“If I could set up an IV drip of caffeine to wake me up in the morning without doing serious damage to my body, I would.” – Jessica Zollman Share this quote on Twitter

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Jessica Zollman

What is your morning routine?

I have a fairly erratic routine that’s entirely dependent on whether I’m waking up at home, on vacation, or on location for a photo shoot. I’ll share my home routine since it’s my favorite and often the most reliable.

My weekdays usually start at 7:45am. Both myself and my husband, Anthony, are self-employed. Even though we don’t have traditional day jobs our dog, Dagger, always ensures sure we don’t oversleep.

I negotiated taking our dog out first thing in the morning in lieu of the late night shift years ago, but Dagger and I always laze around half awake — him in his dog bed and me in the human bed — while I take a quick scroll on my phone through Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and email. I have a personal rule to not post any comments or respond to any emails before I’m out of bed and I’ve had coffee (no one should have to read my cranky morning thoughts), so this usually only accounts for 15-30 minutes of my morning time.

Once I’m out of bed I head outside with Dagger so he can ‘do his business.’ We often return to the house smelling of freshly ground coffee as my husband begins to prepare us breakfast. We’ll eat together on the couch, scrolling through our phones and stopping to show each other funny videos or posts from friends, then we ‘clear our dishes’ (aka throw them in the sink for rinsing at some point during the day. I never said we were good at being adults!) and start our respective days.

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How long have you stuck with this routine so far?

We’ve maintained this routine for about two years now.

How has your morning routine changed over recent years?

Before we both joined the freelance workforce my husband had a corporate career that came with a regimented morning routine. During that time we agreed on a “no phones in the bedroom” policy. No charging, no morning scrolling, and no late night screen glow in the same room where we slept. We even got an alarm clock! When waking up without our phones we’d start our days by greeting each other instead of connecting to the internet first thing. We also got out of bed and started our days far more quickly.

The phone habit came back into our routine last year for various reasons - the catalyst was our move from San Francisco to Los Angeles. I’d definitely like to find a way to positively alter our morning phone routine again.

What time do you go to sleep?

I go to sleep between 10 and 11:30pm.

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

This is entirely dependent on what my schedule looks like the next day.

If it’s a typical day working from home, then no. But if I’m catching a flight early the following morning I make sure my bags are packed the night before and I always lay out a travel outfit so I don’t have to do too much thinking in a half-awake, caffeine-less haze.

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’s alarm to wake up in the morning.

I’m not a snoozer but I am guilty of turning my alarm off completely and falling back asleep if I don’t have any appointments that day. Between my dog and my husband the extra and often accidental sleep doesn’t last too long, though.

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

I need to have breakfast within an hour of waking up or else I turn into a hangry monster. “Hanger,” for those unfamiliar with the term, is when hunger meets anger. You wouldn’t like me when I’m hangry.

My husband and I have been eating a heart-healthy breakfast of steel cut oats with mixed berries and walnuts, hard boiled eggs and black pour over coffee routinely for the past two years. Whenever we run out of the healthy breakfast ingredients my fallback has always been a big sugary bowl of Frosted Flakes.

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

I’ll check my email in the morning to make sure there isn’t anything urgent from my agent or any clients since I’m on the West Coast and they’ve often been up for hours on the East Coast.

If there isn’t anything that needs a response right away I usually wait to respond until after I’ve had breakfast.

How soon do you check your phone in the morning?

Since my phone is my alarm it’s the first thing I look at in the morning. Just typing that fills me with so much shame and guilt. Life was so much simpler when phones had cords and computers were 35 pounds!

What are your most important tasks in the morning?

My most important morning task is taking my asthma medication. I was a San Franciscan for eight years and the privilege of living in one of the world’s most beautiful cities came with a very serious compromise; I had to accept the existence of mold in my home (and my lungs).

Apartments in the city are often poorly ventilated and the air is always damp and humid thanks to Karl the Fog. After years of breathing in the mold spores that predictably grew in the back of every one of my apartment’s closets and bathroom ceilings I eventually became asthmatic. The moldy damage has been done, and moving to Los Angeles didn’t exactly provide the clean air my lungs so desperately desire. I have an inhaler I use once before bed and again first thing in the morning so I can continue to breathe throughout the day with ease.

What and when is your first drink in the morning?

Coffee. Always coffee, right away. If I could set up an IV drip of caffeine to wake me up in the morning without doing serious damage to my body, I would.

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

The only real change on weekends when I’m at home is that I like to sleep in until at least 9:00am.

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

If I’m on vacation or traveling for a photo shoot almost all routine goes out the window. The only constant is that I require food and coffee within an hour of waking in order for all systems to be operational.

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

I’m extremely adaptable and have discovered I thrive on uncertainty. If a routine goes on for too long it becomes monotonous and I become unbearably bored.

My morning routine has been in flux ever since I stepped into the world of commercial photography. I understand how the lack of structure would be a nightmare for some, but for me it’s quite literally been a dream come true.

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