What is your morning routine?
On most mornings when I’m not performing surgery, I wake up around 6:30am. I shower, brush my teeth, shave, and change into my suit. Next, I bring my two dogs, Bella and Macks, out for a walk. They are both rescue dogs whom we adopted about two years ago. Then I set out their food for them. Once they are done eating, I give them their medications and eye drops, and then they both go back to bed. What a life! By this time, my wife and children are waking up, and I sit down with my kids to have breakfast together. Typically, my breakfast consists of a green smoothie and maybe some scrambled eggs and gluten-free toast.
Around 7:45am I drive my car to work and start the day. Once I get to the office I take a look at my patient schedule and post a “Good morning” message on Instagram. Then it’s time to see patients!
On surgery mornings I wake up around 5:45am, shower, shave, brush my teeth, and change into my scrubs. Then I head to the hospital and eat a breakfast of scrambled eggs, fresh fruit, and granola while I go over my patient surgery charts for the day. Once I’m done with the charts and breakfast, I walk over to the operating room locker room, change into hospital-issued scrubs, and go to mark my first patient for surgery. On these mornings my wife takes care of the dogs and kids since I’m up so early.
How long have you stuck with this routine so far?
This routine has stuck with me for the past two years, and it fluctuates with my kids’ school, my wife’s job, and the status of the dogs.
How has your morning routine changed over recent years?
I occasionally do some positive affirmations and practice gratitude in the mornings. I also check my email on my phone in the morning, as well as any news that has occurred overnight.
What time do you go to sleep?
I typically go to bed around 11:00pm, and then I read in bed for 15-20 minutes prior to falling asleep.
Do you do anything before going to bed to make your morning easier?
If I have a lot of surgeries the next day, I often go over my surgery patient charts the night before. I also review any information—such as new techniques and reports—regarding the operations I’ll be performing the next day.
Do you use an alarm to wake you up in the morning, and if so do you ever hit the snooze button?
I use the alarm on my phone to wake up. I never hit snooze because my wife wakes up with my alarm, too, and I’d hate to wake her up multiple times—she would not be happy!
How soon after waking up do you have breakfast, and what do you typically have?
On non-surgery days I have breakfast within forty minutes of waking, usually with my family. On surgery days I have breakfast about an hour after waking, while at the hospital. I don’t want to make breakfast at home and wake anyone else up, so I eat at the hospital.
My typical breakfast consists of scrambled eggs (ideally from free-range chickens), fresh fruit, full-fat granola, gluten-free toast, and a green smoothie; or any combination of these. Although I grew up eating an interesting combination of a small-town Midwestern meat-and-potatoes diet and a traditional Korean diet, I almost never eat chicken, fish, or pork. Any beef I eat is usually limited to high quality grass-fed beef. Therefore, no bacon, sausage, or ham for breakfast.
Do you have a morning workout routine?
Only when I’m performing liposuction or a big surgery! I admire people who have the drive to get up super early and exercise. I like my sleep too much. I tend to exercise in the evenings around 8:00pm instead. This has always worked better for me.
Do you have a morning meditation routine?
I am getting better at it. I don’t meditate in a traditional way, but for a few moments in bed in the mornings I often do some affirmations and practice gratitude for all God has blessed me with.
Do you answer email first thing in the morning or leave it until later in the day?
I only answer really important messages first thing in the morning. I’m usually on a pretty regimented schedule (since I hate being late for my patients), so I tend to answer email when I have time throughout the day. I always answer emails from media and producers right away, however, since I know how their deadlines run.
Do you use any apps or products to enhance your sleep or morning routine?
I do not. While I understand there are some great meditation apps, I haven’t felt the need to use them.
How soon do you check your phone in the morning?
Unfortunately, like many, I check it first thing. I need it to turn my alarm off, but right afterwards I check to make sure there is nothing urgent that occurred overnight. (Usually there isn’t!) Then, I briefly check out Instagram. I enjoy looking at interesting photos that have been posted while I was asleep.
What are your most important tasks in the morning?
My most important tasks are getting my dogs fed, walked, and medicated; helping my kids get ready for school; and making sure I review my patient surgery charts for the day so I know that I’m ready for their operations.
What and when is your first drink in the morning?
I don’t drink coffee regularly. My first drink in the morning is either a green smoothie (if I have the chance to make one) or water.
Occasionally on the weekends I drink decaf coffee, and sometimes Bulletproof decaf coffee, but I’ve found that even drinking small amounts of caffeine for a couple days in a row can give me headaches. The fewer chemicals in your body the better!
How does your partner fit into your morning routine?
My wife and I are a finely tuned machine. On mornings when I’m in the office, she helps get the kids ready while I take care of the dogs. On mornings when I’m going to the operating room, I tiptoe as quietly as I can so as not to wake her!
Do you also follow this routine on weekends, or do you change some steps?
My routine on weekends is completely different!
Typically, I sleep in until about 7:30am on weekends, when my kids jump onto the bed. Then I head to my study where I usually have a cup of decaf coffee or decaf tea and write. I’m always writing something—my latest book, blog posts, or pitches for television and radio segments. I also take the time on weekend mornings to plan out and write summaries for upcoming podcast episodes. On these mornings I enjoy hanging out in my sweats, doing things that aren’t patient related, and flexing that creative muscle in my head. I may also post some interesting stories on my Instagram account on weekend mornings, such as holistic health tips and comments on the latest news in cosmetic medicine.
On days you’re not settled in your home, are you able to adapt your routine to fit in with a different environment?
Yes, although that depends on the situation. When I’m on a business trip I am constantly working; I don’t take much time to relax because I can get things done without feeling like I’m taking time away from my family. However, when I’m on vacation with my family, all bets are off. I let myself sleep in and read.
What do you do if you fail to follow your morning routine, and how does this influence the rest of your day?
As a surgeon, I am used to sudden changes in my schedule; however, I don’t like them. I am very organized, and all the hospital and clinic nurses and staff will tell you that I am always on time. I show up on time and I finish on time—I’m very dependable and predictable that way.
When there is a wrench thrown into my routine, such as when the ER calls me in the middle of the night, I still do my best to stay on the same schedule. I typically catch up with my sleep the next night. My patients and family always come first. Oh, and the pups, too.
Our recommended book this week is My Morning Routine by Benjamin Spall, Michael Xander. We only recommend three things a week that we believe will be of interest to our readers. Please take a moment to check it out.