My Daily Productivity Routine

gagilas via Flickr

I’ve been accused over the years of getting a lot done in a day. So much so that the assumption is I don’t sleep much. But, the truth of the matter is that I don’t really work that many hours at all (Okay, I know that’s relative, I work more than some, but I love it.). I’ve developed my own little routine, aided by some technology, which allows me to stay very productive.

Now, I don’t always get to live my perfect work day, but just for grins I thought I would share my routine and some thoughts on productivity.

So, here goes:

  • 5:30 am – Rise and shine – coffee first – meditate – read something that inspires
  • 6:00 am – Write and amplify daily blog post
  • 7:00 am – Empty inbox – I don’t check email until after I’ve worked on something for at least an hour – I adhere to GTD rules on email – if it takes 2 minutes or less deal with it, delegate or create action step for later – I’ll deal with emails again at 10, 2, and 4
  • 7:30 am – Exercise – mix of running, biking, yoga, and strength – goals is 5-6 times a week – this is one of the biggest payoffs in terms of energy and productivity
  • 8:30 am – Breakfast – just like mom said – best meal of the day
  • 9:00 am – Daily reading routine – this is RSS feed, magazines, and random exploring
  • 10:00 am – Head to office tackle to do list – I focus on the list in 90 minute chunks and take routine breaks to stretch or do something physical. I also have drink 32 oz of water during each chunk. I have a stand-up desk and try to spend at least an hour during the workday standing instead of sitting. I’ve noticed that I have intra day cycles where I’m most productive – 10-Noon and 3-5 are my most productive hours and I schedule most meetings in the first period and most of my creative work in the 3-5 period. I usually eat a snack around now. I avoid phone meetings as much as I can – it’s not that I’m anti social, there’s a place for meetings, just not in place of a well-written email that accomplishes the same.
  • 11:00 am – Meet with staff to go over projects and action steps
  • Noon – I get out of the office to eat lunch – my office is in a commercial area and I can grab lunch with a ten minute walk.
  • 1pm – 5pm – Back at the to do list in 90 minute chunks, with some meetings mixed in. This is where I do power writing on projects or create slide decks for presentations and products.  Try to eat a healthy snack around 3pm
  • 5pm – 6pm – Inbox zero, recap the day and map out tomorrow’s to do list. I also review my big plans and goals list just to make sure I stay focused on high level thoughts.
  • Unless I am working on a book, as I am right now, I stay unplugged all evening and generally choose to read something unrelated to work, but I must admit, my mind does have a tendency to apply everything to work.

I don’t know if this is helpful or not and I’m certainly not suggesting this is perfect, but I do think the act of conscious planning, energy monitoring and use of rhythmic patterns of work keeps me focused and enjoying the ride all day long.

So, what’s your routine look like?

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  • Mark Homer

    I used to have a nice routine – then I had kids :-)  It’s amazing how much time you have to insert in your morning for getting young kids ready for school :-) – Fortunately I work from home so don’t lose any time to commuting.  Thakns for the post, I love reading other people’s routines as it helps reinforce the benefits of simple, disciplined routines have over time.

    • ducttape

      Yeah Mark, mine are all grown up so I do know that my morning routine is different than it used to be

    • Stu McLaren

      I hear ya on this one Mark.  My wife and I just had our fist child 4 months ago and it’s definitely changed the schedule.

      But as long as things are “planned” with some wiggle room in case things come up, things usually work out :)

      • Chris Johnson

        Funny seeing you here, Stu ;-).

  • Scott

    I like your routine. I have a similar routine with one major exception. I stop at 5 PM, making exceptions as needed. Then come back to the office at 7:30 pm for 90 minutes to “recap the day and map out tomorrow’s to do list.” I also review my critical success factors to make sure I stay focused on the strategic stuff.


    • ducttape

      I used to do that more when I had young children as they reeked havoc on the morning part of what I do now

  • Aaron Lee

    Love your routine, I used to work in an agency and I basically work till 9pm.

    I must say this is giving me good insights, Most of my productive time is done from 10am to 5am. Its quiet and people around me are asleep. 
    Thanks for sharing, I should try waking up at 5:30 and try something similar as yours.  

    • ducttape

      Everyone in a different place, I don’t function that well at 9pm, but I always loved getting up before my kids and the habit stuck.

  • paulcastain

    I really like this John and will be ripping off many elements of it.

    Going to send this out to my network so they can benefit from it as well!


    Paul Castain

    • ducttape

      rip off away Paul – glad you found value

  • siddharthchaudhry

    This routine has pushed me to do something like this for myself. The only problem I have is that my will power, determination is not that strong. I would start to watch youtube, movies and waste all my time after work. I have realized that I have 5 hours extra after work 8-1 but it has become a routine to waste time watching youtube, movies. I would like to know how do you keep track of what got achieved today and what software r u using to keep track of it.

    • ducttape

      I use a timer on my computer and time both work and breaks, I use Moleskin notebooks and Evernote to track and record to dos and other things I want to remember.

  • Melton

    This is helpful.
    I am organizing & planning with GTD.
    Many projects on the go…
    Let’s get social
    Local mobile fusion
    Local mobile marketing agent /affiliate
    Local mobile marketing coaching
    Microwave marketing
    Income hybrid affiliate.

    Many plates spinning
    Working alone


  • Al Pittampalli

    I wish I had your discipline John. Currently trying to create a consistent routine that makes sense for my day…this post helps a lot.

    • ducttape

      Good deal Al, just stop attending so many worthless meeting :)

  • Rob Gramer

    Great post…thanks! I’m a believer in scheduling and routine for productivity….will definitely be sharing with my staff and network. Thanks to Paul Castain as well for sharing this!

