Mainstream media tends to glorify CEOs and churn out garbage 150 word articles about how you can optimize your morning routines like Mark Cuban or deliver true impact by waking up like Tim Cook at 4:30 am. Mindthis Magazine is here to tell you, it’s all bullshit. You don’t need have a routine as you will find out below in the various stories I have sourced from our team and readers. We’re not against routines. We’re against the false notion of doing XYX will directly cause you to be a billionaire or somehow solve your mental health issues. So let us march away from setting unrealistic benchmarks for our success, for our dreams, and above all for our mornings! I asked some general questions and let them shape their answer, expect short reads to more in-depth narratives, have a good morning! (or not, that’s fine as well).
In Jamaica, Morning Routines
Food: Something quick and warm and heavy on carbohydrates. Sometimes coffee.
Clothes: Sweatpants and a shirt
To get ready for the day: Shower the night before, and pick an outfit to save time in the morning. Drink a glass of water before bed. Have a bottle of ice water in the fridge and lunch prepared for the next day. Put a post-it on the laptop with the top three things I needed to take care of in the morning (“WORK” and “NON-WORK”) first thing.
Did this routine work?: This routine worked well enough for pumping out tasks at the office, but not for me overall.
In Portugal, a Professor does…
Tiago André Lopes
Job role: Assistant Professor of International Relations
Food: Natural yogurt, natural honey, hazelnuts, walnuts, flax seeds, sunflower seeds and cinnamon. Mid-morning, I will have a green apple and a blueberry gelatine. Coffee is mandatory.
Clothes: Urban casual or, at least once a week, fully formal attire
Activity: Everyday, I will work at least from 9:00am to 6:00pm: teaching, reviewing students assessments, reading for research purposes, reading news, writing papers or analysis, participating in official meetings… Mondays and Thursdays I go to gym, to have 1 hour training (although calling it “torture” is more accurate!) sessions with my amazing personal trainer. Night can be for preparing classes or, twice a week, to watch a good movie.
To get ready for the day: Drink the juice of two lemons before going to bed, eases digestion and speeds-up metabolism. I never pick my clothes the night before, because I can never guess my morning mood. I wake up with my instrumental or classical music playlists on Spotify. Warm water morning shower is a must! I briefly review my agenda before dressing, so that my clothes meet my mood and my tasks for the day. At times I light a stick of sandalwood or myrrh incense.
Did this routine work?: This routine works perfectly, as long as I don’t have to disrupt it due to last minute events. Although I like to keep routines steady, I know when to be flexible and every six months I review my habits to see what CAN and SHOULD be changed. The one thing important throughout the day is coffee, or else is apocalypse time for me!
Canadian Routines Eh!
Let’s start in Halifax
Routine: For the last year, my routine has been one that defies belief. I wake up in a sleepy middle-of-nowhere coastal city in a remote and forgotten corner of Canada and I walk down the street to teach a graduate-level course at a major and highly-ranked Canadian university, to people of a similar age to myself or in some cases older. This takes up really a collective two or three days of my week however as any teacher will tell you is as exhausting as it is rewarding. I have just started a new year-long contract with the university, in a research role, although I will aim to continue teaching during this time as well. In addition to my work at the university I am also working on a major book contract for a book to be published by the US Military, co-authored by a former Bush administration official. The rest of my week for the last year was spent doing the following, with much overlap and for one semester all at once: volunteering daily for Washington DC-based Young Professionals in Foreign Policy, working for a DC-based consultancy that does leadership training in the style of the State Department and West Point backgrounds of my boss there, researching for a counterterrorism report for my former Pentagon contractor employer, training in writing counterterrorism reports under US and Canadian mentorship, volunteering for Republican Party activism, keeping a very active and robust professional social media presence, working collaboratively on side projects with friends that include business, politics, entertainment industry and the arts, pitching journalism articles to editors at CNBC (two of which have been published), BBC, VICE, and the Wall Street Journal, and travel to Ottawa and DC for job interviews. To stay sane I assist my family with yard work over at their house at least a day or two a week and I do my best to get out as much as I can, attending any of the “cooler” looking events in town either as a journalist or with friends. I have in the last month lightened the load a bit, and I am currently in a lull but I have so much going on in my career that it has made living a normal life a somewhat absurd process as you will see.
