“I don’t see email as a problem in my life. I actually very much enjoy email. I look at it as a form of entertainment… maybe I’m sick and I need some sort of therapy around that.” – Mitch Joel Share this quote on Twitter

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Mitch Joel

What is your morning routine?

I’ve got three extremely young children, so my morning routine usually looks like something out of the comics in the back of newspapers. It’s crazy town.

I’m typically up at 5:00-5:30am navigating the children. From there it’s usually shower, get ready to go to work, get my stuff together, and run out of my home office. I then head down to my office parking. Before I come into the office every morning I use Headspace to get in my mindfulness meditation practice.

Next, I grab a coffee—caffeinated or decaffeinated, depending on how I’m feeling and how hard I’m running. Then I head into the office. First thing in the morning, I really enjoy going through my email inbox and getting all the stuff that isn’t imperative or that has been sitting there for a while out of the way. Then I go through my list of tasks that I need to accomplish that day. I follow that with some form of writing, whether it’s an article that I’m going to post online or something that is due, before getting into my actual day.

How long have you stuck with this routine so far?

Years. I always try to make sure that I have some form of mindfulness meditation in the morning, be it in the form of a brisk little walk, a morning coffee, all that stuff. It’s been like this for a long time.

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How has your morning routine changed over recent years?

It hasn’t changed much, though it is changing a lot in terms of my kids’ needs as they get older, go to school, get themselves ready, and generally have less dependence on an adult to help them in the morning.

What time do you go to sleep?

We put the kids down, and then I just hang out in bed doing things on the computer, whether it’s Netflix, YouTube, or writing. On a typical night I fall asleep somewhere between 10:00 and 11:00pm.

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

I like to listen to music, just to create a more calm environment. That probably makes my mornings a little easier too. I also make sure that everything is packed up in my briefcase. But other than that, I don’t do anything special.

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

Sometimes I do. I have never hit the snooze button; I have never even needed a second alarm. I’m pretty paranoid and I’m a light sleeper, so I’m up and at ‘em. I also don’t necessarily need an alarm because I have young kids, and they are often my alarm.

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

Breakfast usually happens within an hour of waking up. Typically it’s a very simple bowl of oatmeal and either caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee. I tend to have a small-ish breakfast. I’m not a big breakfast guy.

I should mention that I often have a breakfast meeting (related either to work or to networking) with someone in the morning before I head into the office.

Do you have a morning workout routine?

I’m grappling with when to get in my exercise. It typically only happens when I have the time. I would like to get more serious about getting that out of the way in the morning, but I’m just not sure how to fit that in from a time perspective. I’m hoping to have a morning workout routine at some point.

Do you have a morning meditation routine?

I use Headspace, and I love it. I just can’t get enough. I think they really nailed it with the app—the ease of use, the tracking, and I just love that voice. I think it’s great.

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

Both. I don’t see email as a problem in my life. I actually very much enjoy email. I look at it as a form of entertainment… maybe I’m sick and I need some sort of therapy around that, but yeah, I do like to tackle it and get my inbox as focused as possible.

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

I like listening to music when I’m going to sleep or doing something that doesn’t require a lot of focus. When I’m writing or doing really deep thinking I still like to listen to music, but I don’t like it to have lyrics. At those times I listen to more jazz or new-agey type of stuff.

How soon do you check your phone in the morning?

I’m pretty bad about that. I know it’s an unhealthy strategy, but I do check it quite often. No notifications are on; I don’t have it notify me, ever. If I’m up and can’t sleep or if I’m doing stuff in the morning, I might quickly flick through my phone, but I don’t really focus on it.

What are your most important tasks in the morning?

Getting out of the house unscathed, meditating, and writing.

What and when is your first drink in the morning?

I like to start my morning with a tall glass of water, either right before or right after I shower.

How does your partner fit into your morning routine?

My wife is absolutely amazing. She herds the kids in the morning because she knows I’m trying to do what’s best for our family through work and what we provide there. She’s so absolutely incredible for that.

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

My sleep schedule is pretty similar because of the young kids. The meditation tends to happen during their nap time. If our family goes to the park, I might walk on my own for twenty minutes to meditate. My writing schedule changes the most dramatically because the weekend is family time and is less about me being in the zone for work.

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 completely inverts when I travel, which I do a lot, and that changes everything dramatically. At the same time, I find it somewhat easier to stick to my morning routine because there aren’t kids screaming. The other side of that is I get very lonely because I miss my family.

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

I don’t beat myself up over it. I’m not so set on the routine. I don’t like change, but if things get tossed about, I don’t sulk over what I have or haven’t done. There may be mornings where I skip meditation or coffee or breakfast or writing or maybe even email. On those days I just go with the flow. The only thing I always do is my mindfulness meditation practice. If I can’t get to it in the morning, I try to make it up later in the evening.

Anything else you would like to add?

I love the morning. I have always been a morning person. I feel like it gives you a lot more time. I love sunrises and everything like that. I even love the silence of the earth in the morning, when you’re just moving about and there are less people around.

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