What is your morning routine?
The alarm goes off at 5:00am. This is primarily for my wife (since I work from home), but I’m happy to be the first one out of bed to head downstairs to make coffee. For about the last five years, I’ve been making a French press every single morning, using coffee beans I’ve roasted myself. A Keurig takes a couple minutes (if it needs to heat up); a French press takes about ten. So it takes about five times longer, but it’s about one-hundred times better in taste. Totally, completely worth it.
In the four minutes that the coffee is steeping, I play a little game with myself to see if I can unload the dishwasher before the timer goes off. (With two small kids, and a lot of home cooking, the dishwasher runs every night.) I usually win.
After coffee is made, I have about thirty minutes to myself while my wife is getting ready for work to just read a book—a “real,” physical book—at the kitchen table. It’s often something work-related or intellectual in nature. I’m wired to be able to dive right into heady stuff that early in the morning, so I take advantage of it. If it’s a particularly busy work season I’ll start in on emails or writing or podcast producing right away. Far more often than not, though, my day starts with reading.
After that, my wife usually makes a smoothie, and then she joins me for some reading until she wakes up our nine-month-old at 6:15am for some breakfast and quick mommy time before heading off to work at 6:40 or so. From there, dad’s in charge, and it’s just hang-out time for about twenty minutes until the three-year-old is up at 7:00. Both kids are in daycare, so from getting dressed, to breakfast, to making lunches, to daycare drop-off, I’m busy until about 8:00am, at which point, I’m back home in my office, I spend about fifteen minutes planning my day (using the rule of three framework), and then I’m off and running.
How long have you stuck with this routine so far?
Well, kids sure have changed things. Even more so with two. So this specific routine hasn’t been in place real long, but the broad outlines of coffee, reading, and general chill time before anything else, has been going strong for about the sevel years we’ve been married.
How has your morning routine changed over recent years?
We are indeed always experimenting, but it’s more due to natural changes in the kids. The three-year-old is sort of on cruise control, but the nine-month-old is still changing every couple months. Again though, even on weekends, it’s coffee and reading for at least thirty minutes before kids are due to be up.
Once the youngest has a more normal schedule, we’ll wake up just a little later, but that will be about it. Great coffee and a great book is a routine that needs not changing! Our mornings are not necessarily about efficiency, but about trying to squeeze in some calm before the storm.
What time do you go to sleep?
My wife and I, as a rule, go to bed at the same time. It’s a rule that’s been broken just a handful of times in seven years, and I think it’s a great rule for couples. Since we’re up so early, and we’re cognizant of our sleep needs, we’re in bed at 9:00pm to read or chat for fifteen-twenty minutes, and then lights out. Our recent purchase of a sound machine has made our sleep far deeper; it’s been a pretty amazing difference actually.
Do you do anything before going to bed to make your morning easier?
Not really, to be honest. Sometimes the kids’ lunches are made, but not always. This is actually where working from home really comes in handy. My mornings can afford to be a little more relaxed because I don’t have to be showered or all that put together, frankly. I put on “real” clothes before daycare drop-off, but that’s about it. Again, brute efficiency is not really the morning goal in our household.
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 know anyone besides my mom who can wake at 5:00am without an alarm. I don’t hit snooze, but I have two alarms set: 5:00am and 5:05am. The first wakes me up, the second gets me out of bed. I’m pretty naturally able to pop out of bed when I need to, and I’m quite thankful for that disposition.
How soon after waking up do you have breakfast, and what do you typically have?
Most mornings my wife makes a smoothie (peanut butter powder, protein powder, chocolate powder, bananas, milk, and ice) at about 5:50am. She drinks hers right away, but I’m someone who doesn’t like to eat for quite a while after waking up, so I don’t have mine until about 7:00. Smoothies are especially awesome for parents, because they can be consumed one-handed and on the go.
Do you answer email first thing in the morning or leave it until later in the day?
I check emails right away, somewhere in the 5:00am hour, but I know that most other people aren’t awake that early, so there’s no point in responding. Emailing usually happens after kids are in daycare and I’m back home in my office.
Do you use any apps or products to enhance your sleep or morning routine?
How soon do you check your phone in the morning?
Right away when I wake up, since my phone is my alarm. I read emails, some overnight sports scores, and maybe a quick scan of news headlines. That all happens in about five minutes.
I know this is contrary to popular opinion, but I don’t find my phone to be a morning distraction or anything. I’m fairly cynical about the state of social networking and the internet in general (even though it’s what provides my living), so I don’t get sucked in to that stuff. I actually sort of like at least reading my emails right away, if for nothing else than to think things through for the next couple hours and have a general idea of what stuff I might need to work on that day.
What are your most important tasks in the morning?
Chill time with coffee and a book, connecting with my wife a bit before she’s off for the day, getting the kids to daycare with the fewest tears possible, and taking ten-fifteen minutes before starting my work to plan things out.
What and when is your first drink in the morning?
It seems I’ve made this clear already. My favorite beans right now are anything Yemeni, inspired by Dave Eggers’ superb The Monk of Mokha.
How does your partner fit into your morning routine?
If you haven’t noticed, I’ve used far more “we” than “I” while describing this morning routine. It’s far more a household routine than an individual one. It does help that we have basically the same hope for our mornings: calm before the chaos. Most parents can probably relate.
Do you also follow this routine on weekends, or do you change some steps?
The time on the alarm clock changes from 5:00 to about 6:30am. Kids are up at about 7:00, and we’ve found that waking up with them, even when they’re happy, just starts things out a little on the crazy side. So we set the alarm for 6:30 and you guessed it… make some coffee and read a book.
On days you’re not settled in your home, are you able to adapt your routine to fit in with a different environment?
We’re homebodies, and I don’t have to travel for work, so this is an exceedingly rare occasion. If we’re not home, we’re on vacation, usually without kids. In that case, we don’t set alarms, and all the morning routine rules go out the window. That said, after you’ve had kids it’s nearly impossible to sleep in, so even then we’re up by 7:00am.
Anything else you would like to add?
It can be easy to think that kids will ruin any semblance of a morning routine, but that’s just not the case. If you’re disciplined—particularly with your nights and going to bed early—you have way more control than it might seem, even if and when the kids are being unpredictable. If you’re getting seven-eight hours of sleep, waking up at 5:00am really isn’t so bad. And no matter what happens, it’s incredibly calming and centering to get up before your kids, even if you have to set an alarm on weekends.
Also, for heaven’s sake, spend ten minutes to make your coffee extra good. If you truly don’t have the time, wake up ten minutes earlier. It’s worth it.
Our recommended book this week is The Harvard Medical School Guide to a Good Night’s Sleep. We only recommend three things a week that we believe will be of interest to our readers. Please take a moment to check it out.