“​Before going to bed I like to make a to-do list for the following day. I used to do a lot of journaling, but that comes and goes in phases, while list-making is a lifelong love.” – Danielle Buonaiuto Share this quote on Twitter

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Danielle Buonaiuto

What is your morning routine?

​These days, mornings begin with the alarm on my phone going off somewhere between 7 and 7:30am. I turn it off, pull aside the blackout curtain, and check the weather. I might also take stock of the emails and texts that came in overnight, but I won’t respond to any of them. I lie back down, close my eyes, and breathe deeply for a few minutes.

This has become more and more important to me as my days become more complex and busy here in New York City. ​I don’t try to think about anything, but if I end up thinking, that’s okay too. If I’m thinking, it’s usually about the crazy dreams I had, or the big day I have coming up. This time usually serves as brain cleaning - shakes off the cobwebs from the night, and prepares me mentally for what I need to get accomplished this day.

I get up and make coffee. While the water boils, I take a quick shower; I come back and grind the beans, make the coffee, and go get dressed while it steeps in the French press. I’m fairly low-maintenance - no hair or makeup, and my uniform is jeans. This is definitely different if I’ve got a big rehearsal, performance, or audition that day. I’ll add a half hour or so here to get dolled up, if that’s the case. But I find that this process stays very minimal and no-fuss if I do it like this - I’m ready in fifteen minutes.

I’ve usually made a to-do list for the day the night before, and left my materials for the day ready to be packed into my backpack. This could comprise a quantity of music scores, recording equipment, or documents for one of my admin gigs; it always includes a selection of things to read, be they for research or pleasure. While I drink my first cup of coffee, I’ll read my to-do list and think about what’s on it. I’ll double-check I’ve got everything, pack it up, and pack my lunch into my lunch bag (usually leftovers and a few pieces of fruit, some nuts, some chocolate…). These days, I’ve been taking my breakfast along too - unless I’m ravenous, I prefer to eat a little later in the day. I’ll also take my second cup of coffee in a travel mug.

I walk to the train, maybe dropping things in the mailbox on the way, and once I’m on the platform, I get out something to read, and maybe a banana. My train time is spent alternately drinking coffee, lost in thought; and reading. My train time, like so many New Yorkers, is my time. I almost never work on the train, I prefer to keep it for reading or introspection.

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I walk to work - usually the office, but sometimes to a church service (where I serve as a chorister), or to a rehearsal for a gig. Once I’m there, I’m plugged into my day - so by then, I want to have a firm handle on how the day will pan out and what I need to get accomplished for my jobs and for myself, personally and creatively. My morning routine is all about taking stock, affirmation, and physical/mental preparation.

How long have you stuck with this routine so far?

​This particular incarnation of my routine has been with me for about six months. There is room for growth; I’m slowly moving my alarm back. ​I’d like to start including some yoga.

How has your morning routine changed over recent years?

​Currently my routine gets me up and out the door to an administrative job. This hasn’t always been the case: sometimes I’ve had the deep luxury of being home and working on my art (in those rare months when it’s how I make most of my living), or working on a job from home. Then, I can use my mornings more leisurely, to exercise, get centred, and ready to be creative.

At other times in my life, I’ve felt I squandered my mornings, and I’m working now on being mindful of when my most productive hours are and when I’m most creative.

What time do you go to sleep?

​Anywhere between 11:30pm and 1:30am, depending on how late the concert went the previous night, or how long ​it took me to get home from rehearsal in the far reaches of New Jersey.

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

​I like to make a to-do list for the following day. I find I fret a lot less if I pour it out of my head. I used to do a lot of journaling, but that comes and goes in phases, while list-making is a lifelong love.

Sometimes I’ll pack my lunch, or cook ahead to make the following day a bit easier foodwise. But usually I’ll just stack what I need on the table by my bag, so it’s ready to pack up.

Do you use an alarm to wake you up in the morning, and if so do you ever hit the snooze button?

​I do use an alarm these days, but haven’t always. I don’t trust myself to be up naturally before 8:00am, what with the late nights, but if I am working from home, you bet I don’t set one. I do hit the snooze button - ​not habitually - and it generally happens when I’ve been too ambitious in terms of wake-up time.

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

​Coffee is a definite must, and a glass of water.

In warmer months, I gravitate towards a light smoothie with avocado, banana, non-dairy milk, and a bit of honey (and maybe some berries). I might grab ​a high-energy booster, like some nuts or a date bar. In cooler months, I love steel-cut oats with nuts and apples. I make them ahead and throw a container in my bag, and warm them up at work. I love to drink my second cup of coffee from my travel mug on the train.

Do you have a morning workout routine?

​No. I wish I could motivate myself to run early in the morning, but if nights are late, my need for a full 7 or 8 hours trumps a morning workout: my voice will suffer, otherwise.

I fit in yoga and running when I can. On my days off, I do long runs or hikes, and lots of stretching. On work days, I usually end up doing some yoga at home at the end of my day.

How about morning meditation?

​I consider my few minutes of breathing a meditative process; my coffee on the train can be deeply meditative. I think meditation can take many forms.

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

​I used to, but this was a stress-inducing practice, and even if I take stock of it while turning off my alarm on my phone, I leave it until I’ve reached a desktop: after I’ve breathed, caffeinated, and eaten.

It makes a huge difference.​

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

​I do not. I am an au naturel girl.​

How soon do you check your phone in the morning?

​First thing. What am I dealing with today? ​But I don’t absorb it, as I’ve said - it’s more for mental preparation.

What are your most important tasks in the morning?

​Set an intention for the day; decide what one creative thing I’ll do for myself that day; get to work on time.​

What and when is your first drink in the morning?

​Coffee, after shower. Water alongside it, and all morning, ideally.

Do you also follow this routine on weekends, or do you change some steps?

​I don’t have typical weekends - since I gig and freelance quite a bit, I group my days into “work days” and “days off” - days off are generally more creative, and so they do look different.

I still wake up (with no alarm) and breathe; I get up and make coffee, and if I’m going to exercise, I do that before I eat. If it’s going to be a long run, I’ll grab a banana. Then, it’s home to shower and sing (or write, or research, or whatever it is that day). I leave the email drudgery for when I’m fizzling creatively and need a change of pace.

On days you’re not settled in your home, are you able to adapt your routine to fit in with a different environment?

​Definitely. I’ve had to be really committed to making myself at home wherever I am, since my location changes so much with the job. Sometimes you’re on tour, and home is a hotel room shared with another singer; sometimes you’re lucky, and get a condo to yourself. Sometimes it’s someone’s couch.

Your routine needs to be flexible enough to ​be portable. It’s why I gravitate toward running and yoga for exercise - even though I love to cycle - I can take my running shoes everywhere, and you can do yoga almost anywhere, in any clothing. Coffee is universal at this point. I travel with a small blender and kettle if I know I’m staying in hotel rooms, and sometimes a single-cup stove top espresso maker. It’s the little things!

What do you do if you fail to follow your morning routine, and how does this influence the rest of your day?

​I’m definitely off for the rest of the day, feeling like I’m rushing to catch up. It’s less about what I do but that I wanted to do it, and didn’t get to.

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