“Using just ten minutes in the morning to do some goal setting and organize the day ahead is indispensable.” – Elizabeth Royal Share this quote on Twitter

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Elizabeth Royal

What is your morning routine?

My morning usually starts around 7:45-8:00am. I sit in bed for a minute, check my text messages and Instagram feed, then I stumble out of bed towards my hot water kettle, flip it on, and head to the bathroom.

After that I head back to the kitchen to finish making coffee: French press, four minutes, with unsweetened almond milk. While still in my pajamas, I spend about five or ten minutes setting up my planner for the day. I write down three quick goals for the day (or life, or whatever), glance at the previous day’s to-dos, my monthly schedule, and jot down everything I have to do or think about for the day. I use a bullet journal system in a Midori, so I have to create the day’s page every morning.

I give myself an hour in the morning for reading and coffee in my pajamas. I realized a while ago that I would spend a lot of time throughout the day going off on internet scavenger hunts, so I decided to save all the interesting articles I saw throughout the day in Evernote and just read them the next morning over coffee during a designated block of time. This has helped me be really productive and more focused during my work throughout the day. Also, because of Evernote I don’t feel like something on the internet might get lost again, so I don’t have to take the time to know right that second and I can just wait until tomorrow to read it. I guess it’s a practice in delayed gratification that pays off in greater productivity.

Most mornings as I read I compile a reading list that I post on my Facebook and my Tumblr. I started doing that pretty recently. I figured I may as well try to curate the best things I read for everyone out there since the people who I’m linked to on social media might have the same interests. I also keep a commonplace book in my Midori so I write down things that I want to remember, or bits of wisdom I want to incorporate into my life. I think those are two ways of processing information for me and they help me sort out what’s important and worth remembering, and what’s not.

That ends promptly at 9:00am regardless of whether or not I’ve finished everything I’ve saved to read. I’ll then change into clothes to work out.

After I work out I shower, get dressed, and then I make a quick breakfast around 10:00am. It’s usually fried eggs or an omelette and an apple, and I sit down for a devotional while I eat. I read my Bible and pray (I actually type my prayers because I’m so unfocused). It’s something I have to do to keep from wandering away from my devotional and breakfast. I’m pretty unfocused in general so I’ve put a lot of things into place in my life to make it easier for me to focus on things for longer stretches.

After that my working day starts, at around 10:30am.

How long have you stuck with this routine so far?

I’ve had the basics of this routine for about three or four years: coffee, reading, breakfast, and devotion.

How has your morning routine changed over recent years?

The timing has changed, and I’ve added working out.

I was an elementary school teacher for a long time so my work day started at 7:00am. I’m not the sort of person who can rush out the door in five minutes flat so that meant my routine started much, much earlier, and I read for a half hour or so instead of a full hour.

Over the years as my life has changed my routine has become more leisurely. I take more time with each thing in the morning. I live in South Korea right now, which is decidedly not a morning country. Not a whole lot opens in my neighborhood until 10:00am, so I don’t feel so bad staying in my house in the morning for a while anyway. At some point life will change and I may not have this pleasure, so for now I take the opportunity for slowness in the morning.

What time do you go to sleep?

I go to bed between 11:00pm and midnight. I have a “no screens after 11:00” rule, but I can do things around the house as late as I want if I’m not sleepy. Usually I end up in bed around 11:30ish and am asleep by midnight.

I actually have a thing on my internet that shuts down all non-essential websites between 11:00pm and 5:00am. I can still get to anything work related or that a client might need me to use, but it blocks time suck websites like Facebook, Reddit, YouTube, and things like that that might distract me from actually going to bed.

Do you do anything before going to bed to make your morning easier?

I clean my kitchen. I don’t know why but I need to have a clean kitchen when I wake up.

One thing people maybe don’t realize is that 90% of photo work is desk work, like photo processing or emailing back and forth with people. I sit at my table in the kitchen and do all my work. Keeping that space in order is really important to me. A mess can be distracting to me and I’ll wander off to clean it and the next thing you know I’ve not only cleaned my entire kitchen, but I’ve knitted myself a scarf, written five emails to my friends, read half a book, and gotten zero work done.

Also, I love cooking and most days I cook three complete meals for myself in my kitchen, so the kitchen gets a lot of use. Even though I clean as I go I still check it before bed. Having a clean kitchen when I go to bed is my “reset” button for the next day.

Finally, I also set out my planner and any papers I may need for the next day next to my computer.

Do you use an alarm to wake you up in the morning, and if so do you ever hit the snooze button?

My phone is my alarm clock. I have it set for an 8:00am wake up time but I’m usually up around 7:45 so I don’t hit the snooze button a lot unless I’ve gotten to bed late or had a sleepless night.

I don’t like to hit the snooze button because if I hit it then it eats into my reading time and I really love my morning reading so that’s motivation enough to get myself out of bed.

How soon after waking up do you have breakfast, and what do you typically have?

I have breakfast about two hours after I get out of bed, so 10:00am.

I typically have two egg whites and an egg fried or in an omelette, depending on how fancy I’m feeling or if I have anything interesting in my fridge to add to the omelette; a sprinkle of salt and pepper, sometimes some bell peppers or cheese on top.

Fridays are pancake day, though. I do a classic pancake breakfast; syrup, butter, everything. It’s my little way of celebrating the last day of the work week!

Do you have a morning workout routine?

