My Morning Routine

(Inspired by one of my regular haunts: the ‘My Morning Routine’ blog)

What is your morning routine?

I wake up between 04:45 and 05:15. I do some ankle stretch exercises while lying in the bed. To save myself from checking email, news, or another distraction, I use the ankle stretch time to sync my watch (Fenix 3) with the Garmin app. This shows me how much, and what quality sleep I got.

Then I go downstairs and drink half a tumbler of warm water with half a lime squeezed in. By the time I finish the water, my dog is up and about. We go out to the backyard for his morning rituals. This takes 5-10 mins, depending on whether the moon is still visible (he spends 5 mins barking at it, and getting told off by me).

After we return indoors, he goes off to sleep, and I make my coffee. I make the coffee the slow way—grind the beans, heat the water, place the wet filter and ground beans in the clever dripper, and then pour over the warm water. I then place the lid on, letting it brew for 4-5 mins. I use this time to walk around, wake up the body, and do some step raises.

An example day plan in Calendar
A sample day plan in Calendar

Usually, by the time the coffee is ready, I am wide awake – both in the head and in the muscles. I now head upstairs with the coffee and a tumbler of water, ready to start the work day.

I schedule the first 30 mins for coffee and catching up – basically gathering my thoughts, remembering where I left yesterday, and thinking of the top highlights I want to focus on today. I also use this time to lay out my calendar for the day (A sample is in the screenshot attached). I schedule 30 mins for all this, but it rarely takes more than 10 mins.

I then work for ~3 hours, usually from 06:00 to 10:00, with an hour’s break somewhere in between for loo and more ankle & calf exercises. These are my best 3 hours—I enjoy working then, and usually get more done in these hours than in rest of the day.

Around 10, I take Chewie for a walk, followed by some back and core exercises. By 11:30 I am back upstairs working for another 2-3 hours.

How long have you stuck with this routine so far?

This exact routine has been in place for around 7 months now. But I have been working towards it for almost two years.

How has your morning routine changed over recent years?

I have been a late riser, a night owl, for most of my life. 4 years ago, my wife used to wake me by placing a coffee at my side table when she left for office – usually around 8:30. I would slowly drink the coffee, catch up on email, twitter, news, and other time sinks for another hour or more. Around 10, I’ll head off to the loo. Then walk the dog, eat a brunch, and finally get down to work by noon. I rarely went to bed before midnight, often well after it.

Two years ago I decided to change that routine. I also accepted that changing it suddenly wouldn’t work for me. So I started on a slow change plan – waking up another half an hour earlier every 3-4 months. There was a time that I was proud of the progress for starting work by 09:00 – my previous wake up time. These days I have worked 3 hours by 9 – usually my best 3 hours.

What time do you go to sleep?

I prefer to get into bed around 21:30, and be asleep by 22:00. Most days, I sleep by 22:30. If I haven’t hit the bed by 23:30, I switch off the early alarms. I leave on an old alarm set at 07:43. Irrespective of what time I hit the bed, I am awake before that fallback alarm these days.

Do you use an alarm to wake you up in the morning, and if so do you ever hit the snooze button?

Yes, and yes. I have 3 alarms on my phone starting 04:31. I almost always snooze the third alarm (04:44) – usually once, often up to 4 times.

I have set up my alarms at irregular – non multiples of 5 – times. The snooze is 9 mins. The idea behind it is to make my head work if I want to calculate, barely awake, when will the snooze go off. After working it out for two snoozes, the head kicks itself – it’s easier waking up than doing that sum again.

How soon after waking up do you have breakfast, and what do you typically have?

Breakfast is usually quite late or skipped. Most days I have a very light breakfast after morning walk with the dog – around 11:00. Some days I’ll even skip even that.

When I do have breakfast, it’s an Italian flatbread with hummus spread on it, topped off with whatever vegetable dish (Indian) that’s in the fridge. My favourite toppings are bhindi (okra dish), aloo beans (french beans with potato), and gobi (cauliflower dish). I have a side of either a glass of milk or tea. Both have a small chocolate brioche on the side.

Do you have a morning workout routine?

When I switched to this routine, I used to go swimming in the morning 3-4 times a week. My pool had a 50m general swim from 06:00-08:00, and I loved it. I gave up the pool membership 4 months ago, so that time just got taken over for work. Which I love as well.

I restarted running 3 weeks ago, but that happens in either the 10:00-11:00 slot, or the 14:00-15:00 PM slot.

Other than that I walk a lot. I walk the dog(s) thrice a day – that makes up for my 12,000 step a day target.

