What is your morning routine?
I’ve become an increasingly early riser, currently waking up at 5:00am without an alarm. After waking, I meditate for ten minutes, then prepare a cup of coffee (a mix of decaf and regular coffee) while I write whatever comes to mind for ten or fifteen minutes. When writing, I use pen and paper (no laptop).
Following that, I either read a book or go through an online course (on edX) for about an hour. Alternatively, I use my laptop to start writing a blog post. Then I have a smoothie.
At this point, I plan my day for 5-10 minutes. I pick one big thing to accomplish for the day and make a note of it on my calendar. I then scan my appointments and block off chunks of time to work on my most important tasks.
This takes me to about 7:45am or 8:00am, when I walk upstairs to my home office and begin my workday. I take a look at emails, moving quickly through them. I then begin my coaching work promptly at 8:00am with client meetings.
How long have you stuck with this routine so far?
This routine has been consistent for the past 5-6 months. Before that, it was the same with one exception - I would wake between 6:30am and 7:30am instead of 5:00am. I wouldn’t read or write in the morning. I would wake up, drink coffee, plan my day, and get to work while drinking my smoothie.
Having a few more hours in the morning to do my work is a huge benefit. I feel more accomplished by 9:00am than I used to feel all day!
How has your morning routine changed over recent years?
Waking up earlier is the major shift I’ve made. I’ve also recommitted to my habit of having a low-sugar, high-protein, plant-based smoothie in the mornings. I’ve gone on and off my smoothie habit over the years, but it makes a big difference in my daily energy when I have it consistently.
Another addition has been the free-form writing I do in the morning. Modeled after Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages exercise, I find that writing and brain-dumping my thoughts in the morning helps to jumpstart my creative juices. Sometimes, the sparks of insight I see while writing early in the morning result in great ideas for blog posts or business ideas.
What time do you go to sleep?
The key to waking up early in the morning is going to bed early in the evening! During the winter, I’m in bed by 8:30pm and I fall asleep by 9:00pm. During the summer, with more hours of daylight, I tend to be in bed by 9:30pm and asleep by 10:00pm.
Do you do anything before going to bed to make your morning easier?
I drink a cup of herbal tea and read an interesting book. That’s about it! I also keep my phone out of arm’s reach and never, ever take my laptop to bed. My morning is easiest when I have a good night’s sleep and don’t stare at any screens in the hour before bedtime.
Do you use an alarm to wake you up in the morning, and if so do you ever hit the snooze button?
I wake up naturally. If I sleep past 5:00am, it’s because I didn’t go to bed on time, I did strenuous exercise, or I ate a poor diet the day prior. Most days I wake up without trouble.
Also, I have a dog (his name is Duke) who tends to wake me up between 5:00am and 6:00am to go outside and pee. So, I have a built-in alarm clock with him!
How soon after waking up do you have breakfast, and what do you typically have?
I eat breakfast around 7:00am, a few hours after waking up. It’s a predictable smoothie made of plant-based protein powder, almond milk (unsweetened), frozen berries, and ground flax seeds. It’s about 300 calories and keeps me satiated until lunch.
Do you have a morning workout routine?
I tend to work out later in the day, in the early to late afternoon. This involves going to the gym (a mix of weights and cardio) or running 3-5 miles around my neighborhood. I’m a lifelong endurance athlete (I’ve completed many ultra-marathons and Ironman triathlons).
Right now I am not competing actively, so my exercise is geared toward what I enjoy. When I am actively training for a competition, I do more early morning workouts.
Do you have a morning meditation routine, and if so what kind of meditation do you practice?
Meditation is the greatest life hack that most people don’t use. I meditate for ten minutes each morning.
My meditation practice started when I was a young child. I stopped meditating regularly when I was in my late teens but then started up again in my twenties. I begin by focusing on my breath, eventually transitioning to a Sanskrit mantra that has deep meaning to me. I’m now thirty-seven, so this practice has been with me for a long time! It’s a profoundly important practice to me.
Do you answer email first thing in the morning or leave it until later in the day?
I go through a round of email in the morning, responding to important client emails. Then, later in the day, I do the same thing. Emails that are not critical will be flagged and checked back on later in the week as time allows.
Having spent over thirteen years working at Microsoft Corporation, a very email-intensive company, I’ve become adept at moving quickly through email so I can focus on my important work.
Do you use any apps or products to enhance your sleep or morning routine?
I do not. However, for meditation I’ve experimented with the Headspace app. It is a really great experience for meditation.
How soon do you check your phone in the morning?
I disabled all notifications (except calls and SMS) and removed all social apps from my phone. So at this point, my phone is mostly used as a clock. I don’t even have email on my phone!
That said, I do look at it relatively early in the morning, around 5:30am on most days, to see if I have any missed calls from family that are important.
What are your most important tasks in the morning?
Meditating, writing, reading/studying, and drinking a cup of coffee!
What and when is your first drink in the morning?
For a while I cut out caffeine, so I was drinking herbal tea or herbal chai. Now, however, I enjoy a cup of coffee (or two!). I make the espresso from scratch, grinding and brewing the coffee using a ratio of one-third caffeinated to two-thirds decaffeinated beans. I drink my coffee black.
How does your partner fit into your morning routine?
My wife wakes up about an hour after me, so we have plenty of quiet time apart. We are on the same wavelength, and when I sit in the living room to read, she joins me when she gets up, reading a book of her own.
Do you also follow this routine on weekends, or do you change some steps?
Absolutely! I do the exact same thing! Sometimes, I wake up a little later (5:30am-6:00am), but that would be the only difference between a weekend and a weekday.
On days you’re not settled in your home, are you able to adapt your routine to fit in with a different environment?
Yes, it’s not an issue. My breakfast might change, switching to a protein bar instead of a smoothie, but the overall routine will stay the same!
What do you do if you fail to follow your morning routine, and how does this influence the rest of your day?
I designed my routine to be helpful. This means that if I miss it, I don’t worry too much about it. For example, if I woke up late and had to jump into work (e.g., rush to a meeting), I would skip my meditation, writing, reading, and coffee. I would simply grab a protein bar and start the meeting.
Then, later in the day, I would squeeze in the things I missed, if possible. The biggest impact comes from waking up late. When I wake up before 6:00am, I end up having a lot of time to take care of myself and think about things (which ends up being a fun exercise for me!). So if my routine is disrupted, I miss out on that. The good news is that I get to start again the next day and pick up my routine again. That’s the cool thing about designing a morning routine - you get to practice it daily!
Anything else you would like to add?
If you aren’t an early riser, I really encourage you to start becoming one. It’s a life-changer!
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.