“I don't use an alarm at the moment, but I have in the past. If I do use an alarm, I will very rarely hit snooze. Responsibility for life seems to be a good driver to get out of bed.” – Gregg Carey Share this quote on Twitter

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Gregg Carey

What is your morning routine?

My morning routine is holistic and has four essential components. The details will vary, but the components are constant and critical input to my happiness. The components (examples in parentheses) are:

  • Energy: Eat something, drink something.
  • Body: Workout (usually high intensity).
  • Mind: Play piano, meditate.
  • Soul: Connect to purpose, be grateful, feed cats, kiss wife.

Ideally, I wake up around 6:30am. Special shoutout to Rufus, my cat, who is remarkable about waking me up at the same time daily.

My routine can take anywhere from thirty minutes to two hours. My general goal is to always answer “yes” to the following question: If the day were to end after my routine, would it be a successful and fulfilling day?

The idea of waking up even earlier is exciting for me and what I think I could accomplish, but I’ve not been able to do that consistently.

How long have you stuck with this routine so far?

The details of the routine have varied over the last few years, but the components have been consistent for the last three.

They saved me when I found myself getting too overwhelmed with my work at Voxy (Ed: Where Gregg is co-founder; he left the company in April 2015). I was feeling so one-dimensional and losing my foundation. I focused on the mornings to take care of myself and remind me that I was so much more than Voxy.

How has your morning routine changed over recent years?

Adding piano was the biggest change. I’ve always loved music, but never played an instrument. I had assumed it would be my “one regret” that I’d take with me. Then, nearly two years ago, I began taking lessons from a jazz pianist.

The daily benefits piano provides me with are meditation: you cannot learn without being completely present, and skill development: every day I can say “I can do something that I couldn’t do yesterday.”

What time do you go to sleep?

Typically, I go to bed around 11:00pm to midnight. In my ideal state, I would go to bed at 10:30pm and wake up at 6:00am to get 7.5 hours of sleep.

Lately, I have been prioritizing my sleep in favor of my routine. I’ve realized that sleeping longer will always be the most beneficial thing I can do for myself. In those cases, I will adjust my routine proportionally. I keep the components, but reduce the time.

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

I’ll typically share a small cup of tea with my wife before bed. Her evening routine is as thoughtful as my morning routine, so I try and support her even though I can fall asleep anywhere at any time with absurd ease.

When I’m at my best, I’m evaluating my progress of the day and preparing in detail my goals for the upcoming day. And when I’m at my all-time best, I’m implementing Benjamin Franklin’s 13 Virtues.

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 use an alarm at the moment, but I have in the past. If I do use an alarm, I will very rarely hit snooze. My current alarm is a visit from Rufus. Responsibility for life seems to be a good driver to get out of bed.

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

If I have breakfast, which I don’t always, I’ll have a couple of hard-boiled eggs and a juice within the first hour of waking up.

Do you have a morning workout routine?

Yes. I’m a fan of high intensity workouts. I’ve done stints at CrossFit, which I’ve loved. I’ve gone for long runs while training for a marathon. A ten-mile run in the summer followed by a cold shower is ten times as good as any cup of coffee.

Right now, I’ve been travelling for work so I’ve had to adapt a bit. I’m doing 100 burpees in 10 minutes. It’s brutal until it’s over. Then, it feels like my blood cells are on roller skates throughout the day.

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

I used to meditate somewhat regularly, but I seem to get similar benefits from piano so it’s been reduced. These days, I say that I need to meditate more than I’m actually meditating.

When I meditate, I tend to use guided meditations with the Headspace or Calm apps. I often use my commute for meditation: I try to keep a quiet mind amidst the hectic subway.

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

I do answer email in the morning, though I find it’s a lazy way to feel productive and get some things done.

I feel better when I spend the first thirty minutes of the day working on a personal project that would benefit from my best attention. Examples of this include writing a song, or working on a business plan for something five years out. I can move a lot forward when I dedicate this time and it is a huge lever in developing a well-rounded life.

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

As a quantified selfer, my favorite sleeping app was the now-retired Zeo. The Zeo was a headband, and it was leaps and bounds better than any other sleeping product on the market. The secret sauce was that Zeo mapped sleep behavior and habits to your mood, productivity, and clarity. So, for example, you could easily track how coffee after 3:00pm would impact your sleep and the impact it would have on your productivity the next day. I don’t know of any other product that has the appropriate UX to deliver this reporting.

Regarding other apps, I’ve used them, but quickly retire them because the learnings are simple and now engrained. Going to bed at a reasonable hour and prioritizing eight hours of sleep is important. I know how to do it effectively now and the tracking becomes unnecessary for me.

How soon do you check your phone in the morning?

Immediately. It’s my clock.

This is an area that I could work on. I have been researching different ways to wake up, but haven’t pulled the trigger on any. As long as Rufus continues performing, I should be all set. My wife is also due in four and a half months, so I imagine I’ll be reimagining this entire schedule as a parent.

What are your most important tasks in the morning?

Telling my wife that I love her. It’s not a task, but it’s important.

What and when is your first drink in the morning?

A glass of water with some lemon juice is step one. It is followed by a cold brew (of coffee!) until it drops below 40 degrees fahrenheit that I quickly sip down during my morning commute.

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

I follow this routine on Saturdays, but usually take a day off on Sunday and let the day start and evolve more organically. I find it extremely important to go off script, turn off, and let the day happen.

For me, my weekend always benefits from a strong Saturday morning routine. If I can put a good dent in my plan for the upcoming week, and a good workout, then I feel much more free to truly enjoy the 1.5 weekend days ahead of me. A strong Saturday is key to a relaxed weekend, and it also helps to reduce any Sunday blues!

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

I do my best and it comes down to preparing: eating well, drinking water, and not watching television. I even have a roll-up piano that I bring with me on trips so that I can get my time on the keys.

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

My clarity, confidence, and happiness is certainly limited. My steps feel like more work. My clothes fit differently.

The key to really nailing and prioritizing my morning routine was when I was able to see how much more the morning contributed to my overall well-being than the evening. My big breakthrough came when I realized that the first three hours of the day are more important than the last three. I’ve been able to craft my mornings into something that truly excites me. I look forward to waking up. It’s my Christmas morning strategy.

You were on Survivor: Palau. Anything notable about your morning routine on the island?

Survivor was a humbling experience that made me grateful for a lot we all take for granted. It was the real-deal out there. I lost 30 lbs in 33 days. I weathered an overnight cyclone with barely any shelter. It makes you truly grateful for the bare necessities of life while recognizing we’re capable of more than we think.

We began and ended our day with the sun. Each sunset or sunrise would paint the sky in such a way that you couldn’t help but quiet your mind and admire the beauty. This provided an opportunity to be grateful and find peace amidst the chaos. All strategy and “game-play” would inevitably stop and we would appreciate life. And, we’d just be so thankful for the basics: our family, our food, and our shelter.

Living in New York City, it’s even more important to find time to stop and make a spiritual connection to the start and end of each day. I feel very lucky to live in the world’s greatest city.


Photo of Gregg by Michael Cinquino.

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