“I enjoy the act of writing and having a tangible to-do list, as the majority of things I create and do are digital. Paper and pencil feels more accountable to me.” – Sabrina Hall Share this quote on Twitter

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Sabrina Hall

What is your morning routine?

My alarm goes off at 6:05am (though I occasionally snooze). I then prepare my coffee and a protein-and-fruit shake and am out the door by 6:35. From there I commute to my work gym where I exercise for an hour.

This routine is new—I’m about six months in and enjoying the results thus far. I consider myself a night owl, so the earlier wake-up time has been quite the learning experience.

My sleep schedule varied constantly over the last five years when I was an independent consultant. I was always working, looking for work, making pitches, and trying to find my way though what at the time felt like a sea of unknown. I was comfortable with staying up later at night as it was the best time for me to concentrate and take care of tasks without interruption.

The shift started about two years ago after becoming engrossed in the care of a loved one while still consulting. I realized that I did not have enough bandwidth to do it all and started to feel the effects on my health. I was constantly sluggish, exhausted, and burnt out. After taking some time to reevaluate, I started the process of self-care, which included working out with a trainer. However, she only had availability in the mornings, so this was the first step toward an earlier routine.

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Working through and keeping this routine made me realize I had to prioritize sleep more than before. Why? Well, because I felt awful working out after only four or five hours of sleep, and my trainer reminded me that it was generally unhealthy. While it initially felt like a gargantuan undertaking, I learned that I can start my day earlier and maximize things for my health while still taking care of personal and professional responsibilities. I now make my morning workout a priority regardless of where I am working and what time I have to start. I will say that I am still not a morning person… I still struggle with waking up early, but I’m accustomed to my routine and appreciate and respect it enough to not break it.

How has your morning routine changed over recent years?

Over the years my routine has continually changed. Alongside my move to working out early in the day, I am learning to focus my energy in the mornings before the day becomes busy with various tasks. My morning time is very precious to me, as it is a dedicated time of self-care. I used to attend to emails first thing in the morning, but they do not belong in that space anymore; I find that they can be more distracting than helpful for me.

What time do you go to sleep?

Between 11:00pm and midnight.

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

Yes, I prep as much as possible. My husband sets up the coffee maker so I have a fresh brew ready in the morning, and he also packs my lunch. I pack my gym bag, lay out my workout clothes, and prepare all the ingredients for my shake the next morning. Additionally, I make a list of all my main tasks for the next day, both personal and professional. This allows me to step back, assess my plans for the following day, and sleep better.

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

Yes, and all the time…

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

I usually have breakfast about half an hour after waking up. On the days I go to the gym I have my breakfast later, as I can’t eat anything before working out—my stomach can’t handle it.

My typical breakfast is a shake made with yogurt, bananas, spinach, blueberries, plant-based protein powder, and almond milk.

Do you have a morning workout routine?

I do! I start my gym routine with dynamic stretching, which includes lunges, hip stretches, and high kicks. From there, I run five kilometers on the treadmill. Over the past few months I have decreased my time from a fourteen-minute mile to a twelve-and-a-half-minute mile, which I am very proud of, having not been a lifelong runner. I then wrap up the routine with a round of weights for about fifteen minutes.

Each day I switch up the area of focus with the weights, working on my back, legs, and arms throughout the week.

Do you have a morning meditation routine?

Not yet, but this is a goal of mine—I would love to add meditation to my routine. I am trying to learn more about being still and listening to my body.

I currently work out three days a week in the morning. On the other two days I sleep in an extra half hour, but I’m hoping to use that time to meditate or to think more about the day ahead.

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

Recently I’ve been trying not to; however, as I have a long commute to work, I end up checking emails around 8:00am, which I consider okay.

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

I like to use the website sleepyti.me to help plan my sleep times.

How soon do you check your phone in the morning?

My alarm is on my phone, so I do see texts right away, but I try not to check emails or anything else until later. I also do not have any push notifications on my phone, which helps.

What are your most important tasks in the morning?

Making coffee, mixing my shake, and grabbing my lunch (in that order). I also grab my hand-written to-do list and my Kindle, if it’s charging.

Writing my to-do list by hand is something I have done for as long as I can remember. I believe that the act of writing a list by hand helps to set things to memory. It also allows me to take the time to reflect and review. I enjoy the act of writing and having a tangible list, as the majority of things I create and do are digital. Paper and pencil feels more accountable to me.

What and when is your first drink in the morning?

Water. I have a glass before dashing out the door.

How does your partner fit into your morning routine?

My husband is a wonderful partner to help support me with this morning routine. As a public school teacher, he is up regularly and early every day. He always asks if I need help in the morning, and when I am running late, he makes my shake and coffee.

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

Weekends are completely different. I am such a late sleeper on the weekends—sometimes I do not wake up until 9:00 or 10:00am. I’m convinced that my body is always trying to play catch up.

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

It’s been a challenge. I have not found the best way to adapt it as of yet, but it’s a work in progress. I do not have to travel for work, so the times I am away are normally for leisure, during which I tend to do simple stretches or yoga, if I can.

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

I tell myself, “Okay, just try again tomorrow.” I’ve found it’s important to be kind to myself to keep my energy positive and focused for the rest of the day. I try to hold myself accountable, though, and if I miss the morning routine I make up the time during the evening or on the weekend.

There are days when I have to adjust my morning workout routine. This can be due to having meetings in the morning or getting home late after a class or workshop the previous evening. Since working out is such an instrumental part of my mornings now, I miss it when I don’t do it and will go for a short run or even the entire five kilometers in the evening. Evening runs are lovely, as I usually do these outdoors and they become a very meditative experience. Running is a great way to think about the day and release any concerns from my mind.


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