Sam Spurlin is a Ph.D student exploring the art and science of personal development at Claremont Graduate University, California, focusing on helping people use positive psychology to improve their lives.
What is your morning routine?
I try to wake up between 6 and 6:30am every day. Three days a week I go to the gym and lift weights at 8:00am, so that time period between when I wake up and when I go to the gym I try to use as productively as possible.
If I’m on top of all my school and work assignments (I’m a graduate student) then I try to use this first block of being awake for personal writing or some kind of side project. If I’m behind on reading or need to finish an assignment I’ll try to get into the work as soon as I’m feeling conscious.
The process of feeling conscious usually consists of browsing Twitter, Facebook, and maybe my email on my phone while I lay in bed. I used to feel bad about this but I think it actually helps ease me into my day. Sometimes I’ll read an article or two on Instapaper as well. Once I’ve done this (about 5-10 minutes) I usually feel awake enough to get vertical. After a quick bio-stop I’ll put some water on the stove to prep for coffee. I make a big French press of freshly roasted coffee every morning and I usually share it with my girlfriend. Once the coffee is brewed and I’ve got a couple sips in me, that’s when I try to get into my first work block of the day.
On days I don’t go to the gym that just means working all morning before heading to class. Occasionally I’ll have early morning coaching calls (some of my clients are on the east coast and I’m in California) and once a week I have a group call with a couple friends/business colleagues at 6:00am.
How long have you stuck with this routine so far?
I’ve been doing this routine, or a slight variation of it, for a long time. I think I’ve always been a pretty early riser but I’ve only been lifting consistently in the morning for the past two months or so.
How has your morning routine changed over recent years?
Adding lifting in the morning is relatively new. At other times I’ve been a runner — although I always had trouble running in the morning.
When I was teaching a few years ago I would get up at 4-4:30am to prepare my lessons for the upcoming day. That was a crazy time — even for someone who loves the morning as much as me.
What time do you go to sleep?
If everything goes according to plan I’m in bed between 10 and 10:30pm. I’d say that happens about 25% of the time. The rest of the time I’d say I’m in bed by 11 or 11:30pm.
Every once in awhile I’ll have a late night. I try to make those the exception instead of the norm so when I do it it feels special and I make sure I’m ultra-productive.
Do you use an alarm to wake you up in the morning, and if so do you ever hit the snooze button?
Yep on the alarm, sometimes on the snooze. If I snooze it’s usually only once (once in a long while I’ll give myself two snoozes).
How soon after waking up do you have breakfast, and what do you typically have?
Coffee immediately, food a couple hours later. When I lift weights I’ll come home and try to have a protein heavy breakfast (protein shake and usually some kind of vegetarian omelette). On days I don’t work out I’ll do something egg-based occasionally, or I’ll have oatmeal and some fruit (and occasionally yogurt or cottage cheese).
Do you practice morning meditation?
I’m off and on with my meditation practice. When it’s going well, I usually meditate in the mid to late morning. When it’s not going well I tell myself I’ll do it before bed and it never ends up happening.
Do you see to email first thing in the morning or leave it until later in the day?
I’ll take a look at it on my phone and star anything I need to deal with. Very rarely do I respond to email in the morning. I usually try to end my day wrapping up any communication that needs to happen. I try not to let email filter into my consciousness all day long.
What are your most important tasks in the morning?
Some kind of writing needs to happen in the morning for me to feel like I’m not wasting my time. Morning is prime productivity/creative time for me so I try to do my best to not squander it. Sometimes that’s writing for school or an independent research project, or for my website.
What do you do if you fail to follow your routine, and how does this influence the rest of your day?
If I fail to follow my routine I get momentarily sad and then I carry on with my day because who wants to be a sad person all day long? Seriously though, I’ve noticed that I’m such a better/more pleasant person when I get up early and take care of business, so I try to be very consistent with it.
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