What is your morning routine?
I wake up between 5:00-6:00am without an alarm. I throw on my gym clothes, grab some water or a pre-workout drink (I often switch between caffeinated and non-caffeinated), and drive to the gym. In the gym parking lot I say a prayer for inspiration and open my journal. I then write for ten to fifteen minutes focusing on my goals and plans for the day. I’ll then put on my headphones and listen to an audiobook during my forty-minute workout.
Once home, I get started on my most important work for the day. My most important job on any given day is to get clarity and get into the right frame of mind, what I’d call a “peak” or heightened state. I do this through meditation, prayer, journal writing, listening to uplifting content, and fitness.
However, once I’m in that state I must do something with it. And that’s where my creative output is at its peak. One of the reasons I’m able to publish basically anything I write is because I pay very close attention to my pre-writing routine, and I only write when I’m in the right mental and emotional state. Thus, my most important job is to live in that state as consistently as possible. It’s the purpose of my morning routine: getting into that state so I can then work from that state.
Thus, the state is a means to an end—doing high quality work. Although it’s enjoyable in and of itself, because I’m in flow.
How long have you stuck with this routine so far?
I’ve stuck with the same basic routine for the past ten years. There was a semester when I had a lot of night classes so I needed to adjust and make mornings about my kids, but I’ve gone back to these same basics when possible.
How has your morning routine changed over recent years?
We have been parents for the past three years. Being a parent changes your entire life focus. It brings more meaning to my work in two major ways. First, I want to provide well for my wife and kids. Second, my time not-working is more valuable than my time working. I need to be efficient in my work so that I can be there for my kids.
I didn’t start writing publicly until after I had kids. While my morning routine didn’t change, the drive behind it did. It became about developing the right mindset to write and create rather than just creating a generally positive mindset.
What time do you go to sleep?
Short answer, when my wife lets me. I like sleeping from 9:00pm to 5:00am, but my wife likes 10:30pm to 6:00am. So we go to bed sometime between 9:00 and 10:30pm. Our kids sleep a solid 10-12 hours with the oldest going to bed at 7:00pm on nights he doesn’t have sports. This has been both healthy for the kids and healthy for us as we have time to unwind before our own early bedtime.
Do you do anything before going to bed to make your morning easier?
I have two large whiteboards in my work space. After the kids are in bed, I take some time to sketch out article ideas that I’ll write about the next day on a whiteboard. This is a dump of my day’s thoughts.
I’ve used a journal while sitting in my car preparing to go into the gym for years. The whiteboard is pretty new—probably the past six months. I have two 4x6 feet whiteboards that are on wheels that I spin around my office. I prefer sketching ideas on the whiteboard because, mentally, I feel like I can “fail” more with a whiteboard than even with a journal. The environment of a whiteboard allows for different creative expression.
The whiteboard is fun because I write ideas in bullet-point format and also draw pictures and models and other ways to conceptualize what I’m thinking about. Usually all I need is 5-10 minutes sketching and stretching ideas on the whiteboard to have plenty of framing to start writing my articles.
Do you use an alarm to wake you up in the morning, and if so do you ever hit the snooze button?
I don’t generally use an alarm. My wife gets up with the kids at 6:30am so I know I need to get up before them and get out of the house. My body does this pretty naturally. My wife is amazing for letting me take the mornings for myself. She crushes her morning routine with the kids without me.
How soon after waking up do you have breakfast, and what do you typically have?
Three hours after waking up, after I’ve already gotten into my most important work. Breakfast involves a bunch of water and a protein shake or huevos rancheros.
Do you have a morning workout routine?
I do high-pace weights with some outdoor running afterwards.
Do you have a morning meditation routine?
My morning routine is my meditation routine. The whole purpose is to elevate my thoughts to the mental state needed to bring out my best writing and creativity. I meditate and pray throughout the whole process.
Do you answer email first thing in the morning or leave it until later in the day?
I’ve outsourced my emails to my assistant and my wife. And even then, knowing that emails addressed to me exist in the world is painful. I like a simple life uncluttered by the mass of email correspondence. I am much more likely to hop on the phone with someone to get things done than answer an email.
Do you use any apps or products to enhance your sleep or morning routine?
I sleep with a pillow between my knees (I sleep terribly without it).
How soon do you check your phone in the morning?
Around two or three hours after I wake up.
What are your most important tasks in the morning?
Getting in the right frame of mind through journaling, exercising, and writing.
What and when is your first drink in the morning?
Water, lots of water, right when I wake up. Or a pre-workout drink before going to the gym.
How does your partner fit into your morning routine?
My wife is a rockstar. She totally handles the mornings with our three school-age kids. She gets them up, makes them a home-cooked breakfast, studies scriptures with them, and gets them to school in good spirits. It is amazing. I’ll often get back from the gym as they are saying a family prayer before school and I’m always impressed by the routine she has created for our kids.
Every day I have 4:00-7:00pm blocked off as family time to spend with my kids. This includes some free time, dinner, homework, and their sports.
Do you also follow this routine on weekends, or do you change some steps?
I don’t work Sundays and I only work a few hours on Saturdays. These are family days. On Saturdays, when I work, I do it in the morning so that my routine can prime me for that work. But on Sundays, I am a full-time dad in the morning. This is my wife’s morning off to take a long shower and grab breakfast at her leisure. I make the kids German Pancakes, get them showered, and then we get ready for church.
On days you’re not settled in your home, are you able to adapt your routine to fit in with a different environment?
Generally, no. I try to live by the standard, “Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved,” by Thomas Monson. If I’m away from home, I’m there for the people. Whether those people are my family, mentors, or peers, those people are more important than my routine.
That said, I will still generally start my day by journaling and exercising, but sometimes these get shifted to other parts of the day.
What do you do if you fail to follow your morning routine, and how does this influence the rest of your day?
If I fail in the morning, I generally have to abandon the work day. My best work happens before noon. So, if I sleep in or let myself get distracted by my family’s routine, the hours slip by and noon comes before I can get in the zone to write. It can be a huge bummer to be off in the morning and miss my peak work hours. So I try instead to repurpose my day, like going to lunch with my wife or getting the kids from school.
Photo of Benjamin by Debbie Lefever.