What is your morning routine?
I have an alarm set for 7:00am, but I normally wake up before that and listen to some Radio 4 comedy in bed. In truth, the 7:00am alarm is really my “start meditation” alarm, which I do in bed.
I’ll ideally then get up at 7:30am, weigh myself, drink a glass of water, and use an app to do some stretches. If I feel like it I’ll then do a workout too. Then it’s on to breakfast and decaf coffee. I really like to watch a TED talk or do a puzzle or crossword during this time. Then work starts at 9:00am, which either involves staying in if it’s an admin day, or getting out on the smallholding for outdoor tasks.
How long have you stuck with this routine so far?
About the last 18 months now. I refer to it as a health routine as its primary focus is to keep me healthy and care for myself in a variety of ways first thing in the morning.
It started with the meditation app, and I started using that because I carried out an assessment and design of my time and energy. I am a permaculture designer and this was an unusual application that led to dramatic changes in my life patterns. It really moved me towards a very healthy space.
How has your morning routine changed over recent years?
The whole concept of a morning routine is relatively new to me. I still can’t quite believe that I do have one. It feels very different from what most of my friends would do. My routine is checked and tweaked on a regular basis, for example I recently added in “Kiss Beth” (my partner) after reading something similar in your book. I keep a note of my current ideal routine in Evernote.
What time do you go to sleep?
I have an alarm set for 9:00pm to get myself ready for bed, and another alarm set for 9:30 to get into bed. Usually, a bit of reading and then lights out by 10:00pm is ideal.
I aim to get 10 hours in bed every night, and within that eight hours of sleep. So being in bed between 9:30pm and 7:30am is amazing and fully recharges me for the day. No afternoon naps are required. It has always taken me a while to get to sleep, so a long time ago I started listening to radio comedy (I always look forward to anything by John Finnemore) or audio stories in bed to get me to sleep. The most important characteristic of something I listen to before going to bed is that it must be something that I have listened to before, but that my brain will still enjoy listening to one more time.
Do you do anything before going to bed to make your morning easier?
I have learnt to avoid anything stimulating to the brain after 9:00pm, and even before that in some cases. So this means no television or puzzles after 9:00, and no emails or Facebook after 7:00.
Ideally the kitchen would also be tidy, but that is near impossible with teenagers in the house that stay up late eating snacks and making a mess. Nevertheless, sometimes I am treated to a tidy space when I wake up.
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 but as previously mentioned I aim to wake up before it, so snoozing is very unlikely, but lying around in bed is normal. Sometimes I have to get up before my ten hours in bed ideal, like when I am running a course and have some travelling to do. In that scenario I typically set two alarms, ten minutes apart. This still might allow me a brief meditation before I get up.
How soon after waking up do you have breakfast, and what do you typically have?
Breakfast is typically at 8:30am, so about an hour after I get up and maybe two hours after I wake up. I will have at least one glass of water when I wake up, maybe two. My favorite breakfast is definitely fruit with granola, milk, and yogurt. A couple of years ago I started using the My Fitness Pal app, which really helped with getting portions right and an increase in my protein intake. Ideally I’ll have blackcurrants or some other seasonal organic fruit from our smallholding, but I also love bananas and needless to say they don’t grow up here.
Do you have a morning workout routine?
Yes, though I don’t do it every day. The meditation is really important for me to do every day, but the workout varies.
My default workout is using the 7 Minute Workout app, which has a few options on it. I start with their stretches/yoga moves, and then if I’m up for it I move on to their 30 day challenge programme, or a full body workout programme. Sometimes I have had a full-on physical day on the smallholding the day before, so the morning after might be stretches only. If I have an admin day then I am more likely to include the full body workout. It’s only about ten minutes but it gets the heart going and hurts a bit. I also do some aspect of the workout for five minutes after every 45-50 minutes of laptop work if it’s an admin day. That keeps the brain and body balanced.
Do you have a morning meditation routine?
I downloaded the Headspace app about 18 months ago now, and I have stuck with it almost every day since. I love it. They have lots of packs covering a range of topics; they also have a one-off meditation every day, and lovely little animations. It is really informative.
I started meditating on an informal basis when I was about 16. I had occasional training, but for the most part I had a very random practice. Now, 30 years later, I am truly recognising the importance and usefulness of daily meditation. It is transformative. I call it beditation, as I find the best place for me to keep the daily practice is while I’m still in bed.
Do you answer email first thing in the morning or leave it until later in the day?
Ooh, no don’t go there. First thing in the morning is time for me, my family, and domestic duties. I might have a quick glance at emails about 9:00am, but generally I won’t go near them until 10:00.
Smartphones are so addictive, so putting boundaries on their use is really important to me. Facebook gets ten minutes a day maximum, and all notifications are switched off. To be honest, I rarely answer my phone.
What are your most important tasks in the morning?
Looking after myself, waking up gently, checking in with my brain and slowly bringing myself into the world. Once that is achieved everything else seems possible and tends to happen with ease.
If I get that wrong then the day can go pear-shaped. I use my diary to keep a note of tasks and appointments. If I decide to commit to a task then I also decide when that task will be carried out, and that goes on the appropriate day in the diary. I have a regular pattern of work, so certain responsibilities happen on certain days of the week. I can build up a suitably sized list for a day that way, and if I see I already have enough tasks planned for that day, then any additions will be added in for the following week.
What and when is your first drink in the morning?
Water, as soon as I wake up, then decaf coffee after breakfast. I have always had a touchy relationship with caffeine as I have a history of a type of migraine called cluster headache, and one of the triggers and cures for those severe pain episodes is caffeine, so I keep my intake of it to a minimum.
How does your partner fit into your morning routine?
Sometimes we clash on our needs and timing, and historically I have been a night owl and she an early bird. A few years ago, however, we became more aligned, which is really nice. If Beth goes downstairs to meditate just before I want to get up and do some stretches, this can be disturbing for her. We sync together pretty well now though, and we sometimes do a workout together, which is really supportive and motivating.
Do you also follow this routine on weekends, or do you change some steps?
I try to keep to the same routine on weekends, including my wake up time, meditation, and workout. There is a bit of flexibility as I might have more time for a workout, but equally I may have stayed up late the night before, and that ten hours in bed is really important to me.
On days you’re not settled in your home, are you able to adapt your routine to fit in with a different environment?
That is really difficult as the food changes. Maybe there is no decaf coffee, or no time or space for a little workout. One thing I try to keep consistent no matter where I am is listening to comedy before going to bed, and meditating in the morning.
What do you do if you fail to follow your morning routine, and how does this influence the rest of your day?
I go with the flow as best I can, knowing that if I am far from the ideal routine that I will get back towards it as soon as possible in a day or two.
As long as I get the sleep and rest I need I can normally still function okay. If I don’t get enough sleep, however, then I can get grumpy, irritable, and angry. Those are my warning signs and motivations for regaining balance and knowing the importance of having a healthy routine.
Photo of Wilf by Marc Perry.