“When I’m tempted to skip my morning routine or another form of self-care, I remind myself that I can better serve the people I love and the projects I care about when I start with me.” – Courtney Carver Share this quote on Twitter

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Courtney Carver

What is your morning routine?

My morning routine usually looks like this: I wake up at 5:30am and spend the next 2-3 hours fueling my body, brain, heart, and soul. After getting dressed and drinking a glass of water, I gather my notebook, a pen, my iPhone, and more water and head up to the gym in our apartment complex. I write a few pages of thoughts and ideas, anything on my mind really. Then I sit quietly in meditation, take a few minutes to stretch, or do a few yoga poses and then jump on the elliptical or treadmill. I keep an eye on the windows and when it starts to get light, I take a few minutes to admire our mountains, or run up to the roof for the sunrise. Afterwards, I come back to my apartment, make breakfast, and read.

It’s crazy, years ago I never would have considered putting myself first, but after a scary MS diagnosis in 2006, I finally had permission. At first I thought it would take away from giving everyone else what they needed, but I was actually able to take better care of everyone else because I was taking such good care of myself. Now when I’m tempted to skip my morning routine or another form of self-care, I remind myself that I can better serve the people I love and the projects I care about when I start with me.

How long have you stuck with this routine so far?

I started developing my morning routine about seven years ago, but it changes over time depending on the seasons, and what’s going on with my family and the rest of my life. When I started, I was working crazy hours and always in a hurry, so I only had about fifteen minutes to dedicate, but that was enough to convince me of the power of feeding yourself first.

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While I really look forward to my morning routine, I’m flexible for life’s surprises too. Recently, my husband broke his arm in a cycling accident and wasn’t able to drive for a couple of weeks. I had to take him to the train or to work every morning, so my routine changed.

How has your morning routine changed over recent years?

The biggest change is that my morning routine has expanded. In the beginning it was just fifteen minutes, and gradually, over a period of years and many changes, I carved out more and more time.

When I quit my job in 2011, I had more time. When we downsized to a small apartment, I found more time, and when my daughter started college, I had more time. It took many years, but now I have hours instead of minutes to devote to my practice.

Most of the elements stay the same, although I used to include more yoga. Now I attend yoga classes during the week, and don’t have a formal practice in the morning. I also do more reading now during my morning routine. I’d really like to develop the habit of writing one thank you card during each morning routine, so that could be the next thing I add.

What time do you go to sleep?

I usually go to sleep between 9-10:00pm. Occasionally I’ll stay up later, but I know I need 7-8 hours of sleep if I want to feel great the next day.

Do you do anything before going to bed to make your morning easier?

The routine itself makes my morning easier because I don’t have to make fifty decisions before I start my work day.

I know what’s going to happen, what I’m going to wear, and drink and eat, so I can start the day without feeling frazzled or having to choose between five kinds of cereal, ten outfits, or three ways to start the day. As a result, I experience less decision fatigue as the day goes on.

How soon after waking up do you have breakfast, and what do you typically have?

I eat at the end of my morning routine, usually around 8:00am. I either have a green smoothie, or steamed spinach, egg, and an apple with almond butter. I love having greens for breakfast. It took some getting used to, but now it’s just part of the routine.

After I eat, I have an espresso.

Do you have a morning workout routine?

If it’s not too cold, and it’s light enough outside, I include walking outside as part of my morning routine.

This time of year, I move it to the gym and walk on the treadmill or the elliptical for thirty minutes. It’s not crazy calorie burning stuff, but enough to really wake me up without coffee.

Do you have a morning meditation routine, and if so what kind of meditation do you practice?

I meditate daily, typically after I write in the morning. Right now I sit quietly focused on my breath, but other times I practice guided meditation.

Do you answer email first thing in the morning or leave it until later in the day?

Rarely first thing. I usually check email between 10:00am and midday unless I’m in the middle of a project where other people are depending on a response from me.

That first check of the day is usually just an email triage. I respond to what’s urgent, and leave the rest for an afternoon session so I can focus on creative work in the morning.

Do you use any apps or products to enhance your sleep or morning routine?

I use the timer on my phone for quiet meditation, and for guided meditation I really like Buddhify.

What and when is your first drink in the morning?

Water, water, water, and then an espresso.

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 changes when I travel, but even a modified version helps me stay focused and sane throughout the day. For instance, if I am visiting family or on vacation, I might not have three hours, but I know I can make time for ten minutes of writing and five minutes of meditation. Even that makes a big difference in how I feel.

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