What is your morning routine?
I wake up every day at 6:30am, even when I’ve gone to bed at 3:00am, and even when I’ve just switched time zones. This is a curse, not a blessing.
After I wake up, I usually try to doze or listen to podcasts for a bit. I get out of bed between 7:15 and 7:45am, put in my contacts, wash my face, and then start making coffee. While the water is heating, I take three vitamins. I have a big Ziploc bag I filled with important vitamins, but I can’t remember what they are. The vitamins each have different shapes, so I know I’m taking one of each that I’m supposed to be taking.
Once I’ve made coffee, I eat and then toggle between email and National Affairs Findings. National Affairs Findings is a daily round up of abstracts from academic papers focused on a theme (crime, gender, housing, etc.). I highly recommend it. If my boyfriend is awake, I’ll read him my favorite abstracts and we’ll discuss the research results. Then I look at my to-do list and pick the three most important/pressing items. This helps me figure out how to structure the rest of my day.
Around 8:30am, I go to the gym. You have to go the gym before your brain has a chance to convince you not to go to the gym. (I’m also propelled out the door by the fact that the gym only offers validated parking until 9:30am on weekdays.)
How long have you stuck with this routine so far?
I’ve stuck with a variation of this routine for about seven years. I moved my gym time up a few months ago (I used to go in the mid-afternoon until it became too interruptive), but the breakfast has been with me since day one. Having a consistent morning routine helps me feel grounded, especially when life turns into a roller coaster.
How has your morning routine changed over recent years?
I used to be less obsessed with prioritizing my to-do list. As I’ve gotten older, time feels like an increasingly rare commodity, so I try to be more mindful of how I use it. I’m careful to avoid doing a bunch of easy tasks just to get that “crossed-an-item-off-my-list” dopamine rush. Cleaning your desk, for example, is a relatively quick activity, which means you might choose to do it instead of sending that long, difficult email. And while you’ll have made your to-do list shorter, you won’t have moved your work forward in a meaningful way.
What time do you go to sleep?
Between 11:00 and 11:30pm. If I’ve felt tired all day, I’ll make a point to be in bed by 10:00pm.
Do you do anything before going to bed to make your morning easier?
The most important thing I do is go to bed at a reasonable hour. If I have an early meeting in the morning, I’ll shower, lay out my clothes and makeup, and pack whatever I’ll need. I try to take as much off my morning plate as possible.
Do you use an alarm to wake you up in the morning?
When I need to be up early, I’ll set an alarm, though it’s not really necessary because my anxious brain will almost always jolt me awake an hour before the alarm is set to go off.
How soon after waking up do you have breakfast, and what do you typically have?
After making coffee, I eat the same breakfast I’ve eaten for seven years: seven mini scoops of Trader Joe’s plain, non-fat Greek yogurt* and one S’mores Luna Bar. I break the Luna Bar into little pieces and mix it in with the yogurt. I used to eat Nuts Over Chocolate Luna Bars, but about two years ago Trader Joe’s stopped stocking that flavor, so I had to switch over to S’mores. This was a Big Event in my life. It’s relevant to note that Luna Bar has never paid me to promote their product. They have also never given me free Luna Bars, even after I wrote them a letter asking for free Luna Bars.
More recently I’ve been experimenting with a new breakfast by swapping out the Luna Bar I usually have and swapping in peanut butter and granola. This is for health reasons only. The new breakfast is not as delicious. I’ve also started adding vitamin C crystals and psyllium husk to my yogurt.
*Trader Joe’s has the best plain, non-fat Greek yogurt. My boyfriend doubted there was any real difference between this yogurt and other brands, so we did a blind taste test. He fed me seven random spoonfuls of Trader Joe’s, Fage, Chobani, and Wallaby yogurts and I had to identify which one was the Trader Joe’s yogurt. I got a perfect score.
Do you have a morning workout routine?
At the gym, I usually lift weights for about fifteen minutes. During this time I listen to something calming, like the Ezra Klein podcast or anything on NPR. Then I do cardio for about thirty minutes. I do my best cardio while listening to the top forty EDM (Electronic Dance Music) charts and imagining I’m a spy on a mission.
Do you have a morning meditation routine?
The lying-in-bed/sitting-still type of meditation gives me anxiety. I don’t like scanning my body for sensations or observing my thoughts. Realizing that I am an isolated consciousness trapped inside a body makes me feel sad, lonely, and terrified of death. Drawing and running are much more calming to me because I can achieve a meditative state but still do something active with my body and mind.
Do you answer email first thing in the morning or leave it until later in the day?
About a year ago, I implemented an email rule for myself: touch email once. When I open an email, I must respond to it immediately. Obviously there are exceptions, but this has been a useful goal. I used to read all my emails first thing in the morning and, in an effort to get right to work, would then mark them all as unread with a plan to respond later in the day. That meant I spent the morning obsessively thinking about all the emails waiting in my inbox instead of focusing on anything else.
Do you use any apps or products to enhance your sleep or morning routine?
To make sure I get a good night’s sleep, I wear a sleep mask (ignore the three-star reviews—this is the best one) and ear plugs, and I blast a loud fan to drown out any noises. If I’m traveling, I’ll play fan noise YouTube videos on my laptop. If it’s especially noisy (like on a trip with friends), I’ll play a second fan noise YouTube video on my phone.
How soon do you check your phone in the morning?
Immediately. I know it’s bad, but it feels so good. I need to see if I’ve gotten more Instagram likes. (Shoutout to my Instagram followers—you keep me tired!)
What are your most important tasks in the morning?
Putting in my contacts, drinking coffee, and picking the top three things I need to do that day.
What and when is your first drink in the morning?
I try to chug water right after I get out of bed. This prepares my body for coffee.
How does your partner fit into your morning routine?
Yes, he lets me have the space I need by sleeping until 8:00am. Sometimes he’ll cook himself breakfast and we’ll chat while I eat and email. He’s an incredible chef. Here are a few things he regularly cooks in the morning: eggplant, spiced chickpeas, and a fried egg with avocado and yogurt plopped on top; sweet potato mash with walnuts and a fried egg; vegetable omelette with homemade pinto bean hummus and toasted pine nuts. It is an extreme testament to my morning routine dedication that I cling to my yogurt-and-bar breakfast despite all this gourmet stuff.
Do you also follow this routine on weekends, or do you change some steps?
I never sleep in on weekends, but I’m a bit more chill about my gym routine. You get validated parking until 4:00pm on Saturdays and free parking all day Sunday, so I don’t need to rush out the door. Other than that, nothing really changes.
On days you’re not settled in your home, are you able to adapt your routine to fit in with a different environment?
I’d describe what I do less as adapting my routine and more as rigidly clinging to it despite any opposing forces. When I’m traveling I try to stay in hotels that have mini-fridges (for yogurt) and gyms (with treadmills). I also travel with Luna Bars.
Our recommended book this week is The Harvard Medical School Guide to a Good Night’s Sleep. We only recommend three things a week that we believe will be of interest to our readers. Please take a moment to check it out.