What is your morning routine?
My morning routine varies depending on where I am.
Barry, my beloved of 37 years, and I rent an apartment a block from the bay in Eureka, on California’s North Coast, and we also own an old adobe home in Guanajuato, a city at 7,000 feet in Mexico’s Central Highlands. In addition, we travel a lot, both in our Eurovan and internationally.
Wherever I am, I reach for the gin bottle, and enjoy a couple of tokes… oh wait, that was my dream. Sorry! Let’s try again…
I get up around 4:00am. In Eureka, I slide into our portable hot tub. I enjoy the silky, amniotic journey I take between sleep and wakefulness that eases any creakiness in my back.
Then it’s time to get serious: coffee, going online, reading my favorite blogs, writing or pitching article ideas to editors, and preparing material for any upcoming seminars I’m leading. Right now I’m developing materials for four very different programs, and I flip back and forth between them. A couple of times a week, around 5:00am my time, I call my 94-year-old dad on the East Coast. He’s one of my favorite people, a cheerful, spirited soul, and often gets me laughing.
At 5:30am I have an appointment to wake Barry. Per our agreement, I whisper, “Dreams,” to help him remember. I frankly resist waking him, because I feel an exuberant freedom being awake while he’s still asleep, so occasionally I cheat and wake him at 5:45, but usually I play fair. He starts his day walking to one of several nearby early-morning cafes, to give me space and because he does his best writing at that hour. Just before 6:00 I head over to the local co-op, two blocks from our apartment, where I can sometimes pick up a copy of yesterday’s unsold New York Times, for free.
In Mexico, my routine is similar, minus the hot tub, the co-op, and the newspaper. I often write morning pages (three pages of brain dump, inspired by Julia Cameron’s classic The Artist’s Way). When I’m at our Mexican home by myself, which happens a couple of times a year, on some mornings Barry and I will do a structured write together. He’ll be at a cafe, I’ll be at the table in our cocina (kitchen), and we’ll agree by email on a prompt. We each write for about fifteen minutes, then email the results to the other. A recent example: “If I were braver, I would…”
How long have you stuck with this routine so far?
“Stuck” isn’t the word I’d use, because it implies effort, and I don’t work at my morning routine.
I’ve always been an early riser, but I became an even earlier riser (between 3:30-4:00am) fifteen years ago after a trip to the Middle East. At first I thought my earlier wake-up time was jet lag. Others said, “Oh, you’re going through perimenopause,” (I was 48 at the time), but the pattern endured, and that’s fine with me, because I love the early hours.
What time do you go to sleep?
Between 9:30 and 10:30pm, unless I’m having a bad sleep night.
I usually fall asleep cuddled up with Barry on the sofa, while he struggles with The New York Times crossword puzzle. Eventually I’ll head off to bed. Since our earliest days as a couple, we have always honored the idea of “a room of own’s own” for each of us. That “room” has been at different times and in different homes, an office, a nook, a desk, and currently (because our Eureka apartment is small) it takes the form not of space but of time. Just as I have my pre-dawn hours, Barry has his late-night hours.
Do you do anything before going to bed to make your morning easier?
I check my next day’s calendar, write a to-do list, wash any dishes (I don’t like waking up to a messy kitchen), make sure my office is in reasonable order, and set up the coffee maker.
Do you use an alarm to wake you up in the morning, and if so do you ever hit the snooze button?
Happily, almost never, only as a backup if I have to catch an early-morning flight.
How soon after waking up do you have breakfast, and what do you typically have?
As a recovering overeater, I like to delay breakfast in order to narrow the gap between breakfast and lunch, but I don’t always succeed.
I don’t care for the typical American breakfast. I usually have either roasted vegetables or what I call my “Improvisational Warm Salad”, which consists of a simple green salad with a few generous spoonfuls of whatever leftovers are in the fridge, heated up. I mix them all together, and then top up the whole happy mess with salad dressing. It’s so satisfying, I often have a second helping.
Do you have a morning workout routine?
In Eureka, three mornings a week I walk ten minutes to a nearby gym, where I take a dance cardio class. In Guanajuato, twice a week I go to a pilates class after meditation, and on days when I don’t meditate, a friend and I hike in the hills that circle our city.
In both towns I do just about everything on foot; my goal is to have reached my daily minimum of 10,000 paces on my pedometer before noon. Everything else is icing on the cake. During the day, I might swim, ride my bicycle, go out on the bay on my stand-up paddleboard, and a bunch of other physical activities, but rarely first thing in the morning.
Do you have a morning meditation routine?
In Mexico, three or four times a week I leave home at 7:40am and walk through el centro to our zen meditation group, about six minutes away. It’s led by an old, somewhat cranky Japanese master and held in the dance studio of one of the university buildings. We sit in silence for two periods of 25 minutes each.
I am loosely part of a meditation group in Eureka, too, but I’m more faithful to the Mexico group because the timing, format, and location work for me so well.
Do you answer email first thing in the morning or leave it until later in the day?
Both. I’m okay answering emails first thing. I use email the way people once wrote letters, and I correspond with old friends through email. Email doesn’t run my working life.
Now in my sixties, I’m mostly financially independent so I can work part-time and don’t have to bust my butt all the time to survive. Actually, I’ve worked part-time for my entire professional life… but that’s another story!
Do you use any apps or products to enhance your sleep or morning routine?
Alice, my stuffed bunny rabbit, is neither app nor product, but she’s a great comfort and friend.
How soon do you check your phone in the morning?
I’m not much of a phone person, and I don’t own a smartphone. I know myself… I’m prone to drama anyway, I don’t need more of it. I guard against the intrusion and false sense of urgency that smartphones invite.
What and when is your first drink in the morning?
Are you kidding? Coffee. Coffee. Coffeecoffeecoffee.
On days you’re not settled in your home, are you able to adapt your routine to fit in with a different environment?
When we travel, I bring a lightweight mug, a portable immersion heater, and instant coffee (funny how the body adapts — instant tastes pretty good when there’s no good early-morning coffee alternative). When traveling internationally, away from my at-home routine, I tend to sleep in until about 6:00am.
What do you do if you fail to follow your morning routine, and how does this influence the rest of your day?
There are many things I worry about — including, alas, how much I worry! – but my morning routine is not one of them.