Lisa Nicole Bell
Lisa Nicole Bell is an award-winning writer, producer, entrepreneur, and the host of Behind the Brilliance, a weekly podcast that blends Lisa’s inspiring and funny musings with conversations with some of the world’s most creative and inspiring people. Lisa currently lives in Los Angeles, California.
What is your morning routine?
I usually wake up around 6:00 or 7:00am, depending on where I am. I’m flexible with this, but I generally believe that getting enough sleep and getting high-quality sleep is more important than being strict about the time I wake up.
I start the day by feeding my mind its breakfast and drinking water or hot tea. The first part of this process is journaling. I free-write for as long as I need or want to. Sometimes it’s one page; other times it’s six pages. If I have a major issue I’m trying to sort out, I usually write about that to clarify my thinking or to separate the facts of the matter from my feelings about it. This always helps. Starting the day by doing a brain dump allows me to get the day going with a clean slate. Journaling usually takes 10-15 minutes.
After that, I read a few pages of something enriching. It might be a book on personal development, spirituality, business, or some other topic that’s relevant to my current goals. This gets my brain going and gives me a mental vitamin to digest throughout the day.
After that, I read a brief passage in an inspiring book. The book changes from year to year, but I love those books that are broken into 365 short inspiring notes that you can read in under three minutes. Melody Beattie’s The Language of Letting Go is a favorite that I revisit.
Then I pray and meditate. On days I don’t have time to do anything else, I just pray and meditate, as I find those to be the most important components of a good start to my day.
This process sounds long and involved, but it rarely takes more than 30-45 minutes. I find the rewards of this time investment well worth waking up earlier.
Once my mind is fed, I run my dog out for a quick potty break, eat breakfast, then check email. I should note that this “check” is just a scan of anything urgent or critical that may have come in. I prefer to do important or deep work in the morning, so I save non-urgent email until later in the day.
A few times a month I do fasted cardio, so on those days I do a condensed version of my routine and complete a cardio workout before I eat.
How long have you stuck with this routine so far?
About six years. There’s a significant difference in my day when I complete my morning routine versus when I don’t, so I’ve made it a staple.
How has your morning routine changed over recent years?
I’ve become more consistent with meditation. I find that the more I do it, the more beneficial it is for my mental and emotional well-being and my overall demeanor.
I’ve experimented a lot over the years. At one point I was walking super early in the morning. I enjoyed it, but I found that it wasn’t sustainable because my schedule varies wildly throughout the year. I still sometimes go for a walk after breakfast if I’m going to have an especially hectic day ahead.
I tried exercising in the morning and didn’t enjoy it, so I went back to doing it in the early/late afternoon, which I prefer.
What time do you go to sleep?
Usually between 11:00pm and midnight. I let my body be the guide. If I find myself falling asleep or feeling drowsy at 9:30pm, I’ll honor that and give my mind and body the extra rest.
Do you do anything before going to bed to make your morning easier?
I believe half of a successful morning is the result of a well-intentioned night. Before I end the day, I quickly scan the following day’s appointments and to-do items to get a small jumpstart, confirm things, or remove things. This is super helpful because it allows me to start the day with a clear plan and not waste valuable mental energy trying to figure out what I should be doing or what I need to have in place in order to accomplish the day’s goals.
I also set aside clothes and any other specific items I’ll need. So if I know I have a 10:00am meeting, I’ll make sure my notebook, laptop, ink pen and whatever else I might need are packed and by the door. If I’m working out first thing, I’ll lay out my workout clothes, shoes, and socks so that all I have to do is get dressed and go.
Do you use an alarm to wake you up in the morning, and if so do you ever hit the snooze button?
It depends on what’s happening in my life and work at the time. If I use an alarm, I rarely hit the snooze button. I try to allow myself to wake naturally. If I find that I’m not waking early enough or sleeping well enough to want to hop out of bed in the morning, I recalibrate by making adjustments to things like my bedtime, my diet, and my physical activity.
How soon after waking up do you have breakfast, and what do you typically have?
I usually have breakfast within an hour of waking. My go-to breakfast is scrambled eggs, turkey sausage, and arugula or fruit. I’m a hardcore snacker and grazer, preferring to feed my body constantly throughout the day, so I eat just enough breakfast to satisfy my hunger until my next snack.
Do you have a morning workout routine?
I stretch every morning, but I wouldn’t consider that a workout. I do legit workouts 5-6 times per week. I do weights and cardio in the afternoons or early evenings when I can. Sometimes I have to squeeze it in earlier or later if I have stuff going on that I have to schedule around.
Do you have a morning meditation routine, and if so what kind of meditation do you practice?
I meditate every day. I usually do Vipassana or Primordial Sound meditation. I also do some visualization.
Do you answer email first thing in the morning or leave it until later in the day?
I leave it until later in the day. I find that it’s hard to mentally return to a pre-email state once I’ve opened it, so I try to take care of my mind and body first and then tend to email.
Do you use any apps or products to enhance your sleep or morning routine?
I LOVE tea and often drink it to wind down for bed. I like Yogi Bedtime tea, and I also enjoy dandelion tea before bed.
I have a humidifier that I’ll turn on with some lavender essential oils in the water to set the mood in the room. I’m also a fan of lighting the bedroom with soy lavender candles before bed.
What are your most important tasks in the morning?
My most important task is setting the stage for the day. If I’m going to have an amazing day, I need to engage in good self-care at the beginning of it - that means breakfast for my mind and soul and breakfast for my body.
After that, it’s all about eating the frog: I prefer to tackle the biggest, hairiest, or most complicated of my tasks in the morning.
What and when is your first drink in the morning?
Usually during my morning ritual. It’s either water with lemon or hot tea. In the morning, I like organic green tea or Yogi Positive Energy tea.
Do you also follow this routine on weekends, or do you change some steps?
I change my routine on weekends.
I wake up at whatever time I want, assuming I don’t have a specific place to be in the morning. I do the same morning ritual, but I may spend a little more time on one area or another if I have the time. If the book I’m reading is particularly interesting, I may spend extra time reading or do some research on something I found interesting.
On days you’re not settled in your home, are you able to adapt your routine to fit in with a different environment?
I travel with my journal and books so I can adhere to my ritual as closely as possible. Unfortunately, my body is very sensitive to changes in daylight, travel, etc. I tend to really feel the time difference in terms of getting to sleep, waking up at a certain time, etc. I try to just be patient and kind to my body and schedule my travel and anything else I can control to account for my rest requirements.
What do you do if you fail to follow your morning routine, and how does this influence the rest of your day?
I will turn my morning routine into my afternoon routine if I need to. I like doing it in the morning, but I have no qualms about doing a mini version in the afternoon. Even if I only set aside fifteen minutes, that time goes a long way toward my mental and emotional well-being.
Anything else you would like to add?
Don’t beat yourself up if you struggle with forming or maintaining a morning routine. It took a while for me to find my groove. In the meantime, I had to be really patient and forgiving. As a type A personality, this was challenging for me, but the whole point of a morning routine is to make you happier and healthier. Make the most of your mornings!
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