What is your morning routine?
I love mornings. They’re my favorite time of day. Each night’s sleep serves to ‘press the reset button on life’. I love that.
I could pretend that I have a precise routine that I follow every morning. I don’t. My routine is aspirational; I shoot for it, and feel much better when I achieve it. But somedays, I wake up cranky or tired. That’s just life.
This is usually how it goes:
5:45am: My iPhone alarm goes off and I rustle around the covers to find it. I rouse myself. Resist the temptation to check Instagram. Hold onto my dream for as long as possible. Try to drink some water, but find it too cold.
I settle myself amongst the pillows to write my morning pages. Morning pages are magic. Taking twenty minutes to download my brain clears space for a new day by allowing me to unravel the things that are irking or upsetting me. I’m a happier, more productive person if I do my morning pages.
6:15am: Some mornings, I’ll do ten minutes of meditation usually plopped on the floor beside my bed. I say meditate, but really I just close my eyes, enjoy the quiet and think about things. I think about winning an Emmy, or meeting an idol or saving the world. I dream about the day that a life-changing email lands in my inbox, or I meet someone who blows my mind. I think about my friends and all the crazy shit we do, or wanna do. I’m a bit sad when the alarm goes after ten minutes and it’s time to return to the real world. Also, I feel like I did the meditation wrong, but it was fun so I don’t care.
6:30am: Jump in the shower. Ask myself to be quick, and then quickly get distracted by the lemony bubbles and whatever weird thought process is going on in my brain. Today: How come onions can have one rotten layer, but the rest is fine? Dry off. Look at myself in the mirror and try to think nice things about my body. Look up at the skylight and hope there’s no-one prying a look in. I’ve been in this apartment for months, and I still expect to see an intruder at least three times a day.
Get dressed. If I’m working from home, I sometimes wear sweats. If I feel like a shlep, I wear heels though they usually get discarded for my moccasins by noon.
7:00am: Sit down at my writing desk, which is really just a regular desk from Target that I imbued with the title ‘writing desk’ to help me feel like a ‘real’ writer. Check email and then decide not to answer anything, unless it makes me laugh or think. Check Feedly, and click on anything that grabs my eye. Check the headlines on The Irish Times. Start mulling on what needs to be done. Make a list/mind-map. Start working.
8:30am: Once I get hungry, my brain slows down. I have the same breakfast pretty much every day: two scrambled eggs (which usually end up vaguely omlette-like since I can’t multi-task), half an avocado, some cheese, and warm wholewheat bread. I try not to drink too much coffee since it makes me paranoid. But I love it too much to cut it out completely.
9:00am: I work again. I keep my mornings for thinking work; the afternoons for minutiae. As I write, I keep a running list of things that occur to me. As my focus wavers, I wander onto twitter or back to Feedly. I aim to get the bulk of my writing done by noon.
How has your morning routine changed over recent years?
My routine has been reasonably consistent in that I love to wake up early and start my day by writing. I moved to New York last year which really disrupted by whole life, but the simplicity of these rituals really helped to ground me amidst the chaos.
What time do you go to sleep?
I aim to be in bed by 9 or 10:00pm, but I’m not maniacal about it. My social life is important to me too, so I’ll stay up late with friends and be tired the following day. I’ve never been able to nap, but some afternoons I’ll lie on my bed for an hour to re-boot my tired body.
Do you use an alarm to wake you up in the morning, and if so do you ever hit the snooze button?
I use my iPhone alarm, and try not to snooze it.
Do you have a morning workout routine?
My brain is sharpest in the morning, so I tend to write then. My workouts usually coincide with my afternoon slump at about 3:00pm. I love yoga, running and long, meandering walks.
Do you see to email first thing in the morning or leave it until later in the day?
I avoid checking email while I’m still in bed, though I’ll often check out my Instagram feed for some visual brain food. I check email at my desk, but don’t respond to non-urgent messages until later in the afternoon.
What are your most important tasks in the morning?
I start by plotting out what I want to accomplish that day. I’ve recently adopted the habit of planning my day, and then removing 3-5 things from the list. I want to feel calm and productive at work, not stressed out and overwhelmed. By focusing on fewer items and doing them completely, I find that my work-day is easier and more fun.
The most important thing in every day is to write. I’m usually working on a bunch of freelance pieces at once, as well as one longer project (like a book or personal essay series). I also aim to blog regularly.
What and when is your first drink in the morning?
I try to start the day with plenty of water, though in the winter months, it’s harder to drink it cold. I keep a bottle of water on my desk all day, and aim to guzzle plenty of it to keep my head clear.
On days you’re not settled in your home, are you able to adapt your routine to fit in with a different environment?
My routine fluctuates when I’m traveling, which is pretty regularly. Once I get my morning pages done and have something decent to eat, I’m happy. I don’t put myself under pressure to do it perfectly when I’m on the road.
One of my favorite things about travelling is the spontaneity of it. I love waking up, not knowing where the day will take me. Being overly locked into a routine means that I lose some of that adventurous spirit.
What do you do if you fail to follow your routine, and how does this influence the rest of your day?
I try not to think of it as failure, but I do lapse out of my routine fairly regularly. That’s life.
I ease myself back in by writing my morning pages; these are the holy grail for me. The most important metric for me is not whether or not I follow the routine, but how calm I feel as I work and how fulfilled I am by the meaning in my life. If that means I need to sleep in and have coffee in bed, or wake up early and run my problems out, I’m happy to do that.
This routine is a comfort to me. It allows me to habitually do the things that are most important to me (write, be present, think). Anything extra is just a bonus.
Our recommended book this week is The Harvard Medical School Guide to a Good Night’s Sleep. 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.