“While the water heats up and the tea steeps, I do some light stretching in the kitchen to let my body know it’s time to wake up.” – Derik Mills Share this quote on Twitter

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Derik Mills

Derik Mills

What is your morning routine?

I tend to wake up naturally between 5:30 and 6:30am, depending on when I fall asleep the night before. The first thing I do is go to the kitchen to make tea. I’m a bit of a slow riser. While the water heats up and the tea steeps, I do some light stretching in the kitchen to let my body know it’s time to wake up. Where we currently live is very close to nature. I drink my tea on the balcony and listen to the sunrise sounds of birds and take in the changing colors of the sky. There is something so grounding and nourishing about being part of the dawn and what feels like the earth waking up.

My early morning routine varies depending on whether or not I ride. I ride my mountain bike or cyclocross bike in the Santa Monica Mountains three days a week, typically Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. My non-ride mornings look like this (in order): Tea, meditation, yoga asana and qigong (and two days a week I add in strength training), smoothie. My ride mornings look like this (in order): Tea, pre-ride food, stretch, ride (which I treat as a meditation), stretch (which I often don’t leave enough time to do), smoothie.

For me to start and maintain a routine, I need to remove any decision fatigue. I make enough decisions throughout the day, so I prefer for my morning self-care routine or preparation for the day to require very little decision making. (I also like to reduce decision time on what I’m going to wear for the day. When I find a pair of pants or type of shirt I like, I buy them in multiples and in different colors.) My cycling coach creates my riding workouts, and I have my go-to favorites for yoga and meditation on YogaGlo. I also leave my yoga mat rolled out and other exercise equipment ready nearby so I don’t spend any time prepping for yoga and fitness. The above routine and their full planned durations is ideal. My priorities are my company and my wife and family, all of which sometimes shorten the time I have for the routine.

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Morning is also the best time for me to write. When I’m writing something I tend to work on it after tea, which then shifts the above schedules a bit. Also, if the surf is great, then that may take priority (but that’s very rare these days). Sometimes I swap a ride for a hike, depending on how my body is feeling.

How long have you stuck with this routine so far?

I’ve had the routine in this form for about four and a half years, but it has been disrupted a few times since then by some major life events. When I stray from the routine, I try to get in what I can and be very gentle with myself when resuming.

How has your morning routine changed over recent years?

From 2005-2013 I lived on the water in Manhattan Beach, California. Surfing, swimming, and beach walks were then integral to my mornings. But yoga and meditation have always been a constant.

What time do you go to sleep?

My wife and I aim to be in bed between 9:30-9:45pm. I find that sleeping during the hours between 10:00pm and midnight is more rejuvenating than getting extra hours of sleep in the morning. Ideally, I sleep from 10:00pm to 6:00am. That seems to be what my body needs. But it’s not uncommon that something for work keeps me from getting to bed until closer to the 11:00pm-midnight range.

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

I like to check my calendar well before going to bed to see what I have scheduled the next day. This allows me to do any extra prep for meetings or events, go over my to-do list, and remember to get my riding gear together so it’s ready to go in the morning.

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

I only use an alarm when I have to catch a flight or have to wake early for some other reason. I never snooze when I use an alarm. When I’m up, I’m up. But I avoid flights or meetings that are so early they would require me to use an alarm.

Getting the right amount of sleep is important to me. I try to be protective of my schedule and prioritize sleep.

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

I make a smoothie for breakfast. On Saturdays when I do a long ride, I first have a larger breakfast of steel-cut oatmeal or quinoa flakes, fruit, almond butter, and a spoonful of maple syrup. I don’t like big, heavy breakfasts.

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

Yes. Consistency with meditation is a priority for me. I either take one of the hundreds of meditation classes on YogaGlo, or I sit in silence and practice focusing on my breath, mindfulness/awareness, and non-attachment to thoughts. I aim for twenty minutes at a minimum, but I prefer to get 30-40. Some days I’m rushing to leave early and only get in a few minutes.

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

I check email and Slack either during or after my first tea. I try to limit my answers to urgent messages at that time and get to the rest later.

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

I typically avoid caffeine after 3:00pm. An air purifier, fan, or humidifier for white noise has been helpful in the past. We now live in an area with less city noise, which has made a big difference in lessening sleep interruption. When I travel I always bring earplugs and an eye mask. I also keep a glass of water next to the bed for when I get thirsty during the night.

How soon do you check your phone in the morning?

I check both email and Slack on my phone either during or after my first tea. I also recently got in the habit of checking the air quality via the BreezoMeter app before I do outdoor exercise. And I use my iPhone timer to time my meditations.

What are your most important tasks in the morning?

The meditation, yoga, and riding combination I mentioned above are the most important. My body seems to need it. I notice a difference when I don’t maintain the routine.

What and when is your first drink in the morning?

I sometimes have some water while I’m heating up water for tea. I make a chai tea and add cold almond milk to it to cool it down.

How does your partner fit into your morning routine?

My wife and I are typically on separate routines and allow each other space. However, we do enjoy the times when our schedules align and we can share a yoga and meditation practice or a hike. We’re thankful to live in an area with nature surrounding us.

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

Sunday is a rest day for exercise. On Sundays I tend to extend the length of meditation or yoga asana time. Sometimes my wife and I make a special breakfast.

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

Typically, no. When I’m visiting family, it’s easier to maintain my routine. When staying in a hotel, I like to mix it up and do something I wouldn’t normally do. But when I am away from home it’s only for short periods of time.

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

Now that the YogaGlo team is much larger, it’s rare for my morning schedule to be thrown off by something unplanned. But occasionally my schedule is beyond my control. Even when I have to rush out of the house first thing in the morning, I can always make time for just a few minutes of sitting and light stretching. I only start to feel the effects of not following my routine after a few days. When I go for more than a few days without it, I can feel an accumulation of pent-up energy, stress, and stiffness, and I start to become less patient and grounded. I’m a better version of myself when I maintain my routine.

Anything else you would like to add?

I’m a bit biased, but my wife is one of the sweetest beings on the planet. Being with her in the morning makes any day better.


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