Let’s talk about what is probably the most popular topic in Productivityland — morning routines!
Since the pandemic began, I’d gone through various series of activities in the morning. I could not call them “routines” yet because they continually shifted. Sometimes drastically. Like when I finally had a functional chair to sit on in the balcony and enjoy coffee — after months of slouching on a stool at the breakfast counter. Or when I finally started sleeping earlier than 3:00 am, because yes, the early weeks of the pandemic were hard.
But seven or so months later, a more or less stable morning routine was finally, happily, had. And its overall aim was, of course, to prepare me for the work day ahead — like gaining momentum.
I’ve always seen mornings as the threshold between my mind and the world: whatever I do in these precious hours with myself will have a profound impact on the rest of my day with others. It is the most important part of the day.
So here’s what I typically do:
Offer Up the Day
Before peeling myself off the bed, I usually kneel and kiss the area I had just slept on (long story!), thanking God for the new day and making a promise to be “better” at being human this time.
Open the Windows
It’s such a big mood-booster to see sunlight blast into the unit when I open the windows. I see residential buildings mostly, but there are some trees too and chirping birds (read: beautiful).
Seeing the sky and some foliage connects me to nature, which is probably the best day-brightener there is.
Then I drink a half-glass of cold water. I’ve read somewhere it’s optimal to drink a whole glass upon waking up, because the time you slept is the time you sort of dehydrated yourself. But my nose is often too clogged at this hour, and getting a lot of cold water just worsens it.
The half-glass of water is just enough to perk me up a bit and “clear” my throat.
Do Some Stretches
While I’m boiling water for my coffee, I do some body stretches. (Sorry, I’m not down for a workout this early.) The poses are mostly from when I still did yoga.
I do stretches for my neck, torso, arms, hips, legs, and back. If I’m feeling really hyped, I’d put in some push-ups and squats.
The purpose of this part of the routine really is just to lubricate the cogs and screws of my body before the day batters it with long hours on a chair.
Brew Some Coffee
By this time, the kettle is already whistling wildly. I get my pourover coffee set and brew some ground kapeng barako — two to three teaspoons of sugar, no creamer.
I used to be too lazy to make my own coffee, preferring instant coffee instead. But when I finally tried actually making my own brew, I was bowled over and went all in. Coffee is now a mistress I share with my fiancée.
Drinking coffee may be most tantalizing, but really, meditating is the most important part of my morning routine. It’s the sacred time for myself and for God.
Typically I use the Laudate app to read the day’s readings. Then I open Spotify and go to 10 Minutes with Jesus, which has a guided meditation posted fresh everyday. With my journal on hand, this quarter-hour exercise is often very inspiring — creatively and spiritually. Although sometimes it’s just meh, and that’s okay.
Once connecting with God is done, it’s time to connect with myself. I use Headspace to help me do this. The app is arguably the best mindfulness app there is that’s suited to most people — with its vivid graphics and practical pointers and comprehensive features (I love its Sleep meditations, too!).
I like to think of Headspace as the key to keeping myself aware of my emotions and thoughts and be better able to manage them.
Check Inboxes and Notifs
With the big rocks of the routine done, it’s time to toe the waters of the day before I take the plunge: I check my personal email, texts, Messenger, and social media. I also peek at my work email, just in case there’s something urgent there (there’s usually none, thank God).
What I like most about this part of the routine is getting updates on various news and trends through my email subscriptions. Among my favorites are briefers from the New York Times and The Economist, my personalized Medium newsletter, and a quirky financial-news email called Robinhood Snacks.
Once I get to inbox zero at this stage, I feel like I’ve really accomplished something already — even if they’re really mostly just trash (sorry, Esquire US).
Take a Shower
My morning routine ends with me going to the bathroom and surrendering to nature (and the effects of coffee), after which I take a cold shower, which is perfect to wash away any leftover sleepiness. Fresh and clean from a 10-minute shower, I am finally ready for the day.
If you’ve reached this far and you’ve really just read the section titles, I can forgive you. This post is unexpectedly long because I enjoyed writing this!
But then I think I should enjoy it, since this routine has been the result of a long and zigzaggedy route to coming up with one. I learned a lot in that journey — about the process and the goal and the world around me, and about myself, no less. And while I’m sure this routine is still evolving, it’s nice to bask in this little satisfaction of having a true, legit morning routine.