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Watch How I Spend My First 20 Minutes Online Every Morning

Posted By Darren Rowse 27th of June 2009 Other Income Streams 62


This morning I tweeted this question – ‘what are the first 3 things you do when you get online in the morning?

You can see many of the answers to the question on this twitoaster thread.

A number of people asked me to answer the question for myself – so I thought I’d do so as a blog post as it is pretty relevant to how I run my business. Of course I couldn’t just stop at three – here’s some of my morning routine:

Firstly: I liken most of what I do in the mornings to a Triage in the emergency room of a hospital. It’s about assessing what happened over night, identifying urgent things that need immediate attention and less urgent but important things that I need to prioritize and then mapping out how I’ll use my day.

Note: Preceding all of what follows is Coffee…. without it I find very little of it works.

1. Check Blog Stats

The first thing I do in the morning is to check the stats of my blogs. While this might seem like a bit of an egotistical thing to do first thing in the morning I actually do it because it gives me a very quick overview of any problems or opportunities that might need my immediate attention.

I am particularly looking for any spikes or lulls in traffic.

Spikes indicate that something has happened to bring me traffic on some other site. This could indicate a social media event (front page on Digg or a hot link on Twitter) or could indicate something more controversial that someone has written about me. Either way – I want to know about it – either for damage control or to see if there’s a way to extend the positives.

Lulls in traffic indicate potential problems with servers or other problems on my blogs including broken design, posts not going live, newsletters not going out that should have gone etc.

What flows from analyzing stats could be leaving comments on another blog to respond to what they’ve written, tweeting a hot link to extend it’s viral qualities, fixing an error on my site, checking server errors etc.

2. Scan Twitter Accounts

I find Twitter is another great source of being able to assess what I’ve missed while I slept. This is particularly important for me because I’m in Australia and actually sleep during the peak times on my blogs when most of my readers are online.

I scan three main things on Twitter – my Direct Messages, my @replies and trending topics (via Twitscoop).

Twitter quickly reveals any topics/stories/news that has broken over night that could be relevant to my blogs. Many times I have links that have been DM’d to me by my followers alerting me to these stories.

I am also on the look out from any problems with my sites that readers are reporting (I find that if one of my blogs was down even for 5 minutes that I’m told about it on Twitter).

Lastly on Twitter I’m looking with interest at what people ReTweeted overnight – particularly posts on my own blogs. If I notice a post I’ve written is doing well on Twitter and has a lot of RT’s it can be worth me giving it a second push. It might also indicate to me that it could be worth writing a followup post on the topic to keep the momentum going.

If a story has not been RT’d much at all it’s an indication that perhaps the post needs reworking or that it wasn’t a topic that connected with my audience.

3. Scan News Alerts

This is a quick one but can be important. I have a number of alerts set up in Google News and Blog Alerts that I quickly scan each morning (it’s my ‘vanity folder‘). Each of these alerts is either an alert to anyone using my name, blog URL or a keyword relevant to my niche in a blog post or news article.

It’s important to know what has been written about you and about topics you’re writing about as this can lead to all kinds of opportunities and interactions (not to mention damage control). I generally don’t respond immediately to these unless they’re urgent but they’re good to keep in mind as I plan my day.

4. Scan Email

Are there any urgent matters in my inbox needing my immediate attention? This is a real challenge as most mornings I wake up to around 100 emails in my inbox (this is after another 500-700 emails are filtered automatically in Gmail using techniques that I talked about in this post on clearing your inbox.)

I don’t reply to many emails at this point – I’m just scanning them looking for important stuff (I don’t always see it unfortunately). I come back to email later in the day.

5. Scan my A-list of RSS feeds

In Google Reader (my RSS reader of choice) I have a folder called ‘A-list’. In this folder I have around 20 feeds from blogs and news sites that I read religiously each day. These are feeds I want to read because they have important news, stories or posts that are directly relevant to my niches.

They are from thought leaders or news sources – I want to know what they say and I want to know it as soon as I can after they write it.

Many days what I read in these feeds will lead me to a post that bounces off their stories, informs me of new products that have been released overnight or alert me to controversy or hot topics in my niche.

Then What?

The above process usually takes me around 15 minutes (on a normal morning where there’s nothing that needs an immediate response).

Remember it’s simply about scanning rather than stopping to respond – unless there’s something important.

At the end of this process I generally have a list of a number of things that I need to achieve in the day ahead. I then attempt to plan my day combining the list I’ve compiled with other tasks that need to be done.

Usually at this point I identify posts that I want to write and publish for the day, schedule in other marketing or admin tasks etc.

I tend to ‘batch’ my tasks together so that I’m not flitting from one thing to the next but instead am setting aside chunks of time for different activities.

Once I’ve got a plan for my day (that usually takes me 5 more minutes to compile) I get to it and start to knock off the things on my list.

