“When I’m thrown off my routine, I’m kind of a mess. I really depend on my disciplines and priorities to keep me on track. That’s just how my mind works.” – James P. Owen Share this quote on Twitter

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James P. Owen

What is your morning routine?

I wake up every morning at 6:30am. The first thing I do is grab a liter of cold water, which I drink over the next hour as I check my email and peruse two newspapers, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. I also scan the local paper. Taking time to read in the morning is a luxury I give myself.

Next, on the three days a week that I don’t do strength training, I go to the gym upstairs in my apartment building and do thirty minutes on the treadmill at a fast pace. That’s enough to burn 230 calories. After that, my beloved of forty-eight years fixes me breakfast.

By 9:00am, I’m ready to start my workday.

How long have you stuck with this routine so far?

Five or six years, ever since I started working out. I like routines, and this one works for me.

What time do you go to sleep?

10:00pm on the dot, every night.

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

I keep a legal pad and red felt pen by my bed. Every night before I go to sleep, I write down the things I want to do and accomplish the next day. I’m much happier and get much more done when I’ve got that list of priorities to go on.

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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 need an alarm to wake up, unless I have to get up extra early to catch a flight. I have never hit the snooze button once in my life. I’m a morning guy. Sometimes I wake up as early as 4:00am.

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

After working out. On days I do strength training, it’s always the same menu – eggs, three and a half strips of crisp bacon, and two cups of black coffee. No potatoes, no toast. A while back, my doctor told me I shouldn’t eat that much bacon, so I got another doctor. On other days, I eat something like an egg-white omelet with vegetables and mozzarella. Again, no bread. On Sundays, I treat myself with steel-cut oatmeal and two pieces of Ezekiel bread, buttered.

Do you have a morning workout routine?

I do some kind of physical activity seven days a week, but I try to take it a little easier on Sundays to give myself a day to recover.

As I get older, I’ve found that day of recovery has become more important. But I’m not one to sit around for long, so I do thirty minutes of walking outside, just to get the blood flowing, and thirty minutes of stretching later on in the day.

Do you have a morning meditation routine?


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

No, I generally just look at it. If an email requires a response, I answer it later on.

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

Not a thing. I just don’t feel the need.

How soon do you check your phone in the morning?

I look at my phone soon after I get up, but I don’t need to check it constantly because it’s not a smartphone. I much prefer old-fashioned flip phones. I have two, so there’s always a backup if one needs charging.

What are your most important tasks in the morning?

It varies from day to day. I’m a big believer in prioritizing, being prepared, and being precisely on time for whatever I’m doing. My weakness is organization and administrative tasks. I’m more interested in action.

What and when is your first drink in the morning?

I drink a liter of water first thing, although I don’t chug it; I sip it slowly. I’m a big believer in staying hydrated, which I’m convinced flushes out toxins and helps keep your systems working the way they should.

How does your partner fit into your morning routine?

My lovely wife is the opposite of me - she likes spontaneity. But she knows that I’m a morning person and I like my routine. After forty-eight years of marriage, some things are sacrosanct.

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

Yes, I really thrive on routine. Why should I change it just because of the calendar? As for sleeping in, I’ve never done that once in my life.

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

I spend a lot of time on the road and in hotels, but I’m generally able to keep more or less the same disciplines. The bad news is that I typically don’t get much sleep the night before an early morning departure. Almost invariably, I sleep just three hours or so and am wide awake by 4:00am. I know that’s not good for me, but I haven’t figured out how to break that pattern.

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

When I’m thrown off my routine, I’m kind of a mess. I really depend on my disciplines and priorities to keep me on track. That’s just how my mind works.

Photo of James by Robert Dawson.

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