“My most important task in the morning is spending time with my daughters. Nights are tricky, but our morning time together is sacred.” – Amy Nelson Share this quote on Twitter

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Amy Nelson

What is your morning routine?

It’s not easy to get a head start on the day when you’re competing with three small children. For me, this means 5:00am wake-up calls.

First item on the agenda is time for myself, which typically looks like running for 20-30 minutes on the treadmill in our garage and scrolling through news briefings (I’m loyal to the BroadSheet, Katie Couric’s Wake-Up Call, and theSkimm). The quiet quickly fades by 6:00am, and the house comes to life with the buzz of my girls (ages four, three, and one), our rescue dog, and the amazing team that makes all the pieces of our puzzle work (my husband, my mother, and my nanny, if she’s arrived).

After stumbling toward a cup of coffee, I head to the kitchen to prepare a very basic breakfast for everyone. (It’s definitely more on the bowl-of-cereal- or yogurt-cup-side of things; we aren’t winning any gourmet chef awards in my house!) It can be hard to align schedules in the evening, so we’ve swapped the dinner routine for some quality family time to start the day, and we sit down for “family breakfast” around the table.

As soon as everyone is on their way to preschool or morning activities, I drive to The Riveter’s HQ in southern Seattle. My commute varies from day to day, but this is generally a time to take phone calls, wrangle childcare, schedule personal appointments, and mentally review the day ahead. I also call my dad in Ohio, whom I miss and am constantly trying to convince to move to Seattle. It’s also time to brainstorm and find some “blue sky” (as blue as Seattle will allow) to reflect on larger priorities and goals for my company, and myself!

How long have you stuck with this routine so far?

This has been my routine for the past couple of years, when I’m not traveling. I’ve become a creature of habit!

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How has your morning routine changed over recent years?

The one thing that’s really changed about my routine is where I work out. Before I welcomed my third baby, I was able to go to an incredible local gym for HIIT classes three or four times a week at 5:00am. When my third daughter arrived, I took some time off from exercising in the “fourth trimester,” and once we were through that period, both my and my husband’s travel schedules really ramped up. My husband and I were alternating “travel weeks,” so he was out of town when I was in town. I wasn’t able to slip out at 4:45am and leave the kids alone (of course!), so we decided to build a makeshift gym in our basement.

What time do you go to sleep?

By 10:00pm at the absolute latest. Often around 9:00 or 9:30pm.

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

I always turn on the dishwasher before I go to bed, so I can unload everything in the morning during breakfast prep. I also start a load of laundry that I can throw in the dryer first thing after I wake up. On good weeks, I pick out the kids clothes’ for preschool on Sunday night (but that’s not an every-week thing, although I aspire for it to be!).

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

I have an alarm, but on more days than not I wake up before the alarm on my own. I’m not a snooze-button person. I so value that quiet hour alone before my daughters are up and the day starts in earnest.

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

I have breakfast one or two hours after I wake up. I alternate between two standbys—an English muffin with almond butter and a banana or two eggs with a piece of toast. I also have coffee with soy milk and a large glass of ice water.

Do you have a morning workout routine?

Yep! We have a treadmill in our basement. I am currently in my third trimester of my fourth pregnancy and am solidly in the walking camp, but until six weeks ago I was still running. I spent a few months falling in love with the Peloton running app and decided over the holidays to invest in the new Peloton treadmill. I love that I can take classes that range from twenty to sixty minutes, so there’s always time for something.

Do you have a morning meditation routine?

I love the Headspace app. I use it once or twice a week, though I aspire to do so more.

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

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t look at my phone first thing in the morning. However, I only open something if it looks urgent. I try to work out before I start responding. Generally, I read newsletters while I’m blow-drying my hair after my shower.

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

We have an Amazon Echo at home, and I mostly use it to check the weather for the day.

How soon do you check your phone in the morning?

First thing. I’m terrible!

What are your most important tasks in the morning?

My most important task in the morning is spending time with my daughters. Nights are tricky, but our morning time together is sacred and I can really talk with them, play with them, and share a meal together. Also, dressing toddlers is a monumental feat, so it takes up a good chunk of morning time and energy.

What and when is your first drink in the morning?

I drink both coffee and water in the morning, usually at the same time.

How does your partner fit into your morning routine?

My husband and I often swap travel schedules, so we spend time together mostly on the weekends. When we are home together in the morning during the week, we try to split duties. One of us prepares breakfast while the other makes lunches for school days. One of us feeds the dog while the other unloads the dishwasher. It’s never as seamless as I’m making it sound, but we embrace the chaos of life with small children and careers.

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

The thing I miss most about my pre-parenthood days is the ability to sleep in and join friends for long brunches on the weekends. These days we are up before 6:00am, given my kids’ sleep habits. The weekends are wonderful, though, in that we have time to spend together with no schedule. We tend to make real breakfasts on the weekends—pancakes, bacon, and more. We stay in our pajamas a lot longer. And we play in our backyard or in the kids’ playroom. We try not to schedule anything on Saturday mornings because we want to spend unstructured time together without any commitments. I know this will change as the girls get older and start playing sports, but for now we’re lucky to have this time.

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

I’m still trying to figure this one out. When I travel, I manage to fit in a workout about 50 percent of the time. I tend to stay up a bit later when I’m traveling and maximize evening time for meetings, networking, and catching up on emails. I always grab breakfast on the go, and I have learned to stick with the basics—yogurt and coffee.

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

When I don’t take time for myself in the morning, I feel incredibly rushed. Even just thirty minutes where I’m alone gives me fuel for a long day with my kids and with The Riveter.

Photo of Amy by Jane G Photography.

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