One More Tip

I use Firefox and have a number of bookmark folders set up. One of these folders is called ‘start up’. It contains the following bookmarks:

  • All my stats packages
  • TwitScoop
  • Google Reader
  • Gmail
  • A couple of news related sites

Each morning I simply hit ‘command/startup folder’ and each of these sites opens up in a tab of its own. I have them in the order that I’ve mentioned above and simply work through the tabs one at a time. This way I don’t have to think about what I need to do next – all my stats are there ready for me to take a look at first, TwitScoop is open next so I can look at that…. etc

Of course I have to open my Twitter client (I’m using Tweetie at the moment primarily) to check my twitter accounts but apart from that everything I need is open in a tab of its own for me to work through. I simply close down tabs and move on to the next ones as I move through the list.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.
  1. Hi Darren,

    This is a great list!

    I do the following first thing in the morning (in that order):

    1. Check email: Too see new orders, any issues with payments, any reader queries, etc

    2. Blog stats: For more or less the same reasons as you

    3. Vanity feeds: To check where I have been mentioned, and to resopnd as early as I can.

    The “startup folder” tip for firefox is really great – would save a lot of “thinking” in the morning when I am still not up to speed!! Thanks…

  2. Oh my fawd, your hair looks fabulous, what hair stryle is this, do you use any special stuff to make them look so healthy?

  3. I do the same thing you do with bookmarks, but I’ve created my own dashboard with all my things categorized and work my way through it.

    It helps to keep me from forgetting something that could be important.

  4. This is an excellent post. I have been working on setting up a morning system myself. It looks pretty similar to this one, so I’m exited, it seems I might be on the right track!

    Do you have a general “skeleton schedule” where you know you’re going to post to a specific blog on a specific day, and other regular tasks? Do you have an outline of what gets done when in your head so you can just “know” you have to work on that on a particular day?

    That’s where I’m at, and I find it’s working quite well. Although I don’t have quite as much to do as you, it’s getting things rolling for me ;)

    Thanks for a look at the inner workings of ProBlogger!


  5. I was wondering what type of coffee you drink every morning, anyway, thanks for sharing your daily morning routine.

  6. aha..
    a nice and detailed 15 minutes of the problogger…!!!

    Well, as per me,
    I brush my teeth first thing in the morning..!!!

    would love to do such a post very soon on

  7. I might have missed this, but have you ever considered a Virtual Assistant for some of these tasks? Just curious. Partly because I also have a day job and have been able to make this my full time gig, I hired a V.A. to do some of the scanning for me. She is doing really great things for me including making my Facebook fan page, set up #babysleeptips that I wrote up in TweetLater, etc. It’s been wonderful!

  8. Damage control ? Is it really possible anyone would ever have anything bad to say about you man ? I don’t think so.
    I thought the first thing you’d do in the morning is check out my blog
    LOL :)
    Have an awesome weekend everyone

  9. Establishing a routine is good – but when it is established it is even better to fast track it. (Like what you’ve done.)

    I’m on the verge of doing this – it isn’t easy thought – I kind of like to be slow…lol. When I take my time I enjoy my blogging more. However, because I want to have more spare time (off the computer) to be with family I must make sacrifices.

    However, I am starting to get to the point that I have so much to do with my blogging – being slow isn’t going to cut it any more. If I want to implement everything I plan for my blog I’ll either have to live an extra 100 years or go faster.

    I know you have lots of info about batching and creating a good working pace – could you possibly ‘batch’ all that info together for those of us who need a quick refresher on ‘everything’ faster?


  10. I am also a huge fan of grouping my bookmarks so I can open up a number of tabs all at once and work through them.

    Then I can wake up. :D

    And nice pjs.

  11. This is one of those times where I kick myself and ask why I have not been simplifying things like that. I have a few sites I visit every morning and a few that I wish I could remember to visit. Amazingly, even knowing I can group them in a folder that FF will open for me, I have never done it. But now I have fixed that.

    Thanks Darren, you have quickened one more part of my day.

  12. Great picture, Darren. I’m typing this looking just about the same . . . except no glasses . . . and more hair . . . and, no PJs.

    Ok, so maybe I just have my coffee hehe.

    Of course the question is, what are those 20 or so news sites you’re subscribed to?

  13. The Coffee mug pattern matches the PJs. Darren, as coordinated as ever.

    Good post Darren. And how do you usually wrap up your day?

  14. Ok, my question is how you do all that in 20 minutes. I can’t imagine getting through all that info in just 20.

  15. Thanks Darren for a very focused glimpse into your productivity and thought systems.

  16. Checking those blog stats daily has definitely helped me to seize opportunities AND do damage control.

  17. Yeeha. I love the messy hair and the complementary designs of the pj’s and the coffee mug. “,)

  18. Darren,

    Please share your A-list blog list. I’m sure I’m not alone in saying I’d like to include those in my daily routine.