Food: I used to cook three meals a day. Usually meat and grains, either as a stir fry or rice dish. These days I find myself too busy and too emotionally and physically tired. After nearly starting a fire while living in my own apartment in Washington DC I mostly started eating what I call “picnic food” instead. It is an attempt to eat very, very quickly and on a reasonable budget but while avoiding heavily processed food. Should be impossible right? Nearly is but I’ve been doing it for now three years, in Washington DC, Canada, Louisiana and then Canada again. These days I will have rotisserie chickens and a pita or tortilla and a good dip or spread, usually something traditionally Mexican, Middle Eastern or French. You find very quickly when it comes to dips that if the recipe isn’t at least 100 years old then you get sick of it real fast. My step-grandmother’s authentic German-Polish dips come to mind. I also mess around here and there with other “picnic food” like smoked salmon bagel sandwiches, a lot of fancy cheeses (I’m using this as an opportunity to learn wine and cheese), and salads although I am no good at making salads. I have decided recently that I am going to start cooking again in a slow cooker but right now the idea of it seems both too exhausting and requiring of too much patience. As a student I could find the time to cook all day but working as a journalist before I mostly just ate take-out food and certainly that is what I will likely do again when my budget improves. I can still however whip up something nice if I need to on a date or for a party.
Sleep Choice: I take my mental health very seriously. I get eight hours of sleep a night, nearly every night, and I usually go to bed before midnight, frequently before 11 and increasingly before 10. I sleep in a queen sized bed as I don’t plan on being single forever and because I’m a tall guy.
Clothing Choice: My clothing choice for each day, if it were left entirely in my hands, would be a plain black t-shirt and dark gray dress pants, which is what I wear most frequently these days (a black turtleneck instead if it’s freezing out). However I also dress in normal American frat bro fashion for my office casual when required. I find it sets the tone when dealing with people as a six foot tall guy who is still in his early 30s. You have to establish quick that you are not in a subculture so you cannot be written off, but that if you did have a subculture it was country music, again you can’t be written off as an intergenerational challenge. I am also a huge metalhead if I need to instead appease hipsters. It does not come up as often in DC but it certainly does in academia and sort of in Ottawa.
What I do before I sleep: Between dental hygiene, various medications, a bite plate I have for tooth grinding, plants that need watering, and the dish rack I have a grueling 20 minute routine that I have tried to spice up by playing music, news radio, and recorded lectures from Washington DC events. However mostly from exhaustion I just do all that in silence and use the time to reflect on my day.
What I do to get ready for the day: I often roll out of bed, brush and floss, throw on some clothes and deodorant and run out the door before breakfast. However whenever possible I am happier leaving the house after eating. When I stay in hotels for several days straight it drives me nuts not having breakfast right there when you wake up, so I prefer hotels that sell snacks in the lobby (ideally from behind a counter and not a vending machine so you get real food). Given tons of time I will decompress before the onslaught begins by spacing out with some nice music and a coffee. Similarly at the end of the day I can lose an hour or two to nice music and a tea, including after a “normal” day or after getting home from socializing or a professional event.
Does my routine work: Yes. I am under so much psychological pressure that I have had to make extreme, possibly absurd adjustments but it works. I said on the phone to a friend this week that I so often have unique solutions to my problems because my problems are very unique. Essentially not another soul on earth has the same exact career I have and the same path getting here. So I frequently have to experiment with different safe and sustainable solutions to daily mundane life things that nobody else I know has ever tried. It would not surprise me if nobody else can be found who needs the same routine. However I have seen great success in my career and I am satisfied with my personal relationships so while it is an ongoing process of changing with my environment, my budget and my career I believe it has been a successful one.
Am I more productive because of it: I can have upwards of 20-30 professional conversations by email and phone on a normal day, working mostly from home and without the structure of an office. I have a professional and personal network that you actually would not believe and of the world’s most powerful and wealthy it is conceivably possible that any of them selected individually and asked might know who I am. However for now my career and lifestyle remain modest. Where it goes long term I do not know, however I can keep up “modest” for the rest of my life if I need to. Typical fate for a writer really.
Let’s move on to Vancouver with Tibetan Music!
I prefer to take my shower at night before bed, and if I’m too tired I floss and brush my teeth in the shower too (it’s fun, you should try it). I LOVE having my Himalayan salt lamp through the night; it’s orange/red glow creates a nice ambient, and it’s benefit are just good for the soul. I typically sleep through the whole night, and I pass out once I lay down. I won’t get into the details for my choice of fashion in bed (classified information).
I wake up to the sound of Tibetan Music (my alarm). I like to stretch and meditate in bed. I then wash up, wet my hair to enhance my curls, make lemon water, use my face roller, prepare breakfast (for work), put on makeup, get dressed and hurry out of the door to catch my bus.
This routine on average takes about 1.5 hours. I want to bring efficiency to my routine so I could sleep longer.
In Toronto, a power player….hates her mornings!
Cathy Shuo Lei
Job– Enterprise Account Manager at NetApp. I manage the relationships and grow our footprint in the areas of hybrid Cloud and data storage solution with the largest financial and retail institutions in Canada,
Let me preface this by saying that I am not a morning person. In fact I’m writing this article at 12:45 am the day after the Raptors won the 2019 NBA championships.
