s not possible to complete this section in the morning but helps setup well for an evening ritual. It contains the following sections

“What went well?”
“Do Better”
“Up Next”

On the adjacent page of the journal, the “Day Map” breaks into what I call an “analog calendar.” At the top I list habits or things I want to happen daily. For me this consists of walking my dog Judo, reading, writing, and exercising. After the habit checklist is a clock listed from my wake time to bedtime. In this section I pencil in how I’d LIKE my day to flow. It’s often ideal but helps set the pace for the day.

Brain Food and the Normal Variety
News isn’t delivered to my door in the traditional sense but I have aggregated a few feeds in my feedly reader and maintain different Twitter lists which help me stay up-to-date on what’s going in the world and happening in sectors I’m passionate about – technology, built environment, government, etc. I start out by scanning my lists for articles I like and then add them to Pocket for consumption. Why?

There is more “news” than ever! As I discovered when I first adopted this habit, it’s a dual edged sword in many ways. Sure there is a lot to read but

  1. It is not all “good” content
  2. Internet news is a black hole for time. Trying to read everything is impossible

That is why I save things I’m interested in reading in Pocket and then read within an ~1 hour time limit in the morning.


So there you have it. Joshua Holland’s “perfect morning.” It’s a recipe and like any recipe worth its salt, I’m constantly tweaking and adjusting it to make it just a little better each day. What’s you morning routine; what puts you in the right gear for a great day?

]Images Courtesy of Joshua Holland, Jason CarlinThomas Hawk]

[Writing Prompt Courtesy of Daily Page]