What is your morning routine?
When I had a desk job in the corporate world, I had a much more efficiency-focused routine centered mostly on accomplishing the necessary tasks as quickly as possible to get out the door. Since I started my own consulting firm two years ago, a big part of my goal was to feel more content and less anxious about my schedule and my work, so I’ve tried to focus on creating a calmer and “un-rushed” feeling in the morning so I can ease into my day. This is especially important because my work as a speaker and consultant means a lot of travel, so that morning calm is key to preparing for a gig.
While this means there’s a little variability to my mornings day-to-day, I try not to beat myself up over it. Being calm and open to shifts in my routine is better than being rigid about it and creating a feeling of failure when I can’t make it happen.
I generally set my alarm for 7:15am, with the knowledge that I’ve got time to snooze once or twice if my bed is just too comfy. I’m up and at ’em by 7:30, and the first thing I do is make the bed, every single morning. I remember hearing a few years ago that making the bed in the mornings sets you up for a productive day; whether it’s true or not, I can’t say, but I do it without fail.
My fiancé usually makes breakfast for us, so while he’s prepping I take my phone off “Do Not Disturb” mode and do a quick email audit to ensure there’s no changes to my schedule I need to know about ahead of time. We eat together in our PJs every morning; it’s great to be able to spend that time together before the day gets crazy.
Once breakfast is done, we clean up and get the day started. Teeth brushing, face washing, vitamins, and getting dressed. My goal is to be out the door by 9:15am, starting my commute by 9:30, and to be at one of my favorite cafés to kick off the day’s work by 10:00.
How long have you stuck with this routine so far?
My fiancé and I moved in together about eight months ago, so we had to establish some new “together” routines. He’s an entrepreneur as well, and I love that we have the flexibility to have a low-key morning and eat breakfast together each day.
What time do you go to sleep?
I could be better about creating a more predictable bedtime, but I’m usually in bed around 11:00pm, and almost never after midnight. I really try to listen to my body and go to sleep when I feel tired, so if I’m staying up later than 11:00, it’s because I’m feeling energized and on a roll with something I’m working on. As soon as I start to feel tired, I start getting ready for bed.
I don’t do well when I don’t get good sleep. I feel foggy, and honestly, a little grumpy. So getting to sleep at a good hour is important for me. Knowing I’m getting up around 7:15am, I try to make sure I’m going to get at least seven hours, but I often shoot for eight.
Do you do anything before going to bed to make your morning easier?
If I’ve left any loose ends unattended at night, it adds stress to my intentionally calm morning routine, so I try to get things set the night before. I almost always have an outfit picked for the next day before I fall asleep. I usually prep my bag for the morning by packing my laptop and anything I’ll need, and make sure my keys are on the hook by the door, so there’s no last minute panic when it’s time to head out.
I always neaten up, too, no matter how tired I am. I put dishes in the dishwasher, fold the couch blanket and arrange the pillows, and clear off anything left on the coffee table. When the apartment is in order, I’m able to fall asleep without having to make a mental to-do list of things that need to be handled in the morning.
Do you answer email first thing in the morning or leave it until later in the day?
Before I get ready to leave, I usually check email, but it’s not to address or reply to anything. My main goal is just to ensure there haven’t been any overnight cancellations, requests for changes to meeting or call times, flight delays, or other shifts that would impact when I may need to leave the house or what I might need to bring. I might delete any spam or unnecessary emails I catch in the process, but I don’t answer email until I’m settled in to start working at around 10:00am.
Do you use any apps or products to enhance your sleep or morning routine?
I’ve gotten into the habit of putting my phone in “Do Not Disturb” mode when I get ready for bed, and sooner if I’m trying to be more present that evening; not having any alert noises and not seeing the screen light up helps me maintain my focus. I also use voice controls to ask Siri what the weather is when I’m getting ready, just to ensure that I don’t need to grab an umbrella or anything else.
