“I think routines should flex and change. Mine feels like a dynamic, malleable thing that emerges organically, rather than a ridgid set of steps I have to follow or plan for.” – Kate Nafisi Share this quote on Twitter

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Kate Nafisi

What is your morning routine?

I have a couple of rituals I like to do rather than a strict routine. When I do my rituals four out of seven days a week, I feel more balanced and energized.

In a few bullet points:

6:00am:

  • Wake up to my phone alarm
  • Fumble in the dark to put on my blue-and-white cotton dressing gown (a grid-patterned kimono my father bought me in Japan). I also fumble around in the pitch black for my handmade felted woolen eco slippers, discarded somewhere by the bed the night before. With one eye open, I walk slowly down the wooden stairs my husband made, descending from our mezzanine/mattress/bedroom into our kitchenette.
  • Drink lemon water
  • Do my matcha tea ritual
  • Do my gratitude ritual
  • Meditate with chanting

7:00am:

  • Put on a record
  • Have breakfast with my husband (Abi)
  • Check email and messages

8:00am:

  • Drink a fruit smoothie
  • Head to the woodworking workshop

How long have you stuck with this routine so far?

Six months. I started it when I left my full-time job at Facebook as a product designer to join my husband as a woodworker at Nafisi Studio. I had been in tech for ten years as a digital user experience designer, and I now make bespoke furniture and sculpture.

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I went from tech to trees! My morning routine is a great reflection of my journey into the woods and deeper into myself. By returning to being my own boss, I was able to reinvent my schedule to allow more quality time with loved ones and more time in nature.

How has your morning routine changed over recent years?

I think routines should flex and change. Mine feels like a dynamic, malleable thing that emerges organically, rather than a ridgid set of steps I have to follow or plan for.

I have experienced an 180-degree change in the last year. The “old” Kate used to check her messages as soon as she woke up (balancing her phone on her nose), drank her coffee by the bucket, and did not eat until she got to work. I was rushed, and I often underslept.

When I became a woodworker, I couldn’t just stop drinking coffee—I was addicted! I couldn’t simply switch off my adrenal habits in the morning, either, so I often awoke feeling like I should be somewhere or I was late for something the first few months. So there was definitely a transition period.

My shift to a simpler life means I have more time to experiment with a morning routine and to take it slow. And I can go to bed much earlier because my previous commute time (7:00-9:00pm) is now my winding down pre-bedtime.

What time do you go to sleep?

At 9:00pm I stop whatever I’m doing, whether I’m working in the workshop, eating dinner, or hanging out with friends. (I’m like Cinderella at midnight… but at 9:00pm.) At 10:00pm the lights are out, and I’m in bed with my eyes closed.

Most of my life I was a night owl, so it surprised me that I could change. Now I like to “sleep early, rise early” like the birds do.

Abi and I try to maximize our relaxation time together before bed as much as possible, because it’s so good to have a long laugh before you sleep. Sometimes Abi and I are so excited by a new commission that we can’t stop talking pillow to pillow in the dark, but we try not to push it later than 11:00pm. We love what we do, and so work feels more like playtime.

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

I have a warm shower with and then anoint my eyebrows with lavender oil. It’s very calming. I then turn on my little bedside aromatherapy diffuser and add in our favorite bedtime blends—either jasmine, lavender, and sandalwood, or patchouli and cedarwood. I feel like a goddess in a cloud of smoke.

I used to lay my clothes out for the next day, but now I have a sort of “uniform” comprised of all-in-one dungarees, which makes things simpler.

I often have a comforting bedtime drink before I brush my teeth. It’s a turmeric latte made with tumeric, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, honey, and almond milk, and it makes me feel relaxed and extra ready for sleep.

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

If we have had a particularly packed month of deadlines, my body simply turns to lead and won’t let me get up. Being a woodworker is so much more physically demanding than being on my laptop all day.

But no snooze button. In a typical week I so thoroughly look forward to my matcha tea ritual that that alone boots me out of bed. I value my morning time so much. I even got a ceramic tea set handmade by our friend Mandy Pang to commemorate this time.

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

So I’m in my Japanese kimono and I’ve drunk my lemon water. I light some incense, breath deeply, and move very slowly.

For my matcha tea ritual, I prepare almond milk on the stove and combine it in a handmade ceramic mug with matcha green tea. I sit in the semi-darkness downstairs, with the cottage shutters closed, on the brown French corduroy floor mattress and sip in the stillness.

I slowly wake up in my own time. I can hear the birds outside and the electric hob cooker hiss as it slowly cools down. The light falls through the slits in our dotted shutter in a random organic pattern on the chipped white-painted floorboards and over the old white piano.

Now for breakfast. I make gluten-free porridge with almond milk and cinnamon with locally produced Sussex honey and organic berries on top. Other days we eat avocado on toast or yogurt mixed with granola and seeds. My husband and I eat together, normally watching something, sitting in silence, or reading the news.

Do you have a morning workout routine?

To be honest, I’m not as good at exercise as I’d like to be! Especially not in the morning. I like to move slowly.

