Steven Heller is the former art director of The New York Times Book Review, and co-founder and co-chair of the MFA Design program at the School of Visual Arts. Steven currently lives in New York City.
What is your morning routine?
I wake up between 4:30 and 5:00am. I’ll get up, go to the computer, and check my email. Then I turn to my blog, The Daily Heller (Print Magazine). The day’s item usually launches automatically between 1:00 and 2:00am, so I’ll share it on Facebook and Twitter.
When I’m in the mood, I’ll run across the street to the gym at around 6:00am. By anywhere from 7:15-7:45am, I’ve started walking to my work about a mile or two away. Once I get there, I write down whatever is due on that particular day, or work on answers to questions like these.
How long have you stuck with this routine so far?
Decades—at least three decades. I take a break on holidays and weekends.
How has your morning routine changed over recent years?
I’m trying to sleep longer and read the physical New York Times a little bit longer. It’s working most mornings, but not all.
What time do you go to sleep?
It depends on how tired I am or if there is something good on TV. I usually try to turn in at around 10:00-10:30pm, but I often cannot fall asleep until after 11:00pm.
Do you do anything before going to bed to make your morning easier?
I often read an Agatha Christie story before bed.
Do you use an alarm to wake you up in the morning, and if so do you ever hit the snooze button?
I use the alarm on my iPhone, never hit the snooze button, and often wake up before the alarm.
How soon after waking up do you have breakfast, and what do you typically have?
Pretty soon. I have to take pills that need food with them (I drink sparkling water to take them). I usually have granola and almond milk—some kind of nutty stuff with dry fruit. It’s cheap from Trader Joe’s. Sometimes I just have dry toast. I’m an ascetic.
Do you have a morning workout routine?
When I go to the gym, I do a bunch of machines. We all have to go to the gym. It’s necessary at a certain age. I use the stationary bike, pull-down bar, pull-up weights, and chest press. Most of the time, as noted, I walk to work.
Do you have a morning meditation routine?
I don’t meditate; I worry. Worrying takes up all the meditating space I have.
Do you answer email first thing in the morning or leave it until later in the day?
I answer email the minute I receive it (I look at email on my laptop).
What are your most important tasks in the morning?
Being alive. Shaving my head. Taking a shower. Taking my pills. Considering how not to think about Trump.
How does your partner fit into your morning routine?
I usually make enough noise that she wakes up. Then it’s like a cartoon version of life. She goes one direction, I go the other, and we meet in the kitchen.
Do you also follow this routine on weekends, or do you change some steps?
On weekends I try to sleep a little later. It doesn’t always work. When we go up to our house in the mountains on the weekends, we wake up early on Saturday to call for the car. It takes two and a half hours to drive there, and we usually stop for breakfast along the way. When we get there, I take a nap, and then it’s time to go back to the city again.
On days you’re not settled in your home, are you able to adapt your routine to fit in with a different environment?
Sometimes. Routines are funny things. Following them causes a certain level of stress. Not following them causes a different level of stress. Either way, I’m never totally comfortable.
Anything else you would like to add?
I always feel much better when I’m at my desk. Life’s funny.
Photo of Steven by David Everly.
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