“Routines are powerful when they become rituals that no longer require conscious thought and willpower. Without iteration, however, they can become stale and can be hard to keep up.” – Joel Gascoigne Share this quote on Twitter

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Joel Gascoigne

What is your morning routine?

I try to make sure I get at least seven and a half hours of sleep. Sleep is important! I wake up around 6:30am and drink 500 milliliters (16.9 ounces) of water as soon after getting up as I can. I quickly check company emails for any emergencies, and then most days I do thirty minutes of cardio (swimming or running) and then ten minutes in the sauna. I then have a simple breakfast before starting work.

This gives me the best start to my day that I’ve found, gets the endorphins going, and makes me feel refreshed and ready to make progress.

How long have you stuck with this routine so far?

Since the beginning of 2017. I’ve generally had a similar routine over the last few years.

How has your morning routine changed over recent years?

It’s always changing, and I believe that should be the case. Routines are powerful when they become rituals that no longer require conscious thought and willpower. Without iteration, however, they can become stale and can be hard to keep up.

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Changes I’ve made in the last few years are exercising earlier in the day and making it a top daily priority. I’ve also recently started the habit of drinking a significant amount of water early in the morning—usually one liter by 10:30am.

What time do you go to sleep?

Usually around 10:30pm.

Do you do anything before going to bed to make your morning easier?

I prepare my exercise clothes or swimming gear so there’s zero effort the next morning. I plug my phone in to charge on the opposite side of the room so it isn’t the first thing I have within reach when I wake up. I have thirty minutes of reading time on my Kindle to wind down from bright screens and give myself the best possible sleep. Most nights I journal to get thoughts and challenges from the day processed and out of my mind.

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

I very rarely hit the snooze button during the week. I sometimes do on the weekend, though I rarely even set an alarm on Saturdays or Sundays!

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

I always make sure to have breakfast, otherwise I feel a lack of energy and focus by around 11:00am. Depending on my hunger and whether I have exercised, I have either a small, quick breakfast (yogurt with berries and grapes) or a more substantial breakfast (soft-boiled eggs on whole wheat toast with ham and cheese).

Do you have a morning workout routine?

Yes. Most of the time I do cardio (20-30 minutes of swimming or running) in the morning and strength training in the late afternoon or evening. Over the last few months I’ve developed a habit of going bouldering at an indoor climbing gym on Wednesday mornings and two other times during the week.

Do you have a morning meditation routine, and if so what kind of meditation do you practice?

Rather than doing meditation first thing in the morning, I try to do it at some point in the middle of my day. I do 5-10 minutes of unguided meditation, continually returning to my breath when my thoughts wander. Doing it in the middle of my day helps me to have a kind of reset switch and return to calm even on busy or stressful days. I am not consistent with meditation on a daily basis.

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

I generally check email for anything urgent, but I very rarely answer email first thing. There are more important tasks I want to put my freshness and full tank of willpower into.

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

I use a Withings smartwatch to track my sleep duration and quality, as well as my exercise. This makes it easy to see if I am hitting my daily sleep and exercise goals, and make adjustments if necessary.

I journal in the evening using the Day One app on the iPhone. I have a Google Home that I can use to turn off all the lights in the apartment by voice, and I also use it most nights to play very quiet piano or jazz music while I’m in bed.

How soon do you check your phone in the morning?

I check it immediately for any urgent email and then don’t check it again until after exercising. During breakfast I often use it to catch up on social media and read articles using Pocket, which I then add to Buffer to post interesting articles and my comments on social media.

What are your most important tasks in the morning?

It depends on the day. I generally theme my days. Some are focused on managing and supporting my awesome executive team. Other days I’m working on product, putting together documents for strategy and process improvement, or digging into customer research or product metrics to find new opportunities. Once a week I have “deep work Wednesday,” when I aim to have little to no meetings and use lengths of unscheduled time to read and reflect on high level vision and strategy.

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

I often sleep in on weekends and don’t follow the same routine in general. I do try to go to sleep at similar times to make it easier to stick to my to routine come Monday.

On the weekend I aim to have one day fully switched off from work and my laptop and one day where I do casual work that I’m drawn to or write a blog post. Some weekends, I set up a few thirty-minute back-to-back mentoring sessions to help founders with their startups.

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

I know that the routine will be harder when I’m in a new location and environment. I strive for the core pillars of good sleep, exercise, and water first thing. I don’t try to achieve the same full routine I have at home, the consistency of which has been built up over time.

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

I used to allow failing a portion of my routine to negatively impact my whole day. I now see life as a continual fluctuation of routine. There is no constant but change, so when I fail I know that I need to take away one or two layers of my routine and get back to the basic pillars: good sleep, a mindful start, exercise, and water.

When I feel like I’ve failed or when I’m building my routine back up after some time away, I do a quarter mile of swimming instead of a mile, or I do ten minutes of running instead of thirty. The key is to do each element, even to a tiny degree. Once each aspect is in place, I can build on it further.

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