What is your morning routine?
I normally wake up between 6:15am and 6:45am, depending on how late I stayed up the night before. I’ve finally broken the habit of checking my phone while I’m still in bed. No more email, news, iMessages, Instagram, Twitter, etc., while I’m still lying there. I can’t tell you how nice it is not to start my day with that mental clutter.
I used to start working immediately because I work for myself; now, however, I work out first thing in the morning. I love starting my day already feeling so accomplished. If frustrating things happen during the day, I can always look back to my morning workout and think, “I ran ten miles this morning, so I can handle _____.”
I have a rule that I don’t have any meetings until 10:00am, but I make exceptions for calls with European clients. I have this rule because I know I’m really productive in the morning. I try to reserve that time so that I’ll always have a solid block of hours to get uninterrupted work done.
How long have you stuck with this routine so far?
I’ve been guarding my mornings for about the last two years, and I started working out exclusively in the mornings in the last year.
How has your morning routine changed over recent years?
I used to jump directly into work. The problem I found was as soon as people started getting emails from me or seeing tweets, they knew I was ’available’ and then I’d start getting distracted.
I’ve slowly tried to stay off the radar in the mornings (minus some pre-scheduled tweets). I honestly don’t check email for at least the first ninety minutes of the day. It feels so amazing not to get sucked into non-urgent things in the morning. And to my surprise, I’m not even tempted to check email. Once I got through the first two weeks of doing it, it just became a habit.
What time do you go to sleep?
I wish I went to sleep earlier. I normally go to sleep around 11:30pm. I wish it were about 10:45pm.
Do you do anything before going to bed to make your morning easier?
Every day I have a to-do list that has the top five things I need to do that day. At the end of the day I look at my list, and if I didn’t finish anything, I transfer those to-do items to my list for the next day. I don’t use an app for this, I just switch between paper and the Notes app on my iPhone.
I have to admit that I’m bad about staying off my computer at night. I know it’s not good for sleep. But I do have a program called f.lux, which automatically changes the color of your computer’s display based on the time of day. This lessens the strain on your eyes and reduces exposure to that “blue light” that’s bad for your sleep habits.
I wear an eye mask to bed religiously to block out all the light from my fan, air purifier, modem, and other electronics in my apartment.
Do you use an alarm to wake you up in the morning, and if so do you ever hit the snooze button?
I use an app called Sleep Cycle as my alarm. The premise of the app is that it is better to wake up during certain parts of your sleep cycle than others. Instead of choosing a specific time to wake up, you tell Sleep Cycle when you would like to wake up by, and it wakes you up within a thirty-minute window of that time.
This has changed my life. I find that when I wake up with Sleep Cycle, I am much less tired and rarely hit snooze.
Sleep Cycle also helps me sleep. It tracks my time slept, number of times woken up, etc., and it gives me a sleep score each week. I can’t prove the psychology behind this, but I’m convinced that the accountability of the app has helped me create better sleep habits.
How soon after waking up do you have breakfast, and what do you typically have?
When I get up in the morning, I always drink lemon water. It wakes me up without being jarring, and it helps me rehydrate. Next, I either make a latte with almond milk in my Nespresso machine or have black tea with almond milk.
I try to eat within two hours of waking up. I’m a protein person. Sometimes I boil two eggs and add some feta cheese, or other times I’ll have a protein shake that I make in this awesome single serve blender.
I also try to have a snack in the mid-morning (maybe an apple, almonds, veggies, or yogurt) and drink a bunch more water.
Do you have a morning workout routine?
I’m training for the NYC marathon right now, so I work out six days a week. I run four or five days and cross-train one or two days a week. It keeps me quite busy but I love having a problem to follow.
I also stretch for at least ten minutes so that I don’t get injured!
Do you have a morning meditation routine?
Do you answer email first thing in the morning or leave it until later in the day?
I don’t check email first thing in the morning. I try to quickly scan my email and respond to anything urgent. I put anything that isn’t urgent into a folder that I check on Fridays when I do all my follow ups.
Sometimes I will respond to emails early in the morning, but I use Boomerang to have it sent out later in the day so that people don’t get the impression that I’m online and available and start messaging me.
How soon do you check your phone in the morning?
I wait until I’m physically out of bed. Normally it’s about ten minutes after I wake up because I’m busy making lemon water or getting ready to head out to the gym.
What are your most important tasks in the morning?
I always check in with my daily to-do list that I made the night before. I review it and re-prioritize it if things have changed in any way. It’s important for me to anchor my day with this list so that when other things pop up, I always have my list as a form of accountability. If it’s not on the list, I really have to think if I should do it or not.
What and when is your first drink in the morning?
Lemon water, and then tea or coffee. But if I’m doing a longer run (maybe more than twelve miles), I’ll mix a special drink that aids performance for endurance athletes by helping to sustain your blood sugar and use fat (rather than sugar) for fuel.
Do you also follow this routine on weekends, or do you change some steps?
I don’t regularly sleep in on weekends, but every now and then it happens. I’m normally up before 7:45am, though. I like to have Saturday mornings to myself to catch up on house chores or work on personal projects. I also try to read a few articles from my Instapaper account that I’m always saving during the week.
On days you’re not settled in your home, are you able to adapt your routine to fit in with a different environment?
I was just in Europe for two weeks and didn’t miss a beat. I woke up early, worked out, sustained my normal diet, and continued to keep up with my work on the days that I’d planned to be connected and working.
I actually love working away from home because I have far fewer distractions and I feel like I can focus even more. Traveling means I have no responsibilities around my apartment, and I have a limited wardrobe so I’m not changing my outfit a bunch of times.
Even when I’m on vacation, I still try to get up early and work out. Everything else is a toss up, especially if I’m traveling with others instead of traveling solo.
What do you do if you fail to follow your morning routine, and how does this influence the rest of your day?
I used to beat myself up if I slept in or missed a workout. But honestly, I don’t let it mess up my flow anymore. If I sleep in, it’s probably because my body really needs it and I haven’t been paying enough attention to go to sleep early or to sleep in a little more. I absolutely hate being rushed in the morning, though, so I try to just be more efficient throughout the day so I can make up time.
Having fewer hours in my day is almost a challenge to see how focused I can get - and how little I can get caught up in social media or in reading articles and things like that.
Anything else you would like to add?
One thing that’s helped me create new habits and break old ones was following a program called Tiny Habits. It was created by Dr. BJ Fogg, a professor at Stanford. It’s a super simple (and free) five-day program to try and create new habits in your life. I highly recommend it.