What is your morning routine?
Ideally, if I have gotten at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep, I get up before the sun rises (4:45, 5:00, or 6:00am is a dream), but sometimes I get up closer to 7 or 8:00am.
I love reading non-fiction books, with a candle lit, for one or two hours until the sun rises. Afterwards I meditate for 30-45 minutes before starting the day.
Every now and then I will go for a twenty minute run to get some fresh air and endorphins, but usually I save my workouts (yoga, pilates, and walking) for later in the day.
How long have you stuck with this routine so far?
I have been doing a variation of this routine for as long as I have worked for myself, so almost four years now.
I realized very quickly that my body (and by extension, routines) were the fuel for my business. If I was operating at fifty percent effectiveness due to lack of sleep or exercise, then as its sole employee, so would my business. That was unacceptable to me! Not to mention unsustainable. Success, to me, has as much to do with how I run my business and my life as it does what I choose to work on.
How has your morning routine changed over recent years?
I have steadily increased the amount of time for meditation over the years. It used to be 10 to 20 minutes a day (sometimes just five) until I realized that it was actually the most important thing I could do in a day, not something to be squeezed in.
Through meditation I am more grateful, calm, creative, and strategic. It dissolves problems much more quickly than churning through them all day with my mind.
What time do you go to sleep?
I am ridiculous! I live alone, so sometimes I am in bed as early as 8:30pm. If I go out to an event or dinner with friends, I’m usually asleep by 10 or 11:00pm. I look forward to quiet mornings so much, before the rest of the world is awake, that I really prioritize them.
I find that at night I’m usually just watching TV if I stay up late, which is not worth the tradeoff. I far prefer to sleep, followed by feeling alert and rested in the morning during my reading and meditation. Starting off that way improves the whole tone of the day!
Do you use an alarm to wake you up in the morning, and if so do you ever hit the snooze button?
I do not use an alarm unless I have to catch a flight. I also don’t schedule meetings or coaching calls until at least 10:00am (preferably eleven), which helps me avoid a feeling of rushing out of bed to start the day. I figure that my body will rest as long as it needs to rest.
In her book Thrive, Arianna Huffington makes the point that “you can overeat, but you can’t oversleep.” Barring a health condition, our bodies will sleep until they get the rest they need, usually not longer.
After just three days of deprived sleep, our creativity and mood start to decline rapidly, so I don’t mind sleeping as long as I need to, usually 8-9 hours to feel fully rested.
How soon after waking up do you have breakfast, and what do you typically have?
I do a modified Bulletproof breakfast which is two scoops of coconut butter with my morning coffee, and maybe a handful of almonds. That keeps me alert and satiated. Unless I am still hungry, that is all I eat until lunch.
Most days I have my mom’s famous chili soup for lunch (recipe here - make one batch and it lasts all week!) which reduces decision-fatigue from having to decide what to cook or eat every day.
If I am hungry when I wake up in the morning and the coffee and coconut butter doesn’t do the trick, I eat one of these delicious Perfect Bars.
Do you have a morning workout routine?
Working out is my reward later in the day. I work very diligently and focused from 10:00am to about 3:00pm, then I head out for a walk, yoga and/or pilates class.
I don’t schedule calls after 3:00pm, because I am useless at that hour! I tell clients that they wouldn’t even want to work with me at that time — I turn into a zombie. To ensure I give them my best energy and most strategic thinking, I schedule all calls between 11-3:00pm.
Once I leave for the day to work out, I am done. I do not plan to return to work.
After working out, I spend the rest of the evening at dinner with friends or starting my wind-down. I try not to check email after dinner (otherwise it might make me anxious before bed, which I don’t want), and don’t even really respond to email once I have left for the day in the afternoon.
How about morning meditation?
Yes, meditation is my medicine! It is the best thing I can do for my day, and it helps me feel calm, grounded, strategic, and creative.
Do you answer email first thing in the morning or leave it until later in the day?
One of my worst habits used to be reading email from my pillow first thing upon waking up. What a horrible way to start the day! I felt stressed and annoyed before even getting out of bed.
Now I try not to even bring my phone near the nightstand, and I do not check email until after I have accomplished one to two hours of work on my most important projects for that day.
Do you use any apps or products to enhance your sleep or morning routine?
Sometimes I track my sleep with Sleep Cycle, especially if I’m going through a phase where I am having trouble sleeping through the night (New York City can be loud, with lots of light pollution!), but now I prefer not to have my phone anywhere near my bed.
How soon do you check your phone in the morning?
I make a point not to check my phone or email until after getting my most important work done, so sometimes that is as late as 10:00am.
A few years ago that would have made me feel really anxious, but after six months of doing this I have realized there is almost nothing that comes in that can’t wait until 10:00am. Otherwise it would just disrupt my enjoyment while reading, distract me during meditation, or tempt me into starting my day by reacting to work and others’ requests, not proactively doing what I have determined is important to me.
If you are wondering, yes… I am often behind on email! I don’t like it, but at the same time, when will we not be behind on email? It is 24/7 and relentless! I’ve had to learn to stop caring if I think I am taking too long to reply. Almost everything can wait, and very little is truly urgent.
What are your most important tasks in the morning?
Right now I am working on my second book, The Pivot Method, and launching an online community called Momentum, so I make sure that each one gets at least one hour of focused attention before I do anything else.
I keep a daily to-do list in my monthly Moleskine planner notebooks, so I always know what the priorities are before I start the day.
What and when is your first drink in the morning?
Coffee, and stat! Coffee is the true Nectar of the Gods as far as I’m concerned :)
Do you also follow this routine on weekends, or do you change some steps?
I do… weekends are actually prime work days for me, since fewer requests are coming in and I don’t have meetings. They are when I actually get most of my work done! That way I’m not fighting with tourists or weekend errand-runners too… New York City gets crazy on weekends, especially where I live in SoHo — sometimes it is a challenge just to walk down the street!
I do receive the weekend editions of the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, so I usually read the paper before jumping in to work. I always enjoy starting by reading a physical book or newspapers — something that is not electronic, since I spend so much of the rest of the day on devices.
Sometimes I will head to brunch with friends around noon, but not after reading, meditating, and getting sh*t done. I like to leave knowing I have already checked off half my to-do list… then there is no guilt for the rest of the day, and brunch is my reward!
On days you’re not settled in your home, are you able to adapt your routine to fit in with a different environment?
It is definitely harder, but I make a point to keep as much the same as possible. These morning practices are what fuel me, so keeping my routine is not about willpower.
It doesn’t feel like I have to stick to any set list of activities, it is more about starting my day in a way that is most energizing, which comes from stacking up things that I want to do.
What do you do if you fail to follow your morning routine, and how does this influence the rest of your day?
Gah! Unless it is for something awesome (like leaving for an exciting trip or going to a morning dance party on a boat — which was a blast!), I tend to feel more scattered, stressed, and reactive throughout the day.
I also keep the mindset that it is never too late to fit in my morning routine. If I get interrupted or am unable to do it at 6:00am, there is no reason I can’t take a break in the middle of the day and take a time out for myself. If I meditate and read at 1:00pm, for example, sometimes it is the perfect reset in the midst of a crazy day.
On a great day, I am meditating and reading during breaks at least two or three times throughout the day! Morning, noon and night :)