Jake Kahana is an artist and the Creative Director of Matter Unlimited in New York City. A lover of side projects, Jake also runs the You’re Better Than Brunch community of weekend adventure-seekers.
What is your morning routine?
I set my alarm the night before between 6:47 and 7:11am; always some odd time depending on how late I go to sleep and how early I have to be at work or a breakfast meeting.
After waking up I immediately put on my workout gear, go to the bathroom, then grab a laptop to write in my journal. I disconnect from the internet and write for about thirty minutes. I’ve found that any hint of Wi-Fi or email and I don’t get any writing done.
The writing varies, but I’d say about four times a week I write about what’s going on in my life. Either a reflection and evaluation or making a plan and analyzing things to come. One day a week I like to have something blog-worthy, usually about creative process or job strategy or cultural trends, depending on what happened that week. Nobody really reads my blog, but getting in the habit of writing every day and blogging once a week has held me accountable to become a better writer.
From there, I do about ten minutes of email which usually includes a little bit of news checking and then I’m off to the gym by 8 or 8:15am. After about an hour of weightlifting or cardio, I shower at the gym, and eat a light breakfast I’ve packed. I’m usually in the office by 9:30am.
How long have you stuck with this routine so far?
I’ve kept this routine (some form of an early wake up, writing, and the gym) for eight years.
How has your morning routine changed over recent years?
Over the years, I’ve tried mixing things up – a little more in the last six months or so.
I find that keeping such a deliberate and somewhat rigid routine in the morning keeps me feeling good and productive and warmed up for a good day of work. Without any of those elements I just feel a bit off.
A life coach recently called me out for being too responsible with my routine and challenged how I might feel if I were less so. So I’ve experimented with weeks of sleeping in, and changing weightlifting and cardio to meditation. I do think that when I feel uninspired in my writing, or see no progress at the gym, that taking a week or two off and allowing myself to miss it, to feel a bit more rested, helps a lot. I’ve also learned to take the weekends off. It’s hard to be that consistent on a Saturday and Sunday.
Now that I live with my fiancée, Lauren, who is more of a night person than me, I’ve learned that I need to get my gym things and food things ready the night before and do my writing in the other room. When you have someone else in bed it can be really tempting to just stay there, but I find other ways and other times to be with her: I need my routine to keep me on track.
What time do you go to sleep?
Around 11:30pm to midnight.
Do you do anything before going to bed to make your morning easier?
I write my daily log at night, keeping track of everything I’ve done that day. It helps keep me present and aware of how I spend my time. Then I’ll set my alarm.
As often as possible I’ll set out my clothes and food for the next day. I mostly do this the night before so to be quieter around the house in the morning so I don’t wake Lauren. And sometimes I’ll read a chapter of whatever book I’m reading. I always have one audiobook going for my commute, and one real book going for night time. Last night I finished reading The Defining Decade by Meg Jay and will start The Courage to Create by Rollo May tonight.
Do you use an alarm to wake you up in the morning, and if so do you ever hit the snooze button?
I use my phone alarm clock, which I hate. I hate that I use my phone and I hate that it’s an annoying fake bird sound with a harp.
I don’t set it to that because I hate it, there’s just not anything great that I’ve found and that gets me up. It’s on my list to buy a nicer alarm clock, with the side benefit of which keeping me from looking at my phone in the morning. No snoozing. I set my phone so that snoozing just turns off the alarm.
How soon after waking up do you have breakfast, and what do you typically have?
Before the gym I’ll usually have something very small. A half piece of bread or a banana. Afterwards, it’s usually a protein shake, a hardboiled egg, and a yogurt.
Do you have a morning workout routine?
I do about an hour of weightlifting or cardio before getting to the office.
Do you have a morning meditation routine, and if so what kind of meditation do you practice?
On and off. It was a goal of mine last year to learn about meditation and start a practice. I don’t do it as regularly as I’d like but I usually do some kind of mindfulness meditation when I do. Create some intention and focus on that.
Do you answer email first thing in the morning or leave it until later in the day?
Not until after my writing do I check email. I’ll check anything urgent and see what I can respond to quickly. I get a daily roundup of the news via Need 2 Know and try to read that before I go to the gym.
Do you use any apps or products to enhance your sleep or morning routine?
How soon do you check your phone in the morning?
I’ve learned that my phone is such a distraction from anything productive. I actually start my day out more stressed if I check it immediately. So I turn the alarm off, carry it with me to the bathroom, and leave it there to go write and get ready. When I come back to brush my teeth, I’ll pick it up again.
What and when is your first drink in the morning?
I’m a naturally energetic morning person. By the time I’m at the gym, I’m pretty much ready to go for the day without coffee (although around 3-4 o’clock I’ve been known to have a shot of espresso or a half cup of black coffee).
I’ll have a sip or two of water next to me when I write, but my first drink is actually a pre-workout drink for weightlifting. I know, I know, it contains some caffeine and other junk that keeps me focused and energized. I’m in denial and like to pretend it’s all natural, healthy stuff.
Do you also follow this routine on weekends, or do you change some steps?
As I mentioned, this routine goes out the window on the weekends. No writing, and the gym will usually be in the afternoon before going out at night. It’s nice to take a break from a rigid routine and feel like the weekends are special and sacred in some way.
On days you’re not settled in your home, are you able to adapt your routine to fit in with a different environment?
It’s much harder to get into my routine when I’m not at home. I’ll often skip writing or miss a workout and the whole day feels like I’m off. When I’m traveling for work, and have a set schedule with a normal wake-up time, I’ll be pretty good about writing and doing some kind of hotel (in-room or at their gym) workout.
On vacation, I’ll purposefully not do any of it so that I feel the separation. But knowing how much it sets up the rest of the day, I prioritize my morning routine as much as possible.
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