“I keep a notebook next to my bed so I can write down things that have the potential to get my mind racing before I fall asleep.” – Denise Lee Share this quote on Twitter

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Denise Lee

What is your morning routine?

I’m naturally a night owl; however, after running my own business for the last six years, I’ve forced myself to be more of a morning person because I find mornings to be the most productive time of the day.

I wake up around 6:00-6:30am (before the alarm rings, most days) because my dog starts moving around in bed. After getting up, I take him out for a quick walk and then head to my workout. After getting my endorphins high, another thing I try to do every day is come up with one good idea in the shower; usually it hits me without my having to think too hard, and it’s honestly my favorite thing about the morning. I wrap up my morning with a smoothie and vitamins, then head into work.

How long have you stuck with this routine so far?

I’ve been doing a version of this for the past few years. When I adopted my dog, Rudy, I had to start waking up earlier to get all his needs taken care of, but before that I could just roll out of bed and head straight to class!

How has your morning routine changed over recent years?

I try to be very conscious of when my brain is the most productive and utilize that time to come up with the best ideas. I’m actually about to start experimenting with moving my workout to the evening in an effort to dedicate the entire early morning to my mental focus and the workday ahead of me.

What time do you go to sleep?

If I am in a good flow where I’m consciously protecting my time, I go to sleep at 10:00pm and wake up at 6:00am. Of course, there are some days where this doesn’t happen, but I try to get into bed before midnight every night.

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

I keep a notebook next to my bed so I can write down things that have the potential to get my mind racing before I fall asleep (e.g., “don’t forget to do this tomorrow”). Writing them down helps me “offload” those thoughts and prevents them from keeping me awake at night.

I also have the Night Shift feature set on my iPhone from 10:00pm to 7:00am. It reduces the blue light given off by your screen, which is what many sleep experts say keeps your mind awake. I also don’t watch TV in bed, and I cover the clock on my cable box so the light doesn’t shine through. I invested in blackout shades, so it’s nice and dark in the room, and I also make sure all the doors are fully shut. For some reason I sleep best when I know I’m fully shut into the room. It might be a feng shui thing?!

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

Yes, I do and yes, I am guilty of snoozing two or three times, especially after nights when I don’t get between seven and eight hours of sleep. I set my alarm for 5:30-5:45am most mornings to account for the snooze time; this is a habit I’d like to get rid of in the near future.

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

I have breakfast after walking my dog and working out, so probably ninety minutes to two hours after I’ve gotten out of bed.

My go-to breakfast is a coffee smoothie made with Four Sigmatic Mushroom Coffee, almond milk, frozen bananas, Vital Proteins’ collagen powder, and some type of superfood mix (I’m always trying new ones). I find that this keeps me full so much longer than eggs, oatmeal, or anything else that I might eat in the mornings.

Do you have a morning workout routine?

Yes. Recently I’ve been going to Liftonic, which is a weight-based workout. It’s kind of like going to see a personal trainer every day but in a group setting. I like how the class is challenging but sustainable enough for me to go almost every day.

I also love the sculpt and trampoline classes at The Ness.

Do you have a morning meditation routine?

Meditation is another thing I have been trying to do more often, but I have not been successful in turning it into a regular practice. When I do get in a routine, I meditate once or twice a week and use the Headspace app.

One practice that I stick to on a daily basis is repeating certain affirmations. The idea behind this is to put your positive thoughts out into the universe, so that the universe knows to return those things to you. Incorporating these practices into my mornings only happens occasionally right now, but they are both on my list of things to add to my daily routine.

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

No, I honestly hate answering emails any time of the day. I feel like doing so lulls you into a sense that you’re being productive—which you are, but at a low, hamster-wheel level. As I mentioned before, mornings are reserved for my most mentally challenging work, so no, emails will always wait until later in the day.

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

In the morning I use Headspace for meditation and Affirmation Reminder for my affirmations. When I can’t sleep in the middle of the night, I listen to rain playlists on Spotify to relax and try to get back to sleep!

How soon do you check your phone in the morning?

I check my phone first thing, as soon as my alarm goes off.

What are your most important tasks in the morning?

Making sure Rudy my dog is taken out for a good walk and gets fed. On my way to work, I also pick one work task that I want to accomplish that day, and then I make sure that it gets done.

What and when is your first drink in the morning?

I chug a glass of water as soon as I step out of the bedroom to rehydrate—nothing too complicated. I was recently on a celery juice kick but stopped because I didn’t really feel like it did much for me.

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

Weekends are a precious time for me; I don’t schedule anything before 1:00pm, if I can help it. I let myself go to sleep whenever I want on Friday and Saturday nights and wake up whenever I want without an alarm. I’m a natural night owl, so I usually end up going to sleep at 2:00am and getting up at 10:00am. I much prefer to pack in my weeks with work, social commitments, and errands and leave the weekends unscheduled—free and easy to do whatever I want.

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

Yes, but it is definitely more difficult, and I don’t give myself a hard time when I don’t follow it. When I’m traveling, my most important rule for a good morning routine is to get a good night’s rest—at least seven or eight hours—if possible.

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

When I don’t get to follow my routine, I try to at least work out later that same day. If none of it happens, I remind myself that tomorrow is a new day and I’ll get back on track then. I don’t stress over it; there are too many other things to stress about!

I feel a bit out of sorts if I don’t get to do my normal morning routine. I notice this mostly with my appetite and how tired or unfocused I am throughout the day. If I don’t get to have my smoothie for breakfast, I tend to eat worse or more food than I usually would throughout the day. I also find myself getting tired at certain points in the day where I usually have energy and find it harder to focus. As I grow older, I am much more protective of my time, so my sleep and morning routine are high priorities.


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