“Meditation is the main, key habit for my having a good life. That sounds dramatic, but I absolutely mean it.” – Jon Gold Share this quote on Twitter

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Jon Gold

Jon Gold

What is your morning routine?

The short version is that I wake up at 6:30am, try to stay away from anything with an LCD screen, meditate, exercise, and set myself up to live my best life.

How long have you stuck with this routine so far?

I’m just settling into life in a new job and apartment in San Francisco after eighteen months of living out of a backpack. This particular variation of my routine is about two months old.

How has your morning routine changed over recent years?

Well, a few practices that stand out and that I’d like to re-incorporate as time allows are:

  • Writing a Five Minute Journal as soon as I wake up and right before sleeping. It’s super quick and effective, and practicing gratitude is a nice thing to do on the regular.
  • Keeping a morning pages journal (and following the other exercises from The Artist’s Way).
  • Doing yoga every morning.

What time do you go to sleep?

I’m in bed by 10:00pm most days. I read a book for a while and go to sleep around 11:00pm.

Backstory: I was a night owl for the longest time. Once I tried tracking “go to bed by midnight” on a habit tracking app and gave up because I never, ever managed to do it. I went to bed sometime between midnight and 4:00am for most of my twenties.

Lots of factors contributed to this: living in Europe (American internet was on fire when I was trying to get to bed); freelancing from home or coffee shops; and, honestly, having limited self control.

That said, I’ve observed the benefits of being a morning person for years, and I think I’m finally making it happen.

It’s easy to make bad decisions when we have low energy and rapidly decreasing willpower. I noticed that I tend to stay up all night doing nothing productive on the internet - if I’m on my laptop at 11:30pm, I’ll probably be on it until 2:30am. I fix this by using pretty aggressive content blocks on my laptop. I use the Mac app Focus and set it up to block anything vaguely related to social media, entertainment, or news from 10:00pm until 11:00am (and again at regular intervals during the day). It’s the only content blocker I’ve found that I can’t figure out how to disable; it’s awesome if you struggle with distraction on your computer.

I used to have Focus set until 11:00pm, but I found that even if I stopped using social media at that time, I’d be too tired to get ready for bed in a timely manner. (Ironic, huh?) 10:00pm makes more sense as my wind-down time. I keep Focus blocking distractions until 11:00am in the morning because that’s another low-willpower time of day for me; if I groggily start checking the internet in the morning, I set myself up for having a bad day.

On that note, I charge anything with an LCD screen in my living room overnight. The only device I allow myself to have in my bedroom is my Kindle. Even with Focus and f.lux on my Mac and phone, those devices are too distracting to let me get a good night’s sleep - I don’t want to be tempted to wake up in the middle of the night to see my notifications.

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

I wear the exact same outfit every day; my closet has a few sets of identical clothes so that mornings are super quick. If I’m working out in the morning, I set out my clothes by my bed so I don’t have to think about that.

When I’m winding down in the evening I write the next day’s schedule in my notebook. I got the technique from Deep Work by Cal Newport, one of the best books I’ve read this year. I’ve always had a problem with focus, so I like to help myself out as much as possible. It’s empowering to wake up and not have to use my morning brain to think about the order in which I’m supposed to do things.

Do you use an alarm to wake you up in the morning, and if so do you ever hit the snooze button?

I have a Sense, though I tend to wake up a few minutes before its alarm chimes. I used to use Sleep Cycle on my iPhone as an alarm, but the cost of having a device in my bedroom is too great.

Dedicated hardware weighs heavily on my minimalist vibes, but it’s worth it for the quality of sleep you get. I have a Philips Wake-up Light too, but my model has a nasty alarm tone so I tend to just use it as a clock.

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

At Airbnb we have a delicious, healthy breakfast served each morning; I try to get in around 9:00am to take advantage of that. If I’m running an errand or wake up super hungry, I’ll have a Soylent or Coffiest at home.

Do you have a morning workout routine?

I run with friends at 7:00am a few times a week; I’m thinking about filling my off-days with 7:00am yoga classes for consistency.

I find that the times exercise has been a consistent part of my life, I’ve had social and/or financial ties to it. I love workouts with friends, group exercise classes with a consistent coach, and classes where you lose a deposit if you flake.

Do you have a morning meditation routine, and if so what kind of meditation do you practice?

Yes! I find that meditation is the main, key habit for my having a good life. That sounds dramatic, but I absolutely mean it.

I primarily practice Vipassana mediation; occasionally I’ll practice Mettā meditation in the evening as well to change things up. I’ve had a variety of guided and unguided stints; currently I’m using Dan Harris’ wonderful 10% Happier app, which has excellent guided meditations from some of the best teachers around.

Two of the most influential meditation books for me were Dan Harris’s 10% Happier (surprise!) and Bhante Gunaratana’s Mindfulness in Plain English. I’d also recommend going on a retreat if want to take your practice further - ten-day silent retreats are daunting, but weekend retreats are convenient and super refreshing.

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

I don’t really get work email during the night, but my Twitter account is flooded with notifications when I wake up. As much as I love my friends, I try my best to push social media to later in the day; getting sucked into Twitter too early usually sets my morning up for failure. Count this habit as a work in progress!

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

Focus and 10% Happier.

What and when is your first drink in the morning?

I try my best to take a big gulp of water as soon as I wake up. If I forget to hydrate, I tend to have a headache by the time I start work, which is no fun at all.

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

I’ve been pretty bad at this. I was doing the digital nomad thing for a while and my routine was mostly a mess. It takes a while for me to settle into a routine in a new apartment/city, and moving every few weeks was pretty disruptive.

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

I forgive myself. Even if skipping meditation or breakfast gives me a rough day, it’s important for us to be kind to ourselves. :)

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