This is a cornerstone of my daily routine. I'm more productive in the morning vs. any other time of day. By the way while most days I wake up at 4 AM I don't hold myself strictly to 4 AM. Sometimes I wake up at 4:30 AM or 5 and occasionally I sleep in if I feel really exhausted.
It's not healthy to push yourself up if you haven't had enough sleep. Some days you might go to bed late and it's more important to get ample sleep so you're at your best for the entirety of the day.
So, I wake up at 4. I then:
Water trick - Immediately upon waking up I usually go into the restroom and splash water over my head and on my face. The reason I do this is because it immediately wakes me up. It's really, really effective.
Meditate (30-45 mins) - I also do this because the first activity I do upon waking is to meditate. This is the most ideal thing to do first thing in the morning in my opinion. It really sets you up for the rest of the day. I meditate for reasons much more important to me than increasing my productivity, but this is also an effect of doing so. Right now I prefer 45 minutes, but once I can get to the point of blogging/running my own company full time I'd like to increase that. As it stands I need to get to work (GM at the family business) at 8 AM.
Write (2-3 hrs) - I take my time getting up once I'm done meditating to really relish the feeling of peace and quiet. But once I'm up, I immediately go to the computer and begin writing. Occasionally I'll replace this with updating something on my website since I do everything myself right now. But for the most part on the majority of days I write for the entire time. I do not check email yet, social networks, my rss feed, or any other websites I follow. I wait to check these things after I'm done writing around 7-7:30. I'm currently alternating between writing my next (weekly) blog post and my first book which will be completed this month.
Work (7:30-4:30) - At this point I get ready for work, and if my kids get up before I leave which happens on most days, I get them started for their day (my oldest is almost 3 and his brother is 7 months). I then head to the office and only get time to work on my blog during breaks (and I squeeze in time if I finish early). But at work, being the GM, things that I've done to increase my own productivity while at work have been to delegate tasks to others, only check my email once an hour or two and to cut down time on menial tasks like packing, processing and charging credit cards. Throughout the day I may have ideas for articles, a book idea, an upgrade to my blog or something else. When I do I pop open my Evernote (my favorite program for housing all of my ideas), which I keep open on my desktop at work, and quickly write the idea down.
Dinner and Time with Family (4:30- 7:30/8 PM) - This time is reserved for my family. Occasionally when sitting at the kitchen table I'll pop open my iPad (which I use with a Bluetooth keyboard to write- which I LOVE) and write a bit, maybe read an article or two or something. For the most part though, electronic devices are off and I am 100% fully in the moment of enjoying my meal and then enjoying time with my sons. Bedtime is around 8 PM. It takes a while on some days for both of my sons to fall asleep, and sometimes my youngest wakes up multiple times throughout the night. This can be really difficult, but we just make it work. It's temporary and I keep my focus on long term vision which helps me push forward everyday.
A few notes:
Driving - When I'm driving, I'm often listening to audio books. I often consider this my "dharma talk" time, since my spiritual practice is so important to me (and what I write about as well, so it gives me ideas) and I'm not an actual monk living in a monastery listening to dharma talks each day so it's important for me to get that daily dose somehow. I read around 3 books a month like this. I often re-read books 2-3 times to fully absorb the information. Sometimes I just practice mindfulness while driving, I call it driving meditation. This is a very rewarding practice.
Restroom - Honestly if I'm sitting in the restroom I pop my phone out and do something productive (no, not that...) like read an article or look over my book progress. Either that or I pull out this little pocket book I keep on me which I call "The Book of Mindfulness". It has little phrases which are meant to send the person into a state of mindfulness. In this case I'd be practicing following my breath.
Putting my baby son to sleep - If I'm walking him around putting him to sleep at night then I practice walking meditation. In fact I try to remember to practice walking meditation anytime I'm walking. Doesn't happen, but it helps to stay conscious of it (the physical presence of the book in my pocket helps me remember to do this). The reason I do things like this is because I'm constantly conscious of the fact that while a monk has all 24 hours in a day to devote to their practice, I have mostly just moments strewn throughout my day (aside for the morning). At least for now, I'm excited to eventually be able to blog full time and control my schedule better. Also, as my kids get older, particularly once my 7 month old gets to be 1 1/2-2 years old, things will become even easier.
Weekends - I tend to get more time here. I'm home when my boys take their nap, I don't have to go to work and occasionally my wife drives in which case I pop out my trusty iPad/keyboard combo and get to work. I don't always do this though, if we're going to do something fun I keep it bagged and put my complete attention on enjoying the experience with my family.
I used to do a bunch of things in the morning. I really tried to pack it in. This wasn't a good idea as I'd just end up distracting myself and getting less done. By revisiting my priorities and realizing what was most important (meditating and writing) I've greatly improved both my meditation practice and my writing ability, quality and quantity written. Two weeks ago it hit me that I wrote some 6000-7000 words in that one week despite having work, two kids, my wife and other responsibilities to attend to each day.
I originally got the idea of waking up at 4 AM (and immediately meditating) from an article I read (which I mention in the blog post I linked above) that mentioned the sleep schedules of Buddhist monks. I was putting my kids to sleep at night, getting up as soon as they were asleep, and getting to work until 2-3 AM since I was always a night owl (I had the hardest time waking up early a few years ago). I saw the article as an opportunity to get more time and better quality time as well.
I also recently watched an interview Oprah did on her "Super Soul Sunday" program with Deepak Chopra. Apparently he does the same. That is, wakes up at 4 AM and meditates. He meditates for 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the late afternoon/evening.