“With children there are a lot more steps in the morning, which is why I had to go in and change my routine to make it a little more structured.” – Julie Zhuo Share this quote on Twitter

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Julie Zhuo

What is your morning routine?

I wake up to my alarm at 7:00am. I might close my eyes and, depending on how sleepy I am, be in bed for another five minutes or so before getting up.

My phone (alarm) is in my bedroom, but I have to actually get up to turn it off (I have it charging across the room so it’s not next to the bed).

How long have you stuck with this routine so far?

I’ve had this routine ever since I had kids, which was about three years ago.

How has your morning routine changed over recent years?

Before I had kids my mornings weren’t quite as regimented. With children there are a lot more steps in the morning, which is why I had to go in and change my routine to make it a little more structured. Before kids you just have yourself to take care of, but with kids you’ve got to get them dressed and fed, and that takes time. So this entire routine started around the time we had our first kid.

What time do you go to sleep?

I try to have my head hit the pillow at 11:00pm. I don’t always succeed—I’m a bit of a night owl, so I have a lot of energy at night, and often when I’m doing something I just want to keep doing it.

Sometimes I like to read books and do a lot of stuff at night, so I feel like my body resists going to bed. I do very much try to go to sleep at 11:00pm, but this realistically happens between 11:00 and 11:30pm.

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

I find that I sleep better when I don’t go to bed right after working or doing something that takes a lot of my focus. I try to do something before bed that takes my mind away from the day, and for me that’s usually reading.

I read a variety of things, fiction and nonfiction. Fiction tends to be a little more addictive for me, and I sometimes have a hard time putting the book down and going to sleep. Nonfiction is a little easier to just read a chapter or section at a time. But I read basically anything, and I try to read for at least ten minutes before I go to sleep.

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

I have breakfast around 8:15am. My husband usually makes scrambled eggs and coffee for me and him and something like porridge and an egg each for the kids.

I love coffee. I love the ritual of it, the smell of it in the kitchen… I bring my coffee to work with me in a mug and sip it throughout the first hour of the day.

Do you have a morning workout routine?

On most days I try to do a 10–15-minute workout on my elliptical first thing. I prefer working out at home because when you go to an actual gym you have the whole back and forth that takes an hour, an hour and a half, and that feels too overwhelming. The fact that it’s just 10-15 minutes makes it feel easy, so I try to keep the pressure low. If I were like, “Julie, do a thirty-minute workout,” I just wouldn’t do it. So I keep the bar low. It’s like brushing your teeth—it’s not a big event.

The other reason I really like it is that even though it’s a very small thing, by the time I wake up the kids, sit down, and have breakfast, I’ve already accomplished something. It’s a small victory in my day.

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

It’s not really a meditation routine, but during my workout I try to be intentional about my day. I glance at my calendar and note things like, “Here are all the meetings,” and “Here are the events of the day.” Then I make decisions like, “Okay, I’ll be in this meeting, then I’ll have this event, and then I’ll do this activity with the kids.” I try to set an intention for all of those periods of time so I go into them more prepared.

I started doing this after I had my first baby and I was going through a bit of postpartum depression. Some of the strategies I learned to get out of it are:

  1. Setting easy goals for yourself. That was how I ended up with my 10–15-minute workout. I could also watch a TED talk or read a book for 5-10 minutes. All of these things are very achievable; they don’t seem like a big deal in themselves, but when you do them every day, they add up.
  2. Spending ten minutes thinking about the day ahead, asking questions like “What would be a great day?” “What would make you feel excited at the end of the day?” “What do you want to accomplish?”

How does your partner fit into your morning routine?

We get up at the same time every day, since the alarm rings for both of us, and he has a pretty similar morning routine where he also works out for ten minutes. Then he showers, then I shower, and then he makes breakfast while I get the kids.

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

I don’t do my workout on weekends because I sleep in a bit more. I typically don’t set the alarm until 8:00 or 8:30am because I like to make up my sleep debt that accumulates throughout the week.

We’re a bit looser on time than during the week. We spend more time in the kids’ room, reading them stories and playing with them. On weekends we often go out for brunch as a family. Weekends are very different—they feel special.

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

I still try to read a bit before I go to sleep, and I still try to get up around the same time. I don’t always find ways to work out, depending on where I stay, so I don’t do as much of my routine when I’m traveling. It also depends on what time the first event of the day is at.

I love traveling as a hobby because I love being in new places, but when I travel for work I don’t sleep quite as well. Everything’s a bit different, but I try to maintain a regular workday.

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