What is your morning routine?
Ritual is very important to me, but so is adventure. I’ve come to this realization over the last year, and it’s tough to balance the two. How do I inject a good amount of fear and creativity into my morning without losing all focus and structure? To deal with that, I try to keep my routine loose but with the same grounding elements: tea, learning something or expressing myself creatively, and walking my dog Bruce Wayne.
I always start my day by checking the time. I don’t usually use an alarm, and sometimes I’m surprised what time I wake up. It’s usually anywhere between 7:00 and 9:00am. I’ll get up and start the day, but my dog usually goes right back to bed.
I make chai tea that I buy from a local Seattle shop, Remedy Teas. I’ll heat up some baked oatmeal and then I sit at my kitchen window to drink my tea and listen to a podcast. This is a practice I picked up while living on farms in New Zealand for a year. I used to work beside the farm owners with the local radio playing over us all day. I moved from farm to farm in that year, but everyone seemed to do this. It kept people connected to the news, to music, and to the rest of the world from their tiny island.
After that, I will read a book or journal a bit until around 9:45-10:00am. That’s when my dog usually wakes up, shakes the sleep off, and stares at me with doe eyes until I take him for a walk. I leave my cell phone behind for these walks. I just try to get a handle emotionally on the day. If I bring my phone, my day no longer feels like mine. This keeps me present for all the demands that are to come as soon as I open my email and check my communities.
When I do finally start to work, I move to my office and begin deliberately. It’s like a switching on, and once I feel like I had that time to create for myself, I can give myself fully to my client work or community building.
How long have you stuck with this routine so far?
I moved to Seattle from San Francisco eight months ago, and it took me a good six months to find myself after that. After months of waking up and checking email and Instagram updates in bed before getting up, I realized it was putting me in an awful mood. I was living by the routines everyone else wanted to dictate for me. I was living to see everyone else’s updates and meet their needs instead of looking inward.
One day, I just said I wasn’t going to do that anymore. No one is going to give me time or permission to write or read or create anything at all. I have to find that time myself. People will always, always ask things of me (and, despite how this sounds, I love it when people ask things of me!), but if I don’t set boundaries and give a little love to myself, I won’t be able to truly give to them the way I want to.
I like giving things. But I have to give things to myself too. My writing is that gift.
What time do you go to sleep?
I try to go to bed around 10:30pm, but sometimes I stay up writing until 2:00am. If I do, I just try to be forgiving. All the time, I forgive myself. Rigidity and self-punishment were always my motivators until I moved to Seattle. Now I often think of myself as a little kid. If I overslept, would I yell at me? No. I’d say, “Wow, you must have been tired, honey.” So I say that to myself now: “Wow, you must have been tired, honey. Tell me about it.”
Maybe I sound crazy, but I owe myself that kindness after not having it for so long.
How soon after waking up do you have breakfast, and what do you typically have?
Every Sunday night or Monday morning I make baked oatmeal that lasts through the week.
I used to skip breakfast and go straight to espresso, but I’d start flagging by the afternoon and I grew strangely resentful of everyone around me who was not making me coffee. No one wants to be that resentful, coffee-dependent person. So I stopped being her. After a few weeks of headaches and lots of ibuprofen and water, I’m just fine.
Do you have a morning workout routine?
Hell no. I used to do a lot of Bikram Yoga at 5:00am. I used to run obsessively before dawn. I used to do workouts by Jillian Michaels at 6:30am in my bedroom in San Francisco. None of that was good for me emotionally. It was just more self-punishment and guilt-inducing behavior. That’s not what exercise is about. It’s not something you should guilt yourself into. It’s a healing thing.
I throw a little exercise into every day now, nothing I can become obsessed with. I walk my dog five times per day (he has a small bladder!). I dance. I hike a lot. I don’t have to go check off an “exercise” box in the morning anymore. I have other priorities right now.
Do you have a morning meditation routine, and if so what kind of meditation do you practice?
Making tea is my meditation.
I met Sharon Salzberg last year at a community event I planned on meditation in the workplace. She is the woman who brought Buddhism to America in the 1970s. I recall her talking about turning teatime into meditation time, really staying present for the process, so I try to do that. I don’t take myself too seriously in this regard.
Do you answer email first thing in the morning or leave it until later in the day?
Email is a disease. Unless it’s from someone I love, and I love most people. So email can be a slippery slope for me.
Because I know this, I don’t check my email until after I’ve accomplished at least one thing for myself in the morning or crossed off a big task on my Asana work task list. This usually happens around 11:00am or so.
What and when is your first drink in the morning?
I make myself tea in the morning. I’ve spent my entire career drinking coffee, but it’s become more of an addiction for me than something I truly enjoy.
When I moved to Seattle, I started drinking all the cold brew I could get my hands on, and it really took its toll: headaches and serious rollercoasters of energy that become a heavy burden if I was trying to shift gears a lot during the day or handle any roadblocks. I feel this weird nostalgia towards coffee, and someone told me that’s how cigarette smokers often feel about cigarettes after they quit. So I make chai or English breakfast tea instead and I look at others longingly as they sip their lattes.
On days you’re not settled in your home, are you able to adapt your routine to fit in with a different environment?
I travel constantly, and I try to leave the city every weekend if I can. I’ve gone up to Vancouver a few times, down to Portland even more. I’ll drive to the mountains or I’ll go camping. As long as I have tea and breakfast, something to read, and my dog by my side, I’m good.
What do you do if you fail to follow your morning routine, and how does this influence the rest of your day?
In the last year I’ve really learned to love myself for the first time ever. Ever. Can you believe that? I’ve spent my entire life motivating myself out of guilt and self-punishment. A lot of it comes from my childhood and how I was raised. But now I have left all that. Now I motivate myself out of love, compassion, hope, and the knowledge that I have to take care of myself to do good work. My work involves gathering people, making connections, writing, and thinking through complex problems. If I don’t take time to practice what I preach for others, how could I be good at my job?
Of course, what makes everyone happy and productive is different, and I try to be very sensitive to that. I share my morning routine not to make anyone feel that they’re not doing enough or that they’re not “loving themselves enough”. You can forgive yourself for failing, each and every day, and still live a very good life. Or you can create a life where tiny failures are actually celebrated because you tried.
Whatever you want your life to look like, you can find a support network to cheer you on and find a way to make it happen.
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