At the moment I go for a midday or afternoon fifteen-minute walk in the forest to nurture my mythic imagination and connection to the land. While I walk I listen to The Hive Podcast—I love hearing psychologist and mythologist Sharon Backie speak about women’s connection to nature.

I’d like to incorporate some slow dancing or stretching into my morning routine soon. It will come in time, I’m sure. I was very inspired by the poetic movements of artist Miyoko Shida. A Zen Japanese dancer, she balances a feather on fifteen palm tree branches in a complex structure called “Sanddorn Balance.” Stunning.

Do you have a morning meditation routine?

Sort of. As I drink my matcha tea, I do a gratitude ritual.

I look at all the hanging plants around me, the wooden beams, the textured white walls of the cottage, and I feel thankful. I list all the things I am grateful for under my breath or write them down. This boosts my energy and helps me handle tricky things during the day. I take bits and pieces from the twenty-eight-day gratitude challenge taken from the book The Magic by Rhonda Byrne.

After tea, if I have time, I meditate.

I stay on the floor and play some mantras on Spotify with my headphones on. I softly chant for fifteen minutes or so. I like chants such as “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo” or “Om Mani Pedme Hum.” I find chanting very soothing. Some days I even find it healing, like it is nourishing old emotional wounds.

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

After I have woken up into my body and held my own thoughts in my own head for a few minutes, I invite others’ thoughts and agendas in. So, during breakfast I tend to check in with the world.

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

Not anymore. I used to use Natural Cycles, a period tracking app, and Gero, a timekeeping Pomadoro app, but now I’d rather not have any reasons to pick up my phone. Sometimes, as I’m being grateful, things pop into my head and I add them to my to-do list in Trello, which I run everything with!

I find listening to audiobooks on Kindle or Audible is the only way I can read for longer than ten minutes! Otherwise my eyes start to lul as they pendulum back and forth on a paper page. Or worse, my thoughts dart between multiple tangents and distract me from the narrative, and I put down the book to daydream a little while. I never get past a page!

And yet, when I listen to an audiobook my hands are free to move and I can focus superbly. I tend to do the washing up, household chores, or sand and finish wood in the workshop. I have fallen in love with all things mystic recently in the pursuit of the unknown. I’m currently listening to Circe by Madeline Miller. It’s the story of the mythological witch, inspired by Homer’s Odyssey, told from the point of view of a woman. It’s excellent.

How soon do you check your phone in the morning?

I have a beautiful 1950s wind-up wristwatch bought on eBay. I place it by my bedside so I can look at its unique handmade face to tell the time and avoid picking up my phone. I play a game with myself to see how long I can not look at my phone in the morning. On a really good day I’ve had my matcha tea, chanted, finished my breakfast, listened to an audiobook for thirty minutes… and then I check messages and emails.

What are your most important tasks in the morning?

Being present in my body, feeling positive and grateful, then creating an intention for the day.

It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the many different directions you could take your business or spend your daily twenty-four-hour ration, as we aren’t short on advice and resources online. However, I used to find I was often short on time to just listen to my own voice and body, so this is now my priority.

What and when is your first drink in the morning?

As soon as I am downstairs I drink a glass of filtered water with half a lemon to hydrate.

Then I heat my almond milk for my matcha tea ritual.

How does your partner fit into your morning routine?

My husband, Abi, usually wakes up thirty minutes after me. I often play a record from our vinyl selection—Tangerine Dream or Pink Floyd—to gently awaken him into some ethereal realm. And the smell of cinnamon from the porridge rises upstairs and lures him down.

Sometimes he is up before me to chop wood or open the farm gate, and then he makes breakfast for me. He gently kisses my head and places a plate before me as I am chanting or reading in my own world on the floor. He doesn’t interrupt me. He normally also has his own noise-cancelling headphones on as he listens to the news.

Silence is key for us in the morning—being physically next to each other in the same space but rising in our own rhythms.

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

Saturdays are the same as weekdays for us as business owners, because many of our customers have only the weekend to think about their bespoke projects and would like to come and visit us in our studio then.

On Sundays we can lie in until 10:00am or so before having lunch with our family or an afternoon tea. It’s so good to check in with family every week.

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

I find it more tricky to maintain when traveling, since my curiosity to explore my new environment always supersedes my desire to stay in my room and follow my rituals. I use objects, such as my gratitude crystal, as familiar prompts in an unfamiliar place.

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

When I’m home and don’t have a slow morning, I run on adrenaline and feel irritable. On those days I require a longer lunch or an extra break in the forest to relax and reset.

Anything else you would like to add?

Once in the workshop, the way Abi and I start our working day is also a part of my morning ritual. Abi and I normally start with a ten-minute “stand up” (techie speak for a short meeting where you stand in a circle) where my husband and I recap what we achieved the day before, review our goals for today, and share any news or problems to resolve. Then we tidy up the workspace and go our separate ways to work on individual tasks. I like this emphasis on checking in to see how we each feel and to give us time to plan together but work apart. It’s very much inspired by the poem “On Marriage” by Kahlil Gibran.


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