  19. I second John’s question – what are those 20 or so news sites that you’re subscribed to?

  20. FirstI’d like to comment on the pic. You said messy hair! Lol! Darren, you don’t have hair.

    Okay seriously, I’d do the Firefox thing and set up all the folders for easy navigating. Thanks for that tip.

  21. The messy hair is priceless. Laughed hard. But yeah, this sounds pretty much like my morning as well except I check emails before anything. They come straight to my blackberry which is right there next to my bed so I check it first thing even before the coffee.

  22. I have a very similar routine but I don’t work at home so I can’t do it in my pj’s and unshaved :S. I can only do it on weekends.

  23. i always scan my email. HOho..

  24. I just like the way you described your daily frist-thing-in-the-morning routine.

  25. A start up folder in Firefox; BRILLIANT! I do typically the same kind of routine with checking e-mails, Google alerts, Google Reader and blog stats. A way to open them all up at once would actually be very convenient and a better way to keep me on somewhat of a task. Thanks for the idea!

  26. I was thinking how helpful this post was until I read that you get through points 1-5 in 15 minutes. At which point I sank into my chair. 15 minutes!
    Perhaps I need a stronger brand of coffee….

  27. I go and take a shower, get dressed for the job, and browse the internet. That is my morning.

  28. LOL! Pretty much the same here. In the evening, when I’m about to hit the sack, I just turn off my monitor. My Twitter client, email app,browser are still up. And when I wake up in the morning, I do almost everything you listed above.

  29. Great post!… I am pretty new to blogging and Internet marketing full time so this post really helps me see what kind of schedule or routine I need to start off my day with. I am learning very quickly without a routine then many things get disorganized and lost in a pile of “need’s to do”. I will start implementing a morning to do list now on.

    Thanks for sharing!

  30. Darren, it’s very useful to learn how you start off the day. And that last tip you gave is really golden. I’m going to start practicing it from now on. Thanks so much.

  31. Hi Darren.
    Thanks for sharing your daily routine. It helps me as i just started blogging.

  32. 1. Check overnight stats

    2. Reply to blog comments

    3. Google reader

  33. 1) Check email- Reply to buyers questions from eBay
    2) Check stats og blog (Visitor Paths, Exit Pages, most popular pages)
    3) Trading on forex :)

  34. Darren, hi,

    Interesting – thanks!

    There’s one other place that I check religiously every morning: Google Webmaster’s Tools.

    All my sites are set up in that and it’s a fantastic resource for providing a quick alert if there are any problems on any of them.

    Plus the recent upgrade that Google released now gives a lot of useful information that shows you how your sites are perceived by the big G. You can use this information to structure Adwords campaigns and so on.

    It’s a great resource that recently got even better :)



  35. Interesting morning routine. Nice picture :).

  36. Very good article.

    I do some of these same things, and a few others. I put the link for “Morning Due Diligence — Making that first cup of coffee count!” (written in February 2009) in the website box for this comment as it seems relevant.

    I’ve moved to very strong black tea instead of coffee. Temporarily.

  37. Really awesome tips! Helpful for me, as sometimes I have issues figuring out what schedule to use when working in the morning.

  38. These are common habits I think for almost blogger who get online in the morning only few things should be different, sometimes I go online after a good bath and a little refreshment and some times direct:
    Here listed mine:
    1: Email Checking
    2: Web Stats Checking
    3: Twitter account checking
    4: Google Reader Checking
    5: Thinking about subject to write about.
    these are my morning activities.

  39. Hi Darren, i’m interested on point no.5, just curious what are those 20 feeds..

  40. I needed this! Do you mind if I copy you? :) I often find myself without a routine – trying to keep up with my blog, the marketplace, Twitter, etc. This structure is a great framework for it…oh, and I love the pic!

  41. Looks like I’m missing something, anywayz, the FF thing is really helpful and I would like to apply it also and make it a 1 hour daily routine instead.

  42. Thanks Darren, as always this style of post from you really helps us assess what we are doing. And this post has given me a ton of new ideas.

    Thanks again!

  43. Super list. You are very well oraganised and this are able to cope up with 3 blogs running full time.

  44. My routine is very similar, just on a smaller scale!

  45. it seems like the best way to get things done is to have a routine of jobs that you do everyday.
    great post

  46. Could you tell us which Firefox plugin you use ?

  47. Nice tips. I actually like this post.

  48. Clever! I’m most certainly going to try out that “start up” folder idea. Sounds like it would save me loads of time in the morning.

  49. Interesting to hear that you still check stats everyday. I think a service like StatsWatcher is way due, do you know of one?

  50. THAT’s how you manage to do daily tasks AND stay current

    you are very well prioritized – those first 15 minutes keep you current and knowledgeable, and yet they are the things that I rarely make the time for! (The important but not urgent).

    thank you so much for sharing this!

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