    • ducttape

      Would love to hear if you make any inroads with staff Rob

  • Anne Chang

    Thanks for the post!  I’ve been floundering about trying to figure out what a good workflow looks like.  I’m curious, though, what a non-ideal work day looks like and how often they happen.

    • ducttape

      Never :) actually I travel to speak quite often so that’s really non-ideal and on those days I still apply some of the same principles, just not the same rhythm – and boy does airport food choice make that tough.

  • Mara Shorr

    I’m absolutely going to be stealing bits of this routine!  Having opened my own business two months ago and now working from home, I’m always on the search for ways to be most productive and create a schedule.  (Now, if I could only explain to my mother and grandmother that even though I work from home, I really AM working…)

    • ducttape

      That’s a tough one, I started from home years ago and I actually had to convince myself that I was working sometimes – I still go to coffee shops when I want to focus on writing over the weekends – if I go to my office I won’t write, if I stay home I want to play with the dog.

  • Suzanne

    I would love a routine like this but having a kid and a commute and a 9-hour workday, it’s not likely. :(

    • ducttape

      I think you can have a routine like this – it’s not the specifics, it’s the mindset as well

    • Phillip Dodd

      I bet that you could turn much of the magazine / news / blog reading etc into audio to listen to on your commute. Something to consider!

  • Glenn Ansley

    What time do you turn in for the evening?

    • ducttape

      10 pm pretty much like clockwork

  • Laura Lake

    Love this, thanks for sharing John – I always wondered how you got it all done.  :)

    • ducttape

      Like looking behind the curtain :)

  • Stuart Wooster

    Liking your map of the day John.

    My problem I find is that I get up at 4:30am for work at 6am till 2pm, then the following week start at 2pm finishing at 10pm.

    The changes each week really mess up my energy levels and then in turn my schedule.

  • TommyJHC

    John I wish I could discipline myself as well as you have. 

  • Chris Johnson

    Hi there.

    This inspired me to dash off this:

    and I’m going to fine tune it.  Like you, I don’t have to keep to a traditional schedule.

  • Steve Borgman

    Thanks so much for sharing your routine!  I’m going to bookmark this article for future review and reflection as I look at my own routine.  I have to adjust it to my own circumstances, but there is a lot I can learn from here.  I like the idea of mapping out tomorrow today, at the end of today, and scheduling my top 3 priorities/tasks for the 90 minute chunks, as well as making sure I’m consuming the appropriate amount of water.

  • Phillip Dodd

    Thank you for sharing this! I feel especially excited about seeing this because it something that I am able to imitate given my current job. Do you mind if I email you a question or two about scheduling?

  • Rosie

    You have a great routine.  I was working during those early  morning hours before having breakfast, too. Then my health coach encouraged me to eat first thing–gets the metabolism going. Then have a nice protein snack in three hours.  Just started to do that.

    It’s also a great idea to block your time while working, like you do.  During that time, best not to take any calls or answer emails.  

    You’ve got it right Mr. Ducttape!

  • Space Vegetable

    You would be a morning person :-) I actually get more done after 6 PM than before noon. Sadly, the world is ruled by morning people, so I often can’t work on my preferred cycle.

  • Brent Pohlman

    John – This information is helpful.  It is always refreshing to see how others spend their time at work and home. Thanks for sharing

  • Ashlee Tate

    I am definitely going to try this! Although waking up at 530 may be difficult with two kids and a puppy! I love the idea of having the evening to do whatever you’d like! I’m just starting my PR business and still trying to figure out a schedule. Thanks for sharing.

  • Ryan Biddulph

    Hi John,

    Super routine!

    I wake up and meditate for 10 to 15 minutes, and proceed to meditate, affirm or visualize for 5 to 10 minutes every hour, on the hour. Really helpful to take short frequent breaks to do something physical or work on your mental tools.

    Thanks for sharing your sked!


  • Shilpi Roy – Virtual Assistant

     This is a great schedule and hope I would love to  have one to follow..

    Online Business
    Virtual Assistant

  • Srinivas Rao


    My routine looks quite similar. Coffee, writing and a bit of Dave Matthews Band is usually how I start. I think you brought up a great point about email. Anytime I talk to somebody I encourage them to do their most creative work first thing in the morning. I’ve found that words just tend to flow. However, if I’m at a loss for what to write about I will go through my RSS reader and see if something another blogger has posted inspires me. As somebody with ADHD I’ve found that productivity seems to have a diminishing return throughout the day. I’ve got peak hours in which i’m in the “zone” and I do all my writing and all my most important work during those times.

  • Harley

    I actually just started today writing out and scheduling tasks for the day and its working great.I do agree with you on the power of conscious planning. I use a bit of a mix between gtd and the now habit myself- and there always more done in less time :-)

  • Dallon Christensen

    This was a very helpful post, John. What recommendations do you have for exercise when it comes to working your entrepreneurial venture as a side job? I know I need to exercise, but it’s hard to find the time when trying to work full-time and build my business as a side job. In your experience, what is the maximum number of hours one can reasonably expect to work on a side job with a 40-45 hour per week job and still keep time for family and exercise?

  • Sydney @ Social Dynamics

    Wow, kudos to you for waking up so early in the day. Though it does make sense, when you work early, you can have some time for yourself or your family to refuel for the next day. 

  • Ellen Valentine

    Hi – Great post.  What are some of the things that you eat for your high quality snack at 3pm?  I’m working to come up with a good list!

    • ducttape

      Raw Almonds and an apple – Also like the bars from Kind

  • Self Storage Investing

    Great post. It inspires me to write and set up a daily routine.