“I used to force myself to tackle huge tasks as soon as I sat down at my desk until I realized the 'productivity experts' probably aren’t experts on my personal productivity.” – Shannon Whitehead Share this quote on Twitter

Join over 10,000 free subscribers and get a brand new morning routine every Wednesday!

Dismiss icon

Shannon Whitehead

What is your morning routine?

I will preface this by saying: I am not a morning person. My pursuit of a morning routine started in 2010, and it was only until last year that I really figured out what works for me. I lived the double life of entrepreneur-by-day and bartender-by-night for about five years, so it was an uphill battle.

Nowadays, my alarm goes off at 7:30am. The night before, I set up a podcast on my phone so all I have to do is turn my alarm off and press play.

A 20-50 minute episode gives me enough time to ease myself awake (and it’s a bonus that by the time I roll out of bed I’ve already learned something). I go to the bathroom, splash ice cold water on my face, and put on the kettle.

I start off the morning with a mug of hot water with lemon juice, cayenne pepper, and apple cider vinegar (I know, gross - it’s an acquired taste). I drink it while I read on my couch; usually fiction on my Kindle. After about half an hour I’ll make a green smoothie for breakfast, change into workout clothes, brush my teeth, make my bed (all eight pillows), and head upstairs to my home office between 9:30 and 10:00am.

I’ll work until 11:45am and then head to yoga or the gym.

How has your morning routine changed over recent years?

Drastically! During my bartending days, I was the co-founder of a fashion startup. After working a 10-12 hour shift at the bar, I would wake up around 10:00am, pull my laptop into bed with me and start working with one eye open. It was often between noon and 1:00pm by the time I got myself out of bed to eat breakfast.

I cringe thinking back to those days but at the time, I didn’t understand self care and perceive productivity like I do now.

What time do you go to sleep?

Between 10 and 11:00pm.

Do you have a morning meditation routine?

I meditate, but never in the morning because I’ll fall back asleep.

I save meditation either for savasana at the end of yoga class, in the middle of the day when my brain needs a break, or at night if I can’t fall asleep.

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

Time sensitive emails get answered at some point in the morning or early afternoon, but anything that can wait gets moved to a different folder.

I “batch reply” to most emails every few days at the end of the work day. I always keep my inbox at zero, though, whether I reply immediately or move it out of my inbox.

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

Podcasts were pretty game-changing for me (sorry, most overused expression). But really, it’s a much better alternative to hitting snooze every eight minutes for an hour.

Like I said, I set up the episode I want to listen to the night before, press play as soon as my alarm goes off, and place it on my bedside table. My favorites are Startup, Reply All, Invisibilia, and Serial (when it comes back).

How soon do you check your phone in the morning?

I don’t usually check texts, emails, etc, until I’m making a smoothie around 9:00am.

What are your most important tasks in the morning?

These days I really try to focus my mornings on mentally preparing for the day. I’ve heard so many people say, “Do your most important work in the morning,” but that just doesn’t feel true to me. I used to force myself to tackle huge tasks as soon as I sat down at my desk until I realized the ‘productivity experts’ probably aren’t experts on my personal productivity.

I ease into my morning work now, tackling “medium” or time sensitive tasks, and then working on important, big picture stuff in the afternoon after I exercise and eat lunch.

What and when is your first drink in the morning?

A room temperature glass of water off of my nightstand. It used to be coffee. Immediately. I still drink about half a cup of coffee a day, but it’s not until the afternoon when I need a little boost.

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

It depends on the night before, but I generally sleep in later on the weekends or just stay in bed because I can. It’s so cozy and warm… also, cuddling. I don’t do “formal” exercise on the weekend, either - it’s more like a walk around the pond or a stroll through the arboretum near my apartment.

The lemon water potion happens and so does the green smoothie, unless I go out for brunch. Also, no podcast on the weekends.

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

In January I was working remotely from Brazil for three weeks, so my morning routine was a little off.

Instead of yoga, I would go for a swim and save the gym for later in the afternoon. I also had to include a grocery run into my morning to get fresh food from the market near my apartment. But yeah, I’m able to adjust parts of my routine, for sure.

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

On days when even the wrath of God couldn’t get me out of bed, I’ll sleep later (until 10:00ish) and not be thrilled about it.

I try not to let it affect the rest of my day because I know that I can just work later in the evening if I have to. The big factors for me are making sure I’m eating well and moving my body at some point throughout the day.


Our recommended product this week is Deep Work by Cal Newport. We only recommend products that we believe will be of interest to our readers. Check out Deep Work and help support us in bringing you a brand new morning routine every Wednesday!

Keep Reading

For more morning inspiration, take a look at one of our related routines, or browse our archive.

Explore More

Want to dig deeper? We’ve collected together data from our archive of 214 morning routines.

Subscribe

Join over 10,000 free subscribers and get a brand new morning routine in your inbox every Wednesday, plus a copy of our subscriber-only workbook on how to form (and stick to) a morning routine: