What is your morning routine?
I routinely wake up at 6:00am each morning. I set an alarm each night and then wake up on my own about two minutes before the alarm goes off. And yet, I still set the alarm for fear there will be that one day I don’t wake up on time. I’ve had this fear for years, and I still continue to set the alarm and wake up just before it goes off.
Once up, I take care of the dog (we just got a new miniature schnauzer, and Otto insists I go hang with him in the backyard for a few minutes while he goes to the bathroom… weird dog) and then get ready for the day.
My wife laughs at my “get ready routine” because it’s the exact same every morning in the exact same order. I shave, brush my teeth, floss, gargle (note that while gargling I clean my ears with Q-tips… I know… too much information), brush my teeth again (I’m a little OCD about my teeth), and then shower. Hey, you asked for the routine, so I’m telling it to you. This “get ready” order never varies.
How long have you stuck with this routine so far?
This routine has gone on for at least the past ten years. Maybe longer. Yes, I’m just that boring.
How has your morning routine changed over recent years?
When I’m training to run a marathon (I’ve completed seventeen so far, but lest you think I’m bragging… I haven’t won any medals for my finish times… some people walk faster than I run), I set the alarm for an earlier time depending on the length of the training run that morning.
On mornings when I’m doing a long run and need to get up at, say, 4:30am, I absolutely need the alarm to wake me up!
What time do you go to sleep?
I’m fortunate in that I don’t require a lot of sleep. Six hours seems to work well for me. So, I watch my late-night talk shows for a few laughs, go to bed around midnight, and wake up at 6:00am (well, 5:58am, to be exact).
Do you do anything before going to bed to make your morning easier?
The thing I’m ridiculed most for by my family is my habit of preparing my clothes the night before: shirt always ironed (I watch a rerun of Friends while ironing it); pants, socks, shoes, and belt all laid out. I know… crazy. My son-in-law calls it “The Todd Method.” The other day he said, “I had an early morning meeting so I did ‘The Todd Method’ last night.” The family all laughs. But as they are all running around the house in the morning looking for that shoe or sweater they can’t find, I’m calmly walking out the door dressed and ready for my day - and in a pressed shirt! So, laugh away!
Do you use an alarm to wake you up in the morning, and if so do you ever hit the snooze button?
As I mentioned previously, I am religious about setting the alarm and never needing it. My eyes are open two minutes before it goes off. I lie there, wait for it to buzz (actually that’s a lie; it doesn’t buzz - a radio station comes on), and then get up.
On weekends I sometimes set it for later (6:30 or even 7:00am… I know… so indulgent of me) and still wake up a minute or two before it goes off. In those cases, I hit the snooze button, lie there awake for ten minutes until it goes off again, and then turn it off and get up.
How soon after waking up do you have breakfast, and what do you typically have?
Okay… no judgment here please. I have breakfast on my way to work. My breakfast typically takes place at the drive-through at McDonalds (I said “no judgement”) where I order a large Diet Coke in a foam cup (it’s awesome, no extra charge for the foam cup) and a bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit: $4.73. It’s pretty sad that the guy at the drive-through knows me by name, right?
Do you have a morning workout routine?
I do when training for a marathon, which I’m just about to start again. It consists of running three mornings of the work week - usually Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday - for 3-6 miles depending on the training program for that day. I go for a much longer run of anywhere from 8-15 miles on Saturdays.
My wife and I just got bikes for our anniversary, so I plan to start riding during those weeks when I’m not training for a marathon. But I’m a big talker. That riding hasn’t happened yet.
Do you have a morning meditation routine?
I will read something uplifting or meaningful for ten minutes or so each morning. Years ago I wrote what’s called a “personal mission statement” that outlines my values and my highest priorities. I often read through that and just spend a few minutes on personal reflection before the day begins.
Do you answer email first thing in the morning or leave it until later in the day?
After I’m dressed I quickly check my email and appointments for the day. If there is anything urgent or easy to answer, I take care of it right then. My goal is to have my inbox empty at the end of each day. It’s a goal I rarely achieve, but I continually work on it.
Email is a bit like a “whack-a-mole” game for me throughout the day. During any spare time I have in the morning or between meetings, I go at it… whack-a-mole, baby!
Do you use any apps or products to enhance your sleep or morning routine?
No particular apps, but there is a product we purchased about five years ago that changed my life (at least my life while I’m asleep). After talking with a friend at work who had recently purchased a very expensive bed, we did the same thing. I think our new mattress cost more than my first car, but it is worth every single penny. I won’t advertise the brand here, but I will say that never again will I underestimate the difference a good bed/mattress can make for the quality of my sleep. Next to my family and dog, it’s up there as one of my favorite things.
How soon do you check your phone in the morning?
I check my phone first thing when I walk out to the backyard with our dog, just to make sure nothing urgent has come in. You know… because I’m just that important ;)
What are your most important tasks in the morning?
Well… getting the new puppy outside to relieve himself is currently my most important morning “task.” But after that, checking on any urgencies that have come up that might need to be addressed is a close second. While I have a phenomenal team at work, as FranklinCovey’s Chief People Officer, I feel ultimately responsible for the hundreds of talented associates at our company. So in that respect, I’m “on call” when anyone needs me.
What and when is your first drink in the morning?
Other than a quick swig of water to wash down my daily vitamin, as I shamefully admitted a minute ago, it’s a Diet Coke from McDonald’s. Even as I type this I realize I’ve got to stop that. Now, to be fair, when I’m training for a marathon I don’t have the Diet Coke until later in the day and instead start the morning off with water… lots of water.
How does your partner fit into your morning routine?
My wife has her morning routine as well, which is different than mine (Zumba classes at a local recreation center).
I definitely have my own space, unless she sleeps in, which happens regularly when she and I have been up the night before watching a recorded Dateline or 48 Hours, our favorite TV shows. Although the stories are always the same (guy meets the love of his life, marries her, takes out a large life insurance policy on her, she ends up dead, and you find out he’s been having an affair the entire time), it’s riveting television worth staying up for. I highly recommend it.
Do you also follow this routine on weekends, or do you change some steps?
I may add a half hour onto my sleep on the weekends, but that just means I lie in bed with my eyes open for an extra thirty minutes. How was it that as a teenager I could sleep until noon or later?
The rest of the morning is similar except the “get ready routine” consists of just brushing my teeth (and only once). I actually enjoy yard work, so I throw on some shorts and spend a couple of hours mowing the lawn, trimming the bushes, etc. On those days, the rest of the “get ready routine” happens after the yard work is complete.
On days you’re not settled in your home, are you able to adapt your routine to fit in with a different environment?
I sometimes travel for work and, depending on the time zones, I try to stick to a similar routine. I usually don’t sleep as well because I don’t have my incredible bed with me.
What do you do if you fail to follow your morning routine, and how does this influence the rest of your day?
When I follow my routine, I feel on top of the world. Regardless of what the day has in store for me, I feel accomplished and in control. It makes a significant, tangible difference when I stick to my routine.
So, what happens when I don’t? Just the opposite. I get caught up in what I call “the pinball syndrome,” bouncing from one thing to the next and ending the day feeling like very little of what is important has been accomplished. Discipline is a very powerful motivator.
Anything else you would like to add?
What a great set of questions. It’s a little creepy, I’ll admit… feeling like the world (or at least anyone who reads this) now knows the details of my morning life (including how I clean my ears). But honestly, in writing this out and really having to think about it, I have a renewed determination to have more days “on” than “off.” (It also made me realize that I use “quotation marks” a lot!)
Photo of Todd by FranklinCovey.