I’ve been doing pilates a lot this year, though it changes from year to year based on where I live and what’s accessible to me. When I lived in Colorado, mountain biking was a huge part of my life, and when I lived in Michigan I ran.

Pilates is great because it’s quiet and doesn’t disturb the neighbors in my apartment, and can be done inside because the air quality isn’t so great outside sometimes here in Seoul. When I turned thirty I made three goals for the next decade, and one of them was to work out every day to keep myself in shape as I aged. I’ve done pretty well sticking to it so far; I think it helps that I can see a huge difference in how I feel when I work out verses not working out, so I make a point to prioritize it.

Do you have a morning meditation routine, and if so what kind of meditation do you practice?

I don’t meditate in the morning, though I do a quiet time or devotional each morning. It involves some reading and learning and a whole lot of praying. Praying, I guess, is kind of the closest thing I do to meditating. Praying humbles me and reminds me every day that there are things beyond myself out there.

Do you answer email first thing in the morning or leave it until later in the day?

I wait until after my morning routine to answer emails, so typically I don’t get to them any earlier than 10:30am.

I skim them when I wake up and I’m lying in bed on my phone, but I like to think about what I should say for a while and have less of a reaction and more of a thought-out response. Unless there is something with a fast deadline, I take my time. Also, I work in a different time zone than a lot of people, so that works in my favor since I’m hours and hours ahead.

During more hectic weeks I’ll answer email during any hour of the day, including right when I wake up. But that’s only a few weeks out of the year. During fashion weeks, for example, I send messages, emails, or run social media campaigns almost round the clock.

Do you use any apps or products to enhance your sleep or morning routine?

I sleep with a fan on for white noise. I have ridiculous tinnitus, so sleeping with a fan helps me deal with that.

How soon do you check your phone in the morning?

It’s the first thing I do.

My family is halfway around the world from me. We have a group chat so when the alarm goes off I see if I missed any family conversation that happened while I was sleeping. Then I look at Instagram and emails before getting out of bed.

What are your most important tasks in the morning?

I think setting up my planner for the day and praying are pretty much the most important ones since they are the rudder that steers the ship.

Using just ten minutes in the morning to do some goal setting and organize the day ahead is indispensable. Without them the day is a lot tougher to get through. I think some of it has to do with putting the day in place in my imagination.

As I’m writing down my to-do list and my goals for either the day or the future, I imagine what I want my day to look like, and what kind of life I want. I’m pretty detail oriented, so I think about how the desk should look while I’m working, the words for emails I have to send, the daily tasks like grocery shopping, and of course what I’m going to wear to do the events of the day.

When I was racing bikes in my early twenties I was taught that high-caliber athletes use a kind of mental walkthrough to plan out their games, shots, or a race to help them perform on their actual game days. I think setting up my planner kind of goes along the same line as that. It’s a mental rehearsal of a day and then when situations come up I’ve already figured out how to handle them. It also creates a rhythm or pace to the day. Instead of just reacting to the things that happen, you’ve thought about what you really want out of the day and can put the things that move you forward or matter most first.

Of course, there are days where nothing goes as planned and those ones you just have to deal with as you get them.

What and when is your first drink in the morning?

Coffee with unsweetened almond milk.

Do you also follow this routine on weekends, or do you change some steps?

I wish I could say I stick to my routine on weekends, but without the structured expectations of work anything goes.

Weekends are for exploring. I shoot street style all over the city and in-between I catch up with my friends, head to museums, explore new neighborhoods, or try out new restaurants on the weekends, so I do what I can. I walk so much on weekends - usually around ten or twelve miles - that I don’t care if I exercise or not those days.

On days you’re not settled in your home, are you able to adapt your routine to fit in with a different environment?

I actually do pretty well in keeping my routine when I travel alone or need to work while I’m traveling. Pilates is so easy to do anywhere, my laptop comes with me, and I still have the desk work, morning reading, planner set up, and devotion rhythm in place.

If I’m vacationing with other people, though, those are special days and the routine goes completely out the window. More and more all I really want to do when I’m traveling is unplug, so I just let the demands of the day sort themselves out without a lot of structure. I do try to exercise in the morning, but instead of writing a schedule or to-do list I work on a travel journal in the Midori.

I actually deliberately left my computer at home last time I went to Japan and my phone only worked at the house I rented, so it forced me to connect with people to find out the awesome places to go instead of relying on internet reviews. It turned out to be a great strategy since Japan is such a welcoming and warm country. People told me about amazing restaurants, museums, neighborhoods, coffee shops, and places to go I never would have found otherwise.

What do you do if you fail to follow your morning routine, and how does this influence the rest of your day?

If I don’t do my morning routine I feel like I’m less productive and I often need to stop and try to take a minute to plan out the remainder of the day and pray.

I tote my planner with me most places, so I’ve done my scheduling in doctors offices, on trains, airplanes, in cabs, coffee shops, standing on a corner in the middle of a city, and even on a bench in a museum.

Anything else you would like to add?

The single biggest gift in life is that every morning the sun rises and you get another shot at things. If you mess up the day before you get a chance to do it over, to try to make it better. The next day you have a little distance from the problem and a lot of the time that can give you a new perspective.

Sometimes, when things have been really tough in life, I banked on the promise that if I could just make it through the night, a fresh start the next day would be waiting there the next morning to get me through. And to date that’s always been the case.


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