Whether or not you have a good night’s sleep directly impacts your ability to perform (and enjoy) your morning routine to the best of your abilities, say Benjamin Spall and Michael Xander, authors of the fascinating new book My Morning Routine (Penguin Random House), in which they interview successful people from different professions in a unique way: by focusing on what they do every morning. This is what the founder of The Huffington Post and Thrive Global Arianna Huffington had to say about that.
What is your morning routine?
Ninety-five percent of the time I get eight hours of sleep a night, and as a result, 95 percent of the time I don’t need an alarm to wake up. And waking up naturally is, for me, a great way to start the day.
A big part of my morning routine is about what I don’t do; when I wake up, I don’t start the day by looking at my phone. Instead, once I’m awake, I take a minute to breathe deeply, be grateful, and set my intention for the day.
How long have you stuck with this routine? What has changed?
I really began to take my morning routine seriously after my painful wake-up call in 2007, when I fainted from sleep deprivation and exhaustion, hit my head on the desk, and broke my cheekbone.
I’ve made small changes over time; for example, when I lived in Los Angeles, I was fond of morning walks and hikes. I am very open to experimenting – I’m sure before long I’ll learn something new I’ll want to add to my routine.
What time do you go to sleep?
Most nights I’m in bed by 11:00 p.m. and my goal, as we joke in my family, is to always be in bed to catch the ‘Midnight Train’.
Do you do anything before bed to make your morning easier?
I treat my transition to sleep as a sacrosanct ritual. First, I turn off all my electronic devices and gently escort them out of my bedroom. Then I take a hot bath with Epsom salts and a candle flickering nearby – a bath that I prolong if I’m feeling anxious or worried about something.
I don’t sleep in my workout clothes as I used to (think of the mixed message that sends to our brains), but have pajamas, nightdresses and even T-shirts dedicated to sleep. Sometimes I have a cup of chamomile or lavender tea if I want something warm and comforting before going to bed. I love reading real, physical books especially poetry, novels, and books that have nothing to do with work.
Can you tell us more about why you don’t use an alarm?
I love waking up without an alarm. Just think about the definition of the word “alarm”: “a sudden fear or distressing suspense caused by an awareness of danger; apprehension; fright,” or “any sound, outcry, or information intended to warn of approaching danger.”
So an alarm, in most situations, is a signal that something is not right. Yet most of us rely on some kind of alarm clock, a knee-jerk call to arms, to start the day, ensuring we emerge from sleep in full fight-or-flight mode, flooded with stress hormones and adrenaline as our body readies itself for danger.
I also don’t believe in the snooze button. On days when I have to use an alarm, I always set it for the last possible moment I have to get up.
Do you have a morning workout routine?
Thirty minutes on my stationary bike on days when I’m home; and five to 10 minutes of yoga stretches. I do 20 to 30 minutes of meditation before my workout routine.
Do you answer email first thing in the morning?
I make a point not to answer email right when I wake up, and I avoid the temptation by not keeping my electronic devices charging in my room. But since I’m running a news organization, and the morning is an incredibly important time for conversations with our editors, it’s important for me to be reachable. I’m on email as soon as I hit my bike.
Do you also follow this routine on weekends?
I follow it on weekends too! But my exercise time and meditation are longer.
What happens if you fail?
Being committed to a routine is, of course, what makes it a routine. That said, on some days life intervenes or we get off track. And when this happens, I try not to judge myself or let it negatively influence the rest of my day.
I’m a big proponent of silencing the voice of self-judgment and self-doubt in our heads, which I call the obnoxious roommate. It’s the voice that feeds on putting us down and strengthening our insecurities and doubts. I have spent many years trying to evict my obnoxious roommate and have now managed to relegate her to only occasional guest appearances in my head!
Excerpted from My Morning Routine by Benjamin Spall and Michael Xander with permission from Penguin Random House India