I decided to stop using the car, other than emergencies, a few months ago. So now I walk to Tesco (groceries) and the high street (coffee, shopping, etc) 2-3 times a week combined. Each is a 7-8000 step walk, downhill out and uphill return. If I am headed into London, then there is a walk to the station, and then walking inside London.

Do you have a morning meditation routine?

No. I like meditating, and see a lot of value in it. However, I have been unable to carve out a satisfactory routine for it.

In the mornings, I am awake and raring to go within 20 mins of waking up. And those 20 mins are packed with activities – catering to dog, making coffee, etc. I don’t want to slow down the pace and productivity of my precious morning hours with even a 15 min meditation.

When I do meditate, it’s usually in the 10:00 break before taking my dog for the walk. I use the Calm app.

Do you answer email first thing in the morning or leave it until later in the day?

I first check my email at 09:30, in the loo. Even then I just read them, and process them – read, delete, save to Instapaper, or label (‘to-do’).

Replying to email happens in the post lunch session. I am usually slow and unfocused then, and productivity is low. So, it seemed the best time to cater to distracting, non-focused tasks.

I also have two scripts that send me emails. One is the daily statistics email – it sends me a summary of my apps’ weekly average users, number of reviews, and mean rating. It arrives in my inbox just before 09:00. I read and delete it during the 09:30 check. Other is the feedback emails from users of my apps and extensions. These used to come as they were sent. Now these are also scheduled to arrive in a batch between 14:00 and 15:00.

Do you use any apps or products to enhance your sleep or morning routine?

Not on most days. I use the clock app on my phone for alarms. And I use my own Todo.txt chrome extension for getting a look at the top tasks.

On days that I’m anxious or worried, or unable to sleep for any other reason, I use the sleep stories in Calm. They’ve been a valuable resource in helping myself calm down and sleep.

How soon do you check your phone in the morning?

Immediately. Alarms are on the phone. And while I am stretching my ankles, I sync my Garmin and look at my sleep. I some times also sneak a look at the activity tab to see if my parents have synced their steps, and if my father-in-law went for the run today.

After I get out of the bed, I don’t usually check the phone again till I am in the loo a few hours later.

What are your most important tasks in the morning?

Ankle stretches, water, coffee, dog break, day’s calendar setup, work. Not opening apps or browser on phone.

What and when is your first drink in the morning?

Warm water with half a lime, immediately after waking up (usually within 5 mins).

This is followed by making coffee. The ritual of making coffee wakes me up long before the coffee itself. That coffee is finished over the next 30 mins. If I remember. More often than not, the coffee goes cold on my table while I’m busy working.

How does your partner fit into your morning routine?

If she is going to the uni, she wakes up after 07:00, and immediately starts messaging me to come make coffee for her. I then make the coffee for her, and feed the dog his breakfast. Some days this is a short break for me. On other days this is a rude interruption while I’m deeply focused on a particular problem. She doesn’t care. She needs her morning coffee, and is too lazy in the mornings to make it herself.

When she’s not going to the uni, she wakes up any time between 08:00 and 10:00. Rest of the routine is the same. No relief for me.

Do you also follow this routine on weekends, or do you change some steps?

I work half days on Saturdays, so the morning routine is exactly the same.

On Sundays, I try to wake up at the same time. But I don’t work. I’ll drink the water, skip the coffee. Then I’ll laze in the bed and read saved posts in Instapaper, or read a book. Sunday morning is when I usually finish my weekly issue of the Economist. (Unless I finished it on Saturday evening).

I go for a later, longer walk with the dog on Sunday. We have beautiful Surrey countryside behind our back door, and Sundays are the days for exploring less visited bits of it.

As I kick into marathon prep, Sunday will soon be the long run days.

One other thing: On Sundays, I make my partner make coffee for both of us.

On days you’re not settled in your home, are you able to adapt your routine to fit in with a different environment?

I haven’t had to travel since settling into this current routine. If I travel, I shall still be waking up early, and starting the day with water and coffee. Rest will vary based on if I am travelling on work, vacation, or visiting family.

When back at my parents’ home, I love going for early morning (starting before 06:00) walks on the road.

What do you do if you fail to follow your morning routine, and how does this influence the rest of your day?

I start the day when I can. I write off the morning work session, but try to make the most of the afternoon and evening session. The dog still gets 3 walks. I will usually cut down the post lunch break.
I don’t make up for a late start by working late though. That’s just an invitation to disrupting the routine completely.

Updated: 27 Dec 2018

Previous: 11 May 2018