Now that it’s cold out, we’ve been using this blanket that I crocheted myself. When I was first learning to crochet I, understandably, wasn’t great at it; because of an unintentional adjustment to a just-learned stitch, there are no holes in the blanket at all. While this means it’s really warm, it’s also extremely heavy. Like, I can’t carry the thing. But the weight seems to help with falling and staying asleep. (I’m sure there’s some science to this, but it also just makes the bed really cozy and inviting!)
I also leverage a number of travel-related apps to help with my mornings when I’m on the road. I have the apps for my favorite airlines, so I make sure I get any flight alerts I need as soon as possible, and I leverage TripIt to track all my itineraries. Whenever I wake up in a foreign city, I use Foursquare to find the best nearby café for morning coffee. And I’ve usually pre-programmed my Uber, Google Maps walking route, or whatever else I need to get to my gig venue the night before so I know when exactly I need to leave.
How soon do you check your phone in the morning?
Since my phone is my alarm, I see it fairly quickly after waking, but I really try not to get sucked in. I shut off the alarm, and then set it aside until my breakfast-time email audit to check for schedule changes.
What are your most important tasks in the morning?
Making the bed is key for me, and having breakfast with my fiancé.
What and when is your first drink in the morning?
Historically it’s always been coffee. And a lot of it. And as soon as possible. But for the last six months, I’ve been cutting back my coffee consumption and switching all but the first cup to decaf to try to rein that in. (This is especially challenging on the road; conference venues often provide a never-ending supply of coffee, and not much else.)
My fiancé will often make me a cup of decaf coffee in our Keurig with breakfast, but we also drink a ton of water in our house starting right after we wake up; we always add flavor with MiO. Which I drink first really just depends on which order they’re ready or which cup is within reach.
How does your partner fit into your morning routine?
Now that we’re living together, our routines are very much intertwined. He always makes breakfast, which is so nice because that’s the sort of thing I’d likely blow off or have “on the go” if he didn’t.
We generally brush our teeth together, but the rest of our getting ready (once breakfast is done) is pretty separate; we each have the time we need to handle whatever it is we need to do alone. I generally have the more particular timeline in the morning, since he often works from home, and he’s awesome about pitching in to make sure I’m all set to go when I need to. We’re also great about reminding each other of things. “Did you take your vitamin?” “Don’t forget it’s going to rain later!” “I tossed your charger in your bag for you!” It’s a real team effort, and when I’m waking up on the road, I definitely miss having my breakfast buddy.
Do you also follow this routine on weekends, or do you change some steps?
On Saturdays we usually have breakfast out at a local diner or café as a little treat! But otherwise, I keep weekends pretty consistent with weekdays. I don’t really sleep in unless I happened to have had a very late flight home and need the extra sleep to hit my preferred seven hours. Even then, I’ll only give it an extra hour or so, and then kick everything off the same way.
I admittedly haven’t mastered the “beating jet lag” thing yet, but for me it’s easier to force myself to try to maintain a normal routine (even if it’s tiring) because otherwise it just takes far too long for me to adjust back to “home” time.
On days you’re not settled in your home, are you able to adapt your routine to fit in with a different environment?
This is one of the key challenges for me. As a branded content consultant and speaker, I spend a good portion of the year on the road, taking multiple trips a month to give keynotes and corporate workshops. I haven’t tallied up 2017 yet, but I spent about three months of 2016 on the road, total, and visited seven countries in the process. That’s a lot of hotels, red-eye overnights in less-than-comfy plane seats, and time zone disruptions. It’s not easy to maintain a routine on the road, especially when those trips are back-to-back and I don’t have time to reset in-between.
What I try to do is create as much calm as I can in those situations. For example, I never fly in to my destination on a speaking day, always the day before. This way, I can guarantee I get a good night’s sleep, in a real bed, the day before a keynote, and wake up feeling rested. I generally order a small room service breakfast and coffee, so I can eat on a similar schedule to home: right after waking up. And if time zones allow, I almost always talk to my fiancé in the morning (even if it’s just via text) to maintain that sense of normalcy.
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.