Paul French is a writer, wonder junkie, and football (soccer) fan from London, now living in Berlin. He loves Marmite, but only in randomly located blobs on hot buttered toast.
What is your morning routine?
The curtains are drawn tight but I wake with the first light of day. I’ve got a travel alarm clock with bright green numbers that makes a nasty noise. I must replace it.
I don’t jump out of bed immediately. Instead, I think about the absurdity of the human condition and how fast technology is moving and how we just happen to be alive at the time that our species begins to leave Earth. I can’t help it. I just need to get it out of the way so it doesn’t blindside me later in the day.
So my first thought is always… WOAH.
I get out of bed, make it, then open the curtains and fully open the window. I put on running gear. Next, I walk across the hall and boil some water. I cut a slice of lemon and put it in a mug, then I go and clean my teeth.
I drink half a cup of hot lemon stood at the window. Next, I’m out the door for a sunrise jog. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world; the colours in the early morning need appreciating. I don’t run far. Just to get the blood pumping. About fifteen minutes.
When I get home again I drink the undrunk lemon water and flop down on a yoga matt. No yoga happens. I do something called Somatics, which has an interesting story you may like to read.
I’m recovering from shoulder surgery so the tedious but important rehab exercises come next. When they’re done, I’ll meditate for five minutes. Sometimes longer.
Next I go back into the kitchen and throw whatever smoothie ingredients I have into a blender. No set recipe. I like to experiment. I set the blender to the smoothie option and have a quick shower while it does its thing. I start hot but end with ice cold lunacy because that’s what James Bond did. This is the only part of my day that’s like James Bond’s. An easy win.
I dress, sink the smoothie and hand grind eight grams of coffee. Then I go to my desk.
How long have you stuck with this routine so far?
A few months.
Priorities shift (rebuilding my shoulder, for example), but I’ve never been able to get straight to work. I like to go outside and breathe a bit first.
How has your morning routine changed over recent years?
I had an office job for four years, so there was a routine but it wasn’t my own. Once I kicked that, I took a year off travelling when there was no routine. This is a new part of my life.
What time do you go to sleep?
It varies, but I’m not precious about it. Sometimes I nap in the afternoon.
Do you use an alarm to wake you up in the morning, and if so do you ever hit the snooze button?
No snooze button. Getting up early isn’t easy, but I’ve managed to iternalise this quote from Marcus Aurelius (credit to Ryan Holiday, which helps:
At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: ‘I have to go to work–as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I’m going to do what I was born for–the things which I was brought into the world to do? Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?’
–But it’s nicer here…
So you were born to feel “nice?” Instead of doing things and experiencing them? Why aren’t you running to do what your nature demands?
–But we have to sleep sometime…
Agreed. But nature set a limit on that–as it did on eating and drinking. And you’re over the limit. But not of working. There you’re still below your quota. You don’t love yourself enough. Or you’d love your nature too and what it demands of you. People who love what they do wear themselves down doing it, they even forget to wash and eat.
– Marcus Aurelius
Do you see to email first thing in the morning or leave it until later in the day?
Josh Waitzkin, who wrote The Art of Learning, pointed out that, “For too many people the creative process is dominated by external noise as opposed to internal music.” I learnt that to maintain clarity going into my work, looking at email is the most destructive thing I can do.
Checking email was such a powerful, reflexive pull for me – a hangover from office life – that I needed help. I installed Chrome Nanny, which you can use to block access to distracting sites between set times.
How soon do you check your phone in the morning, either for calls/messages or social media and news?
At midday, which is the same time that Chrome Nanny lets me into email. By then I’ve done a few hours’ work and I’m ready.
What are your most important tasks in the morning?
Writing is always my priority, but after that and to borrow a phrase that I read on this site, it’s the ‘big ticket’ tasks. Two or three items that are either bothering me or are important because they’ll move things forward.
On days you’re not settled in your home, are you able to adapt your routine to fit in with a different environment?
I can normally run or at least get outside, but the rest depends. Dawn can be an unforgiving hour to be clattering around in someone else’s home. I’ll just do what I can without waking people or riling anyone’s cat. Thankfully, meditation is universally portable.
Coffee: I’ll drink it if I’m alone with my work, but I can’t drink it around other people. It turns me into a raging monster of Kerouac that absolutely must get to the essence of everything right then and there. It can be socially awkward.
What do you do if you fail to follow your routine, and how does this influence the rest of your day?
Roll with it. But it’s rare. I suppose that’s what’s beautiful about early mornings. They’re consistent.
Our recommended book this week is Pivot by Jenny Blake. 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.