Belle Beth Cooper
Belle Beth Cooper is a co-founder of Exist, a personal analytics platform that helps you understand your life. Belle currently lives in Melbourne, Australia.
What is your morning routine?
My morning routine is pretty basic: I get up at 7:30am, put the kettle on, do a vocal warm-up, make a Milo, and take it back to bed with my laptop, where I’ll write for around thirty minutes. Once all that’s done, I shower and start my work day.
My vocal warm-up comes from an acting course I’m doing this year. Actors need to work on their bodies and voices every day, so I do this every morning. We do a longer version including a full body warm-up at the start of class every Saturday. The warm up includes some tongue twisters, articulation of consonants, and exercises to improve our breathing capacity. After doing this every day for a couple of weeks I noticed my lung capacity was increasing noticeably.
You probably haven’t heard of Milo, but it’s what I drink all day, every day, when I work from home. It’s a powder (kind of like hot chocolate) made from chocolate and malt. Most people drink Milo with milk—either stirred into a tall glass of cold milk, or in a mug dissolved in boiling water and topped up with milk. I’m not a milk fan, so I just dissolve a big teaspoon in boiling water and drink it ‘black’ in a mug. I drink around 4-6 mugs of Milo a day. No doubt way too much!
Writing in the morning serves two purposes: it helps me get up early, since I have a reason to get out of bed, and it helps me make progress on projects I normally can’t find time for. Right now I’m working on a course for content writers, so I’ve been dedicating time to that every morning. Seeing the progress I can achieve from just thirty minutes every day is really empowering and helps me build momentum to get new projects shipped.
How long have you stuck with this routine so far?
Only about three weeks, but it’s kind of an altered version of an earlier routine I stuck with for months.
How has your morning routine changed over recent years?
I moved house a few months ago, and this is the first time I’ve managed to stick with a routine that works. Before I moved I was living alone, and I used to get up at 6:00am, make coffee, write until 7:00am, shower, and go for a walk before starting work for the day.
What time do you go to sleep?
Exist tells me my average bedtime is 11:28pm. I used to go to sleep later on weekends before I moved in with my partner and co-founder, Josh. He’s a night owl while I’m a morning lark, so I used to line up with him when I stayed at his house on weekends. My weekend bedtime average is a whole hour later still, but I’m bringing it down these days as I have a more consistent bedtime every night.
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 silent, vibrating alarm on my fitness tracker (currently a Fitbit Charge). I like getting into a pattern of waking up at the same time, but if I sleep in it’s no big deal since I work from home anyway. I don’t ever snooze my alarm, but I sometimes turn it off and go back to sleep.
I have a second vibrating alarm on my Pebble watch set for 8:00am. That’s my cut-off for what counts as “getting up early”, which I aim to do every day. If I’m still in bed when that one goes off I try to get up immediately so I can keep that habit going.
How soon after waking up do you have breakfast, and what do you typically have?
Around 1-1.5 hours. Depending on the day I’ll either have a quick snack so I can start work or take my time and eat a real meal.
I go through phases for breakfast foods where I’ll eat the same thing every day for a couple of weeks, and then switch. At the moment it’s just cereal. Sometimes it’s fruit and yoghurt, sometimes I go all out and cook omelettes or french toast every morning.
Do you have a morning workout routine?
Nope. Morning workouts make me tired. I like to run in the afternoons. Setting my running time for 5:30pm on work days really helps me get things done in the afternoon, when I would normally fluff around and waste time. Something about having a hard deadline really helps me focus.
Do you answer email first thing in the morning or leave it until later in the day?
Emails have a high chance of setting off my day badly, so I try to protect my morning by avoiding looking at my inbox. I answer emails whenever the mood takes me. Often I’ll do a bunch at once, if they’re all Exist customer support emails, for instance.
Do you use any apps or products to enhance your sleep or morning routine?
I use SleepPhones headphones to listen to my iPod while I’m falling asleep. They’re not super reliable, mine have stopped working twice, or a great fit, but I haven’t found anything as comfortable for wearing in bed.
I use Momentum on my iPhone for tracking whether I get up early and do my vocal warm-up each day.
How soon do you check your phone in the morning?
Immediately. I usually look through all the notifications on my lock screen to see what’s there, and then leave it alone until my routine is finished.
What are your most important tasks in the morning?
I tend to be in a better mood when I’m productive (I can feel this, but my Exist data also confirms it’s true), so getting important things done early in the day sets me up well.
Writing early in the morning starts my day off well, as I’ve already accomplished something important for myself before I hit the shower. After that my day changes depending on whether I’m working on client work or Exist.
Do you also follow this routine on weekends, or do you change some steps?
I try to do this routine every day, but weekends are tougher to keep on track.
Saturdays I have acting class all day, so sometimes I’m keyed up in the morning and not in the mood for working before I head out. Acting class is exhausting, so Sundays I’m always tempted to sleep in and be lazy all day while I recover.
What do you do if you fail to follow your morning routine, and how does this influence the rest of your day?
I’m terrible at salvaging a day that didn’t start well, especially if I get up late; anything after about 8:00am is too late for me to feel good about my day.
The best way I’ve found to feel good if my day doesn’t start well is to get a lot done. I’m always on the lookout for good ways to reset my day when it’s not going well.
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