Jason Vo is founder and publisher of The Modern Block, a weekly publication exploring the intersection of work and creativity through film and written interviews. Jason currently lives in Dallas, Texas.
What is your morning routine?
My alarm goes off at 6:30am each day, and I’ve gotten pretty good at waking along with it. I have water first thing in the morning, followed by blended oatmeal. Then I make myself a cup of coffee, and then another once I’ve finished that one. So, lots of drinking.
The next fifteen minutes are spent outside walking my dog. I usually have my headphones in and listen to music as we walk. (Abel Korzeniowski is a great composer - his work has become a big part of my morning routine.)
After my walk, I ensure my surroundings are in tip-top condition (or at least as close to it as possible). That includes my workspace as well as areas I can’t see from there. I work from home, so that means bed made, trash taken out, kitchen sink cleaned and emptied, shelves and tables dusted, plants watered, etc.
After I’m done cleaning and organizing, I shower, shave, and get dressed. I then turn on my oil diffuser - centered in my living room next to my workspace - and get to work.
All this consumes quite a bit of my morning. It’s a lot to take care of before my “real” tasks, but I feel my best at work when I’ve eased into my day by ensuring I’m in an optimal work environment.
How long have you stuck with this routine so far?
I ditched my day job about eight months ago and have adapted to this routine since then. I was advised early on that a challenging part of working from home would be keeping myself accountable for doing the actual work, so I made sure to establish a consistent and reliable routine early on.
How has your morning routine changed over recent years?
There was absolutely no routine prior to this. I was working a job that produced weekly schedules, so my days were improvised most of the time. I’d create my daily routine around those hours, and I found myself working on The Modern Block at the most inconvenient times of the day. It was mentally exhausting.
I’m happy with the routine I currently have in place, but I’m always open to experimentation and trying new things in the morning to ensure I get the most out of the day. A friend recently recommended trying out the “do not disturb” setting on my phone from 10:00pm to 10:00am, and I’m loving it. I keep mine on until noon.
What time do you go to sleep?
It fluctuates. I make an effort to be in bed by 10:30pm, but that doesn’t always work out too well. Sometimes I succeed, but most of the time I’m asleep by 12:00am or 12:30am. I wish I were as disciplined about going to bed as I am about waking up by 6:30am. On average, I’d say I get about 6-7 hours of sleep each night, which I guess is still good.
Do you do anything before going to bed to make your morning easier?
Getting mentally prepared for the next day’s tasks helps tremendously, especially with the anxiety I’ve picked up in recent years building my site. I do a thorough scan of upcoming deadlines, meetings, etc., and make sure I know what I’m getting into first thing in the morning when I set myself down for work.
I also try to be off all screens two hours before bed, as I hear they suppress the production of melatonin (but Netflix has been so great lately!).
How soon after waking up do you have breakfast, and what do you typically have?
I absolutely hate breakfast. I enjoy eating, just not breakfast. I can’t seem to get myself to eat so early in the day. I know it’s very important, so immediately after drinking water, I blend two servings of oatmeal along with two tablespoons of peanut butter and some almond milk, and then I quickly down my shake. It’s a quick (and much easier) way for me to get in my carbs, healthy fats, and fiber to sustain me for the morning.
Do you have a morning workout routine?
Any discipline I have in any area of my life, I’ve acquired from learning to lead an active lifestyle. I was a personal trainer years ago and often taught the importance of a morning workout routine. But because so much of my morning is taken up with the aforementioned rituals, I tend to work out later in the day, around 5:00 or 6:00pm.
Do you answer email first thing in the morning or leave it until later in the day?
I always do a quick scroll through my inbox while I’m still in bed, but unless it’s really urgent, I tend to answer it all later in the day.
I know many people like to ease into their day by answering emails first thing, but I’ve gotten pretty good at estimating how much mental capacity I have in store for a day’s worth of productivity, and I try to reserve the first few hours for bigger tasks.
How soon do you check your phone in the morning?
Almost immediately for a quick scan. But enabling “do not disturb” until noon has helped greatly with liberating me from my phone.
What are your most important tasks in the morning?
Going outside, getting my nutrients in, and organizing my apartment. Making sure I feel refreshed and mentally prepared to take on the day!
What and when is your first drink in the morning?
Sixteen ounces of water, right after I roll out of bed. I try to drink a gallon of water every day, so it’s important I get a head start with at least sixteen ounces immediately.
Do you also follow this routine on weekends, or do you change some steps?
My alarm is still set for 6:30am on weekends, and most days I do still wake up at that time because it’s become so habitual. I occasionally sleep in, though, since I give myself less work on weekends and don’t feel bad about missing certain tasks.
On days you’re not settled in your home, are you able to adapt your routine to fit in with a different environment?
In many ways, no, but I typically enjoy it. I like changes of scenery and don’t feel an urge to clean everything, which is what most of my morning routine consists of (ha!). Still, I try to do what I can to feel mentally and emotionally prepared for the day.
What do you do if you fail to follow your morning routine, and how does this influence the rest of your day?
I don’t beat myself up on days when I fail to adhere to my morning routine, because when I do, it’s usually for a good reason. Some days I have filming to do early in the morning, for instance, and leave my bed a mess as I run out the door. I can always get around to doing it in the afternoon!
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