Sara Rosso is a writer, photographer, technology lover, and the Director of Marketing at Automattic. Originally from California, Sara has been living in Rome, Italy for over twelve years.
What is your morning routine?
My morning routine is pretty simple: wake up (usually by an alarm), prepare self for outside world by brushing/cleaning various things, and get my coffee. My first drink is almost always an espresso, shortly followed by lots of water. Then I get ready for the world, and work.
How long have you stuck with this routine so far?
I’ve had this specific routine for at least the past five years, since I’ve been working from home.
What time do you go to sleep?
Usually close to midnight. I found out during all-nighters in engineering school in college that my brain does not like intensive work past midnight.
Do you do anything before going to bed to make your morning easier?
If something is swirling in my head, I won’t get to bed easily, so I note it in my to-do list or notes and that usually does the trick. I’m a big fan of writing things down in order to get them out of my head, thus my many lists which are almost brainstorming.
Usually when I shut down work for the evening I list a few things I’ll tackle in the morning. That way I can stop thinking about them for the evening and in the morning I have a ready-made to-do list!
Do you use an alarm to wake you up in the morning, and if so do you ever hit the snooze button?
I do use an alarm most mornings but often I’ll wake up before it, especially in the summer.
I definitely never snooze because I wake up immediately when I hear an alarm. In college, my roommate was a repeat snoozer and had classes earlier than I a few days a week. The next semester, I ended up scheduling all 8:00am classes so I’d have a reason to wake up instead of hearing her alarm. :)
How soon after waking up do you have breakfast, and what do you typically have?
It depends which country I’m in!
Honestly, though I’ve been based in Italy 12 years I haven’t ever become a big fan of the pastries eaten with the espresso, but I’m definitely a big fan of espresso. If I’m in Rome on the weekend I might sneak in a little maritozzo, a small sweet roll filled with whipped cream, or if I’m elsewhere I’ll try something local, but I usually default to a KIND bar, oatmeal, greek yogurt, pizza bianca, or just hold on until lunch.
It’s still in flux. I love chilaquiles and eggs and will eat them when I can get them (usually in California). If I’m making coffee at home with my moka pot, the time spent waiting for it to brew is usually a good time to prepare myself mentally to work.
Do you have a morning workout routine?
I definitely prefer to work out in the mornings vs. the evenings as I find it’s something that is easy to put off and reschedule if you aren’t careful. And you can enjoy the endorphins more during the day - sometimes working out in the evenings actually made it harder for me to sleep!
If I can’t get to the gym I sometimes do the 7-Minute Workout which hits all of your muscle groups.
Do you answer email first thing in the morning or leave it until later in the day?
After coffee and when I’m in work mode, I do tend to look at notifications and emails first thing in the morning, and answer anything which is blocking the person waiting for an answer.
Since I work in a distributed company, I pay extra attention to getting replies to people so they can move forward in their time zone. I admit I spend a larger portion than I’d like in the morning consuming information and I’d like to shift more to creating first, but it takes time to create these habits. :)
Do you use any apps or products to enhance your sleep or morning routine?
No, I’m lucky to sleep pretty soundly and through the night. I checked my sleep log on Fitbit at the beginning when I got it but it pretty much confirmed what I suspected: that I sleep through the night. Because I travel so heavily, I definitely want to acclimate to the local time as soon as possible so I always sleep with the curtains open so the sun wakes me in the morning.
I’ve started using the Balanced app to help me make sure I’m making time for myself and the things I want to do, like write on my sites or take walks, on a rolling basis.
How soon do you check your phone in the morning?
My phone is my alarm, so I’ll have it close at hand, but I don’t let my phone act as my task manager. I’ve never been one to allow complete access to myself through my phone - I don’t have work or personal email installed on my phone, I try to keep time speaking on the phone to near zero, and I have notifications turned off for almost all of my apps. I even moved work apps to the second screen on my phone so I’m less tempted to open them when I’m not working.
With that being said, it’s not that I’m not trying to interact with people, I just think there’s a time and place for those things - I really dislike Facebook Messenger, for example, and refuse to install it on my phone (and only use the desktop version). I’m pretty findable online through my various profiles and have several places where people can contact me and interact - email is definitely my preferred route of contact.
Early morning, I’ll usually scan Instagram quickly for some visual stimulation and open Feedly (an RSS reader) to catch up on some of the sites I follow.
Do you also follow this routine on weekends, or do you change some steps?
My routine post-coffee is pretty different on weekends - I try to stay off my computer as much as I can unless I’m working on a digital project or communicating with family.
Since I live abroad, and work for a tech company, and love technology in general, it’s really tempting to make your computer your window to the world, but recently I’ve been trying to put more focus on non-digital activities, thus my emphasis on #analogfundays as a way to make sure I’m getting creative offline.
On days you’re not settled in your home, are you able to adapt your routine to fit in with a different environment?
Since I’m traveling about 50% of the time, it’s actually even more important that I stick to this routine. If I’m staying somewhere new, I often scout the area for coffee places before I get there so that I get a walk in the morning (my form of a commute) and then back to work. It ensures I leave my hotel/location at least once that day! :)
Also, I prefer not to fly before 9:00am when possible (especially when flying transatlantic) because if I have to get up before 5:00am I usually won’t sleep well the night before, thus ruining that night’s sleep, too. It’s never a good idea to plan on sleeping on the plane - I’ve been on enough rough or noisy flights to know it’s not a sure thing, and you can end up being destroyed after.
What do you do if you fail to follow your morning routine, and how does this influence the rest of your day?
I have the sense of something being unfinished if I don’t follow my morning routine. Some people may think it’s the ultimate sign of relaxation to check email in your pajamas, but it unnerves me.
I like being prepared and if I get an invite for a coffee or lunch with someone, I’m already ready to walk out the door.
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