“It’s all about flexibility and unpredictability. I can’t be too wedded to a specific routine or I’m bound to be disappointed when things go awry.” – Merrill Stubbs Share this quote on Twitter

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Merrill Stubbs

What is your morning routine?

I’m up sometime between 6:30 and 7:00am; i.e. whenever Henry, our two-year-old, decides it’s time for the rest of the house to be up. He just yells from his crib until someone comes to rescue him. Clara, our five-year-old, typically hops into our bed once she’s up, and both kids watch an episode of SpongeBob while my husband, Jonathan, and I take turns showering and checking our phones for any urgent work messages and news.

During this time, Henry makes multiple attempts to escape our bedroom; in-between brushing our teeth and getting dressed, one or the other of us has to make sure he isn’t sliding down the banister or putting his fingers in an electric socket or something. We also take turns making sure Clara is fully clothed. Depending on the day, this is either an easy task or an epic battle.

When our babysitter arrives around 7:30am, we send both kids downstairs for breakfast. I head down around 7:45am to chat with the kids while they finish eating, pack up my lunch, and make sure Clara has everything she needs for a rigorous day at pre-K. If I’m going straight to the office, I head for the subway a little before 8:00am, picking up a coffee on the way. On the days I take Clara to school, I usually make coffee at home (I’m on a Chemex kick and drinking it out of this mug makes me happy), and then we’re out the door by 8:15am.

How long have you stuck with this routine so far?

It’s been pretty consistent for the last two years since Henry was born and Clara started school.

How has your morning routine changed over recent years?

I used to be more ad hoc, letting my morning work schedule determine which days I took Clara to school each week. A few months ago I decided to try a different approach. Now I take Clara to school on the same days each week (Tuesdays and Thursdays), and I don’t schedule any meetings until 10:30 or 11:00am on Mondays and Wednesdays (and Fridays, when possible); on those days, I try hard to be out the door before 8:00am so I can get to the office by 8:30 or 8:45am and have a solid two hours of focused work time.

Mornings tend to be quieter in the office. Because we have an open layout, anyone can come tap me on the shoulder at any moment, so I find that this is my best shot at a chunk of uninterrupted time.

What time do you go to sleep?

Most nights I’m in bed around 10:30pm. I answer emails, catch up on news and social media, and maybe read a few pages of my book before turning off my light around 11:30pm.

If I’m very tired I may go to sleep a little earlier; on nights when I’m behind on work and/or life it can be much later; closer to 1:00am.

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

I wish I could say I lay out my clothes every night, but I rarely have the energy to tackle such important decisions before bed. Instead, I prefer to leave this for the morning when I’m thinking about a thousand other things and also trying to get two small people dressed.

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

I set a backup alarm for those rare mornings when all four of us manage to sleep past 7:00am. If I have an early meeting, I definitely set an alarm. I have been known to hit the snooze button. I don’t let myself do it more than twice because it’s a slippery slope, and since Jonathan never sets an alarm, I’m the responsible party.

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

I don’t eat breakfast much anymore. After an honest assessment of my hunger patterns, I found I don’t usually get hungry until midday.

I fill my water bottle with eighteen ounces of water mixed with two ounces of orange juice and try to drink the whole thing before leaving the house in the morning or having my first cup of coffee. I nurse another bottle of this water/orange juice mix once I get to the office, and I usually have a second coffee before lunch.

Do you have a morning workout routine?

Other than walking to the subway? Nope.

Do you have a morning meditation routine?

If I meditate, it’s at night before bed. It’s pretty much impossible for me to steal a quiet moment to myself in the morning, unless, of course, I were to get up earlier. But then I’d have to go to bed earlier, and who wants to do that?

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

I try to check for any urgent emails first thing, answer them right away, and save the others for the subway or the office.

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

I sometimes use Insight Timer at night (it has a whole section of meditation sessions specifically meant for falling asleep). If I’m having trouble winding down before bed, I occasionally take a hot bath and light a nice-smelling candle.

I look at Flipboard and The New York Times app for news in the morning, and I listen to podcasts on Stitcher (Someone Knows Something, How I Built This, and Radiolab’s More Perfect are my current favorites) during my commutes to and from work.

How soon do you check your phone in the morning?

I check emails and Slack messages pretty much right away, unless someone’s sick or has wet the bed or something.

What are your most important tasks in the morning?

Getting everyone out the door in a timely fashion; I think the most apt metaphor for my mornings is that of being shot out of a cannon.

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

Weekends are a little different. Typically, we’re able to ignore Henry’s yelling (we have a noise machine) until 7:30am or so before things get dire and/or Clara comes in search of someone to play with. Jonathan often lets me sleep for another hour or so while he gets the kids breakfast. This is just one of the many reasons I love him.

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

My routine is less chaotic when I’m traveling for work, since I don’t have as many distractions. I usually bring some kind of sweet-smelling spray or oil for my pillow to help me sleep better and feel more at home. In the morning, I might actually go for a walk or take some time to meditate before moving on with the rest of my day.

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

Right now, it’s all about flexibility and unpredictability. I can’t be too wedded to a specific routine or I’m bound to be disappointed when things go awry. I mean, poop happens. Literally.

I’m looking forward to the kids being a little older and being able to add something beyond the usual block-and-tackle to my mornings, such as a regular exercise regimen or some quiet time. Life is all about phases, right?


Photo of Merrill by James Ransom/Food52.

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