What is your morning routine?
I am an early riser – normally around 5:00am. And this isn’t limited to Monday to Friday, but every day of the week. I don’t do the proverbial lie in. I know in the past, particularly when I have stayed over at a friend’s, it’s driven them crazy. There am I crashing about when they are still in the land of zogg.
As I say, once I’m up, I’m up. I like to spend as much of the first few hours (before my children wake up) writing, reading, and planning. More often than not, I spend the first 30 minutes editing a blog post that I have written the previous evening; and then posting it to WordPress. I read my RSS feeds (now Feedly); and, certainly, for the last 18 months have been assiduously writing a morning diary.
I take my lead from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron where she talks about allowing the usual ‘I’m not worthy’ stream of consciousness to flow on to no less than three pages. It makes me think carefully about what I want to say (to myself); and I found with the extended version that all I was doing was writing a very long diary to fill the pages.
Once my children get up (assuming I’m home), I’m either getting them ready for school – at least the youngest, Floz, who’s nine years old – or organising myself and them to do something; or at weekends being told what I’m doing (I’m such an awesome dad)!
What time do you go to sleep?
Getting up early does occasionally come at a price. I find that after a few weeks of intense activity my normal bedtime of 11:00pm to midnight has to be supplemented with a few early nights or at lie until say, 7:00am. If not then I tend to feel like I’m sleepwalking.
Do you use an alarm to wake you up in the morning, and if so do you ever hit the snooze button?
I have been known to use an alarm clock but mostly I find that I wake before the alarm clock is about to go off and then wait for the clock to strike the appointed hour.
How soon after waking up do you have breakfast, and what do you typically have?
As regards breakfast, I’m pretty metronomic, meaning I haven’t deviated from the same pattern over the last ten years.
I eat cereal of one type or another. Right now, I’m going through a phase of trying a multitude of granolas. Some are better than others but mostly they’re a concoction of nuts, wheat and oats. About nine months ago I changed my diet and became vegan. It wasn’t a big ask largely because I had practically stopped eating meat, fish and dairy products. So, right now, I use soya or almond milk for the cereal. It’s actually a nice compliment, and I don’t miss the milk.
Do you have a morning workout routine?
I’m lucky that none of my kids want to lie around doing the TV thing.
In the case of my middle daughter, she will (nicely) pester me to go out on a ride on our road bikes. Both of us are mad keen cyclists: we have ridden multiple stages of the Tour de France (not in the actual race but just ahead of it normally). I don’t do as many miles as I used to, but it’s enough to blow the cobwebs away and get the old ticker moving (I’m 45 having to compete with a fit 14 year old).
How about morning meditation?
At the beginning of the year I went to a number of Zen Buddhism classes nearby in Devon. I had wanted to study mindfulness but as soon as I started to read what the evening meditation was all about, I knew I had to attend.
I went for a couple of months, but due to working away a fair bit at the moment I haven’t been able to go as much I would have liked. However, I have kept up with my morning meditation of about 15-25 minutes. Apart from anything else, I know that it’s a way of me finding peace and it helps with my focus on a whole series of things. It’s just the start, and I intend to go much deeper with my study of Zen.
Do you see to email first thing in the morning or leave it until later in the day?
I will look at my emails in the morning but I tend to do so on my mobile phone (a Samsung Note) because it enables me to quickly delete or archive my emails. If I have to I will deal with the important ones but mostly I will deal with them throughout the day as time permits. I am not an email maniac where I only open Gmail at allotted times. I know I could be more disciplined but, to be honest, I’m more focused on the outbound material.
How soon do you check your phone in the morning, either for calls/messages or social media and news?
As to my productivity generally in the morning, I used to spend a lot of time twiddling with various social media bells and whistles, but nowadays I have radically cut back the amount of time I spend messing about.
What are your most important tasks in the morning?
In terms of to do lists, I used to be disciplined at writing them down but, as a student of simplicity, I now just think of the one or two things that I know I have to do that day. In most cases, after I have got my children off to school, I try to write for a couple of hours before I hit the phones or email. I close down Chrome and use Word. I find it much less of a distraction that way. If I get a call I will try to take it but not always.
What and when is your first drink in the morning?
I have become a big drinker of Japanese tea. My favourite is made by Clearspring and is called Mu which is a blend of sixteen herbs and is caffeine free. It’s quite expensive and so when it’s not about, I’ll drink Chinese green tea.
If I do have coffee it tends to be later in the day; and I would rather buy it and have something freshly made coffee than use instant. I have tried soya with the coffee but it’s just plain awful, so it’s always black.
On days you’re not settled in your home, are you able to adapt your routine to fit in with a different environment?
I should just add that this routine has had to adapted because of me working away. I am staying away from home for a few evenings per week, but if anything this had made things a bit easier in terms of having the first couple of hours all to myself and not having to organise the children.
The main deviation I suppose is that I’m working between 5-6:00am, working out in the hotel gym (a light, cardiac workout), meditating and then driving to where I’m working where I tend to have a cup of tea or fresh coffee. I’m making do with a piece of toast because they don’t do cereal with Maple syrup. I did start having honey but I understand from a vegan standpoint that it isn’t vegan friendly.
I normally start work at 8:30am, so I suppose overall I’ve got a bit more time but the input/output is still focused on achieving the same things.
What do you do if you fail to follow your routine, and how does this influence the rest of your day?
I know reading this you might think it all a bit uptight – “get a life” – but in a way defaulting to quite ordinary things has restored my life. I know where I am, what I have to and what works best for me.
Previously, it wasn’t that I operated a chaotic existence, but I tried to do too much and was never sure if I was making much progress. Also, I know that many people have written about rising early (I always think of Benjamin Franklin’s routine), but it works over the long term. That’s not to say it’s for everyone but if you are prepared for a few days of feeling a bit sluggish you can easily change your body clock, particularly if you are prepared to go to bed earlier which in most cases means not defaulting to a few hours of watching TV.
I expect over the next few years to become even more disciplined about my morning routine as I strive to up the tempo with my writing. In other words, I expect to focus on fewer and fewer things until the point that all I have to worry about is writing a minimum of 3,000 words per day.