“Prioritizing sleep and exercise makes such a difference across the board that it’s beyond worth it.” – Emily White Share this quote on Twitter

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Emily White

What is your morning routine?

My morning routine begins the night before. I sleep for nine hours, meditate, exercise, meditate again, and then begin the workday.

Sleep and exercise are my health priorities. By figuring out how much sleep I actually need and sticking to it as a health priority, both my life and work have changed for the better. I wake up nine hours after I go to sleep, so the exact time varies, but I aim for it to be as early as possible.

How long have you stuck with this routine so far?

More than two years.

How has your morning routine changed over recent years?

I’ve experimented for years, often prioritizing exercise over sleep, but I eventually realized that nine hours of sleep every night is my real secret to success.

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What time do you go to sleep?

During peak business weeks I often go to sleep between 6:00-9:00pm. I know this is insane, but waking between 3:00-6:00am allows me to work on projects in the still of the morning without interruption. I highly recommend it for focusing on certain projects for a set amount of time.

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

I have an extremely active brain and have always had trouble getting to sleep. I avoid Ambien and drugs like that, as they have left me with apathetic side effects that counteract the point of trying to get a full night’s sleep. Truthfully, indica marijuana, melatonin, and ZzzQuil do the trick when necessary.

Amazingly, I recently flew from New York to Italy for a business trip and then from Italy to Hawaii. I didn’t use any of the aforementioned sleep aids while traveling to extremely different time zones. Ultimately, they help my brain wind down a bit after busy and active workdays in NYC. I feel zero side effects from any of the sleep aids I’ve mentioned and feel great, refreshed, and ready to go the next day.

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

I don’t! To me, this is part of true happiness in life. I was a Division I scholarship swimmer in college and began morning practices for training when I was thirteen. My dad was also my coach growing up, which meant we had to be first to the pool at 5:30am in the morning (where my teammates could roll in at 5:50, which did make a difference). From ages 13-22, sleep was like an elusive, precious gem that I could never get enough of.

Frankly, I don’t think I recovered from my accumulated sleep debt until I was about twenty-five. Now it is a pure gift that I am almost always able to wake up without an alarm exactly nine hours after I go to bed.

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

I generally make a smoothie with local, organic greens and juices before I work out, and I’ll eat local, organic eggs and oatmeal after my workout.

Do you have a morning workout routine?

I swim 2,000 yards or do an hour of yoga depending on what I feel my body needs. But I have to work out before I start my day no matter what or the day is much less effective.

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

I have a daily and constant meditation practice that is based in the mindful practices of vipassana.

I generally meditate for five minutes after waking up, for five minutes after working out, and in five-minute increments throughout the day - especially before focusing on certain projects or speaking engagements. I also meditate on the subway, and it generally adds up to at least 30-60 minutes of meditation a day. I wish I had a more lengthy regular meditation practice, but this is what currently works for my life and schedule.

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

I definitely answer email if I’m up in the early morning. It is the best as responses aren’t coming in. It’s a great way to maintain inbox zero. Whether I’m pulling an early morning or not, I always read The New York Times’ email digest on my phone from bed (often in a legs-up-the-wall yoga pose to get rolling for the day).

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

I do not. I’ve played around with them but, ultimately, I don’t really need to know anything beyond that I’m getting nine hours of sleep a night.

How soon do you check your phone in the morning?

First thing.

What are your most important tasks in the morning?

Meditation, exercise, a large and healthy breakfast, and then meditation again.

What and when is your first drink in the morning?

Water, first thing.

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

I sleep for nine hours on weekends and exercise, so for the most part, yes. But I don’t necessarily go to bed as early on weekend nights as I do on weeknights. (Surprisingly, I’m like a normal human!)

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

Absolutely. I travel frequently. I generally wake up once during the first night away from home and wonder where I am for a moment, but otherwise my routine remains intact.

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

I try to not be too hard on myself when the morning routine cannot happen for any reason. That said, skipping my routine is rare because these priorities enhance both my life and my business - that’s exactly why they are priorities.

If, for some reason, I don’t get nine hours of sleep, I will nap to make up the difference. If I truly can’t exercise, I’ll take conference calls while walking around the block or with legs up the wall until I hit an hour. It sounds crazy, but prioritizing sleep and exercise makes such a difference across the board that it’s beyond worth it.

Anything else you would like to add?

I’ve thought about writing a book on all of the above in case it helps energize people to pursue whatever they want in their life. Arianna Huffington has written books on wellness and sleep, so I think she’s got that covered. That said, none of this is meant to be intimidating or obnoxious. As mentioned, if you need to focus on a big project, I recommend trying it for a week or two instead of diving into a regimented lifestyle and not being able to maintain it. I do so by choice, and it has made me a happier and more efficient person. No complaints here!

Photo of Emily by Adrian Buckmaster.

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