I’m lucky to have a job where I have almost complete autonomy and flexibility with regards to my schedule. I mostly spend my workday with my customers in partners and work remotely from home.
I also recognize that I’m an extrovert who needs to be physically active. So outside of the human interaction from work, I draw energy by being around people, and having a great support network in Canada and spend a lot of time with friends and playing sports. I play soccer 3-4 times a week in the evenings and volley all once a week. This is both social and physically engaging, and a lot of fun. Does it make it more productive? I would say it does in the sense that it greatly improves my mood and happiness which in turn improves other areas of my life.
I strongly believe that the quality of the relationships that one has with people in their lives directly correlates to how happy and fulfilled they are. So I spend a great deal of time ensuring that my work doesn’t generally impede on my ability to spend quality time with the people I love and cherish.
With regards to my bedtime routine after playing sports or socializing with friends/ family, I typically will mindlessly scroll through social media, always shower and will listen to a headspace meditative sleep cast to doze off to. It helps interrupt any inner dialogue, or racing thoughts that keep me up at night.
In Cameroon, an Obama Fellowship award winning routine….is normal
I went to a boarding school for 7 years so my body has been wired to be awake by 5 am every day. It’s like clockwork. However, depending on my schedule for the day, I either go right back to bed till 6 am or just start my day.
Then I do chores. I either clean the dishes, do laundry or clean the floor. These are obligatory. Some chores must be done before I leave home. By 7am, I am done. I take a quick shower, dress up, and by 7:30am I leave home. I mostly skip breakfast.
I get to work by 8: 15 am. First thing I do is to check my emails; reply to the most urgent, and mark others for later. I check my ‘to do’ list for the day, change or rearrange a few tasks where necessary and then by 8:50am, I start working, I am a Program Officer.
I come up for air at midday to take a one hour break till 1 pm. I also have lunch during this period. After my break, I may attend a few meetings when I have to, go to the field to supervise projects or liaise with partners depending on the day.On average, I leave work at 5pm but may extend to 8 pm if there is a lot of work to be done. This usually happens during peak periods when there are several ongoing projects.
I get home by 6 pm – 6 30 pm on a normal day. I take a bath, grab dinner and try to finish up some work I brought home. On other days, I go straight to bed if I get in late; otherwise, I curl up with a book and fall asleep. The skimpier the attire for bed, the better!
In Turkey/Germany/Paris…the globalist routine, write write and write!
I love mornings. I am a morning person! I wake up between 5 am and 6 am. I do not set an alarm. After I wake up I do the same thing every day: Groundhog Day Every Day. It does not matter where I go or with whom I am with. I stick to my routine and I have done for the past three years. Why? Because it is the routine that gives me the greatest freedom and the greatest comfort.
So, in the morning I wake up. I use the bathroom, make a coffee and get my notebook. Every single day I write three A5 pages. I have a favourite brand that I love to write in and I have a favourite pen I love to write with. The brand for the notebooks is called Go-Stationary and the pens I love are BiC pens. Stationary makes me happy. Then I track my cycle days because I believe in living cycle consciously. I track my mood, my pain and my food. This does not take long but it helps me to understand myself better and my energy levels during different times of the month.
Then I take time for a brain dump. Usually page one looks like a review of the past day. Page two goes deep into some topic that occupies my mind and I sometimes have the best ideas while writing. The last page usually gets filled with my plans for the day or the week. This way I make sense out of my life and I let go. I feel fresh afterwards. Then I have another routine that I call “Magic Morning Message”: My friend Lucy and I send one another a short voice note each morning telling each other what we appreciate about life and what was magi the day before. When days were not so good this helps to gain perspective again and when days were really good this is a nice outlet to share one’s appreciation. Then the other person responds with another short message. During the time of listening I usually start cutting a fruit salat that I top with nuts, honey and quark. This is my routine in the morning. Then I work. At night I don’t have a specific routine.
My brain works different in the events. I get creative and meditative while in the mornings my brain is switched on and I have the best ideas. What is not so good about being very routined is that it can disturb a little the flow when other people are around or when there are unexpected events happening during the day or when I have little sleep and need to get up early and don’t have time. But usually this does not outweigh the benefits
You do you #MindthisMorning
As you can see, there is no one routine to maximize your productivity or improve your life. All these young professionals are successful in the their own ways living their own lives and waking up in their own way. That’s the message you need to take away, put down the Forbes magazine that advocates you copy best practices from out of touch CEOs and try to absorb some best practices from real folks. Feel free to share your morning routine with us on instagram, @ us and we will share your story to our readers around the world. Let’s redefine what success means and how we achieve it, every morning.