The golf swing is a miraculous feat. There are so many variables, it’s a minor miracle that it ever comes together.

There’s so much to think about. How you hold the club. Where you stand relative to the club. Path of the club in the backswing. Where the backswing stops. Path of the club on the downswing. The tempo of the backswing. The tempo of the downswing. When and how to release the club.

There’s so much to think about, it’s overwhelming. There’s no way to keep it all straight in your mind. You need to make as many things as you can automatic so you can reduce the number of things you need to think about.

The same thing goes for our day. Our willpower is limited. When our willpower is low, we make bad decisions. Why waste decision-making goodness on how we’re going to start our day?

For example, here are some of the items from my morning routine:

  • Prayer
  • Meditation
  • Read for 10 minutes
  • Duolingo French lesson
  • Create a quick journal entry (if I didn’t last night)
  • Approve new transactions in YNAB
  • Skim today’s headlines
  • Shower and dress
  • Eat breakfast
  • Review today’s plan
  • Check the tickler file

That list isn’t exhaustive (I do things that aren’t written down) or even in order (I bounce around a bit). Writing everything down helps remember what I intend to do. Am I going to forget to eat breakfast if it’s not written down? No—my stomach has its own triggers for that.

Writing down the little things also helps me realize where the time goes. The French lesson only takes five minutes, updating YNAB usually just a minute or two, and I might spend ten minutes scanning the headlines. I do tend to do those things, and they add up. I need to be aware of them.

There are two ways to create a list like this. The first is from your own personal experience. You have learned that when you do certain things, you day goes better. You get up to speed faster. You’re more focused. You’re happier. Whatever defines “a good day” for you, starting your day by doing these things helps you to have a good day.

The second way is aspirationally. You have an idea that you want to try. You’re working on cementing a habit. You want to try something out. You don’t want to forget to try it, so you write it down.

Which method should you use to create a morning routine? It depends on whether you’re satisfied with your current results. If you’re happy with how your day is going and you want to automate the process, reducing the mental energy it takes to set up your day, just create your morning routine from experience. If you’re trying to get different results, think aspirationally.

Working through a morning routine helps shift your mindset to start the day. Like a prelaunch countdown before a rocket takes off, you’re getting ready for a flurry of activity. You’re changing gears. It’s time to start putting your plans into motion. Make the sun go down on a world that’s better than the one you woke up in.

Knowing how much time your morning needs tells you what time you need to get up. If that says you get up at 4:00 am, either you go to bed at 8:00 pm, you scale back what you do in the morning (could you do it after work instead?), or you move to a farm.

Likewise, a defined evening ritual lets you know at what time you need to start getting ready for bed if you want your head to be on the pillow on time. It sends a message to your body and mind that you’re changing gears again. It’s time to relax, wind down, and get ready for another day tomorrow.

If you don’t have a defined morning routine, start taking notes. Write down the things you already do. If you want to add something new, add it. If you realize something is just wasting your time, scratch it off. Deciding you’re not going to do something also helps your morning go smoothly.

Defining a morning routine is a form of personal automation that helps you shift your attention from the routine to the interesting. Save your willpower for changing your world, not reinventing how you greet the day every morning.

Question: What are the little things you do every day to make sure you have a productive day? Share your thoughts in the comments, on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook.